Jeff Ames first crossed paths with us at Wine Spectator 10 years ago, when he applied for a job in our tasting department in San Francisco.
We liked his knowledge and passion for wine and even though we didn’t hire him for the assistant tasting coordinator position, we figured he would go on to bigger and better things, which he did.
(As an aside, the woman we hired we later learned worked part time as a nightclub stripper. But two others who worked in our tasting department went on to successful careers in wine—Wells Gutherie of Copain in Sonoma and Tom Garrett of Detert, Revana and Bugay wines).
Ames headed to wine country, working in Oregon before settling in Napa Valley, where he is now winemaker for Kenward Family Vineyards, producers of the Tor and Rock lines of wines.
He also started his own label, Rudius, where he produced an excellent Syrah and earned him a spot in our list of rising star California Rhône-style producers earlier this year.
While the 2005 Syrah was excellent, his 2006 wines are extraordinary and merit one of those sprint don’t run buying endorsements. The Napa Valley Cabernet I tasted yesterday is simply phenomenal—rich, layered, impeccably balanced, long, pure and focused.
Ames knew he had a hit on his hands with his 2006s, which include a pair of delicious Syrahs from Mendocino great Alder Springs Vineyard: the Spirit Rock (92 points, $45) and Emerald Pool (94, $45).
In hindsight, he says he may have released his 2005 vintage too early, as it was a tight, closed wine when I tasted it a year ago.
But the 2006s are hitting on all cylinders right now.
"I knew when I tasted those wines out of barrel that I had something special," Ames said today. He’s mum about the source of the Cabernet. It is 100 percent Cabernet and could carry the Howell Mountain appellation, he said, and has a few grapes from a Yountville vineyard. But it’s one of those arrangements where he can buy the grapes but not disclose the source. At $62, it’s one extraordinary wine that will more than hold its own against Napa’s finest.
All three of Ames’ wines are well worth the search.