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05.23.2004

2000 Stuhlmuller Cabernet, Alexander Valley

There is a growing trend in California wine country that is resulting in lots of new small producers entering the market. Partially enabled by the advent and popularity of "custom crush" facilites, many wine growers that have heretofore just sold their grapes to larger Wineries are now starting to produce their own wines. Stuhlmuller is a perfect example. For years the Stuhlmuller family sold their grapes to the likes of Chateau Souverain, Clos du Val and even Fetzer. After years of swearing that grapes weren't his thing, the young son, Fritz Stuhlmuller, changed his mind and decided to start producing wines from the family's Alexander Valley estate.

Lucky for us. Starting from the very first 1996 vintage, Stuhlmuller wines have won acclaim from all the usual suspects, including a 90 point rating for the first Chardonnay vintage from the Wine Spectator. Located "just down the way" from Silver Oak's vineyards, the Stuhlmuller property is prime Cabernet growing real estate, and like that famous neighbor, produces some outstanding fruit.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is inky, dark blood red in color with lovely viscosity. The aromas are equally as dark, displaying a nose filled with black cherry, coffee, sweet oak, and cocoa. The body of the wine is heavily oak driven, a bit too much for my tastes, with predominantly cherry flavors surfacing through the tannins and a long finish that trails out with notes of boyzenberry along with the oak. Ultimately this is a classically done Cabernet, but a little too tannic to win top marks from me. Despite what I feel is fundamentally a lack of fine balance, I think this is a very good wine, and one that will improve with age as the tannins continue to mellow.

Food Pairing:
This wine demands rich dark meat like venison, and the tannic aspects of the wine could use a little counterbalance with something sweet. I'd suggest serving it with pan seared venison with rosemary and dried cherries.

Overall Score: 8/8.5

How Much?: $30

As a small 2000 production, there isn't a lot of this left around. I got mine from Porthos but they no longer have any in stock. I was able to find one Internet retailer who still carries it using Wine Searcher.

Comments (3)

Ryan wrote:
05.23.04 at 10:28 PM

I'm curious, what/where are some of these "custom crush" facilities?

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.24.04 at 10:45 AM

A custom crush facility is basically a location which has all the quipment necessary to take grapes and make them wine, and which leases this equipment and space in their facility to anyone who's willing to pay.

There are some custom crush facilities that operate soley as such, like the Napa Wine Co, which plays host to dozens of boutique, small producers like Pahlmeyer and others. Here is a Wine Specator article about it.

Then there are other facilities that are in fact wineries in their own right, but who lease out their facilities to other winemakers to use. (Very smart way of generating extra income from my point of view). These range from small facilities like Grapeleaf Cellars in Berkeley, to larger ones like Vinwood Cellars in Geyserville.

I by no means have my finger on the pulse of this movement, so I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that I don't know about.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
06.08.04 at 4:17 AM

Here's a more recent article about the virtual wineries that are sprouting up all over Napa and Sonoma.

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