Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vine Cliff Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Vine Cliff Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Vine Cliff Winery was one of the earliest original Napa Valley operating wineries and vineyards dating back to the 1870's. Vine Cliff was one of the first producers to plant Bordeaux varietals in Napa Valley. The 500 acres nestled up against the eastern slope of the Vacas Range of Mountains that form the east boundary of Napa Valley was originally part of the George Yount estate, an early settler in the area and namesake of the village based on his name.

After falling on hard times during the early 20th Century, exacerbated by the challenges of Prohibition, the land sat dormant until it was purchased by Nell Sweeney for her family in 1985.

Today the hundred acre estate remains home to the Sweeney family, Nell Sweeney as Principle and Rob Sweeney as General Manager. The site houses Vine Cliff's winemaking facilities and guest center. The 25 acres planted in vines, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, cling to steep hillside terraces of flat rocky red soil, known as the “Oakville Bench” climbing to 400 feet above the valley floor.

The vineyards are planted and maintained for low yields, sacrificing quantity for quality. This approach gives Vine Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon that famous Oakville terroir character, powerful fruit flavor and low tannins, classic Napa Valley wines, approachable on release, but capable of developing exceptional complexity with bottle age.

When we visited neighboring Darioush Winery during our Napa Wine Experience back in 2003, when they were still building their magnificent winery visitor center and tasting rooms,. we did a private barrel tasting with wnemaker Steve Devitt, formerly wine maker of Vine Cliff. Looking back, it occurs to me this bottle may have been crafted by Steve during those earlier years.

Tonight this was a perfect accompaniment to grilled strip steaks, grilled onions and peas, with dark chocolate souffle dessert.

Dark garnet color, medium bodied, black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of earth, tobacco, cedar, leather and smoke and hints of floral on an oaky tannin finish. The fruits may be diminished somewhat giving way to the non-fruit flavors due to age perhaps suggesting its past the prime of its drinking window.

RM 89 points.  I suspect this warranted a point or so higher earlier when a bit younger.