Love That Mountain Fruit

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by

Look, the region is called Napa VALLEY. You’d expect there’s plenty of good stuff at low elevations. But I’ve always been excited by the uppermost regions, which I first explored at Cain and Smith-Madrone on Spring Mountain. So I was excited to be invited to a tasting of wines from Antica Napa Valley, located on Atlas Peak.

The estate vineyards at Antica Napa Valley.

Antica is owned by Italy’s famed Antinori family, with 26 (!) generations of wine know-how. Legendary. But if this makes them seem historic (they are) as in content, resting on their laurels, living in the past, etc. that is W-R-O-N-G. Case in point is heading to Napa, founding Antica, and building a winery in 1994. Why Napa? Why not? As well as Washington State, Chile, Malta, Romania, and Hungary.

But lets head back to Napa Valley and take a look at the trio of wines I enjoyed. (Oh, and I just realized Antica=Antinori + California. Duh.)

Antica Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2017 Antica Napa Valley Mountain Select Chardonnay ($35)
  • 2016 Antica Napa Valley Mountain Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70)
  • 2014 Antica Napa Valley Townsend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)

You know I love Chardonnay with oak. But good oak! Yes, that can be new oak. Just be deft with it, like if you were in your kitchen and tasked with being the architect of a judiciously buttered piece of toast.

This wine is estate-grown, the fruit is from vines ranging in age from 4-31 years and from altitudes topping 1,400 feet.

Back to the oak. Half of the barrels are new, so no overkill. Also that mountain locale means things cool down quite a bit at night, preserving freshness. So you’ve got a wine with great fruit, richness, and texture that also offers refreshment. That Fab Four makes sweet Chardonnay music, and for $35 this is a killer Napa Chard!

Speaking of price…$70. Can a wine be $70 and considered a to be a value?

I say yes.

Am I crazy?

Certainly, but not about this.

Stay with me.

Napa Cabernet is very expensive, that’s just a fact. There are a lot and I mean A LOT of bottles well over $100. I’ve tried many of them. Some are great, some are ok, and some are bad. (How’s that for top-shelf wine criticism?)

So when I tried the Antica Napa Valley Mountain Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (a preview of the new 2016 vintage), I was gobsmacked. It was really delicious. The wine had what I love about Cabernet: lots of great fruit popping all over the place with a savory backbone. It’s 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Even though it seems like a tiny amount, the Cab Franc really adds something. (It’s one of my favorite red wine grapes, particularly from the Loire Valley.) Like the Chardonnay, it’s sourced from similarly high vineyards and made with 50% new oak.

I would split a bottle of this with a friend and get some takeout burgers or a cheesesteak or something without meat that is mushroom-forward. So you get two big-ass glasses of wine for $35 total. In this era of $15+ cocktails as the norm, is this such a bad deal?

The Townsend Vineyard was also very good but a little closed. Probably could have used some serious decanting. It just started to open up after a couple hours. This is a candidate for the cellar and I bet it sings in five years. The Townsend vineyard is slightly higher, sitting at 1,600 feet, and the wine gets the 100% new oak treatment. If I had the dough I’d buy a case of the Mountain Valley Cab and drink one every four months. I’d have a case of the 2014 Townsend waiting for me at the end of that 12-bottle/4-year period and then I would open two every year.  Then I’d drink my last bottle in 2029 and marvel at my genius and patience.

Two qualities that are definitely critical when it comes to making great wine.

Clarification: when I say “my genius” I mean “my genius about this one very specific thing I did at one point in time.” Also, did I get that math right?

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