Fri 3 Jun 2011
The story is fascinating.
Lou Kapcsándy fled Hungary after the uprising of 1956 was quashed by the Soviet Union. A soccer player before his escape, he made the transition to American football and — after a stint with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division — played for the San Diego Chargers. Kapcsándy’s business career was spent in the fields of petroleum and pharmaceuticals engineering and design, but he was hooked on wine after experiencing Chateau Leoville-Las Cases 1961 (we should all be so lucky), eventually building a notable wine collection of some 20,000 bottles. What person — who possesses the means — that loves great cabernet-based wine doesn’t want to own a vineyard or winery and make wine too? In 2000, Kapcsándy, his wife and son purchased the well-known State Lane Vineyard near Yountville in Napa Valley. Beringer had leased State Lane in 1974 and beginning in 1979 produced a single-vineyard cabernet as well as making State Lane fruit the backbone of the award-winning, highly-rated Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; the vineyard was devastated by phylloxera in 1999. After buying State Lane, Kapcsándy replanted the vineyard and brought in celebrity winemaker Helen Turley to oversee the vintages of 2003 and ’04. Consulting winemaker now is Dennis Malbec, from Chateau Latour in Bordeaux’s Pauillac region.
I recently tried two wines from this limited-edition winery, the Kapcsándy Family Winery Endre 2008, which falls little short of superb, and the Kapcsándy Family Winery Estate Cuvée 2008, about which my thoughts are divided. These wines were samples for review.
The Kapcsándy Endre 2008, Yountville, Napa Valley, is unquestionably a wine in which structure is the most important factor now, yet at the same time it displays the integration and harmony that we desire from a great wine meant to express the true marriage of dimension and detail, power and elegance. A blend of 51 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, 25 percent merlot, 16 percent cabernet franc and 8 percent petit verdot, the wine aged 18 months in oak barrels, 75 percent French, 25 percent Hungarian. You sense that structure in brooding aromas of briers and brambles, dusty shale, cedar and tobacco given a lift by notes of spiced and slightly macerated black currants, black cherries and plums. Endre 2008 is intense and concentrated, packed with earthy yet finely milled and poised tannins and honed graphite qualities that lend the wine a keen mineral edge, in addition to the essential flare of vibrant acidity. There’s a deep and profound core of licorice and lavender, potpourri and bitter chocolate that lays the ground for ripe and spicy cassis and black cherry flavors. While oak provides a sensible and subtle frame and foundation, the wine is not toasty or strident or vanilla-ish. (In all my years, I’ve never understood why winemakers and writers describe an aroma or flavor of vanilla in wine as a good thing; vanilla belongs in ice cream or pound cake, not wine.) Here’s a classic Napa Valley cabernet-blend of lovely purity and intensity that will be best from 2012 or ’13 through 2018 to ’20. Alcohol content is 14.1 percent. 370 cases. Excellent. About $75.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ All right, so here’s the wine about which I feel a large dose of ambivalence. The Kapcsándy Family Winery Estate Cuvée 2008 is a blend of 68 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, 22 percent merlot and 5 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot, all from the winery’s State Lane Vineyard. What does one smell and taste in this wine? Oak. And more oak. The regimen is 20 months aging in 97 percent French oak barrels, 3 percent Hungarian. Certainly all the instruments agree that the details are spot-on, at least in the beginning: a bouquet that teems with aromas of mulberries, blueberries, black currants and plums, woven with hints of exotic spice, notes of lavender and leather — good name for a cologne, that — smoke and licorice, cedar and graphite; structure and texture that convey suppleness and suavity, on the one hand, and, on the other, the depth and essential rigor of finely-milled tannins, a well-honed granite-like mineral component and vivid acidity; ripe and luscious black and blue fruit flavors that manage to be delectable without being assertive. Over all of these necessary and even exhilarating qualities, however, hovers the enveloping and permeating influence of very toasty, woody oak. Listen up, winemakers, producers, winery owners: I’ll say it again — If a wine smells like oak and tastes like oak, it has too much oak. And let me add: To produce a wine based on its origin in a well-known, even a legendary vineyard and then mask or negate with oak whatever individual character that plot of earth might have imparted seems to me an exercise in tragic futility. 825 cases. 14.5 percent alcohol. Best from 2013 or ’14 through 2018 to ’20. Very Good+. About $135.