Friday, October 9, 2015

Snowden Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Snowden Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

We first discovered Snowden Vineyards during their inaugural release back in the early nineties. We hosted co-owner Scott Snowden at one of our wine producer dinners at Brix in Napa Valley back then. I recall we enjoyed hearing his reminiscences about his family living down in Oakland and visiting Napa Valley and eventually settling there, and him and his brother taking over and developing the property after his father's death.

Snowden's parents scoured Napa Valley and the adjoining hills looking for a suitable parcel that they could afford. Eventually the found and acquired a remote parcel in the hills on the east side of the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Rutherford in the spring of 1955, a 160 acre ranch that had been in the Albert and Jane Eisan family since 1895.  Along the south boundary of the property, Albert's uncle, Ward Eisan, owned a comparably sized parcel which was even more remote than Albert's -- access to Ward Eisan's property was through Albert's.  Today, Ward Eisan's ranch is the site of Rutherford Hill Winery, Auberge du Soliel Hotel and Restaurant, Katheryn Hall Winery, and Sloan Winery. 

According to their website - "Following Wayne Snowden’s death in 1977, Wayne and Virginia’s sons, Scott and Randy Snowden, assumed responsibility for the property.  In 1981, they removed all of the then-producing vineyards and orchards and replanted them to Cabernet Sauvignon utilizing budwood from Jordan Vineyard near Healdsburg.  Through the 1980s, they sold grapes from the resulting 11 acre vineyard -- today called "The Brothers Vineyard" -- to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  During that period, the family worked closely with Warren Winiarski, owner of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and his viticultural consultant, Danny Schuester, to optimize trellising, training, and cropping of the vineyard, track cultural variables and correlate these to wine quality'.

"Beginning in the 1990s, grapes from the property went to a number of other vintners, including Silver Oak Wine Cellars, Frank Family Vineyard, David Ramey, Viader, and Caymus Vineyards.  Commencing with the 1993 harvest, Scott and Randy began to retain a portion of each harvest for the production of estate-specific family wines.  Gradually, an increasing amount of the grapes produced from the property were used in Snowden wines."

We acquired our first Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1993 vintage and every vintage thereafter through the nineties, and off and on since. According to our Cellartracker records, we still hold ten vintages of this wine.

This '97 is a testament to the vintage, considered a top vintage with longevity for Napa Cabernet, which took several years to finally open and reveal its true potential, even to the point of being outscored by the sleeper '98, considered inferior in the early years after release but showed well in intermediate years while the '97 was still closed and 'lying low'.

Now, at eighteen years of age, this '97 is most likely at its peak, will not improve any further with aging, but is not showing any diminution either. It showed dark blackish garnet color, medium body, firm, a bit tight, slightly astringent the first evening upon opening, but notably, this astringency was totally gone the next evening, black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of cedar, black olives, oak, and tangy tannins on the long lingering tongue puckering finish.

This was a perfect accompaniment tonight to cheese ravioli. 

RM 91 points.