1995 Pride Mountain Vineyards Reserve Claret, Napa

OK. Time to trot out another one of the classics from the cellar. I try and review a range of wines here on Vinography (I try to drink a range of wines) and the wines of the last few days represent perhaps two ends of the spectrum I normally travel. Last week saw perhaps one of the best wines for under ten bucks I’ve ever had, and this wine represents one of the best California Cabernets I’ve ever had. I’m keeping myself happy, and hope you’re learning in the process.

Pride Mountain Vineyards is located at one of the oldest continuously occupied wine growing estates in Napa, on the top of Spring Mountain. Known to the locals as “Summit Ranch” it has been planted with grapes since 1869. Those vines have long since been replaced, and the farm has changed hands many (thirty-five) times, eventually ending up in the hands of the Pride family in 1990, who have been producing some of Napa’s most sought after red wines ever since.

Pride has the odd distinction of straddling the Napa and Sonoma county lines, a geographical misfortune that has resulted in the need (mandated by the state) to actually have two different production facilities to produce two different wines that are labeled with two different appellations. The dividing line goes literally right through the center of the property, and the winery is in the process of complying with the bureaucratic mandate.

The winery is currently run by Carolyn Pride and her children, after the recent loss of her husband, Jim, to cancer. Their winemaking is handled by Bob Foley, a winemaker who has made an indelible impression on Napa wine and the palates of the people who appreciate it. His career started at Heitz Cellars and continued at Markham and several other labels before he arrived at Pride. Robert M. Parker, Jr. echoes many critics in his praise of Foley:

“As the winemaker for Pride Mountain, the fabulous blue chip performer situated on the hillsides of Spring Mountain, Bob Foley has consistently turned out phenomenal wines. He also runs a small operation under his own name, and is the genius behind several other labels, most notably Switchback Ridge. For mountain-styled Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and even striking Sangiovese and Viognier, Foley has an undeniable talent for producing wines of great richness and intensity yet keeping them reasonably light on their feet.”

This wine represents the best of that talent, and highlights what can really be done with California Cabernet. The current (2001) vintage is pushing 100 points according to most scores.

Pride is known worldwide for their Cabernet and Cabernet Franc which they produce in limited (5000 ish) quantities. This wine is produced in even smaller bottlings and never even hits the market. It is snapped up by customers on their mailing list and loyal collectors worldwide. I’ve had several Pride Mountain wines and while they range from good to great, their Claret is by far the best of the lot, certainly one of the best wines made in Napa.

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. It spent a full 2 years in French oak before getting 8 months of bottle aging before release.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is an inky opaque purple in the glass with an explosive nose of tobacco, black cherry, and gunsmoke aromas. In the mouth it is incredibly silky, one of the most luxurious mouthfeels I can recently recall. The flavors on the palate are a harmonious blend of black plums, cherries, and chocolate, which carry straight through the finish which seems to go on forever, at least thirty seconds or so. It is truly splendid.

Food Pairing:
You know, I could tell you to serve this with the finest steak you have, grilled over cedar coals with nary a thing on it save salt and pepper. I could also tell you to sip it with some chocolate covered blueberries. But honestly? Don’t eat anything with this wine. Just enjoy it with some friends in front of the fire.

Overall Score: 10

How Much?: Well it was probably about $80 on release, but now it’s selling for around $200.

There are several Internet retailers which carry this wine, should you want to grab some for a special occasion. Try Wine Searcher.