Howell Mountain Uncorked: Red Cap 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

It has been said; “Those who bring sunshine to the lives others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~ James M. Barrie it’s this precise sentiment which I found expressed at the Howell Mountain Trade tasting I attended just a couple weeks ago. There were a few new kids on the block, one of them being Red Cap Vineyards, name was not familiar to me and I thought I have to check this place out.

So I went over and talked to the owner Tom Altemus who said, "Welcome to Red Cap Vineyards" not literally of course but definitely in spirit. Red Cap Vineyards, the launch of Tom’s third successful career. This was their inaugural release to the public which was unveiled at the Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Trade Tasting held at the Petersen Automotive Museum, a great setting to showcase some of the most astounding cars in the world, along with world class wines.

I was curious about the label art so asked Tom, “where did the idea of kid in the swing come from”. He explained it this way, "the image of the boy was created to invoke a feeling of youthful exuberance which is pervasive here at our family ranch."  It’s an exuberance that has also found its way into the wines.

I was also curious about the name of the winery and it's origin he said, "the name Red Cap refers to our location, the top of a mountain capped in red soil”, a reference to the Aiken soil, a deep red soil which is peppered with fractured rock. One of the more interesting quotes was related to my question about sustainable farming practices; he said, "I still whole-heartily believe in the old adage, "the best fertilizer is a farmer’s footstep". This is great advice for folks looking for today’s buzz words to appear on labels, the kind of mindset that represents itself in the quality of the fruit and of course the wine in your glass.

First Swirl: After the first splash down in the glass; this wine unfold like the "SC" flags flying high like another SC touch-down pass on a Saturday afternoon, with a deep ruby core fading to garnet colored rim.
First Sniff: Sticking my fat Irish nose into the class. I caught a plume of complex, tasty mix of ripe plum and wild berry, ripe, rich and distinctively Howell Mountain.

First Slurp: Oh, my first thought was “wow” this is some serious juice, which is impressive now and better down the road. This is a dense, juicy and savory wine with elements of vanilla, cherry, anise and tarry notes melding skillfully around a generous core of black cherry and currant flavors. The finish is long and focused, caressing each taste bud with a plethora of fruit, carried nicely by the acidity and the right balance of terroir driven minerality.
ABV and Aging: This wine is aged 22 months in 100% French Oak and weighing 14.7% abv.
Composition: 100% Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, open top fermented, [scary] native yeasty-beasts driven fermentation and punch downs done by hand.

My Recommendation: With only 250 cases produced, these wines will go very quickly. The $75.00 asking price is reasonable, within the range of comparable contemporaries of similar quality. A wine to grab a few of for the cellar and you can drink now or hold for further development and enjoyment. This is the wine you give to a client, friend or shared with the idea of impressing in mind. I would keep an eye on this winery and winemaker, the direction and focus is in a word superlative.

Wine Maker: I had a chance to catch up with Rudy Zuidema, a graduate of UC Davis during the tasting at the Peterson Automotive Museum. He is quoted as saying, "We get to taste a little mother nature in the wine." From the first sip to the last drop, this wine is equally abundant fruit and terrior driven minerality layered together. This is the type of flavor combination, which I would liken to a mushroom, sausage and mushroom risotto, a difficult but not impossible task. In my opinion I would say he has pulled it off marvelously.

If you’ve been to the Napa Valley before and thought okay, ho-hum what’s new? Well then I’d invite you to give the wines of Howell Mountain [especially the Mountain Cuvee’s] a swirl the next time you’re in the area, because you’ll be in for a sensory experience like no other. Until next folks, sip long and prosper, cheers!


Anonymous said…
An insightful appraisal. Unfortunately the article looses much credibility due to lack of proofreading
Will Eyer said…
Hello Anonymous,

That's a great name by the way. Thanks for sharing your keen insights in such a delightful manner and thanks so much for stopping by, hope to see you again soon.

Anonymous said…
Just looking at my bottles of 2007 Red Cap. A truly wonderful wine the can easily hold its deserved spot amongst the power best of the powerhouse Howell mountain wineries. There is a reason Howell mountain fruit is some of the most expensive in California and Red Cap takes that fruit to its full potential.

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