Mount Veeder


After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the cabernet sauvignon grape, in the hands of winemakers at Beaulieu Vineyards, Inglenook, Louis M. Martini and other Napa Vallery estates, raised California to world renown. Cabernet sauvignon continues to dominate the state’s prestige winemaking efforts, as properties established in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and some more recently, command top prices at retail, in restaurants and, in terms of wineries like Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, at auction. New labels appear every year; it’s a crowded and competitive field. Today, I offer nine examples of cabernet and cabernet-blend wines from producers that range from venerable (Mount Veeder, founded in 1973) to brand-new (Mt. Brave, on its third release) to an impressive debut wine with an impressive pedigree. Common threads include the fact that alcohol levels are comparatively low (compared to 20 and 30 years ago) at 13.7 to 14.7 percent; that none of these wines feels heavy with oak; that the emphasis is mainly on structure rather than ripeness. We touch several climes in Napa Valley, Sonoma County and, far to the south, Paso Robles. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I primarily avoid technical, historical, geographical and personnel matters for the sake of immediacy, hoping to spur your interest and whet your palates. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review.
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Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% cabernet sauvignon. Dark ruby with a magenta-violet rim; black currants, raspberries and cherries, juicy, spicy, lots of graphite and lavender; that gratifying blend of ripe fruit and a rigorously tannic and mineral-tinged structure; oak providing a firm framework and foundation; lithe, almost sinewy, quite dry, even a little austere but lively, attractive, with an engaging personality. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $45.
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Cenyth 2009, Sonoma County. 14.5% alc. 47% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 10% cabernet franc, 8% petit verdot, 7% malbec. The debut release from this collaboration between Julia Jackson, daughter of the late Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, and Helene Seillan, daughter of Pierre Seillan, winemaker of Verite. You know how some wines just hit you first thing, and you know they’re great; such a one is this. Opaque purple, almost more a force that a color; brilliant purity and intensity, scintillating and penetrating graphite and granitic minerality, very intense and concentrated black and blue fruit; lean and supple, lively and energetic yet with a brooding, inward cast; broad, deep tannins but a deftly poised marriage of power and elegance. Try from 2015 through 2025 to ’30. Exceptional. About $60.
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Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. With 13% merlot and 2% cabernet franc. 973 cases. Impenetrable dark ruby color; graphite, violets and lavender, bitter chocolate and walnut shell; very intense and concentrated black currant and raspberry fruit; densely packed with dusty tannins, dried spice and granitic minerality; yet manages to be open and generous, almost seductive, a sweet-talking brute, rigorous but buoyant. Try from 2015 through 2020 to ’25. Excellent. About $65.
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Cornerstone Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. 14.7% alc. With 10% merlot. 470 cases. Dark ruby-purple, motor-oil black at the center; ripe, fleshy and meaty on the one hand, rock-ribbed, granitic, intense and concentrated on the other; lavender, potpourri, sandalwood, black currants, raspberries and plums; dense dusty tannins, fluent acidity, lithe and supple texture; tremendous presence, vibrancy and resonance. Try from 2015 or ’16 through 2028 to ’30. Were I the sort of person who bought wine by the case to drink it over the years of its development and maturity, this would be one. Exceptional. About $80.
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Daoa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Paso Robles. 13.9% alc. 78% cabernet sauvignon, 8.5% merlot, 7.5% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot. Dark ruby-purple color; clean, intense, concentrated; very earthy, with piercing graphite minerality; mint, eucalyptus, dried sage and rosemary; black cherries and currants and plums, ripe, macerated and roasted; hint of plum pudding; dusty tannins, quite dry, a little austere but well-balanced; great structure and personality, pretty damned irresistible. Try 2015 through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $28.
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Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley. 14.4% alc. With 3.5% merlot, 3% cabernet franc. (The former Chateau Potelle property.) Intense purple-black color, opaque at the center, a magenta rim; ripe and fleshy with black currants, raspberries and plums, notes of rosemary and cedar, lavender and licorice, hint of new leather; very dense and chewy, laden with graphite and polished, grainy tannins, deeply flavorful over a foundation of penetrating granitic minerals and bright vibrant acidity; brings in notes of moss, loam and underbrush; great presence and resonance. Try from 2015 or ’16 through 2025 to ’30. Excellent. About $75.
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Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. 14% alc. With 5% merlot, 2% petit verdot, 1% each malbec and syrah. Dark ruby-purple color, slightly lighter rim; cloves and sandalwood, bay leaf and sage, black olive and rosemary; intense and concentrated notes of black currants and plums; deeply, stalwartly tannic, dense and dusty; graphite and shale, but well-knit and balanced; a nicely done if predictable performance. Try from 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’22. Very Good+. About $40.
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Olema Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Sonoma County. 14.5% alcohol. Second label of Amici Cellars. With 7% merlot. Dark ruby color, lighter at the rim; graphite, cloves, black currants and plums, an undertow of briers, underbrush, dusty tannins and keen acidity; ripe and flavorful, goes down smoothly. Now through 2015 or ’16. Very Good+. About $22.50.
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Ravenswood Pickberry Red Wine 2011, Sonoma Mountain. 13.8% alc. 750 cases. 66% merlot, 35% cabernet sauvignon, 9% malbec. Medium ruby color with a light magenta cast; a seamless and gratifying blend, ripe, spicy, floral and deeply fruity, all edged by graphite and dusty tannins and dense oak that emerges after an hour in the glass; elements of loam, briers and brambles bring in the earthy note. I didn’t find this as exciting as some of the other selections in this post, but it’s immensely enjoyable as well as revealing a serious character. Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $50.
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So, My Readers, today I present the annual “50 Great Wines” in the edition for 2012. Why 50? It’s a nice comfortable round number, but it also makes me work hard to determine those 50 great selections.

I reviewed 642 wines on this blog in 2012, so 50 choices represent only 7.78 percent of the wines I reviewed. Wines that I rated as “Exceptional” automatically make the cut. In 2012, I ranked 16 wines “Exceptional,” or only 2.5 percent of all the wines I reviewed. How did I ascertain the other 34 wines? That’s where the task got difficult. I read all the reviews of wines that I rated “Excellent” and wrote down the names of 68 that seemed promising, but of course that was already way too many wines; I had to eliminate half of that list. I went back through the reviews and looked for significant words or phrases like “an exciting wine” or “a beautiful expression of its grapes” or “epitomizes my favorite style” or “I flat-out loved this wine,” terms that would set a wine apart from others in similar genres or price ranges, even though they too were rated “Excellent.” By exercising such intricate weighing and measuring, by parsing and adjusting, by, frankly, making some sacrifices, I came to the list of wines included here, but I’ll admit that as I went over this post again and again, checking spelling and diacritical markings and illustrations, there were omissions that I regretted. You get to a point, however, where you can’t keep second-guessing yourself.

Notice that I don’t title this post “50 Greatest Wines” or “50 Best Wines.” That would be folly, just as I think it’s folly when the slick wine publications select one wine — out of 15,000 — as the best of the year. The wines honored in this post are, simply, 50 great wines, determined by my taste and palate, that I encountered and reviewed in 2012. Some of them are expensive; some are hard to find. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, though, at how many of them are under $40 or even in the $20 range; the price of a wine can be immaterial to its quality, and I mean that in both the positive and the negative aspects. Where I know the case limitation, I make note. With wines that are, for example, chardonnay or pinot noir, you can count on them being 100 percent varietal; in other cases, I mention the blend or make-up of the wine if I think it’s necessary.

Coming in a few days: “25 Great Bargains of 2012.”
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Amapola Creek Cuvée Alis 2009, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County. 55 percent syrah, 45 percent grenache. 95 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Archery Summit Looney Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $85.
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Black Dog Cellars Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Bien Nacido Vineyard X Block Syrah 2007, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. 573 cases. Excellent. About $42.
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Champagne Françoise Bedel Entre Ciel et Terre Brut. Excellent. About $75.
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Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Tuscany, Italy. 100 percent sangiovese. Exceptional. About $149.
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Chalone Estate Chenin Blanc 2011, Chalone, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $25.
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Chamisal Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County. Excellent. About $40.
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M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette 2007, Hermitage blanc, Rhone Valley, France. 100 percent marsanne grapes. 350 six-packs imported. Exceptional. About $92.
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M. Chapoutier De L’Orée 2008, Hermitage blanc, Rhone Valley, France. 100 percent marsanne. 40 six-packs imported. Exceptional, About $190.
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Cima Collina Tondre Grapefield Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $48.
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Etude Pinot Noir 2009, Carneros. Excellent. About $42.
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Ferrari-Carano Prevail West Face 2007, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. 61 percent cabernet sauvignon, 39 percent syrah. Excellent. About $55.
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Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County. Excellent. About $40.
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Foursight Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $46.
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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $42.
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Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2009, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.
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Hidden Ranch 55% Slope Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $45.
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Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Oakville District, Napa Valley. 540 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Domaine Michel Lafarge Meursault 2009, Burgundy. Excellent. About $44-$48.
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La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Mountain. 429 cases. Excellent. About $40.
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Lasseter Enjoué 2011, Sonoma Valley. 73 percent syrah, 24 mourvèdre, 3 grenache. A superior rosé. 570 cases. Excellent. About $24.
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Champagne David Léclapart L’Amateur Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, non-vintage. Exceptional. About $83.
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Lenné Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 491 cases. Excellent. About $55.
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Chateau La Louvière 2009, Pessac-Lèognan, Bordeaux, France. 85 percent sauvignon blanc, 15 percent semillon. Excellent. About $42.
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Manzoni Vineyards Home Vineyard Syrah 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 494 cases. Excellent. About $26.
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Max Ferd. Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinett 2010, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $19.
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Mayacamas Chardonnay 2009, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $30.
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McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel 2009, Lodi. 449 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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Domaine Pierre Morey Pommard Grands Epenots Premier Cru 2009, Burgundy. Excellent. About $85.
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Newton “The Puzzle” 2008, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 42 percent merlot, 36 cabernet sauvignon, 14 cabernet franc, 6 petit verdot, 2 malbec. Excellent. About $80.
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Nicolas Joly Clos de La Bergerie 2009, Savennières-Roches-aux-Moines, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent chenin blanc. 580 cases. Exceptional. About $45-$60.
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Pelerin Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $42.
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Pfendler Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County. 250 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
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Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley. 372 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Piocho 2009, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. From Margerum Wine Co. 58 percent merlot, 22 cabernet sauvignon, 18 cabernet franc, 2 petit verdot. 570 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. 862 cases. Excellent. About $22.
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Sea-Fog Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Napa Valley. 380 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Shafer Hillside Select 2007, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $225.
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Shafer Merlot 2009, Napa Valley. With 7 percent cabernet sauvignon and 1 percent malbec. Exceptional. About $48.
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Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc. 381 cases. Excellent. About $75. Date on label is one year behind.
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Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2011, Los Carneros. Another superior rosé to drink all year. Excellent. About $28.
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Spotted Owl Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Inaugural release of this winery’s chardonnay. 120 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $125.
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St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa Valley. With 10 percent merlot, 2 petit verdot and 1 cabernet franc. Excellent. About $55.
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Domaine André et Mireille Tissot La Graviers Chardonnay 2010, Arbois, France. 552 cases. Excellent. About $26-$30. Label is two years out of date.
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Tudal Family Winery Clift Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley. 295 cases. Excellent. About $50.
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Tenuta di Valgiano 2008, Colline Luccesi, Tuscany. 60 percent sangiovese, 20 merlot, 20 syrah. Excellent. About $55-$60.
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Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” 2009, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France. 65 percent grenache, 15 mourvèdre, 15 syrah 5 cinsault, clairette “and others.” Excellent. About $85.
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Villa Huesgen Schiefen Riesling Trocken 2010, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $35.
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The well-known Champagne house of Moët & Chandon started looking for vineyard land in the Napa Valley in 1968. In 1973, in a partnership with Hennessy, the cognac producer (both owned by LVMH), the company bought acreage in Mount Veeder and Yountville, producing the first Domaine Chandon sparkling wine in 1976. Winemaker Tom Tiburzi has been at Chandon since 1989, working his way up through the winemaking staff; he is assisted by Pauline Lhote, whose family are farmers in Champagne. Chandon, long an iconic presence to the west of Hwy 29 across from the town of Yountville, makes a complete range of nonvintage sparkling wines, but today I want to feature two of its vintage series. These were samples for review.
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Neither the print material I received nor the winery’s website reveal the percentages of the blend of grapes in the Domaine Chandon Yountville Vintage Brut 2007, Yountville, Napa Valley, so all I can tell you is that it’s made from pinot noir and chardonnay from the Yountville district, north of the city of Napa. The southern area of Yountville particularly, where it’s coolest, is a prime location for chardonnay and pinot noir. The color is radiant medium gold; there’s a constant lively stream of tiny bubbles. Notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears are bolstered by toast and biscuits with hints of toffee and candied ginger and an undercurrent of smoke. The emphasis segues to crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone and flint elements that balance deftly a texture that’s substantial enough to be almost lush, though the fineness and elegance of the finish make it spare and lithe and slightly austere. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $45.
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The Domaine Chandon Mount Veeder Vintage Brut 2006, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, focuses on chardonnay; it could, I suppose, be called blanc de blancs, but the powers at Chandon opted for a straightforward “brut” indication. The point would be: what are the differences between a sparkling wine made from Yountville grapes and one made from Mount Veeder grapes, especially if the latter is one year older? The color of the Mount Veeder sparkler is much paler, much blonder and Harlow-like than the hue of the Yountville version mentioned above. While there’s a similar component of fresh bread and biscuits, the Mount Veeder adds hints of roasted hazelnuts, cinnamon toast and caramel popcorn with a touch of baked apple and slightly honeyed peach. These qualities, let me emphasize, are expressed in a tone of utmost nuance and pure suggestion, because, above all, this is a sparkling wine that combines notable presence and persistence with finesse and refinement. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $45.
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For the July 31st issue of the Wine Spectator, veteran columnist and taster James Laube wrote the lead article, “California’s Best Chardonnays: Top 30 Producers.” With the exception of longtime writers and pundits like Dan Berger and Charles E. Olken, Laube probably knows more about the wines of California and the history of its industry in the last three or four decades than anyone, so naturally it’s instructive to see his take on what’s going on with the chardonnay grape in the Golden State and his roster of the 30 best estates and wineries. Since Laube writes for a magazine format, one can see why he limited his selection to 30 and a short paragraph to each. Matters were different when he wrote the book California’s Great Chardonnays, published in 1990 by Wine Spectator Press; in that tome, Laube included 74 producers, devoting two to four pages of descriptions and notes apiece.

It’s interesting to compare the list of “Great Chardonnays” from 1990 to the “Top 30 Producers” of 2012; a considerable amount of attrition in several areas has occurred in 22 years. Many of the wineries that produced great chardonnay wines in 1990 don’t exist anymore or were acquired and absorbed by other companies or went through an unfortunate transition to lesser quality. And the reverse proposition is true; some of the “Top 30 Producers” of chardonnay wines in the article weren’t a gleam in their founders’ eyes in 1990, while others, like Rodney Strong, are included now because of improved performance. In fact, only five producers from the earlier book make it onto the present roster: Beringer, Hanzell, Kistler, Robert Mondavi and Mount Eden.

When Laube describes or reviews the top wines, he emphasizes richness and complexity, though he usually tempers his tastes by mentioning brightness, acidity, poise and elegance, qualities that I wholeheartedly endorse. Actually, of course, I would take brightness, acidity, poise and elegance over richness any day (though not complexity), and it puzzles me to read in Laube’s reviews for this article

A little like a top-rated chardonnay

(and seen in many past issues of the Wine Spectator) praise given to such attributes as butterscotch and roasted marshmallow. I cannot for the life of me conceive why anyone would want a chardonnay to smell or taste like butterscotch or roasted marshmallows, or if they tasted such a wine wouldn’t spit it out in horror. Butterscotch belongs on sundaes and the proper place for roasted marshmallows is at the end of sticks held over a campfire while a gaggle of 12-year-olds unhappily drones “Kumbaya.”

All of which leads to this post’s focus, and that’s my reviews of six chardonnay wines from Mount Veeder, a series of steep hillsides, stretching up some 2,000 feet, at the southwestern corner of Napa Valley and part of the Mayacamas Range that separates Napa and Sonoma counties. None of these wineries is included as a Top Producer in Laube’s story, and only one (Hess Collection) is mentioned in the brief reviews that follow, but I found them pretty damned brilliant. No butterscotch or roasted marshmallows in these mountainside chardonnays, no “toasty oak”; this is, rather, one of the most elegant groups of chardonnay I have tasted, though they’re also powerful, flavorful and multifaceted. I bestowed four Excellent and two Exceptional ratings.

These wines were samples for review. Butterscotch sundae image from foodsnobz.com
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Fontanella Family Winery Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Our first wine in this Mount Veeder line-up aged nine months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels; a smidgeon of the wine, 12 percent, went through malolactic fermentation (henceforward abbreviated “malo”). The color is pale gold; the first impression is of a chardonnay that’s clean and fresh and bright, yet very spicy in its ripe pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors given some gravity by bastions of flint and limestone. There’s a touch of white peach and nectarine, and a texture that’s almost talc-like in its combination of firmness and softness, enlivened by crisp acidity. The wine gains power in the glass; this is a mouthful of chardonnay that asserts its presence on the palate but manages to achieve a measure of elegance too in its balance and integration. 14.4 percent alcohol. Now through 2015 or ’17. Productions was 600 cases. Winemaker is Jeff Fontanella. Excellent. About $34.

I wrote about this wine at the end of October last year; here’s the review. You can see that the intervening months have given the wine space to settle down a bit.
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Godspeed Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. The regimen here is 11 months in French oak barrels, 80 percent neutral (used several times) and 20 percent new; the wine does not go through malo. The color is pale gold; aromas of smoky lemon curd and lemon balm are woven with touches of mango, pear, yellow plums and pineapple and, after a few moments in the glass, hints of toasted hazelnuts and cloves. The wine is rich, ripe, downright gorgeous, but the pulchritude is blessedly tempered by resounding acidity and a burgeoning element of limestone-like minerality for a sense of acutely honed balance. However juicy and bountiful, the Godspeed Chardonnay ’10 is quite dry, dense, almost chewy, yet suave and smooth, and the finish is long and spicy. 14.1 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 to ’18. Production was 550 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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Hess Collection Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. This pale straw-gold chardonnay is given no new oak, aging, rather, for nine months in four- to five-year-old French barrels; there is no malo. Produced from vines planted at altitudes ranging from 1,300 to 2,000 feet elevation, the wine offers a brilliant bouquet of spiced lemons and pears with pineapple and grapefruit, quince and ginger in the background and a high note of honeysuckle. The wine delivers tremendous power and gravitas, as well as lip-smackin’ stone-fruit and citrus flavors bolstered by crackling acidity, all elements assembled with lucent fleetness and transparency. Not gorgeous but lovely; not flattering to the palate but subtle and supple. The finish is packed with spice, limestone and flint. 14.4 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 or ’18. Production was 392 cases. Excellent. About $35.
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Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay 2009, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. In this chardonnay, among the group, we see the longest period of time in oak: six months in large American casks; one year in French barrels, 20 percent new; the wine does not go through malo. The result? A “Wow!” as my first note. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of honeysuckle and jasmine, steel and limestone, quince and fig and ginger discreetly unfold hints of candied grapefruit and pineapple. The wine, dry and spare in the mouth, bristles with vitality and energy and displays awesome purity and intensity in its blending of fruit, acid and mineral elements; despite the sensation of elevating, crystalline, almost balletic qualities, there’s underlying earthiness through the finish, a seeming connection to soil and bedrock. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to ’19. Production was 1,156 cases. Could this please be my house chardonnay? Exceptional. About $30, a Remarkable Price for the Quality.
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Y. Rousseau “Milady” Chardonnay 2009, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Again, no malo in the making of this wine, though it’s barrel-fermented, using natural yeasts, and aged 11 months on the lees in French oak, of which 20 percent of the barrels were new. (The fruit derived from the Godspeed Vineyard.) The wine is quite fresh and bright, very pure and intense (if My Readers don’t mind that I repeat these important words), dense, chewy, spicy. The color is shimmering pale gold; classic notes of pineapple and grapefruit open to hints of cloves and toasted hazelnuts. This chardonnay is moderately creamy, smooth and svelte but heightened by chiming acidity and scintillating limestone and flint-like minerality. The finish is long, dry and spicy and packed with minerals. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 to ’17. Production was 195 cases. Winemaker was Yannick Rousseau. Excellent. About $36.

I wrote about this wine at the end of October last year; here’s the review.
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Spotted Owl Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Here is the earthiest, the boldest and ripest of these six chardonnays; I wrote “very spicy,” followed by “very spicy.” Here, also, are terrific tone and energy, in a wine that feels almost visceral in its drawing upon the essential core of the chardonnay grape’s character and its frank lively appeal to the palate, yet it abdicates not a nuance of the finest detail of its pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors layered with camellia and talc, pear and yellow plum, cloves and figs. Wood-wise, this was barrel-fermented with natural yeasts and aged 11 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels; information about malolactic was not available. If acidity and limestone minerality could glitter, this wine would light up a dark room. The finish is long, dense, lithe and spicy. 14.8 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 or ’20. Inaugural release of this winery’s chardonnay; 120 cases. Winemaker was Rolando Herrera. Exceptional. About $45.
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