Saturday, June 11, 2011

2007 and 2006 from Lokoya

In 1994 Jess Jackson created the exclusive label Lokoya, named after a word Indians who lived up in the Mayacamas ranges used. The idea was to craft a range of great cabernets from different appellations within the Napa Valley. In that mission, the team Jess, his winemakers and wine growers were successful, and for many years I have looked (and tasted) at the Lokoya wines as some of the finest and most impressive efforts in Napa Valley.
The Lokoya winery doesn't own any vineyards, all grapes are sourced from the very best vineyards, lots and even rows that Jess Jackson has purchased in Napa Valley. As for Pierre Seillan at Verité in Sonoma, the winemaker at Lokoya, Chris Carpenter, gets to chose grapes first of all winemakers, hence the high quality of each vintage.

There are now four different bottling of Lokoya, one from each of the prestigious mountain appellations in Napa Valley, on the western side Diamond Mountain and Spring Mountain in the north and Mount Veeder (the best blocks in the great Veeder Peak Vineyard) in the south, and on the eastern side on from Howell Mountain (predominately the Keyes Vineyard). 
All four wines are crafted in the same way, one hundred percent Cabernet Sauvignon (24-36 hectoliter per hectare), fermented with its own yeast in small open top fermenters of steel after four to five days of cold soak. The wine is matured in new French oak barrels for 18-22 months depending on each wine and the vintage, and there’s no fining or filtration before bottling.
Production is small, not more than 2 000 cases per year in total in a good vintage. The wines are only sold through mailing list and at the Cardinale Winery in Oakville, where the wines are made.
The sad thing is that prices took a giant leap up by the 2007 vintage, to 400 dollar per bottle. In one way I understand it – quality is outstanding, all four wines are among the very finest produced in their respective appellation – and production is smaller than the demand for the wines. I guess we have to accept the rising prices, there are now more and more wines getting closer to the magic 500 dollar limit, where (so far) only Harlan Estate and even more Screaming Eagle have touched or surpassed.

Vintage  2007

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain / 95-96 p
Of all wines from Lokoya, this is always the most approachable as young. It offers a quite open, intense and fruit driven nose with lovely notes of cherries, maraschino, cassis and almonds, as well as a slight touch of the oak vanilla. If the other bottling of Lokoya is firm and tannic at this young stage, this one is more polished, as if the tannins were almost totally absorbed by the medium to full bodied and rich taste. There are also fine notes of mineral, almost towards a slight saltiness, and the acidity also help to give freshness to the taste. The wine was decanted a good hour before I tasted it, which was a good thing as the taste still is a bit closed, especially in the finish.
Drink it 2011-2027

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain / 96-97 p
Compared to the Diamond Mountain, the Spring Mountain bottling offers a sweeter and more intense flavor of cassis, but there’s also more aromas of stony minerality and rocks, which (at least for me) gives the wine a slightly more interesting complexity. In that sense, it’s also more distinct. On the palate, it tastes a bit younger due to the deeper fruit, higher density and more marked tannic structure. Again, the oak is extremely well absorbed by the fruit – the winemaking skill of Chris Carpenter is well worth mention, there’s 100 percent new French oak used also in this wine. The aftertaste is fine, but a bit closed at this young stage. A couple of years of cellaring are needed to see the full potential. 
Drink it 2013-2032

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain / 98 p
Howell Mountain at its best – this is a manifest in mountain grown fruit. The color is dark purple, rather opaque to be honest, and even though the wine is very young and in no way offers the full range of flavors it will do in the coming years, the nose is just gorgeous in its full power, dark ripe but yet young fruit – mostly dark cherries and cassis, but there are also the typical fragrance of crushed rocks (I just love that) to reveal its origin – the poor volcanic soils of Howell Mountain. The taste is rich, packed with dark ripe fruit, yet so closed and restrained due to its marked tannic and mineral structure. Having had several vintages of the Howell Mountain from Lokoya over the past ten years, I know time will tell you another story than this tough one. Be patient, keep it a few more years, decant it at least one hour before you drink it, and enjoy it with a rich dish to soften the tannins even more. Already today the aftertaste lingers for a minute – just imagine what it will do in some years from now when the tannins will soften. This is the finest vintage of the Howell Mountain from Lokoya I have tasted!
Drink it 2014-2032

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder / 98-99 p
This wine is normally the most concentrated and well structured of them all, and so it is also in this vintage. Color is as dark and opaque as in the precious wines, but the nose is a bit more dense and concentrated, however more intense and aromatic. I find sweet cassis as well as some lighter red fragrances, walnuts, a touch of the oak vanilla (but no toasted aromas), the same fine stoniness and minerality as in the Howell Mountain bottling, and it’s just impressive how concentrated this wine is without being too much or even sweetish. On the palate, it’s huge, full bodied and concentrated with a dense and ripe but in no way sweet fruit, and in although it’s young and firm, the aftertaste lingers for more than a minute! Add the salty mineral saltiness to all that, and you’ll understand how complex this great wine is. I’d give it a couple of more years more to polish the tannins a bit more, and it is recommended to decant it at least an hour prior to serving it.
Drink it 2014-2032

Vintage  2006

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain / 95 p
After one hour in the decanter, the perfumes were still very intense, rich and almost sweetish with notes of ink, vanilla and toffee, but overall dark, ripe and absolutely pure berry fruit. During the tasting, the wine evolved slowly, and even one day later, it showed just beautiful in the opened bottle. As always, this is the most elegant and ready to drink bottling from Lokoya, although there is – as most of the time from mountain vineyards – a great structure of tannins and the lovely and almost salty minerality I enjoy so much. On the palate, it’s rich and concentrated but not at all sweet or plump. Instead it’s delicious, very elegant and a bit closed although there’s enough body and fruit to give a silky texture. The oak is pretty well integrated, just a dash of vanilla and some tannins shows on the palate. It’s a very fine wine, still young, but very enjoyable already today – especially after several hours of decanting.
Drink it 2012-2026

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain / 96-97 p
One hundred percent of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Keyes Vineyard on Howell Mountain, and in the hands of winemaker Chris Carpenter, those grapes turned out to be just fantastic in the bottle. This is dark, well, actually it’s opaque, and youthful in its ink purple color. As expected the concentrated dark fruit is ripe but not sweet, since it’s balanced with loads of tannins and stony minerality – oh, yes, the Howell Mountain volcanic soil comes with the bottle. Surprisingly it’s not rustic or harsh at all, on the contrary I wrote “delicious” in my tasting notes, that’s because the intensity of the slightly sweetish, cherry like ripe and very delicious fruit. This dark fruit is joined by notes of graphite, an almost granite like dustiness, but to my surprise very little oak. Almost a third of the wine was left in the bottle until the day after, and when tasted, it was absolutely stunning. Even day two after the tasting, the wine held together in a way that was amazing. To me, that’s the best sign of a wine that will evolve slowly over many years, into something even more fantastic. A recommendation though, is to decant this wine at least 2-3 hours before serving it.
Drink it 2014-2030

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder / 96-98 p
Normally the most impressive bottling from Lokoya is the one from Mount Veeder, and in this vintage there’s no change from that “rule”. When I poured it, it was a bit closed, still almost opaque and densely concentration, but I felt it didn’t show all its glory and power. Therefore I let the wine sit in the decanter for almost two hours before I started to taste and judge the wine properly. Even if there was a slight spiciness from the oak, it was extremely well integrated in the dense fruit, a detail that reveals the skill of the winemaker. Of the three 2006s of Lokoya, this is the most concentrated, but also the most impressive – not for its power, but for its overall fantastic balance. The fruit flavors are best described as cassis (with just a hint of aromatic greenness) and sour dark cherries, especially after several hours in the decanter. For sure there’s a lot of concentration here, still the minerality breaks through the fruit and adds a great complexity. Then there’s also a very fine tuned of chocolate (from the oak), but I wouldn’t call it oaky. As for the other Lokoya wines, I kept the bottle for one, and even two days, just to see how well it kept. Again, that’s a very good sign!
Drink it 2014-2030

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