Fri 5 Mar 2010
Previously in this saga, I related the story of buying three bottles of wine at a silent auction to benefit a non-profit dog and cat spay and neuter group, thinking I was boosting the bidding but ending up purchasing the wine to the tune of $245. Almost immediately, we opened one bottle for dinner, and it tuirned out to be wonderful. This was the Cakebread Cellars Merlot 2002, Napa Valley.
Next, I opened Napa Valley wine, the Hartwell Misté Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Stags Leap District. We drank with my last excellent pizza — I mean the last pizza I made that was excellent; the next one was a (rare) dismal failure –and it was terrific.
The winery was founded in 1986 by Bob Hartwell, a veteran of the aerospace industry, and his wife Blanca. The first wine they produced was a cabernet from 1990 that spent 22 months in all-new French oak, giving you some idea of the seriousness of the enterprise.
The Hartwell Misté Hill Cabernet 2003 is no longer on the winery’s website, and retailers that carry it on the internet don’t describe the blend, but based on later bottlings the 2003 must be primarily cabernet sauvignon with some merlot and a dollop of petit verdot put through considerable oak. This is a grand effort, a wine that’s deep and broad and generous, dense, intense and concentrated. The color is dark ruby-purple through and through. Classic notes of cassis, cedar, dust, black pepper and crushed gravel define the seductive nose, while in the mouth the wine is succulent, almost plush, yet tempered and cooled by clean acidity and a towering mineral element. Flavors of ripe, spicy and slightly macerated black cherries and black currants are supported by sleek tannins and oak surprisingly unobtrusive for the usual Hartwell barrel treatment. Altogether, the wine is both engaging and dynamic, elegant and profound, a sort of amalgam of personality and character, and it should drink beautifully until 2015 or ’16. Excellent. The suggested retail price for this wine was about $60, which is what I paid for it at the silent auction, but it’s available on the internet from prices ranging from $42 to $72.
Next in the roster of three silent auction purchases: Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Alexander Valley.