2001 Gargiulo Vineyards “Money Road Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville

I think there’s an interesting phenomenon happening in Napa right now. It seems every day there’s a new small Napa producer popping up with their first vintage. Many of these are, of course, landless labels which consist of talented winemakers who buy relatively small amounts of grapes from well known sources to produce wines at custom crush facilities or leased time and space from other vineyards.

There are another sort, however, and we may be seeing more of them in the next couple of years. This type of label represents the new blood of Napa — families and individuals who have, in the mid to late 1990’s, purchased and in some cases replanted prime Napa vineyards. Gargiulo Vineyards is one of those labels.

Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo purchased a forty-acre vineyard in the heart of Oakville in 1992, and with the help of viticulturalist Laurie Wood, replanted the vineyard in 1994 to produce small lots of premium, single vineyard designate wines. This is prime Napa Cabernet terroir, with next door neighbors like Opus One and Cakebread. 6 years after replanting, having retained the services of consulting winemaker Jim Moore of Mondavi they produced their inaugural vintage. More recently Gargiulo has purchased significant acreage at Oakville crossroads next to Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Harlan, and Rudd. They also have begun construction of a winery which will be open to the public on this site.

Now on their second commercial vintage, this small family winery is attempting some interesting things including some experiments with Sangiovese in both reds and rosés.

I recently sampled all of Gargiulo’s current releases and while many were unfortunately lackluster, in addition to this fine Cabernet, they also produce a Merlot from the same vineyard which I’d score at an 8/8.5 and which is in the $25-$30 price range.

While I was unable to get the specific statistics for the recently released 2001 vintage, this wine is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (~ 85%) and Merlot (~ 15%). It was aged in French oak (50% new) for 23 months before spending a while in the bottle. It weighs in around 14.5% alcohol.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a cloudy, dark blood red in the glass suggesting that it is unfined and unfiltered. It has a gorgeous nose of leather and tea soaked ripe cherries and blackberries with some herbal notes that remind me of young black olives. On the palate the wine is very smooth with flavors of black currants and blueberries swirling around surprisingly mellow tannins for an Oakville Cab (presumably because of the high Merlot percentage in the wine). The finish is long and sweet and brings back the blackberry elements from the nose. Overall very well balanced.

Food Pairing:
Because of the softer tannins this is a lovely food wine and one that I’d serve with the best of red meats. Try it with Jamie Oliver’s medallions of beef with morels, marsala and creme fraiche sauce.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How much?: $45

This wine can be ordered directly from the winery. Give them a call at 707.944.2770 — you’ll most likely talk with April Gargiulo who handles most of the PR and sales for the family. If you’re in San Francisco you can also find them at Nectar Wine Shop and Lounge. K&L also carries some of their wines but I’m not sure if they have this Cab.