Notes from the 27th California Futures Tasting
This past Saturday Lou and I attended the 27th California Futures Tasting organized by Andy Creemer of MacArthur Beverages. This event is sponsored by MacArthur Beverages for the benefit of The Addy and Bruce Bassin Memorial Cancer Research Fund. Held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel the room easily holds the 40 wineries with such spacing that the wait at a table is never that long. In the 2.5 hour time span of the tasting it is impossible to taste all of the wines with any consistent degree of concentration. We decided to focus old favorites, new attendees, and those which people were buzzing about. In the end I wrote 41 tasting notes on wines from 17 wineries.
The typical format for this tasting is for a winery to present at least one wine from a finished and bottled vintage along with the subsequent vintage sample which is still being raised in barrel. Most of these wine samples will not be bottled until the fall. These barrel samples were collected between two days and three weeks prior to the tasting. Of these samples some represent final blends whereas others represent approximate blends. There is some variation in the quality of the wines due to their state which seemed apparent in a few wines.
In general the finished wines were from the 2009 vintage and the barrel samples were from the 2010 vintage. There was some variation with Dunn showing the 2009 barrel sample and Ridge showing both 2010 and 2011 barrel samples. If I grossly generalize the 2009 were riper whereas the 2010 were more structured for aging. I also found the 2010s to have spicy tannins but this might just be a result of the barrel samples. Unfortunately, I did not take detailed notes the past two years for comparison sake.
It is hard to venture a list of favorite wines but my distilled impressions are that the 2010 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel and 2010 Ridge, Monte Bello were excellent at the less riper end of the spectrum. While the Ramey Cabs stepped it up I found the Syrah a refreshing break during the middle of the tasting. And how can you not like the $22 Mark Herold Wines, Flux? The 2010 Kamen Cabernet had an interesting array of Indian spices. The 2009 Hensley Family showed really well for an inaugural vintage. The Pahlmeyer and Staglin were very good, a bit more restrained with the Pahlmeyer showing sweeter and the Staglin more classic. Surely the best buy of the evening and a simply outstanding wine was the 2009 Dunn, Howell Mountain. I anticipated tasting it after loving the 2008 from last year and was impressed again. At the high-end the wines of Morlet were consistently very good wines needing age. The 2009 Bure Family, Duration was really very good with the 2010 Thirteen close on its heels. But the 2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, To-Kalon was a stunner.
Arietta was founded in 1996 by Fritz Hatton along with John and Maggy Kongsgaard. The original parcels were purchased at Hudson Ranch with additional purchases at Howell Mountain in 2003 and 2004. Fritz and his wife Caren bought out the Kongsgaard’s in 2005 and brought on Andy Erickson as the winemaker. Andy Erickson has worked at both Harlan Estate and Staglin.
2009 Arietta, Cabernet Sauvignon – $125
This wine is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot sourced mostly from Coombsville along with Calistoga and Carneros. It was aged in 75% new and 25% second-use French oak. This showed saline, red fruit with alcoholic heat coming through the structure. Find it at
2010 Arietta, Cabernet Sauvignon – $125
This was more floral on the nose with purple fruit. In the mouth this showed better balance than the 2009 with sweet spice, a wood note, and some spicy heat. Find it at
Barnet Vineyards was created by Fiona and Hal Barnet in 1983. Originally focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon wines the estate vineyards are located on steep terraces at the top of Spring Mountain located at 2,000 feet. Today they produce a variety of white and red wines with fruit sourced from estate and single-vineyard fruit.
2009 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain – $60
This wine is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petite Verdot that was aged for 22 months in 65% new and 35% once-used French oak barrels. This was unique with a nose of oysters, seaside, and the woods. There was ripe fruit in the mouth along with sweet cinnamon and maple.
2010 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain – $60
With a touch more Petit Verdot there was not much on the nose. In the mouth Eucalyptus notes and red fruit mixed with orange-juice acidity before the tangy finish. Find it at
2010 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake – $120
This fruit was sourced from volcanic soil and was aged for 22 months in wood. This was the most perfumed with lavender, red and black fruit in the mouth. Lively on the tongue it took on red grapefruit and orange citrus tannins. Find it at
Valeri Bure developed a passion for fine wine and food over the ten-plus years he played hockey. Luc Morlet is the winemaker with the wines made at Chateau Boswell Winery.
2010 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Thirteen – $135
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Barn Vineyard. The nose was inky, dark. In the mouth there were gobs of brambly, deep fruit which slowly unveiled and expanded in the mouth. There were sweet spices, very fine tannins, and racy perfume. Very good and should get better over the year. Find it at
2009 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duration, Oakville – $175
There are 100 cases of this wine. It s a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard and 20% Cabernet Franc from Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard. The nose was interesting. In the mouth the flavors were initially quite creamy, though more tannic than the Thirteen, there was a balanced vein throughout. The flavors turned towards bright red fruit in the finish as it explodes in the mouth. The aftertaste left impressions of orange peel and nuts. Young. A lot going on, very good. Find it at
2010 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duration, Oakville – $150
This showed more lift to the nose as compared to the 2009. The perfumed, tart red fruit flavors mixed with purple flavors and show more restraint. The tannins were the most drying and there was a hint of heat. Find it at
Crocker & Starr
In 1971 Charlie Crocker purchased the historic Durell & Sonw Winery which was established in the 1870s. In 1997 Pam Starr joins Charlie to create Crocker & Starr where she is the manager and winemaker. After graduating from UC Davis Pam worked at Edna Valley Vineyard and Carment Winery. In addition to starting Crocker & Starr Pam started consulting to Adastra Vineyard, Gemstone Vineyard, and Garric Cellars.
2009 Crocker and Starr, Stone Place, Cabernet Sauvignon – $81
The nose was restrained with red fruit and barrel notes. In the mouth the tight flavors mixed with perfume which turned to incense and old-style perfume in the middle. There was a smooth mouthfeel. This needs time to come together. Find it at
Dunn Vineyards originated in 1978 when Randy and Lori Dunn purchased 14 acres on Howell Mountain. Since 1982 they have produced two wines which are both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon: the Napa Valley and Howell Mountain.
2009 Dunn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley – $65
The nose was beautiful with underlying brambly fruit. In the mouth there was an immediate lovely mouthfeel, inky notes, ripe sweet fruit which turned cool in the middle. The beautiful spices mixed with depth and controlled power. The finish and aftertaste wrapped up with creamy, ripe cherries. Again, outstanding. Find it at
Mark Herold Wines
Mark Herold started working in the wine business as a Research Oenologist at Joseph Phelps Vineyard. After his own 1998 Merus he started a consulting business where he has worked with Kamen, Kobalt, and others.
2009 Mark Herold Wines, Flux – $22
This is a blend of 68% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 12% Carignan, and 5% Petite Sirah. The nose revealed scented red and blue fruits. In the mouth the red fruit was mouthfilling with some vanilla, a bit of weight, and a spicy, ripe finish.
2010 Mark Herold Wines, Flux – $24
The Petit Sirah was very dark with this vintage so less was used as compared to the 2009. The nose was darker and more concentrated over the 2009. There were tart, purple grapey flavors with a tart middle and very fine, spicy tannins in the finish. Find it at
2009 Mark Herold Wines, Acha – $40
This wine is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 12% Grenache, 9% Carignan, 5% Graciano, and 4% Petit Sirah. There was a nose of red fruit and subtle spice. In the mouth there redder fruit had power with very fine drying tannins. Very young.
2010 Mark Herold Wines, Acha – $36
This wine is 100% Tempranillo. The nose revealed delicate perfume. In the mouth the red fruit was tart and inky with a dark fruited finish. The ultra fine tannins slowly build in the mouth. Find it at
2009 Mark Herold Wines, Collide –
This is a blend of 40% Petite Sirah, 35% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. The brambly nose was blue and bright. In the mouth the weightier flavors started with initial acidity then it was smoother and dark with even more fine, drying tannins than the Acha.
2010 Mark Herold Wines, Collide – $26
Unlike the 2009 this wine has some Syrah in it. The nose was tighter yet retained some lift. There was red fruit, low-lying dark flavors, and fine drying tannins. Young and playing it close right now. Find it at
2010 Mark Herold Wines, “B” Cabernet Sauvignon – $70
The fruit is sourced from Stagecoach vineyard along with Bennett and Rochas vineyards in Coombs Valley. There were cassis flavors along with greenhouse florals which started off as round in the mouth. The wine becomes a bit spicy with dense weight, and a good mouth feel. The mouth follows the nose. Find it at
Hensley Family Vineyards
Hensley Family Vineyards was founded by Mike and Carol Hensley and first released a wine in 2009. Mike is a resident of Houston, Texas where he owns and operates a commercial printing business. After many years of visiting Napa Valley he decided to enter the wine business. Jeff Fontanella is the winemaker.
2009 Hensley Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside, Napa Valley – $49
The nose showed blue fruit. In the mouth the structured blue and black fruit expanded in the mouth and was racy throughout. The flavors became bluer before taking on red fruit in the aftertaste. A good wine for the inaugural vintage! Find it at
2010 Hensley Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside, Napa Valley – $49
From a sample collected three weeks earlier. The flavors showed greener with a bit of spritz. The red fruit was supported by a sweet underlying suppleness before turning red in the finish with acidity. There was an inky aspect with red fruit and smoke in the aftertaste. Find it at
Paul Hobbs Wines
Paul Hobbs Wines was founded in 1991 and produces small production wines from fruit sourced from the highest quality vineyards. Today he also produces wine in Argentina under the Vina Cobos label and additionally imports wines.
2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $65
This wine has been a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot sourced from four vineyards that was fermented in closed-top stainless steel fermenters using indigenous yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation. The wine is typically aged for 20 months in 74% new French oak barrels. The nose revealed dark fruit and pure aromas of leather. In the mouth the weighty dark fruit and more leather with a creamy mouthfeel. A very up-front personality to this very good wine. Find it at
2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, To-Kalon – $195
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in closed-top stainless steel fermenters using indigenous yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation. The wine is typically aged for 20 months in 100% new Taransaud French oak barrels. The nose was quite complex and beautiful with purple fruit, lavender, spices, and violets. The flavors step up with additional depth, riper, and floral in flavor as well. There is a red vein of flavor, a licorice note, and powerful fine tannins in the long aftertaste. Quite nice, outstanding. Find it at
The Smith family had been involved with orchards and vineyards since 1976. After Jeff Smith met Dr. Kliewer, the Dean of Viticulture at UC Davis, he planted four of the best acres with Cabernet Sauvignon. With Bob Foley was the winemaker they released their first vintage with the 1997. In 2006 the Smith family along with their friends purchased a 41 acre property which they transformed into the Blueline Vineyard. All five Bordeaux varietals are grown at this vineyard.
2009 Hourglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blueline – $125
The nose was of red candy, raspberry pastilles, and floral aromatics. In the mouth this felt heavily supple with sweet nose,a little inky aspect in the middle and some lift. Perhaps needing a touch more acidity, the aftertaste was drying with some heat.
2009 Hourglass, Merlot, Blueline – $75
The nose was very sweet, with purple fruit underlying. In the mouth this saline wine revealed old ladies perfume with a very ripe and sweet finish.
2010 Hourglass, Merlot, Blueline – $66
This had a familial sweet, textured nose. In the mouth the flavors attack with better ripe flavors, a racy vein, and a dark flavored lift in the finish. There were buttery flavors in the mouth. Not my type of wine. Find it at
2010 Hourglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blueline – $110
The flavors were austere but creamy. It began with tart red fruit but left the impression of being about the mouthfeel. There were very fine tannins. Find it at
Robert Kamen is the screenwriter of movies including the Karate Kid, The Fifth Element, The Transporter, and Taken. In 1980 he purchased a 280 acres estate on the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Range. Viticulturalist Phil Coturri was brought in and the fruit was initially sold to wineries. A devastating fire in 1996 destroyed half of the vineyards and the Kamen’s home. After replanting the vineyards Kamen produced their first estate wine in 1999. Kamen aims for ripe fruit, low yields, and high quality. Mark Herold is their winemaker with the goal of producing “intense, high extracted, terroir-driven wines.”
2009 Kamen, Cabernet Sauvignon – $75
The ripe and dark nose mixed with tobacco aromas. In the mouth there was a ripe burst of flavor, almost saline before taking on a weight that draped on the tongue. The finish was primary and sweet. Find it at
2010 Kamen, Cabernet Sauvignon – $75
This was more floral with a greenhouse nose. The flavors show restraint instead of ripeness,with fresh red fruit, Indian spices, and teeth coating tannins. Find it at
The Jack Larkin estate is named after Sean Larkin’s son. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Pritchard Hills Melanson Vineyard which is farmed by John Arns. The Cabernet Franc is sourced from a family vineyard just north of Napa. Unfortunately the barrel samples had been finish by the time we came around!
2009 Larkin Wines, Cabernet Franc – $55
This wine has been a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 2% PEtite Verdot aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak. The gritty nose contained blueberries and herbs. In the mouth there was ample purple fruit, dried herbs, and old perfume. There was a little obvious structure and spices coming out in the finish with a dark aftertaste. Find it at
2009 Larkin Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $55
This wine has been a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 4% Petite Verdot aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak. This was blue in flavor with sweeter spice, a cool expansion with creamy blue fruit in the middle. It was a bit racy, which I liked. Find it at
2009 Larkin Wines, MacArthur Beverages Red Wine – $30
This was quite different showing red berries and red grapefruit tilting toward the tart. A bit laid back with finer, more obvious tannins and red fruit in the aftertaste. Find it at
Morlet Family Vineyards
Though Luc and Jodie Morlet only purchased their historic estate in August 2010, they have been producing wines under the label since 2007. Luc graduated with degrees in Enology and Wine Business and beging a series of internships in 1988. Since then he has worked at Chateu Dauxac, replaced John Kongsgaard at Newton Vineyard, worked at Peter Michael Winery, and Staglin. Over the last five years he has also been the winemaker at Vineyard 7 & 8, Bure Family Wines, and Carte Blanche.
2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mon Chevalier – $140
This wine has been a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot sourced from a hillside in Knights Valley. The medium strength nose was of scented ripe fruit. In the flavors were upfront in the mouth with an expansive beginning followed by a creamy finish, marked by grip, and wrapping up with fine+ tannins. Very good. Find it at
2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coeur de Vallee To-Kalon – $140
This wine has been a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc sourced from the famous Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard. The finely textured nose had feint notes of spearmint. In the mouth the up-front flavors were purple with a supple texture, an inky Cabernet Franc finish, and sweet spices in the aftertaste. Very good. Find it at
2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Passionnement – $185
This wine has been 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Oakville bench. This concentrated wine showed structure and restraint with a racy finish containing cinnamon spices. Definitely young and made for age with potential. Find it at
Pahlmeyer history begins when Jayson Pahlmeyer and his friend John Caldwell traveled to Bordeaux in 1972 where they acquired cuttings from five varietals. The Caldwell family owned a 55-acre parcel where they set about creating a vineyard. It took six years for the vineyard to be productive. The history is marked by amazing connections such as Randy Dunn’s period as winemaker, Bob Levy work with Chardonnay, and Helen Turley’s period as winemaker. Today Helen’s assistant Erin Green is now the winemaker.
2009 Pahlmeyer, Proprietary Red – $110
This is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation, then is typically aged for 18 months in 75% new French oak. The subtle purple nose had a ripe red fruit note and sweet spice. In the mouth the flavors were supple with sweet, floral fruit, and a little wood box component. Very good. Find it at
Ramey Wine Cellars
Davie Ramey graduated from UC Davis in 1979 then worked for the Moueix family at Chateau Petrus. Upon returning to California he helped established Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, and Rudd Estate. Davie and his wife Carla founded Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996.
2010 Ramey, Syrah, Rodger’s Creek, Sonoma Coast – $50
This wine is 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier which was cofermented using indigenous yeasts. In the past it has been aged for 28 months in 75% new barrels.The nose was flora with blue fruit, perfume and some ripeness. In the mouth this weighty wine was ripe yet cool with good perfumed flavors and concentration. Drunk halfway through the tasting it was refreshing, very good. Find it at
2010 Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedregal Vineyard, Oakville – $180
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot sourced from the lower slopes of the southeastern Oakville hills and fermented with indigenous yeasts. In the past it has been aged for over two years in completely new barrels. There was a light, restrained nose. In the mouth the ripe, deep fruit bceame structured in the middle with wood notes in the finish as the black fruit flavors mixed with fine+ tannins. Find it at
2010 Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Annum, Napa Valley – $90
This is an “appellation wine” which has been produced from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the J.H. Davies Vineyard and Petit Verdot from the estate’s Pedregal Vineyard. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts and has been aged for over two years in new barrels. The dark nose made way to a good, concentrated, dark red fruit in the mouth. There was some grip, a saline aspect, pleasant structure, good acidity, and a long aftertaste. Very well done and ready for aging. Find it at
The Monte Bello vineyard was originally planted in 1886 in the Santa Cruz mountains. The vineyard fell into disrepair during Prohibition and was essentially abandoned in the 1940s. In 1949 eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted with the rest of the vineyard following suit. I recommend that you read Building Monte Bello: The 2011 Assemblage at the Ridge blog.
2010 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello -
This sample was collected on March 2, 2012. This is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. The nose was floral with greenhouse notes. In the mouth the red and blue fruit was beautiful and balanced by good acidity. Medium in weight there were fine, integrated tannins. Very good. Find it at
2011 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello – $85
This sample was collected on March 1, 2012. This is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Very different from the 2010 in that it was more aromatic with aromas of roasted earth. In the mouth the flavors were grapey and forward with less weight and more overt tannins. The Cabernet Franc component shines through. Needs to settle down. Find it at
Staglin Family Vineyard
Staglin Family Vineyard originated with the purchase of the Rutherford Bench estate in 1985. Today it is very much a family run winery. The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a high-end offering. The 2008 vintage was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in 95% new and 8% used French oak.
2010 Staglin Family Vineyard, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – $185
This sample was bottled six days prior to tasting. The low-lying and complex nose revealed sweet fruit. In the mouth the wine was dense with good depth yet remained light on its feet. The blue and red fruit was very concentrated in flavor with persistent dark red flavors in the aftertaste. Well-integrated and beautiful, very good. Find it at
Tablas Creek Vineyard
The fruit for the Esprit de Beaucastal is sources from vines propagated from budwood cutting from the Chateau de Beaucastel estate in the Rhone. The 120 acre vineyard is certified organic. The fruit is fermented in open and closed stainless steel fermenters using native yeasts. The wines go into barrel then are blended and aged in 1200-gallon French oak foudres. This blend was finalized just under two weeks ago.
2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastal – $45
This wine is a blend of 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache Noir, 21% Syrah, and 4% Counoise. There was a nose of delicate red fruit. In the mouth the brighter red fruit was concentrated and scented with nice, grapey tannins, wrapping up with a fresh, lifted finish. A very good wine. Find it at