Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spring Mountain Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons

Not only is Spring Mountain Vineyards one of the most beautiful wine estates in Napa Valley (and California), it’s also a very reliable source of high end but moderate priced wines. The more than 340 hectares large estate climbs from 120 meters of altitude at the foot of Spring Mountain, just next to the town of St Helena, up to 480 meters, and the total planted surface is 91 hectares, divided into 132 different vineyard blocks, some of them on steep, terraced slopes.

A handful wines are made here, a very good, refreshing wine of Sauvignon Blanc with a splash of Sémillon, a surprisingly good Pinot Noir (!), two wines of Syrah and two wines of Cabernet Sauvignon (predominately). It’s the cabernets that are the star of the show. They both offer just everything one can wish for in a mountainside wine. There is density, power, depth, structure, minerality, freshness, finesse and elegance, and, which I see as a great thing, longevity.

The estate itself is old, at least parts of it, but the greatness is of more recent time. It’s owned by Swiss business man Jacob Safra, who bought it bit by bit from 1992 and onwards. I liked the wines already in the late 1990s, but the breakthrough came with the new winemaker Jac Cole in 2003 (all though David Ramey made their 2001 and 2002 vintages), and since then a great deal of the vineyards has been replanted.
   The wines are made in a classic way, small stainless steel tank fermented with 15 days of skin contact, then transferred into French oak barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation and ageing. Just in time for the 2011 vintage, eight brand new Taransaud oak fermenters were installed in the cave, so I think we can see even more perfection in the wines in the vintages to come.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon / 92-93 p
This is an absolutely pure and lovely expression of the terroir of Spring Mountain! The cuvée this year is 97 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and just three percent of Cabernet Franc, and it was raised in 50 percent new French oak barrel for nearly two years. Although very young, it’s already quite complex, the dark and deeply concentrated but yet so elegant nose is not all about fruit (dark cherries and black currants), there’s also lovely notes of cedar, lead, gravel and minerality. On the palate, it’s rich, or rather intense, with a good density without being full bodied or fruit driven. The tannins are marked, but not aggressive, and they are backed up by a good acidity and a vital minerality that tickle the tongue. The alcohol is well balanced, there’s just a slightly warm touch in the end of the finish. It many sense, this is a very classic wine that will turn into what’s normally is described as Bordeaux like, but with a richer fruit.
   I really enjoyed the 2005 vintage, but that’s a big and very tight one that still needs a lot of air before serving it. The 2007 vintage is a step up in elegance and complexity, so I prefer it. If opened young, you should decant it at least one hour before drinking it.
Drink it 2013-2027

2007 Elivette / 93-94 p
The Elivette is the finest and most intense selection here, it also priced higher, 125 dollar compared to 75 dollars for the regular cuvée. In this vintage, the cuvée of this top selection from Spring Mountain Vineyards consists of 84 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent of Cabernet Franc and four percent of Petit Verdot. Compared to most reserve wines in Napa Valley, there are no differences in the vinification, it’s the same type of fermentation and ageing in oak, it’s just a pure vineyard lot and barrel selection. The wines is quite a bit more intense, the concentration is more obvious, which adds the sensation of being a more silky and less structured wine, which is not the case. It’s just more of the good stuff to balance and in some way also coat the tannins. I’d give this wine even more air if serving it today, but I’d rather keep it a few more years from now.
Drink it 2013-2027