Napa Valley Cabernet’s are premium wines that receive accolades from around the world. When you think of the great Napa Valley Cabs that have been loved for decades you will learn that many of these Cabs come from the Rutherford district in the heart of Napa Valley. Many of the most famous vintners and viticulturists in Napa Valley history have been from Rutherford including Andy Beckstoffer, Andre’ Tchelistcheff, Georges de Latour, Gustave Niebaum and more. In fact the Rutherford AVA has greater representation in the Vintners Hall of Fame than any other appellation. The late revered winemaker Andre’ Tchelistcheff when speaking of his favored Napa Cabs said, “It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet.”
The Rutherford Dust Society was founded in 1994 by the growers and vintners of the Rutherford AVA to encourage and promote the highest standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford area and to help wine lovers and wine trade discover Rutherford’s unique expression. On July 15 the Rutherford Dust Society invited press and trade to “A Day in the Dust”, a tasting of the 2012 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon’s at the historic Inglenook Estate. In addition to tasting the 2012 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignons from 14 different Rutherford wineries, winemakers brought from their library collections six 1994 Rutherford Cabs to compare with today’s wines.
Leading the tasting was a panel of experts on the Rutherford appellation.
- Andy Beckstoffer from Beckstoffer Vineyards – provided the growers perspective
- Charles Thomas, winemaker for Quintessa – provided a winemakers perspective
- Fred Dame, Master Sommelier – provided a sommelier perspective
- Joel Aiken from Aiken Wines and winemaker for Beaulieu Vineyard from 1986-2012 – provided a perspective from 1994
A few characteristics appeared about the 1994 vintages. Most of the wines had alcohol levels under 14%. Also, many of the vines were rather young due to the Phylloxera replanting in 1989. These wines were probably some of the last of the older style lower alcohol wines.
Next we moved on to tasting the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford wineries. The general consensus from winemakers is that this is a classic vintage. The year 2012 is the year of the grower. Vintages from 2008 to 2011 saw an average of 48-50,000 tons produced. In 2012 that jumped to 71,000 tons. The vintage is very comparable to the classic 2005 vintage. The Napa Valley Vintners state that the 2012 vintage is, “A classic vintage for Napa Valley from start to finish. ‘Classic’ and ‘perfect’ are just two accolades being bestowed upon the 2012 Napa Valley growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw near-ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off until Napa Valley’s treasured grapes found optimal ripeness, bringing exceptional quality to the crush pad and into the cellar.”
In the afternoon we gathered for the Grand Tasting to sample wines from 28 Rutherford wineries. This tasting included both Cabernet Sauvignon and other wines from these wineries. Lo and behold that Rutherford also has some fantastic white wines as well as the famous Cabs.
A few standouts at the tasting are:
- Alpha Omega 2013 Napa Valley “1155” Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc – a really nice white wine that combines the old world texture qualities of a Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc with the crisp acidity of the new world. A nice intensity of fruit and acid with the great aromatic quality makes this s great summer wine.
- Beaulieu Vineyard 2012 Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – has a very pleasant nose with ripe dark fruit and oak. On the palate there is an abundance of rich dark fruit, spices and toffee with a significant earthiness to it. The great structured tannins and lively spices result in a wine with a long finish that will cellar for a long time.
- Chaix Wines 2012 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon – the Chaix family has been growing grapes in Rutherford for other wineries for over 100 years but also produce their own wine as well. They made 500 cases of 2012 Cab that has a very intense nose of cedar, dark fruit, safe and earthiness to it. As you taste this wine you will love the bright wild fruit, a blend of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry. The sharp acidity, layers of spices and soft structured tannins makes it a delight to enjoy.
- 12C Wines 2013 Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon – 12C is named for 12o Centigrade (55oF), the optimum storage temperature for Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes for this delicious wine come from the famous Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III, definitely top quality fruit. This wine is a delight from the first whiff of the aromas to the long lasting finish. In between you will enjoy the aromas and flavors of dark fruit, lavender and chocolate.
- Rutherford Hill 2014 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc – this is a crisp, full flavored wine with very nice acidity. You will enjoy the aromas and flavors of orange blossom, melon, lime, Meyer lemon and a tropical quality.
- S. R. Tonella 2012 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine starts with a beautiful dark color, and has aromas and flavors of black cherry, tobacco, blackberry, vanilla, and chocolate, leading to a balanced finish with great tannins and lingering flavors.
For more information: Rutherford Dust Society