The first thing you'll notice about this wine, and perhaps something you'll notice again and again as you curse while trying to fit it into your cellar racks, is that it looks more like Balsamic vinegar than wine. It uses a very odd format bottle, one that is very narrow and a good 20% taller than most of the standard Cabernet format bottles on the market.
Why they have chosen to use this format is beyond me.I can only assume that Frank and Karen Altamura wanted their wines to make a statement as soon as you see them. This runs almost counter to the history and branding of Altamura, which is low key, family based, and off-the-beaten-path.
Altamura Winery and Vineyards was founded in 1985 by Frank and Karen on a Napa Valley ranch that had been in the family since 1855. East off of the Silverado trail, a small area called Wooden Valley houses the family and its vineyards, which came under the label of Altamura in 1985, but both had a long history of winemaking before that date.
The vineyards on the property have long supplied grapes for blending to Mondavi, and Frank Altamura worked in the cellars of Caymus, Sterling, and Trefethen. In 1985, Frank took his vineyards and his time and dedicated them to making his own wine under the Altamura label, and since then has been producing quality Sangiovese and Cabernet in small lots, and with extremely high quality.
Even though it is several years old, this wine still has a lot of purple in its dark ruby color, and it wafts out of the glass with thick seductive aromas of coffee, blueberry, pomegranate, and chocolate. In the mouth the wine is very soft and supple with strong black cherry and blueberry flavors and incredibly well integrated tannins. The wine finishes long and with a superb sense of balance, leaving you satisifed but wanting more. This wine is expertly oaked with just the right amount of wood to support the complexities of flavor in the wine, but not enough to overwhelm the finesse of the fruit. It is quite possibly the best wine from the 2000 vintage I have tasted.
Because of the subtleties of the tannins in this wine, it will work with more food than a typical highly structured Napa Cabernet. This isn't to say that it won't do wonders with red meat however. I'd even go so far as to pair it with something a little on the spicier side, like sauteed skirt steak in a spicy tomato sauce.
Overall score: 9.5
How much?: $59
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