Barrel Tasting and Auction Preview

Jun 9, 2000

Barrel Tasting and Auction Preview

Text and photos by Dana Nigro and Daniel Sogg

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Robert Mondavi Winery
Geneviève Janssens, director of winemaking
Cabernet Franc Oakville 1999 (This wine is 77 percent Cabernet Franc, 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 percent Merlot, and 2 percent Petit Verdot)

"The average age of the vines is 35 years. It's a very full, very fragrant wine. I think the Cabernet Franc expressed itself very well, with lots of power, lots of density. It's a unique wine, this old-vine Cab Franc, fermented in large oak vats. The porousness of the oak allows the fruit to be more open, and [because the oak cannot be cooled] it's a warmer fermentation."

Byron Kosuge, winemaker
Pinot Noir Carneros Brown Ranch 1999

"We do an estate-bottled wine from this ranch, and some of this lot will go into that wine. We brought this to show the site. 1999 was hard from the end of September into the third week of October; the grapes came in fast and furious. But subsequently, the wines turned out to be very good. It was a good year for Pinot Noir -- the grapes had good color and good, ripe tannins. I think my favorite thing about the 1999 vintage is that it still has some of the cool vintage character with good acidity and all the things you would associate with a late, cool harvest."

Elias Fernandez, winemaker
Cabernet Sauvignon Stag's Leap Hillside Select 1998

"It was a tough vintage, but the Hillside Select is our easiest wine to make since we just pick the best lots. It was also a short crop, with 1,800 cases, about 500 less than normal."

Silverado Vineyards
Jon Emmerich, winemaker
Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap Disney Family Vineyard 1999

"The reason we are pouring this is that the thing that made Silverado was this vineyard. We always want to focus on our vineyards. 1999 was a tough vintage. When we got that heat spike [during harvest time], the vines did not hold up well, and there was a lot of dehydration. But the first part of the vintage was great; the grapes came in with nice, even ripening and even maturity. This barrel is from one of those lots. I think, all in all, 1999 will be a great year for our final Cabernet blend."

Staglin Family Vineyard
Celia Welch, winemaker
Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 1997

"Staglin's Cabernet was bottled in January, but we held this one barrel back for the auction. I walk through the vineyards during the growing season, and at some point before harvest, I see a section of vines that seems to have everything in balance. I'll go back to that block when it comes time to set aside a barrel for the auction. I taste through the barrels individually and narrow it down to the one that seems most magical. It's treated with kid gloves from then on. 1997 is a phenomenal vintage with fantastic concentration. All of our grapes are estate-grown, and this barrel came from the western side of the vineyard, the part closest to the hillside, on a compound slope that faces south and east. This block didn't produce larger than average yields, just about four tons per acre."

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