Along with Ridge Monte Bello, Heitz Martha's Vineyard is one of California's longest-running single-vineyard Cabernets. Since 1962 for Monte Bello and 1966 for Martha's, these two Cabernets have been made continuously by the same respective wineries. They are grands crus in the purest spirit of the word.
Last year, Heitz celebrated its 50th year in business, and the Martha's Vineyard Cabernet remains a consistently complex, well-defined, distinctive expression of terroir. When the 2007 Martha's (94 points, 1,330 cases made) passed through my office the other day in a blind tasting, I wondered if the wine in the brown paper bag could possibly be Heitz. It had all the telltale signs: the minty chocolate-covered cherry aromas, the firm, dense and concentrated body, and long, persistent finish. It's the best new Martha's I can remember in years. Make that decades.
It's expensive by Martha's standards, at $200 a bottle, but considering the many other Napa Valley Cabernets in the same price range with little or no pedigree, Martha's seems most deserving.
The 2007 features a commemorative bottling with a label dedicated to Tom and Martha May, who have owned the vineyard since the 1960s. Joe and Alice Heitz started their winery in 1961 and began bottling the Martha's separately in 1966, beginning a glorious run of sensational vintages that extended into the 1980s. Some of the vintages, including 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1974, are among the classics of the era. Time and again, the wines proved to be relentlessly long, durable agers that evolved into supple, layered masterpieces. For a while, Heitz Martha's Vineyard was the most esteemed wine in America.
It no longer holds that cachet. For one, the field of competition is far more crowded. Not all of the vintages have reached the lofty heights of the best. But 2007 deserves to be considered among the best ever made from the vineyard, rivaling 1974 as well as the 2004 and 2005, which were exceptional.
The vineyard was replanted and out of commission from 1993 to 1995, returning in 1996. The wine is a touch riper these days, a function, Joe's daughter Kathleen Heitz Myers believes, of the vineyard being organically farmed and the winery pushing for a shade more richness. Her brother David Heitz has overseen winemaking since Joe's death in 2001. At about 14.5 percent alcohol, the 2007 is indeed riper than the wines of the 1960s and 1970s, which were closer to 14 percent, Myers said. Not that that matters much. Heitz used to make one of the ripest and best Cabernets in Napa Valley. The tradition carries on.
Kerry Winslow — San Francisco, California, USA — June 15, 2012 8:56pm ET
Ramos — USA — June 16, 2012 8:20am ET
Mark Lyon — Sonoma, CA; USA — June 16, 2012 10:11pm ET
Steve Balmuth — San Clemente, CA — June 18, 2012 11:33am ET
Thomas Kobylarz — Hoboken, NJ — June 18, 2012 12:31pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — June 18, 2012 3:24pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 18, 2012 4:38pm ET
Greg Gregory — Napa, CA — June 20, 2012 5:37pm ET
Brad Paulsen — Saratoga, CA — June 22, 2012 8:31pm ET
Steve Balmuth — San Clemente, CA — July 17, 2012 10:35am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions