In 1987 Jennifer and Herb Lamb purchased a little over 7 acres of hillside property on the eastern hillsides of St. Helena just below Howell Mountain. Starting in 1991 the fruit was sold to wineries like Karl Lawrence and Colgin. In 1997, with winemaker Mike Trujillo at the helm, they released the first vintage of Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dark crimson in color. 14.2% ABV. Scintillating nose of red fruits, cassis, tobacco and scorched earth. Big, plush and super silky. Full bodied and perfectly balanced. Currants, creme de cassis and dark chocolate on the palate. There are substantial fine grained tannins on an extraordinarily long finish. Fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon from a great vintage and an iconic vineyard. Drink over the next 4-6 years.
My rating: 95 points.
Given the pedigree, Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon is fairly priced at $150 per bottle. The wine is only available via the mailing list.
The December installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2002 vintage. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar.
2002 was a better than average vintage in both Washington and California. The contenders in this version of Pick My Next Bottle should be entering a period where they are drinking well and New Years Eve seems like a good enough occasion! Polls are open until Sunday afternoon.
2002 Chateau Montelena “Estate” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This appears to be one of the great efforts from Chateau Montelena, something I think I was correct about when I gave it an ‘in the bottle’ rating in 2006 of 95+. It is still an amazingly young wine that came from old vines on the famous St. George rootstock that did not require replanting because of the phylloxera epidemic that swept through Napa in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Despite its lofty 14.4% alcohol (high by Montelena standards) and the overall flamboyance of the 2002 vintage, it needs another 4-6 years of cellaring. This young, classic Cabernet Sauvignon represents the quintessential traditional school of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It possesses an inky/blue/purple color in addition to a tight, but promising nose of black currants, crushed rocks, earth and spice. Rich, full-bodied, pure and brilliantly executed, with perfect harmony, this is a sensational yet forebodingly backward, youthful Cabernet Sauvignon should keep another quarter of a century. 96 points from the Wine Advocate.
2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – Unlike some minuscule production ‘cult’ wines or luxury cuvees culled from a winery’s primary product that have earned perfect scores over the years, Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s raison d’etre and is produced in significant quantities (3,400 cases in 2002, 3,425 in 2003). For accomplishing this feat the Golitzens should be doubly proud. Dark ruby-colored and sporting a nose of violets, sweet blueberries, dark cherries, and slight undertones of asphalt, the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon blossoms on the palate to expose a wine of ethereal delicacy yet immense power. Medium to full-bodied, it expands to reveal concentrated layers of cassis, blackberries, red cherries, raspberries, violets, spices, and touches of candied plums. This rich, exquisitely balanced, sweet, and broad wine is harmonious, graceful, and awesomely long. 100 points from the Wine Advocate.
2002 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red – The nearly perfect 2002 Proprietary Red Wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and the rest dollops of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. This exotic, full-throttle, nearly over-the-top red wine’s intensity, richness and smoky coffee notes intermixed with notions of chocolate, graphite, and jammy blackberry and black currant fruit ooze from the glass. This rich, concentrated beauty tastes more like a top-notch, young Right Bank Bordeaux from a vintage such as 2009 than a wine dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. With stunning purity and awesome potential, it can be drunk now or cellared for another two decades. 99 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Should I Open?
2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (44%, 17 Votes)
Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer. Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Syrah from exceptional, historic vineyards. Many of these vineyards are heritage sites planted by Italian immigrants and date back to the late 1800s . They have also added their first whites, two blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County’s first ever Grüner Veltliner.
Bedrock Vineyard, formerly known as Madrone Ranch, was first planted in 1854. Senator George Hearst purchased the property in 1888 and planted most of the vines that exist to this day. Located in the Sonoma Valley the vineyard is a fruit source for Ravenswood, Carlisle and Bedrock.
Maroon in color. 15.8% ABV. Gorgeous nose of bright red fruits, peach cobbler and flowers. Medium body with juicy acidity. Fresh, restrained and remarkably well balanced. Raspberry, salmonberry, pepper and a hint of cream on the palate. Medium length on the finish. Lighter in style than I am accustomed to from Carlisle but delicious nonetheless. Drink over the next 1-2 years.
My rating: 93 points.
Current vintages of the various Carlisle wines are available via the mailing list, which is exceptionally long. Several retail outlets in California stock Carlisle, but you need to check with them at the time the winery releases their wines in the Spring and Fall.
Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to pool their tips and venture into winemaking. Twenty years later, Kosta Browne is one of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of California. At present time they produce three appellation Pinot Noirs, eight single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.
Kanzler Vineyard is located in western Sonoma County, just south of Bodega Highway on Sander’s Road and was planted in 1996.
Crimson in color. 14.7% ABV. Stunning nose of red fruits, cloves, sarsaparilla and wet forest floor. Silky and plush with an abundance of fruit. Like tasting liquid velvet. Cherries, strawberries, black tea and minerals on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long. Kosta Browne at it’s best. Powerful yet elegant and polished. Drink over the next 2-4 years.
My rating: 94 points.
The 2016 version will be released next Spring and will likely cost close to $100. I’ll be a buyer. Past vintages of this wine frequently show up on WineBid for at or near the original release cost.
As I mentioned in the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists, Kosta Browne is one of hardest lists to crack. Maybe so, but you’ve got nothing to lose by putting your name on the waiting list. Good luck!
Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.
The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.
Terra Bella Vineyard is in Paso Robles and this wine is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache. Field Book is produced for members of the Spottswoode Wine Club.
Dark crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Savory nose of black and blue fruits, grilled meats and espresso. Rich and full bodied with robust acidity. Dense, concentrated and powerful. Perfect balance. Blueberries, blackberries, cassis liqueur and chocolate truffles on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with silky tannins. Stunning Syrah that far exceeded my expectations. I should have known better given the producer. I will wait 2-4 years before I open my last bottle.
Alberto Rafanelli, an Italian immigrant, first founded A. Rafanelli Winery in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that Alberto’s son, Americo, came out with the present day label and started selling the wine commercially. David and Patty Rafanelli now run the winery and a 4th generation Rafanelli, their daughter Shelly, is the winemaker. The winery is perhaps best known for their Zinfandel but also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with all the fruit sourced from their vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.
Crimson in color. 14.7% ABV. Scrumptious nose of red and black fruits, pepper, plums and earth. Medium to full bodied with juicy acidity. Nicely balanced. Black raspberries, blackberries and white pepper on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. Super Zinfandel from one of the top producers in the Dry Creek Valley. Drink over the next 3-5 years.
Rafanelli is very traditional in how they run the winery. If you want to join the mailing list you need to send them a letter. They do not correspond via email, but will likely answer the phone if you give them a call. The extra effort required to acquire the wine is worth it. The tasting room is open by appointment and is always worth a visit to try the new releases. The 2016 Zinfandel will be released this coming Spring and costs around $45.
Thomas Rivers Brown and his wife Genevieve Marie Walsh have quickly made Rivers-Marie one of California’s most sought after Pinot Noir labels. The winery was founded in 2002 and the first release was the Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir. In addition to the line up of Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs, Rivers-Marie also makes a few single vineyard Cabernets and Chardonnay. Thomas is in high demand and serves as a consultant for a number of wineries including Schrader and Outpost.
Gioia is a 2-acre vineyard just west of Occidental on Joy Road, about a mile from Summa Vineyard.
Maroon in color. 14.1% ABV. Splendid nose of red fruits, pine needle, cloves and baking spices. Brooding, dense and sappy. Medium to full bodied with ample acidity. Black cherry, anise, cranberry and rhubarb on the palate. Tremendous length on the finish. Delicious Pinot Noir with a long live ahead of it. Best over the next 4-6 years.
My rating: 92 points.
Rivers-Marie wines are only available via their mailing list. The 2016 version of this wine will be released early next year. Sign up for the mailing list if you have not done so already
Turley Wine Cellars was founded in 1993 by Larry Turley and specializes in small lots of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from some of California’s most historic and treasured vineyards. Turley now makes right around 28 separate wines from 35 different vineyards, some with vines that date back to the late 1800’s. Tegan Passalacqua is the Director of Winemaking at Turley and has been instrumental in revitalizing the brand.
The vines that make up Juvenile range in age from about 6-25 years, and pull from vineyards across California, including Hayne, Ueberroth, Pesenti, Salvador, Vineyard 101, Fredericks and Kirschenmann
Purple in color. 15.5% ABV. Sensational nose of red and blue fruits, brown sugar and raspberry liqueur. Lush, sweet and exceptionally well balanced. Full bodied with medium acidity. Raspberry compote, boysenberry and crushed black pepper on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long. Zinfandel just does not get much better at the $20 price point. Drink over the next 2-3 years.
My rating: 92 points.
With all due respect to Carlisle and Bedrock, Turley is arguably the best Zinfandel producer in California. Exceptional vineyards sources throughout the state of California and no detail spared in the winemaking process. The wines are simply better than ever.
Turley wines are available via the mailing list and periodically at retail. Turley has tasting rooms in both Amador and Paso Robles. If you are not on the mailing list, this is an easy way to secure bottles. Both are not to be missed if you are in the area.