“A great wine is not the work of one man, it is the result of a tradition that is upheld and refined” ~ Paul Claudel
This semi-annual pilgrimage
had me arriving in the fall, while the
rest of the year was remembered as the year with no real summer and lots of
rainy days. With the arrival of fall in the Napa
you'll typically see the sights and sounds of harvest. But the 2011 harvest for
many producers was pushed back because of the long cool growing season, the
same just about everyone on the west coast experienced in 2011. Suddenly there
was a huge heat spike and the weather was unbearably hot and many folks who had
plucked far too many leaves lost a good deal of their crop. Mother Nature once
again showing her toughness wasn't so good to many of the vintners in what some
would call the ‘challenging’ 2011 vintage. Napa Valley
This was the picture, in the Napa Valley during my visit last year. An unusual extra hot and dry harvest. But none the less, I trudged on, wearing shorts and slippahs, leaving my vineyards boots behind. I nonetheless still had a great time exploring the Napa Valley wine-trail; meeting so many wonderful people and getting know folks who I had previously only known through their twitter accounts. I got to meet many wonderful producers and sample their wines. Sampling the wine and dine scene in Napa/Sonoma, the amazing diversity of wine and great people, what more could a geeky little wine-blogger like me possibly ask for?
So in my continual effort to span the globe looking for the "intersection of where great wines meet reasonable prices." I've come across another wonderful producer you really should be familiar with. I know many of the more savvy among the young hip 'vinosapiens' out there are fully aware of Carter Cellars. But for those of you who were like me, you now have an opportunity to get-in-on the inside track what everyone else knows. What is that exactly? So glad you asked, Carter Cellars located sharing a tasting room with Envy Wines, is making some mind-blowing juice.
Frankly they need no introduction as everyone in the wine media has been all over their story, lauding high [well deserved] praise upon this modest operation. Folks if you like a big meaty, Napa Valley [at its best] Cabernet Sauvignon, then you need to know about Carter Cellars [whose twitter feed you can catch here]. Their wines are big, melt your face off, epic wines that will make you scream uncle and have you coming back for more again and again [not even a hint of hyperbole here].
I first had the pleasure of meeting Mark Carter, who I met through a mutual friend, who at the time for worked for Von Strasser. After the introductions, I was invited over to Envy wines so I could give their wines a swirl. To set this up properly, I'd probably tasted through about 40 or so different wines that day so I had a pretty saturated palate at the time I showed up to Carter Cellars in Calistoga.
I was presented with a splash of the Carter Cellars 2007 Coliseum Block. The first thing that came to mind, was "wow" this is some pretty freaking awesome juice, no joke. It really rocked my world, this wines presence cut right through the purple haze I'd been experiencing and said "here I'm, drink me!"
Sniffity-sniff, swirl and long Slurp: Upon splashdown in the glass I found a dark velvet colored core, rising from the glass is a deeply scented Cabernet perfume, suggesting a freshly baked cherry pie and hints of licorice and some dusty dried herbs wrapped around a piece of sandalwood. Finally on the palate, blackberries, cherries, spice laid bare across a leather saddle. The finish is long and enticing.
About Carter: Carter Cellars is a relatively new operation [it began in the late 1990's] run by Mark Carter and Nils Venge. The wines are made at the Venge Saddleback Cellars in Oakville with some assistance from Fred Schrader. They have some interesting and iconic vineyard sources, including the Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, the Truchard Vineyard in Carneros, the Revilo Vineyard in St. Helena, and the Coliseum Block in Soda Canyon.
What a Blast: According to the web-site, twenty years ago people thought Henry Hossfeld was crazy because of the slope and the solid rock he was trying to grow vines on in the south-eastern Napa hills in an area known as Soda Canyon. In fact, at planting, each vine hole was fractured into the terraces with a stick of dynamite. The dramatic site where these vines are grown, is steep and terraced site much like a Roman Coliseum and hence derives the name from this appearance.
Price and where to Purchase: Well folks it appears you have to be on the allocation list [which is not hard to do] I just signed up today and can already make a purchase. Or you could buy their wines from online purveyors like JJ Buckley. Most of the 2007's are no longer available, but you can still get the wine I reviewed here for $65 in the 375ml size or opt to give their 2008's a swirl.
The shipping charge is a bit on the over the top end of the scale. I priced out 6 bottles from both Carter Cellars and JJ Buckley and there was a huge $15 dollar difference. But hey if you're spending this kind of coin on wine, than $15 may not be that big of a deal to you.
Other Voices: A certain Mr. Bobby Parker gave this wine 94 points. See the Wine Advocate - Dec 2010 issue. He had these remarks:
"The sensational 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block boasts a dense purple color as well as creamy blackberry, cassis, floral and subtle smoke notes. Full-bodied, opulent and rich, it has more in common with a 2007 than expected. Drink this exuberant, flamboyant Cabernet over the next 15+ years"
What's the Score: So my immediate impression of this wine was to give it 93 points and after bringing home a sample from the trip, I edged up the score just a bit to 94 points on the CCWB score board.
Full Disclosure: Yep this wine I reviewed here was received as a sample. I know fancy huh?
By the Way: In case you're interested jjbuckley still has two bottles left of the 92 point 2004 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Revilo Vineyard they are selling for $75 apiece. Considering the new releases are $125 each for a 750ml this seems like a great deal for someone who really wants to experience a premiums Napa Valley Cabernet.
My Recommendation: Geez, go buy yourself some this wine-tastic [yes a real word I made up] juice. It will not disappoint, but it will make ya wince just a little when you get the bill. For me this is definitely a special occasion bottle of vino or to give as a gift to someone you really want to thank profusely. This wine is Napa Valley at its best!