I've enjoyed Chappellet wines for a long time now, after being first introduced to them by a colleague at work who knew one of their sales reps. After a good recommendation and a taste at an afternoon barbecue at his house, I picked up a case of their Sangiovese, which is still one of my favorite incarnations of that varietal in California.
Chappellet is a family estate established on Pritchard Hill (Napa Valley AVA) shortly after prohibition ended in the 20's (apparently the second winery in the valley after prohibition). Their estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Chenin Blanc. As one might expect from this list, they lean towards the Bordeaux style of winemaking. This is especially true in their efforts with Chenin Blanc which are truly remarkable. When they purchased their estate in 1967 many acres were alreadyplanted with Chenin Blanc and rather then rip them out as everyone in their right mind has recommended since (the same soil planted with Cabernet would be worth 10 times the income they get from Chenin) they have lovingly tended them since, producing two wines which are remarkable.
But this isn't a review of their white wines, it's a review of their "approachable" Mountain Cuvee, a Cabernet blended with 30% Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc. This wine was developed in 1998 as an alternative to their rich, complex, and tannic Estate Cabernet, and has been a favorite of mine for a while, especially given its price point. They produce a fairly high volume of this wine each year compared to some of the wines I review (7,500 cases), but it's consistently good.
Dark garnet in hue, this wine lifts itself out of the glass with aromas of ripe black cherries and dried herbs. On the tongue it tastes mostly of cherry with a light hint of smokiness and blueberries that mixwith the mellow tannins for a very drinkable and easy mouthfeel, and a long finish that has hints of vanilla and other floral elements.
This is an excellent food wine, and one that's worth breaking out at most any dinner, especially if you prefer to drink reds no matter what you're eating. The softer tannins mean that it will not clash with more delicate foods, including even fish. If I had to pick an ideal dish to serve it with, I might try individual meat loaves with bacon crisps.
Overall Score: 8.5/9
How much?: $22-24
This wine is available for sale from the winery, or at several online wine merchants, including wine.com, and probably at least one wine retailer in your area if you're in California or a major metro area in the States.
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