In our last report on Napa Valley wines, most wineries were happy to see the progress of the fruit as it experienced “Veraison,” the changing of the leaves and grapes to a rich color, signaling the onset of harvest. This latest blast of heat we are experiencing seals the deal, especially on Howell Mountain, the first AVA subappellatio in Napa Valley and an impressive elevation for growing wine grapes beginning at 1,400 feet above the fog. This means warmer mornings and cooler afternoon breezes.
This is Cab Country, concentrated and structured. “Taste of Wine” was struck by its elegant and timeless qualities with a Mountain Wine distinctive flavor, characterized by pepper and warm spices. The grapes are small, tightly clustered and powerfully concentrated for intense fruit. They develop thick skins that yield rich tannins. A closer look at the terroir reveals rich, red volcanic soils with naturally superb iron, enriching the grapes in Howell’s 600 + acres planted. Here are some names to know:
Robert Craig Winery
Robert and Lynn Craig have been producing distinctive Cabernets for more than 20 years. Their ‘96
Cab brought fame when Wine Spectator called it the hot new winery. It’s been a top 50 Cab producer ever since.
Be sure to taste their 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet with 85 percent Cab, 6 percent Petit Verdot, 7 percent Merlot and 2 percent Malbec. It recently bagged 96 points at Wine Advocate. Visit robertcraigwine.com.
Charles Krug Winery
The Peter Mondavi Family has staked their reputation on the 9 acres planted to Cabernet on their 20-acre parcel and the accolades are pouring in on this ’07 Howell Mountain Rocky Ridge Vineyard Cab, their first release from their Howell Mountain Vineyard. Visit charleskrug.com.
O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery
Owner Betty O’Shaughnessy began her winery in 1990 in Oakville and over the next few years more vineyards on Howell and Mt. Veeder. Founding winemaker Sean Capiaux is still master winemaker, creating world-class Cabernet with deep roots on the hillside property. A favorite is the 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet offering excellent structure and deep color. Visit oshaughnessy.com.
Duckhorn has its headquarters winery in St. Helena on the floor of Napa Valley, but their vineyard that has the signature 2007 Cabernet is midway up Howell Mountain. They have sourced cab here since 1989. The current release has 68 percent Cab and 32 percent Merlot. To further encourage complexity, this wine was bottle-aged one year longer than normal prior to release. Visit duckhorn.com.
Cakebread Cellars was founded in 1973 by Jack and Dolores Cakebread. The current winemaker is Julianne Laks, only the third winemaker in 35 years. Their Cabernets are full-throttle wonderful. Their Howell Mountain Dancing Bear ranch is a favorite, with most applause reserved for the 2007 with 22 months in French Oak. The mix is 80 percent Cab, 13 percent Merlot, 7 percent Cabernet Franc. Visit cakebread.com.
You can experience mountain wines from Howell Mountain at a Harvest Celebration in Napa Valley’s Yountville, from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at the V Wine Cellar. The cost is $35 per person. for advance tickets for 17 wineries plus chef’s tasting menu. Call (707) 965-2665 or visit howellmountain.org.
PAON in Carlsbad presents a Napa/Sonoma Tasting in the Tasting Bar from Sept. 27 through Wed. Oct. 3. Six 1-ounce glasses for $16. Check for names at (760) 729-7377.
Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has Lobsterfest 2012from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29. Advance tickets are required at $100 each. This is an old-fashioned Maine Lobster Boil with all the trimmings with lots of wines. Call now at (760) 479-2500.
Ponte Winery in Temecula rolls out its Grape Stomp from 4 to 9 p.m. Sept. 30. Cost is $95 for a buffet dinner and dance. Stomps are teammate competition for prizes. Call (877) 314-WINE.
The RB Historical Society brings its second annual wine tasting, music and food fest to Bernardo Winery from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 30. Four live bands will play. Beer and wine from area breweries and vineyards. Tickets $20 each or at the door for $25. Call (858) 775-5788.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His library can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com. (Average Google certified 900 visits per day) He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.