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james laube's wine flights

An Excellent Napa Cabernet for $20

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jan 3, 2008 4:15pm ET

Napa Valley’s 2005 bumper grape crop has created plenty of opportunities. Producers can select their finest wines for their top labels and discard wines that don’t fit into those blends. There’s often lots of good wine that doesn’t fit in those cuvées, which is where the opportunities lie.

Roots Run Deep winery is a new company based in Yountville focusing on high-quality Napa wines at affordable prices. All of its wines will retail for $20 or less, which sounds like something out of the 1980s.

Yesterday in my regular blind tasting I came across RRD’s 2005 Educated Guess Cabernet ($20, 18,000 cases), an excellent wine that offers rich, spicy pure Napa Cabernet flavors at a price where you can afford to buy a case. With the 2006 vintage, a Napa Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will join the lineup, with about 3,000 cases of each.

Owner Mark Albrecht and winemaker Barry Gnekow (who’s made wine for Hahn, 7 Deadly Zins, Old Ghost and Cycles Gladiator) tapped Beckstoffer Vineyards in Rutherford for Cabernet Sauvignon, purchased as finished wine, and the Napa Wine Co. in Oakville for Merlot. The wines are made at Napa Wine Co.

This is Albrecht’s first wine project after having worked with Cost Plus World Market, where he served as vice president of wine and gourmet food for 12 years, creating numerous brands, including Red Truck for Cline.

The wines so far are blends of both crushed grapes and purchased bulk wine. But starting in 2007, all of the wines will be made from purchased grapes.

The challenge, of course, is keeping their prices in the $20 range and maintaining quality. Stay tuned.

Ted Henry
Napa, CA —  January 3, 2008 4:39pm ET
18000 cases! Wow, thats over 43000 gallons of Rutherford bulk wine. The rule of thumb is that the grapes in Napa Valley are about 100 times the bottle price per ton of grapes. That means they need to buy at $2000 a ton. With the county average at $4000 that will be difficult.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  January 3, 2008 5:02pm ET
Ted, it's not all Rutherford grapes, just some Beckstoffer juice from there...in 2005, some vineyards produced nearly twice as much tonnage as they did in 2004...
Tony Tam
January 3, 2008 6:12pm ET
Thank you, James. We need more reasonably-priced wines like the one you mentioned. While it is nice to read and fantasize about the DRCs and Latours that cost $500 a bottle, what the average reader really want are tips on good wines that are AFFORDABLE. Thanks again.
Fairway Inc
January 3, 2008 6:32pm ET
James,Your post makes it seem that they got all their juice from Beckstoffer (not some of it). Any guess as to how much? Otherwise, your blog sounds more like an advertisement for the winery and not a critique. The fact may be that the wine is still very good. Being a wine critic, I thought you would be a little more selective with your wording.
Brad Kanipe
Atlanta —  January 3, 2008 8:05pm ET
At $20 I can't wait to see some on the shelves and give it a spin. Thanks for the heads up.
Tony Tam
January 4, 2008 10:11am ET
I beg to differ from Fairway Inc's assertion that James Laube "makes it seem that they got all their juice from Backstoffer".The blog stated that the wine maker sourced the cabernet as finished wine from "Beckstoffer Vineyards in Rutherford" while the merlot was from "the Napa Wine Co. in Oakville".It was pretty clear that the wine was not 100% Beckstoffer nor was it 100% cabernet.At $18 for a Napa Valley cebernet, does anyone really care if it was not 100% Backstoffer?
David Nelson
CA —  January 4, 2008 3:21pm ET
Jim - I could not find a website for RRD winery. Do you have any information where to order?
Jay J Cooke
Ripon CA —  January 4, 2008 5:12pm ET
Dave - Try rootsrundeep.com.

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