The first time I met Russell Bevan, several years ago in St. Helena, he and his merry band of wine-drinking pranksters were zigzagging through Napa and Sonoma counties on what might be described as an open-throttle, no-holds-barred, burn the candle at both ends tour de force food-and-wine tasting extravaganza.
They were visiting several wineries a day, and dining at the finest restaurants. The night he invited me to join his “Bacchus Tour” at Tra Vigne, they had already logged a full day of tours and tastings and were pulling the blankets up on the day with a corkscrew massacre that featured dozens of bottles.
One of the guys sitting next to me thought I was a featherweight because I only sipped a few wines. I was my own designated driver, while they wisely had a big air-porter type van.
Anyway, it was fun meeting a cross-section of readers and wine lovers and we kept in touch. Then a couple of years ago, Bevan and his companion, Victoria DeCrecenzo, told me they were moving to Sonoma, his birthplace, to get into the wine business. They planted the front yard of their house with grapevines, the kind of nerdy thing some of us only consider but never act on ...
I asked him to keep in touch, and he did.
They then told me they planned to make a Napa Valley Cabernet, from Showket Vineyards, which they did. Then things snowballed, as things seem to do when Bevan is involved, and he ended up taking over the winemaking duties at Showket, replacing none other than Heidi Peterson Barrett, one of Napa's top wine talents, and he has a handful of clients who he is working with as either the winemaker or consulting winemaker, or whatever one chooses to call this role today.
Last week Bevan stopped by my office in Napa to share some of his wines and talk about his involvement with Showket, which is in this video.
Bevan hasn’t quit his day job; he still sells dental products. But he’s on a fast-track winemaking career. Among his projects:
Dry Stack, a Bennett Valley offshoot of Sonoma Valley, is a vineyard that has some excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. He poured a delightful 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Rosemary’s Block ($28, 300 cases) that had wonderful fruit intensity and a range of flavors, extending from tropical to citrus and melon, with a kiss of sweetness.
From that vineyard Bevan also makes a soon-to-be-released Dry Stack Syrah, the 2006 Marie’s Block ($38, 300 cases), a tight, beefy, leathery mix, with sage and herb notes. He also makes a Bevan Cellars rendition, vintage 2005 ($70, 96 cases), which is more intense—smoky, with black pepper, fresh earth, mineral and beefy notes.
He is also making a wine for Dry Stack called The Narcissist, named either after him or Dry Stack’s owner, Peter Young, depending on who you hear the story from. It’s dark, vibrant, rich and elegant, with a broader range of flavors and all new French oak. It will sell for $58, with 96 cases made.
Bevan’s work at Showket impressed me. I tried two 2005 Cabernets from the Oakville vineyard, the Barrett bottling for Showket and Bevan’s. The Showket ($85) tasted lean, tart and a bit shrill, with dusty berry, fresh earth and gritty tannins. The Bevan version ($150) was far richer, fleshier and mouthfilling.
In 2006, there are two more bottlings (and Barrett’s final with Showket), and I tried the Bevan rendition, which showed more mocha-laced new oak, but also a rich, layered core of dried currant, espresso bean and flesh tannins. It’s a bit of a “cocktail” wine, Bevan admitted, adding, “I need a huge ‘wow’ factor when people try this.”
The 2007 Showket, made by Bevan, was similarly rich and structured.
Since the Showket start and then Dry Stack, Bevan is working with Westerhold Family Vineyards, in Bennett Valley, and Sanglier Vineyards, also in Bennett Valley. Add Bevan Cellars, and it’s up to five wineries and counting. He is working with everyone who has sold him fruit, which is a strong endorsement of his abilities. Stay tuned.
Kevin Woods — Tampa, FL — May 1, 2008 9:56am ET
Fili Perez — May 1, 2008 11:16pm ET
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