Three Napa Valley classics from Chappellet Winery
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Consistency and longevity are almost second nature in the Old World. Many estate wineries can recount their history by generations. In the New World, where wine hasn't been made commercially nearly as long, that isn't quite the case. So when you consider the relatively short history of winemaking (in, say, Napa Valley) relative to the rest of the world, there are a handful of producers that have carved out a history of some length. Then if you take into account the ones that are still family-owned-and-operated, the number dwindles even further. One of those producers is Chappellet Winery. They have been in the business of making wine in Napa since 1967, and their focus is on making wine from their estate vineyards in the Pritchard Hill section of Napa. Cabernet Sauvignon is their calling card, but they make a variety of other selections as well. Today I'll look at three of their current releases that stood out to me.
First up is the Chappellet Winery 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay, the lone white wine in the Chappellet lineup. This selection was aged on the lees for eight month in French oak, and one-third of the barrels were new. Most of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. The suggested retail price for this vintage is $32.
Pineapple and orchard fruit aromas are prominent in the expressive nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is clean, crisp and fresh, loaded with autumn fruit flavors. Apple and apple pie spice are of particular note. These are underscored by some hints of butter that lend to a really rich, luxurious and ultimately opulent mouth feel. Nutmeg, clove and cardamom, along with rich pie crust characteristics and a nice wallop of minerals, are all part of the lingering finish.
What strikes me most about this Chardonnay is that it features a boatload of fruit flavors coupled with an abundant amount of spice. It's fresh and goes down easy, but it also has complexity to spare. This is an excellent example of a Chardonnay whose oak treatment really adds to the wine, enhancing it and helping the fruit rather, than masking it, as is the case too often. For $32, what you're going to get is a classic example of what can be achieved with this great grape in Napa Valley.
The second release I'm looking at from Chappellet is the 2007 Mountain Cuvee. This offering was produced by blending Cabernet Sauvignon (51 percent), Merlot (46 percent), Malbec (1 percent), Cabernet Franc (1 percent) and Petit Verdot (1 percent). The suggested retail price for this Bordeaux style blend is $29.
Aromas of berry compote, cedar and vanilla, with a floral component, underscore the nose of this 2007 blend. Red and black cherry notes are the most striking flavor throughout the palate, along with copious spice notes such as cinnamon and cloves in good quantity. Graham cracker crust, espresso, dusty dark chocolate, mineral notes and earth mark the finish. This wine has firm but yielding tannins and a nice overall structure.
What I like best about this Cuvee is how seamlessly the varietals are integrated. This is definitely a case of the sum being greater than the whole of the separate parts. It's a really nice, multi-layered blend that is also a nice value. It's drinking well now and should continue to do so for a number of years.
The 2007 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery's flagship wine. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (76 percent), Malbec (18 percent), Petit Verdot (4 percent), Merlot (1 percent) and Cabernet Franc (1 percent) are blended in. The suggested retail price for this release is $47.
Some things go together quite naturally. Napa Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon are two that work well in tandem quite often. Ripe berry fruit aromas lead the nose, with black cherry and black raspberry of particular note. Tobacco and cedar play a smaller but still significant role. This Cabernet is a little tight at first and a couple of hours in the decanter are recommended to get it to fully come to life in its youth. Once it opens up, the flavors fly. The palate is very layered and expressive with the fruit and spice themes continuing. The spice in particular just reverberates and keeps on giving. Black tea, pencil lead, baker's chocolate, chicory and an absolute avalanche of earth are all part of the lengthy finish. This wine has pleasing tannins and excellent acidity.
This Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent example of why Napa Valley is one of the very best regions to grow this varietal. This wine is very appealing now, particularly after a nice decanting. However, I expect it to improve significantly in the bottle.
All three of these wines make a strong argument for spending a couple of extra bucks every now and then to taste more artisanal wines from a family producer. Whether it's for a special occasion or just because you want to see what premium level Napa Valley wines are like, each of these selections is a surefire bet to awaken your senses.