Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spring Valley Uriah Walla Walla Valley Red Wine 2010

Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Walla Walla Valley Red Wine 2010

Following my post the other night on the earlier 2002 vintage of this wine, and upon seeking to replace it with the most current release, I wrote about it suddenly disappearing from merchant stocks after receiving a Top 100 #27 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 ranking for the year.

Son Alec picked up a half case on the east coast and brought it home for Christmas. So it was only fitting we popped a bottle to try it during our father-son dinner outing at his 'alma mater' restaurant where he worked through high school and college. Readers of this blog see regular frequent mentions of Angeli's, our favorite local Italian eatery.

This may be the most expressive Uriah I have tasted. It is the most complex on the front and most vibrant on the finish that I remember. We hold each vintage going back to 2002.

Dark ruby colored, full bodied, complex layers of tight spicy red currant and black raspberry fruits are accented by spicy clove, hints of smoky anise turning to a big mouthful of subtle cinnamon and hint of mocha on a big floral tongue tingling smooth dusty tannins.

RM 93 points.

Blend: 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec

Culler Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet 2005

Culler Wines Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 
At picturesque Ladera Winery on
Howell Mountain
This is the signature wine from Karen Culler who is the winemaker of Ladera Winery up on Howell Mountain. She produces this full throttle Howell Mountain cabernet and a cabernet syrah blend under the Culler label. We visited Ladera Winery up on Howell Mountain during our Ladera Napa Wine Experience 2008.
Dan Stotesberry, son of the Ladera owners, was marketing their wines and came and visited me here in Chicago several months later during one of his trips to the east. Traveling with him during that trip, I learned of the Karen Culler connection and I obtained these wines during our stops at Binny's here in Chicagoland as a result. 
Today, Dan works in sales and marketing for Pillow Road Vineyards up in Sonoma. We also tasted and acquired Pillow Road wines during our Ladera visits. Dan is no stranger to the midwest. He attended Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana and then, after graduation, traded soybean futures at the Chicago Board of Trade. His passion for wine eventually lead him back to California and the family business at Ladera Winery and Pillow Road Vineyards. 
I pulled this from the cellar to enjoy with a grilled steak without forethought or thinking much about it.  Had I considered it further, I might have tasted this against the Ladera Howell Mountain Napa Cab from the same vintage. This might have revealed or suggested that they are the same wine. An intellectual exercise perhaps, I'll have to rely on my tasting notes and memory to compare the two when I eventually open the Ladera wine. We hold a collection of Ladera Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, Howell Mountain, Lone Canyon, and a label from 'Two Mountains'. We've heard they have sold off and discontinued the Lone Canyon production. 

Complicating the wine tasting comparison further will be the latency or delay between the two individual tastings which  will add another dimension of time or aging between the two specimens. 
Perhaps the comparison to Ladera may be errant or over-stated. The other dimension is to this wine compare this to other 'similarly situated' Howell Mountain Cabernets, those from the same terroir and like and similar vintages. That too may prove to be merely an intellectual exercise since there may be different components in the blend, different oak treatment, different harvest conditions, and so on. Never-the-less, these are the elements of tasting and comparing wines, hence the fun and fascination with the subject. 
 All that said, I have to say that I did not find this wine to strongly resemble any other Howell Mountain cabernets that I have tasted. The range of such wines that we hold in our cellar consist of Robert Craig, Cade, Beringer, Clark Claudon, Outpost, Lamborn, Viader and Oshaughnesy. Needless to say, we're huge fans of Howell Mountain Cabernets! Karen Culler may read this and be amused, or she may see her wine mentioned with list above and she'll see how off base I am, in which case, my 'miss' may be attributed to the differences cited above - time in bottle, oak treatment, aging, etc. In any event here is what I found in this wine tonight, the sport of tasting is all about discovering and diagnosing these comparisons and differences.
The Culler 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was dark purple colored, full bodied, complex, tight and a bit 'hard' or firm, which did tend to soften over the course of a couple hours over the evening. It presented black fruits with a layer of charcoal, slight hint of smoke, tones of anise and tobacco leaf, turning to a layer of  mocha sweetness on the moderate lingering tannin finish. I sense this would have been harder, more subdued and a bit closed had it been opened three to five years earlier, and in that same vein, will continue to soften and open and be more approachable over the next five years. 
 Regrettably, I don't have five or six more bottles to test this over time, but it does give me a benchmark to compare the aging profile of and effects of some other similar wines.
RM 92 points.