September 10, 2010 was a bright sunny day in Napa Valley, warm but still not hot enough for growers dealing with tensions around the slower grape maturation associated with this year’s uncharacteristically cool west coast summer. While row after row of sun bathed thinned canopies yearned for a few more degrees of heat exposure, the day did serve as an idyllic backdrop to tasting some special wines (27 to be exact) down on the valley floor and up on Howell Mountain. A complete ranked list of all the wines will appear here in WineZag in a few days, but here is one well deserved shout-out for a a Howell Mountain highlight wine that provided a soft landing for my palate’s California re-immersion:
2007 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon:
I first tasted O’Shaughnessy wine in the 2003 vintage and was floored by the power and elegance of the hillside-made wine. I revisited their 2004 vintage and was surprised how different, less accessible, and harder edged those wines were compared to 2003. The folks at O’Shaughnessy concur and still feel the ’04 vintage is less accessible than one would want, but the year was an anomaly in a string of amazing wines since 2000. Today I tasted the ’07 Howell Mountain and ’07 Mount Veeder Cabs, the ’07 Howell Mountain Merlot, and finished with a bottle from a small production of ’06 Mount Veeder Syrah. Every one of these wines, crafted by one of my long time favorite Pinot Noir wine makers who Betty O’Shaughnessy hired to run her winery, Sean Capiaux, was awfully compelling and dramatic in their rich expression of California hillside fruit. On Howell Mountain, they have seven different Bordeaux varietals to work with in creating their best interpretation of any one vintage.
The 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet is simply remarkable. Before I describe it, it is important to note that the bottle I tasted was opened three days previous, refrigerated for two days, poured from again one day previous, and then decanted about six hours before we tasted from that same bottle. There was no way to tell that the wine was not uncorked ten minutes ago. It offered a density of richness and flavor that I can only recall from the finest hillside Cabernets I was regularly consuming during the late eighties. Sweet black and blue fruit, cream, smoke, palate coating richness, and a finish to kill for. There is so much to this wine, and so many hints of how packed the wine is with hillside nuances that have yet to fully show themselves, still hiding under the velvet thick fruit and stone-like qualities that are dominant and strong, without ever seeming overblown or bowed towards over ripeness, even three days after opening the bottle.
I believe this wine is selling for about $75. The wine compares favorably to any wine selling around the world for $75. I strongly recommend the 2007 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.