Sunday, May 15, 2011

2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Vineyard 7 & 8

The first time I heard about Vineyard 7 & 8, it was with loud out spoken words. “This will be the Harlan Estate of Spring Mountain”, it was said to me. I like self confidence and I wish I had more of that. But when it comes to wines, and expecially in the Napa Valley, words are most often just words with little over even no closeness to realitly. This is the way it is in Napa Valley, the Disney World of the wine world, sorry to say to. Dreams still seems to be valid than down to earth!

I’m glad the words didn’t come from the proprietors themselves, the Steffens family. The words were rumors, spoken by people who didn’t know, who just have heard about the project atop of Spring Mountain, peolple who wanted to taste but didn’t have the chance to do so. So I went up the curvy Spring Mountain Road, and my car snarled and rumbled all the way up to the top of the mountain, where famous wineries such as Philp Togni, Pride Mountain and Paloma Vineyards are the neigbours of Vineyard 7 & 8, with Barnett Vineyards and Erna Schein as the very closest (they actually share the same driveway).
Vineyard 7 & 8 is a new venture, founded by the Steffens family, who bought this 16 hectare mountain estate in 1999. On the property there were already some blocks of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1981 to 1982, and of course the intention was to make some great wine from those grapes. Since they didn’t have the knowledge how – the Steffens family knew how to make money, which the had done at Wall Street – they hired a French winemaker who was a former winemaker at Château Latour and Château d’Yquem i Bordeaux. I don’t mean to be rude, but the early wines I tasted from Vineyard 7 & 8 didn’t impress me. At all!

Then came another French guy, monsieur Luc Morlet, the winemaker with the golden palate from Champagne, who when moved to California slowly but surely took place among the elite of winemakers, with assignement at first Newton Estate, then Peter Michael Winery, and in 2006 founded his own family business, the Morlet Family Vineyards. With Luc, the first vintage 2007 made a change, a big one. I remember tasting with Luc a cold December evening up at the newly built winery, the older vintages side by side with the one he made (2007). Day and night!
The winery is state of the art, built to make wines of perfection. Vineyards are among the oldest on the hill, today very well maintained and managed, and in the hands of the young Wesley Steffens (the son in the family, who is in charge of the operation) and winemaker Luc Morlet it may well be the “Harlan Estate of Spring Mountain”. At least, I hope it will be. It has the potential to be.
The first release, at least in the way I see it, it this 2007 vintage – and Vineyard 7 & 8 couldn't have had a better start.

2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / 94 p
Color is dark, deep purple, quite typical in wines from mountain vineyards where the grapes comes small, thick skinned and stuffed with polyfenols. This is a wine that need to breathe, poured direct from the bottle is at bit introvert – but be patient. It only takes five minutes before the game starts, and another fifteen for the wine to start to play with you. It’s totally natural, a young wine like this doesn’t want to be opened – it wants to rest and grow up for some more years. However, there’s a certain charm with young wines from mountain vineyards, the powerful, densly packed fruit and firm resistance of tannins (ripe, but still huge), mineral from the stony soil and lively acidity. A wine from the valley floor with a concentration like this would most likely taste rather sweetish, this doesn’t. Dark berries, sweet almost black cherries, some cacao (I remind me of fine chocolate and cherry truffles), lead pencil and the finest dust from crushed granite are written in my tasting comments.
On the palate it is at first a bit reserved, again that’s expected and typical. In great wines like this the aromatics is normally easier to describe (and appreciate?) than the palate due to the young, huge structure. I don’t bother about that, time will always tell, and being able to taste the greates young and mature wines from California for two decades now, I’m very confident that this wine will be a long runner. I like to drink it already today, given it has been decanted at least one hour and then served in a large Bordeaux glass to a medium rare steak. Willing to join? If not, let’s wait another year or two, or even ten – this wine will not run away. It’ll keep very well.
Only 600 cases were made.
Drink it 2014-2027

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