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02.26.2013

The Best of Napa's 2011 Cabernets: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley

pnv13.jpgThis past Saturday, Napa Valley held what the Napa Valley Vintners association refers to as its "Annual Bake Sale." The event officially named Premiere Napa Valley is held each February as a fundraiser for the Vintners' operations, and is open only to members of the trade (retailers, corporate buyers, and the like). Every year, this auction provides a gauge of the overall demand for Napa wine, and perhaps a broader barometer of the American fine wine market overall.

Judging by the auction's proceeds of $3.04 million, which didn't quite top last year's record haul of $3.1 million, the demand for Napa's wine remains strong, if at somewhat more subdued levels than before 2008 reset the whole fine wine marketplace in this country.

The wines that get auctioned off at Premiere are made solely for the auction, in quantities of 5, 10, or 20 cases, and often represent the highest quality wine that each producer can make.

For anyone (such as myself) with no aspirations of buying fairly expensive, very unique wines, the weekend's primary point of interest lies in the tasting held before the auction, where these 200 (or in the case of this year, 212) barrel lots are made available for members of the trade and the media to sample.

So what's the good in me tasting wines that most won't be able to buy, let alone drink for some time? As I swoon over some of these wines, I often ask myself the same question.

Some of these wines can actually be purchased by the public, though they require persistence to track down, plus a cavalier attitude towards the price of wine. The top grossing auction lot on Saturday was 10 cases of wine from Chateau Boswell and Bevan Cellars sold at $75,000, or $625 per bottle. The average bottle price across all the auction lots was purportedly around $160

In recent years, the Napa Valley Vintners Association has been making a concerted effort to give the public access to these wines, and as a result, interested parties can look up the winning bidders on the auction site, and see which lots may be sold by the winning bidders.

If you're like me, however, you probably can't afford a single bottle of even the lowest priced wines from this event, so really, apart from offering a ringside view on the uppermost echelon of California wine buying, the Premiere Napa Valley auction provides a gauge of the quality of wine that a large number of Napa producers can make when they really try as well as a broad sense of the particular vintage on offer -- in this case, 2011

I attend every year for these insights, along with the fantastic food and laid-back camaraderie that accompanies the event.

So what do these ultra-special wines might tell us about the quality of many regular pnv13_2.jpgbottlings that are due to hit the market in 12 to 24 months. What does the 2011 vintage taste like?

It's complicated.

2011 was by many accounts the most challenging vintage Napa (and most of Northern California) has seen in decades. Thanks to very heavy early-season rains just before harvest, many vintners battled significant amounts of botrytis, mildew and grey rot on their generally soggy fruit. Those few who managed to pick before the rains had absolutely stellar fruit, if somewhat lower yields than normal. Those who managed to get their fruit dried out, took drastic action to combat botrytis and mildew, and then managed to get the fruit off the vine in late October had between 20 and 40 percent less crop, but good fruit at relatively lower sugars and higher acidity levels than normal. Those who waited into November took their chances with mixed results.

This bite-your-fingernails harvest was in full evidence in the 212 wines I tasted on Saturday. The best of them had brilliant, juicy fruit coupled with a not-often-seen-in-Napa stony and earthy underbelly that was quite compelling. Some even leaned towards a wet chalkboard or wet cement quality. The tannins in the most successful wines had the toned, smoothness that recalls the musculature of a gymnast -- incredible strength and flexibility without bulkiness or clumsiness. This was a year for higher acidity and lower pH in general, which gave a brightness to many wines.

Having said that, I don't think that the vintage as a whole was as successful as either 2010 (also a cooler year) or 2009, which was much more normal, and has yielded spectacular wines. In part, I think many Napa vintners simply were less familiar with the kinds of weather that mother nature threw at them. When I interviewed many around harvest, many made note of things that they had never seen or dealt with before in their entire careers working in Napa Valley. More so than in any vintage I can recall tasting at Premiere Napa Valley, I tasted a number of wines that made me wince.

In many cases, however, the wines are excellent, as my notes below suggest. But these wines overall weren't quite as high quality across the board as I've seen in 2010 and in 2009.

Lest you think, however, that I'm pessimistic about the vintage, I will say that even though I think that perhaps the wines aren't quite as spectacular as they could have been, many contain qualities that I yearn to find more commonly in Napa wine, namely lower alcohols, higher acidities, and more mineral qualities. I absolutely loved the steely nature of many of these wines, and the beautiful texture of their tannins. I'm also fine with earthier and more herbal tones in my wine, but those who are looking for plush, sweet, and ripe wines will have to be a lot choosier with 2011s than they have in previous years.

The Premiere barrel tasting is quite a marathon, especially for a guy like me who sets out to taste literally every single one of the 212 lots on offer. The only way I managed to get through them all this year was by tasting a chunk of them the day before at various tastings and open houses around the valley.

So without further ado, here are my notes on the wines that were sold at last Saturday's auction. The scores and tasting notes may be mostly irrelevant to mere mortals who have no designs on the specific wines, but take note of those producers at the top of my list. They're a good bet for having made excellent wine in general in 2011. I know I'll be seeking out many of their normal bottlings when they are released in the spring and fall of 2014.


WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1987 Schramsberg Vineyards "J. Schram Late-Disgorged" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley
Yellow gold in the glass, with a very fine bead of bubbles, this wine smells of marzipan, roasted nuts and buttered sourdough toast. In the mouth lightly sweet flavors of marzipan, sea water, honey roasted nuts and candied lemon peel all swirl with a bright minerality. Gorgeously juicy acidity makes the mouth water through the long finish. Slightly sweeter than I would like (heavy on the dosage?), but undeniably sumptuous.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2012 Grgich Hills Estate "Miljenko's 90th Vintage" Chardonnay, Los Carneros
Light cloudy gold in the glass, this wine smells of piney, toasty lemon zest. In the mouth flavors of juicy lemon and grapefruit mix with toasted nuts. Wonderful bright acidity. Tasty.

2011 Arietta "Ivory Keys" Semillon, Napa Valley
Bright yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon peel and white flowers over a bed of wet stone. In the mouth floral, stony flavors mix with the vanilla of new oak and excellent acidity makes flavors of lemon juice and asian pear come alive on the palate.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2012 Long Meadow Ranch Winery "SMV" Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford
Non-Vintage Domaine Chandon "Late-Disgorged" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2012 Coquerel Family Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
2011 Lail Vineyards "Henry IV" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
2011 Jones Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2012 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Los Carneros
2012 Hill Family Estate "Baker Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc, Atlas Peak


RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2011 Schrader Cellars, LLC "TSA Cuvée" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of floral cassis and cherry fruit. In the mouth tangy cherry and cassis fruit are wrapped in a skein of fine grained tannins. Gorgeously bright and juicy acidity keeps the fruit lively across the palate and through a long, floral finish. Outstanding.

2011 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Medium to dark garnet in color, bright and juicy aromas of floral cherry and cassis waft out of the glass. In the mouth the wine is no less bright with cherry, cassis, and even a hint of strawberry fruit all boisterous and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Velvety, fine grained tannins are draped about the mouth like casually thrown cloth. Long, and satisfying. Fantastic.

2011 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Red Wine, Napa Valley
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and wet chalkboard. In the mouth taut, muscular tannins grasp flavors of cassis and black cherry as scents of nutmeg and wet earth seem to emerge from deep within the wine. Stony minerality and bright acidity give the wine a dark resonance even as it remains juicy in the mouth. Brooding and fantastic.

2011 Revana Family Vineyard "Premiere Cuvée" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine is exceptionally floral even as bright cherry and cassis fruit sing clearly to the nose. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit and cassis nectar coast on a bed of velvety tannins across the palate, as dark chocolate flavors seem to melt on the tongue. Very plush and juicy. Yum. Definitely the best wine I've ever had from Revana.

2011 Ladera Vineyards "Two Mountains" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright espresso and cherry fruit, with a hint of cassis. In the mouth cherry cola and hints of new oak dance under a velvet cloak of very fine grained, quite supple tannins. The oak is well integrated into the wine at this point, and its fine vanilla notes add elegance to the cherry. This is a modernist wine of sorts, but no less delicious for it.

2011 Corison Winery "Premiere Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells minty, with bright aromas of forest berries and pine duff. In the mouth, deep and dusty forest floor earthiness plays counterpoint to gorgeously bright cherries and forest berries tinged with espresso and smoke. Fantastic acidity and taut, grippy tannins give the wine structure and muscle. Excellent.

2011 Morlet Family Vineyards and Vineyard 7 and 8 "Collaboration" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cassis with a creamy note to them. In the mouth, rich cherry and cassis flavors are spiced with cedar and tobacco. Thick but supple tannins make this a broad-shouldered wine, just as excellent acidity keeps it juicy and bright.

2011 J. Davies Estate "Rock Garden Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
Dark purple in the glass, this wine has a stony and bright smell of floral and cherry aromas. In the mouth that stony quality continues, with flavors of cassis and blueberry painted across wet slate and deep earth. Restrained, filigreed tannins provide an almost crystalline lattice to the wine's structure as it lingers for a long time in the mouth. Wow.

2011 Kapcsandy Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright forest berries and wonderful floral aromas. In the mouth the wine has an incredible brightness to it, bursting forth with cherry and cassis flavors that are quite crystalline with wet stone and dark earth, and dusted with fine-grained tannins.. Fantastic acidity and unending luminosity, for lack of a better word, on the palate. Wow.

2011 St. Helena Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of nothing if a freshly plucked and bitten cherry. In the mouth, incredibly bright, almost electric acidity makes pure cherry fruit zing across the palate with scents of cedar and cocoa powder, even as they are wrapped in faint, fine-grained tannins. Awesomely bright, with fantastic length, this wine demands to be gulped.

2011 Continuum Estate Blend, Napa Valley
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry fruit, darker stony, earthy aromas and a hint of oak. In the mouth, velvety tannins wrap around a cherry core that has a nutty, cocoa powder quality to it. Good acidity and rich, plush fruit with deeper earthy and stony flavors underneath. A well balanced and delicious package.

2011 Notre Vin Cellars "One Hundred Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry, wet earth, and wet stone. In the mouth bright, juicy cherry fruit is draped in a blanket of gorgeously textured, almost silky tannins. Fantastic acidity keeps the fruit bright and electric on the palate, and the mouth waters for more after a few moments. Delicious.


RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2011 BRAND Napa Valley "Debut" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, lush black cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine is plush and velvety with flavors of cherry that are lightly sweet but counterpointed with dark earth. Great acidity keeps the wine tasting fresh, but it is definitely on the riper side of life.

2011 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stony and earthy cherry fruit. In the mouth tightly wound tannins wrap around deeply earthy cherry fruit core, but so tightly that the wine seems somewhat closed and reticent. Good acidity suggests that a few years in the bottle and this wine will be ready to reveal more of its secrets.

2011 Heritance "Lot FX" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of espresso, cherry, earth and smoke. In the mouth flavors of cassis and cherry have an almost citrus tang to them thanks to excellent acidity. The tannins are tightly wound, and the traces of new oak well integrated into the wine. Juicy and tasty.

2011 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cool, juicy cherry and cassis fruit with a hint of florality. In the mouth cassis and cherry fruit have a stony coolness to them, accentuated by taut, fine grained tannins and excellent acidity. Smooth and long in the mouth, this wine is a beauty.

2011 Seavey Vineyard "Masochist's Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and cherry cola. In the mouth bright cherry fruit is embraced by leathery tannins, which are both brightened by good acidity that lingers through a long finish. There's a brightness to this wine that is quite charming, and the flavors are delicious.

2011 Blackbird Vineyards Red Wine, Napa Valley
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has an almost creamy aroma to it as cherry and cedar notes rise out of the glass. In the mouth that creamy quality continues in texture, with plum, nutmeg, cedar and tobacco aromas dancing around on a bed of deep wet earth. Fine grained tannins are draped like a blanket around the fruit, giving an overall plush feel to the wine. Good acidity.

2012 Quintessa "Dragon's Terraces" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a pure singing cherry fruit aroma. In the mouth velvety tannins wrap around flavors of cassis, tobacco and wet earth. The tannins thicken to peanut butter consistency in the finish, as the earthy notes deepen in the wine. This one will need some time. Good acidity.

2011 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Westside Trio" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and floral notes overtop ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth bright juicy cherry and cassis flavors are wrapped in fine grained tannins. The finish is long and incorporates floral aromas. Good acidity.

2011 Monticello Vineyards & PEJU "Three Shades of Cabernet Franc" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine has a nutty nose of cherry and tobacco aromas. In the mouth cherry fruit flavors mix with roasted and raw nuts amidst bright acidity and velvety, mouth-coating tannins. Rich and broad, with notes of brown sugar in the finish.

2011 Elyse Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Medium to dark garnet in color this wine smells of sweet black cherry fruit. In the mouth the tannins are voluptuous and velvety and wrap around a core of sweet black cherry and new oak, but the wood is quite well integrated and subsumed in the fruit. Great acidity.

2011 Nickel & Nickel "Tench Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Medium purple in color, this wine smells of cherry and cassis with deeper earthy notes underneath. In the mouth great acidity brings cherry, black cherry, and cassis flavors to life, which have a skeletal frame of athletic proportions thanks to taut tannins. Earthier notes linger in the finish. Great acidity.

2011 Casa Nuestra Winery and Vineyards Blend, Oakville
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has an unusual grapey smell of mulberry and huckleberry aromas. In the mouth wet stone minerality pervades, while flavors of cassis, blueberry, and exotic flowers mix with earthier notes. Taut, fine grained tannins add structure to the wine. Exotic and unusual.

2011 Clos Du Val "A Cappella" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, green bell pepper and wet earth, with a touch of cherry fruit showing through. In the mouth lean, stony flavors of green herbs, wet earth and cherry are treated with brusque, somewhat blocky tannins. But excellent acidity keeps the wine bright and vibrating in the mouth. Fans of Clos du Val's more European stylings will not be disappointed in this wine, especially if cellared for a few years.

2011 Cornerstone Cellars "The Premiere Cornerstone" Blend, Napa Valley
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a stony, bright character to it with notes of cherry. In the mouth faint tannins surround a core of stony cherry and cassis fruit like a light mist. Great acidity and comparatively quite a light body make this an interesting and elegant wine.

2011 Terra Valentine "Fleur de Lys" Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of floral and cherry aromas with hints of cedar and cinnamon. In the moth cherry, cedar and cocoa powder flavors emerge from a dark blanket of thick, mouth-coating tannins. Great acidity keeps those tannins from weighing down the wine too much, though there is definitely a hint of this wines alcohol coming through.

2011 HALL "Jim's Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis, black cherry, and more floral aromas. In the mouth black cherry and cassis have a deep stony quality to them, while taut, spring-loaded tannins seem tight with power. Great acidity carries through the wine leaving the mouth wanting more. Delicious.

2011 Spring Mountain Vineyard "140 Years of Cabernet" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of violets and cassis. In the mouth, stony, restrained flavors of black cherry, cassis, and more violets have a deep earth undertone. The tannins are faint and supple, and add structure quite subtly to the wine. Hints of spice on the finish.

2011 Turnbull Wine Cellars "Le Corbeau" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich, chocolate covered prunes. While the nose might suggest a wine that is overripe, the rich black cherry fruit on the palate has a stony quality underneath it that is quite compelling. Sure the fruit is ripe, but there's so much acidity and such supple tannins underneath, that it doesn't weigh down the palate. Very interesting.

2011 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Summit Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark purple in color, this wine smells of mulberry, cassis, and violets. In the mouth suede-like tannins wrap around flavors of cassis, black cherry, and cola. Wet earth notes have a mulberry quality to them as they linger through the long finish. Great acidity and excellent balance.

2011 PATEL - Napa Valley "Tourmaline Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet dirt, wet leaves and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth juicy cherry fruit merges with profoundly deep wet earth flavors. Bright acidity matches with supple, fine-grained tannins that have a taut silky quality to them.

2011 Farella-Park Vineyards "Terrace Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet dirt, green herbs, and a hint of green pepper with some cherry fruit peeking through the dark earthy mist. In the mouth deep and stony flavors of cherry fruit have a green herbal tinge to them while tacky tannins grip the edges of the mouth. Great acidity, but tightly wound and in need of five years in the bottle. Not for those who want lush sweet fruit in their Napa Cabernet, but a very interesting and compelling wine nonetheless.

2011 Moone-Tsai Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, bright cherry and tobacco aromas shot through with wet earth. In the mouth the tight, fine grained tannins seem to have a sweetness to them as juicy cherry and tobacco flavors dance over deeper wet cement and wet earth flavors that linger through the finish.

2011 Frank Family Vineyards "Winston Hill Block 5 (Heart Block)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cassis and black cherries. In the mouth the wine tastes much as it smells, with quite pretty, but slightly sweeter cassis and black cherry fruit that is juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Supple, fine grained tannins linger through the finish along with the black cherry.

2011 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stony, smoky cassis and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, deep and wide fine grained tannins coat the mouth with good acidity brings flavors of black cherry, cassis, and graphite to life on the palate. Notes of new oak are relatively restrained at this point and add a nice high note to the wine.

2011 Darioush Red Wine, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and tobacco aromas. In the mouth flavors of cassis, mulberry and cocoa powder are grasped rather tightly by leathery tannins but have a boisterousness thanks to bright juicy acidity. Long finish.

2011 Patland Estate Vineyards "Proprietors' Selection III" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright and floral cherry and cedar aromas. In the mouth a mix of forest berries and bright cherries have a hint of cola nut to them. The acidity and tight tannins seem accentuated by an almost steely cool quality to the wine. A hint of oak emerges on the finish.

2011 Shafer Vineyards "Sunspot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells smoky with aromas of wet dirt and cassis. In the mouth the wine is quite tannic, with earthy, cherry and sour cherry fruit tinged with cassis. Good acidity combines with the tight, muscular tannins to provide an overall feeling of a clenched fist of a wine that will need some time to relax. But when it does it will be even more tasty than it is now.

2011 Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery "We Will Rock You" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cassis and cherry. In the mouth bright cherry fruit and cola nut flavors have a sweetness to them even as they are nestled in velvety tannins. Good acidity.

2010 Promise Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet black cherry fruit. In the mouth, velvety tannins wrap around a core of sweeter cherry and cassis fruit.. Good acidity and a decent finish.

2011 William Hill Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry cola. In the mouth flavors of cherry cola are beautifully juicy thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained tannins. Lovely.

2011 La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
A bright medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy, even steely cherry fruit. In the mouth tight, muscular tannins wrap around cherry and forest berries with a stony, forest floor note to them. Great acidity and long finish.

2011 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
2011 Larkmead Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Spoto Wines "Private Reserve Cuvée" Red Wine, Oakville
2011 Coho "Combination of the Two" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2011 Peter Paul Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Swanson Vineyards "Winemaker's Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Lewis Cellars "Premiere Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2011 Adler Deutsch Vineyard "ADV" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 Chimney Rock Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 Vineyard 29 "The St. Helena Special" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 ADAMVS "Borne" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2011 Ackerman Family Vineyards "The Vicar(d)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville


RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2011 Robert Mondavi Winery "To Kalon Vineyard, Monastery Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2010 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "Ignem et Aquam" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery "Estate Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2011 Alpha Omega "Beckstoffer Blend" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2011 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2011 Groth Vineyards and Winery "Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 Paraduxx "Premiere Blend" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2012 Newton Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2010 Spelletich Cellars "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Amuse Bouche Winery Merlot, Napa Valley
2011 Derenoncourt California "Las Posadas" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 TEXTBOOK "Dr. Strangebrix" Red Wine, Oakville
2011 Tournesol Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2011 Barnett Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2011 Titus Vineyards "Undici Opportunità" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 Erba Mountainside Vineyards "Winemaker's Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Sequoia Grove Vineyards "Tonella Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2011 VHR, Vine Hill Ranch "Assessment" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 Brandlin Vineyard "Chester's Cut" Red Wine, Mount Veeder
2011 Robert Craig Winery "Pym Rae" Blend, Mount Veeder
2011 Clos Pegase Winery "Antipodes" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Kitchak Cellars "Symphony" Merlot, Napa Valley
2011 Raymond Vineyards "Masquerade" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2011 Rocca Family Vineyards "Grigsby Vineyard" Syrah, Yountville
2011 Somerston "Celestial" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Petit Verdot, Howell Mountain
2011 Buoncristiani Family Winery "Quartet of Fours" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2011 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiles Valley District
2012 Ancien Wines Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
2011 Chappellet Vineyard and Winery "Heaven on the Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Hourglass "1" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Larkin Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2010 White Rock Vineyards "Castor and Pollux" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Frias Family Vineyard "Frias Blend" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District
2011 Sterling Vineyards "Hill & Dale" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Beaulieu Vineyard "Single Barrel Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2011 Oakville East Exposure "Majek" Cabernet Franc, Oakville
2011 Mount Veeder Winery "Fogline" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2010 Lang & Reed Wine Company "Franc Sauvage" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
2011 Gandona Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Hess Collection Winery "Small Block Series" Malbec, Mount Veeder
2010 Heitz Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 Far Niente "Martin Stelling Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 Hill Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2011 Krupp Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Detert Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Oakville
2011 Tierra Roja Vineyards "Katharine's Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 CADE Estate Winery "Eagle Summit" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2011 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 Keenan Winery "Waited So Long" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2011 Purlieu Wines "Martinez Vineyard - "Cachére"" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2011 Reynolds Family Winery "ONE" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 Duckhorn Vineyards "Three Palms Vineyard Barrel Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Black Stallion Estate Winery "Unison" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2011 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Wild Layla" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
NV ZD Wines "Petit Abacus" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2010 Chateau Montelena "K Block Blend 10.23" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2011 Twomey Cellars "One" Merlot, Napa Valley
2011 Porter Family Vineyards "Duet" Blend, Coombsville
2011 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO - Heritage Clone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2012 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2011 Arkenstone Vineyards "Block 1 Lower" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2011 Pine Ridge Vineyards "5x5" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Mi Sueño Winery "Selección Herrera" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2011 Gemstone Vineyard "Reflections" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
2011 Hudson Vineyards "August" Red Wine, Los Carneros
2011 Castello di Amorosa Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2012 Faust "Le Démon de Midi" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2010 Juslyn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2011 Merryvale Vineyards "Schlatter Family Estate Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 Cain Vineyard and Winery "François' Pick: Orchard Block" Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District
2011 Stony Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Trinchero Napa Valley "Mountain to Mountain Cuvée" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Palmaz Vineyards "Cave Side" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2011 Envy Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2012 Red Mare Wines "Farmer JR" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Paoletti Estates Winery Malbec, Calistoga
2011 The Vineyardist "The Pioneer" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
2011 Atalon Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
2011 Hewitt Vineyard and Provenance Vineyards "Sleeping Lady" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
2011 Virage Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
2011 Howell at the Moon, Kelleher Family Vineyard, and Peacock Family Vineyard "3 Way" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2010 Ramian Estate "Reserve2" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Trefethen Family Vineyards "1" Blend, Oak Knoll District
2011 Canard Vineyard Blend, Calistoga
2011 Emblem Wines "Oso Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 LATERAL "Clone: 181" Merlot, Oak Knoll District
2011 Caspar Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2012 Metaphora Wines Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
2012 Edict Wines "The Dylan" Blend, Napa Valley

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2011 Ghost Block and Markham Vineyards "Meritage Blend" Red Wine, Yountville
2011 Tamber Bey "DCV Sandbox Blend II" Red Wine, Yountville
2011 Silver Oak Cellars "Jumpin' Jack Flash" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Miner Family Winery Blend, Napa Valley
2011 Signorello Estate "Cuvée Athena" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Louis M. Martini Winery "254 Meritage Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Hopper Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
2011 Tetra "Tetra" Blend, Napa Valley
2011 Freemark Abbey "Van Z Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2010 Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2010 Charnu Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2011 ROY Estate "Voix Basse (a whisper)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Stags' Leap Winery "Estate" Red Wine, Stags Leap District
2011 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2012 Artesa Winery "Estate" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2011 Robert Foley Vineyards and Switchback Ridge "All-American Boy and Girl" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Rubissow "GJR" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2010 XTANT "Heart and Soul of St. Helena" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 JAX Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2012 Sciandri Family Vineyards "Labor of Love" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2010 PureCru Napa Valley "Secret 7 Selection (S-7-S)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 VinRoc Wine Caves "Koko's Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
2011 Summers Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2011 Hestan Vineyards "Stephanie "Bravura"" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2012 Truchard Vineyards Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2011 Michael Mondavi Family Estate "M by Michael Mondavi" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 BURE Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2011 Buehler Vineyards "Kindly Well" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Snowden Vineyards Petit Verdot, Napa Valley
2010 Broman Cellars "Rock(n) Cab" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 John Anthony Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District
2011 Montagna "Tango de la Presa" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2012 Bouchaine Vineyards "Auction Select Best Barrel" Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
2010 The Gabrielle Collection "O'Connell Family Vineyards Estate Blocks" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2011 Thirteen Appellations "Meritage" Red Wine, Napa Valley
2011 Mario Bazán Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Renteria Wines "River Block Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 Baldacci Family Vineyards "First Born" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2011 Franciscan Estate "Lot 240" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2012 Acacia Vineyard "Lone Tree Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2010 Dutch Henry Winery "Lost Dog" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2010 Croze Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2011 Robert Biale Vineyards "P.S. 185" Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
2011 Whitehall Lane "Deep Six" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2010 BURLY "Bear One" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville
2011 Kenefick Ranch Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2010 V12 Vineyards "Victorious" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2011 Ca' Mimi Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2012 Madonna Estate Red Wine, Los Carneros

Comments (9)

02.27.13 at 6:35 AM

Alder, it was great to meet you at PNV. After attending for the first time and tasting maybe half the lots, your effort is even more heroic. Cheers!

tom farella wrote:
02.27.13 at 9:33 AM

Another great effort, Alder. You help make this event more accessible and cohesive with your annual report. Premiere is now iconic in the spirit of the Hospices de Beaune for a preview of any given vintage for the region. Without your comprehensive report, much would be lost to the buzz of the day. Thanks again.

02.27.13 at 9:49 AM

Glad you liked Patland lot. Most of the credit should go to our winemaker Jay Buoncristiani and Stagecoach Vineyards! Next time you're in Napa, perhaps you can visit Patland Estate Vineyards for a more in-depth tasting of Patland wines.

Craig Camp wrote:
02.27.13 at 11:45 AM

Thanks for the great comments on our 2011 Cornerstone Cellars The Premiere Cornerstone. I love this description, "Great acidity and comparatively quite a light body make this an interesting and elegant wine." That is just what we are aiming for!

Jerry wrote:
02.27.13 at 1:01 PM

What is a "modernist wine" ? I've not heard that term.

Alder wrote:
02.27.13 at 2:07 PM

Jerry,

That may be a slightly unhelpful descriptor, I acknowledge. What I mean by that is a riper, more oak driven wine (AKA New World) than old school/old world wine.

Mary Rocca wrote:
02.27.13 at 2:51 PM

Alder, 2011 was a challenging year for us at Rocca Family too- even though we are fairly nimble in responding to changing weather patterns in our farming. We did find that our Syrah had some unusually beautiful floral notes due to the cooler growing season, which is why we chose it for our Premiere offering (glad you liked it!). Our 2011 Cabernet, while delicious, is not as full and complex as our previous vintages, which is why we have made the painful decision to declassify it. The good news is that it has found a happy home in our proprietary blend, Vespera.
Please do come see us when you are coming to the valley!

Suzanne Groth wrote:
03.03.13 at 8:37 AM

Alder, thank you for the thorough tasting and notes on PNV 2013. Thanks, also, for attending the Oakville pre-premiere tasting at Far Niente. We all appreciate your balanced reporting on the wines and of events in Napa.

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