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2000 Viader Red Blend, Napa Valley

These last couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to enjoy a number of wines in the upper end of Napa pricing ($80 and above). But many of them have been at tastings where the encounter is concentrated and brief. Last night I settled down to a nice dinner with a good bottle and got the chance to simply savor the wine.

The Viader we chose to have at dinner is definitely one of my favorite wines from Howell Mountain. Delia Viader is one of the few people on Howell Mountain who grow a substantial amount of Cabernet Franc and her wines incorporate a substantial amount of this fruit. The blending that she and consulting winemaker Charles Hendricks do with her fruit results in an extremely drinkable wine, one that is delicate and aromatic enough for me to be content sipping without any food whatsoever. "We're talking about a wine that emphasizes finesse over power," says Delia, an Argentinian native who started making wines in Napa in 1987. Finesse is also required to dance the Argentine Tango, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Delia strives for some of the elegance and sensuality of that dance in her wine.

Tasting Notes:
Bright ruby red in the glass (and scintillating by candlelight), the wine is gorgeously aromatic with the Cab Franc coming through in violets and lupines coupled with the bright cherry and cedar of the Cabernet. The wine is high class silk in the mouth, full and supple with flavors of black cherry and chocolate and surprisingly very little hint of tannins as the wine finishes elegant and long with hints of coffee. Notably absent is the bitter and flinty character I sometimes experience (and very much dislike) in Howell Mountain fruit.

Food Pairing:
Because of the highly subdued tannins of this wine I wouldn't pair it with fare normally reserved for big Napa reds. Instead of big red meats, I might serve it with duck, or even roasted quail with red grapes and pearl onions.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How much?: $80

This wine is available for order through the vineyard's Web site or from various Internet retailers.

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