Last week, in one of my regular weekly blind tastings, I came across a pair of wines that consumers will love. But one is also a wine that has to make Napa Cabernet producers nervous.
It's the 2009 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve, a strikingly excellent Bordeaux-style blend from Sonoma County that offers a wide array of flavors presented in an elegant, graceful style. The price: $45, with 3,600 cases made. It's the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook's best efforts. Beringer has another 2009 Knights Valley red, this one also a Cabernet, for $27, with 79,500 cases made. The former is sensational; the latter damn good. These are the kinds of wines that get you excited about 2009 reds. So far there have been many exciting wines from this vintage, but also a few I've tried that show the difficulties of the growing season.
From Hook's perspective, between 2009 and 2008, the former is the stronger year, and it reflects subtle changes Beringer has made in its vineyard. 2008 yielded wines with harder tannins, she said. "2009 was—especially after '08—[a year where] tannins seemed to be more evolved and rounder," Hook said. "Certainly texturally  is more plush and rounded in its mouthfeel."
In the vineyard, there are multiple reasons, she said, including working with rows that are not ideally oriented, or retaining the canopies to give the grapes greater exposure to sunlight.
Beringer has also been adding more compost to the soils which, over time, have become meager. "When soils become depleted and vines get more stressed it can give you more aggressive tannins," she said.
Knights Valley has been on my mind the past few years, since time and again the wines from this small valley north of Napa Valley continue to impress. Beringer is the old-timer here, having made Cabernet since 1976. Peter Michael is the superstar, with its Les Pavots red table wine and array of Chardonnays, grown on its hillside vineyards.
And it's not just Cabernet and Chardonnay that are making waves here. Check out some of the Rhône Valley-styled reds from the likes of Keplinger.
It reminds me too that Sonoma is slowly but surely making gains with Cabernet and Cabernet blends. In a recent blind tasting I found an excellent 2008 from Kinsella Estates Tamara Vineyard, a hillside Cabernet project in Dry Creek Valley, one of Thomas Brown's newest endeavors. It's the debut wine from Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, priced at $100 a bottle. It's a gorgeous, pure and harmonious effort that proves what can be accomplished given the right site and winemaking.
Michael Myette — Sacramento, CA USA — November 30, 2011 5:53pm ET
Brian Boomer — Dallas — December 1, 2011 1:48am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 1, 2011 12:08pm ET
Jay J Cooke — Ripon CA — December 1, 2011 2:50pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 1, 2011 4:31pm ET
Patrick Frenchick — Germany — December 1, 2011 7:57pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — December 2, 2011 4:18pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 2, 2011 4:31pm ET
Jeb Singleton — Fairfax, VA — December 2, 2011 5:00pm ET
Rick Krueger — Sitka, Alaska — December 3, 2011 5:06pm ET
Gregory Hart — Rosemount, MN — December 3, 2011 8:01pm ET
mace howell — san jose ca — December 5, 2011 6:25am ET
Jay J Cooke — Ripon CA — December 5, 2011 3:45pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 5, 2011 4:15pm ET
Jay J Cooke — Ripon CA — December 5, 2011 6:44pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 5, 2011 6:50pm ET
Rick Krueger — Sitka, Alaska — December 5, 2011 8:34pm ET
Lisa Brown — Beringer, St. Helena, California — December 6, 2011 4:19pm ET
Martin Slavin — San Rafael, CA — December 7, 2011 1:00am ET
Jay J Cooke — Ripon CA — December 7, 2011 11:33am ET
Ken Scherfee — Sacramento, California — January 10, 2012 1:38pm ET
Ken Scherfee — Sacramento, California — January 10, 2012 8:59pm ET
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