Tasting the Dust
Tasting the Dust
One can imagine myriad reasons for the wine trade to be invited to
The late winemaker André Tchelistcheff is reputed to have said that it takes “Rutherford Dust” to grow great Cabernet. He was referring to the gravelly, sandy and loamy soil found in the Rutherford Viticultural Area. But, knowledgeable folks say you find the dust in the glass, in the lingering dusty, earthy, spicy flavors of Rutherford Cabernets.
After arriving at the annual Rutherford Dust Society Grand Tasting held in the barrel room of Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery, I grabbed my Riedel tasting glass and surveyed the scene. This was a classy affair, with a pianist who was all but drowned out by the din from the eager tasters jostling to discover that Rutherford Dust essence. Lining the room were representatives and principals from 29 wineries pouring mostly yet-to-be-released wines. I took note of the well-known producers from this area including the oldest bonded winery still in operation, Beaulieu Vineyard (www.bvwines.com) and also Heitz Wine Cellars (www.heitzcellar.com) and Raymond Vineyard & Cellar (www.raymondwine.com.) But, I was there to discover the smaller players.
I first made my way to the 1999 and 2001 Cabernet from Livingston Moffett (www.livingstonwines.com) I asked Trent Moffett to describe
The 2002 Cabernet from Sullivan Vineyards (www.sullivanwine.com) was equally impressive. Winemaker Philippe Langner attributes the depth and complexity of this wine to dry farming, which means that the vines are not irrigated. The roots reach deep into the soil, and that results in a higher concentration of fruit and tannin.
The Monticello Vineyards 2000 Cabernet is a well-integrated wine with spice and cherry aromas. It is produced from grapes from the Tietjen Vineyard located near the base of the Mayacamas Mountains (www.corleyfamilynapavalley.com).
Rounding out the pack were the 1999 and 2000 vintages being poured from Quintessa (www.quintessa.com.) These were elegant Meritage blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The 1999 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon exhibited vanilla and spice notes (www.rutherfordgrove.com.)
I also tasted some phenomenal offerings from three other wineries. I loved the wines from Sawyer Cellars (www.sawyercellars.com.) The 2000 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has intense flavors of blackberry, cherry and vanilla which lead to a cedar and cocoa intensity on the finish. I also was bowled over by the 2000 Bradford Meritage with its black cherry flavors and its dynamite white pepper finish. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Staglin Family Vineyard (www.staglinfamily.com) from grapes from the Stalus Family Vineyard also delighted the palate with its ripe berry flavors, and spice finish. And, another surprise was the 2000 Rutherford Cabernet from producer Frank Family Vineyards (
What I gleaned from this afternoon is that the range of the Rutherford essence varies from winemaker to winemaker, and that the overall quality of Rutherford fruit from the 2000 vintage is divine. But, before I can say that I would be able to identify that dusty character, I’d like to have a blind tasting with other Napa Valley Cabernets alongside the batch from Rutherford. To learn more about winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area check out www.rutherforddust.org.