Thu 13 Oct 2011
This series looks at cabernet sauvignon wines produced by wineries that began production in 1980 or before.
Many years ago, Warren Winiarski, owner and winemaker at Stags Leap Wine Cellars, coined the phrase “iron fist in a velvet glove” to characterize cabernet sauvignon wines made in the Napa Valley. Nowadays, he might say “velvet fist in a velveteen glove” to define contemporary cabernets deliberately made to deliver more immediate appeal by sacrificing structural authority for the sake of upfront ripeness, toasty new oak vanilla and spice and the sweet heat of high alcohol.
Thank Bacchus and all his pards that such is not the case with the Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. (The family started growing grapes in the 1960s and made its first wine in 1973.) Not that the dark ruby-colored wine does not offer a smoldering, swooningly seductive bouquet that weaves cassis, lavender and licorice with mulberry and blueberry and a touch of fruitcake; it’s just that these heady, sensuous delights are tempered by notes of rye bread, cedar, dusty thyme, prunes and a deep bastion of graphite. It’s all about elements that balance each other being thoroughly permeated by each other. In the mouth, the wine is frankly delicious with flavors of slightly spiced and macerated black currants, black cherries and plums, all very pure and intense, but these factors are drenched and imbued with the best kind of tannins — the tannins that feel fine-grained and finely-milled — and a staggering granite-like mineral nature; oak however, from 17 months aging in 98 percent French and 2 percent American barrels, stays firmly in the background, providing framing and foundation and lovely suppleness to the texture. The finish leads out long and persistent, with touches of spice and leather. You could say that this is a cabernet that combines the best of tradition with a new style that doesn’t dominate. Director of viticulture and winemaking at Trefethen is Jon Ruel; winemaker is Zeke Neeley. 14.6 percent alcohol. Drink now — please, with the medium rare strip steak that it was born to accompany — through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $58.
A sample for review.