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St. Helena

Posted: March 8, 2000

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St. Helena

Total Acres Planted: *4,500

Total Bordeaux Varieties: *3,305 acres

*Wine Spectator estimates

OLD GUARD: Grace Family Vineyard and Spottswoode

RISING STARS: Abreu Madrona Ranch and Whitehall Lane Leonardini Vineyard

OTHER REFERENCE CABERNETS: Beringer Chabot and Home vineyards, Vineyard 29

REGIONAL CHARACTER: Once past Rutherford, the valley narrows considerably at St. Helena, in effect pinching off the bay breezes from the south. But oftentimes the cooling airs from the Pacific Ocean reach this area coming from the north over Diamond Mountain and through Calistoga to moderate the climate, arriving before the bay winds. According to estimates, there's a significant amount of Cabernet and Merlot grown in this would-be appellation, but not much is labeled by vineyard or estate. Spottswoode is a tightly focused style, and the Beringer Home, when made, offers plenty of depth and structure. Abreu is enormously rich and plush; Grace is more graceful.

It's difficult to summarize based on such a limited offering, but quality speaks volumes, and wines such as Abreu, Spottswoode and Grace are absolutely delicious and age worthy. Not an AVA yet, but an application is pending with federal regulatory officials. If any thread ties the wines it's the high quality and brilliantly ripe, complex fruit flavors.

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