Sunday, November 15, 2015

Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - a blockbuster release !

For after church Sunday Brunch dinner we opened the just released, highly acclaimed 2013 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon. With daughter Erin past her due date for our new grand-baby, this was likely the last dinner with the 'four-Forts' before baby makes five. 
The 2013 Napa Cab's are coming and all indications are that it is a blockbuster vintage, one of those where all boats rise with the tide, such that all earnest producers should have notable collectible releases, one for the consumer to rejoice and stock up. 
The Clos du Val received spectacular ratings and appears to be one of those rare wines that come along every so often where everything comes together for a high QPR (Quality Price Ratio) highest rated wine at a moderate price point. 

 Since it is still available in distribution, we wanted to try it to determine whether we should buy more while it is still available. All indications are this is a collectible wine that also affords near term gratification at an every day/week price - a $50 wine for $30. 
 Don't be surprised if the Producer and Distribution exploit the notoriety of high ratings to drive up the price as often happens in such circumstances. We've seen over the years such situations where certain producers take the long term view, maintaining their price point for the goodwill of the brand, while others exploit their short lived fame for quick fortune. 
Ideally, there will be several other similarly situated releases in this vintage so as to provide a mother-load for consumers and great windfalls for producers' and their brand and image, despite such exclusivity. 
 This was a delicious perfect complement to our Sunday grilled flank steak dinner. 

Pop and pour this for very pleasurable easy drinking but allow an hour or so for the true character and flavors to begin to reveal themselves. 
Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a symphony of smooth polished complex flavors - tightly wound blackberry, black cherry, hints of plum and currant fruits accented by tones of black tea, black olive, hints of vanilla, light toast, and tobacco on the finely integrated supple sinewy tannin finish. 

RM 93-94 points. 

Pick some up for drinking now, and for putting some away to try over the coming years.

Vin Chicago describes it this way. "Even more impressive than the flavors is the structure. The tannins are powerful and youthful, yet as nuanced and integrated as you'll find in some of the world's best Cabernet or Bordeaux."
Vinous, Antonio Galloni gave it 95+ Points, (October 2015).

Deep Sea Conway Family Wines - Paso Robles Merlot 2011

Deep Sea Conway Family Wines - Paso Robles Merlot 2011

Another selection from a wine brand seeking identity, or failing to capitalize on its heritage?

Another commentary on my study and observations on wine branding. Traveling for business this week provided the opportunity to stop in a wine shop in a remote city. This always affords a chance to see different producers and labels that don't otherwise show up in our large metropolitan home market. Sometimes smaller producers can only fill the demands of a smaller market, or other reasons. So it was that I found Deep Sea Merlot and Deep Sea Chardonnay from Conway Family Wines in Santa Barbara.

We've seen this label in secondary and tertiary markets from time to time. The rarity of the label may be exacerbated by the fact that some of their labels are no longer being produced, so finds like this are anomalies of the tail of the distribution chain. In some cases these offerings may be Negociant labels, wherein they purchase fruit from growers, or even purchase excess wine from producers, and market them under their own private label (s).

I've written in these pages about the branding challenge faced by a Negociant, that of building affinity for a brand that is associated with terroir, or sense of place, for a particular wine, when the grapes are sourced from various anonymous growers that may change with each vintage.

How stark the contrast with Chateau Laroze, showcased in last week's blog, where the land has been in the family since 1610, producing from the same facility under the same label since 1885. Such is the extent of the difference between 'old world' and 'new world' producers' and their wines.

We have found Deep Sea wines including their Syrah and Cabernet but this was the first time seeing and experiencing their Merlot. I've written in these pages about this producer and those labels from the California Central Coast and one from Napa Valley. Generally, they have provided modest price, good price point QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wines.

Their negociant practice is broadcast in their testament, "We purchase fruit from noteworthy vineyards in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties, and the Napa Valley. We contract with specific blocks, and actively manage the individual vines in that area. We work with growers to formulate viticultural practices and the rows are farmed to our specifications."

But, they also have their own vineyards as indicted by their website, “As with our estate vineyards, we concentrate on quality rather than yield per acre, and we carefully hand pick the grapes when they reach the right balance of flavor, acidity and sugar."

According to the Conway Family Wines website, the Estate is the thirty-five hundred acre Rancho Arroyo Grande in the Central Coast region of California, thirteen miles from the Pacific Ocean, where the coastal range meets the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest.

When I search Cellartracker for Deep Sea Merlot, a pretty good indicator of the marketplace with over a half million collectors and a several million bottles featured, I find this producer, Deep Sea Paso Robles Merlot, as well as Deep Sea Rancho Arroyo Grande Vineyard Merlot, although only one vintage of each. As a consumer of these wines, do I presume one (the first) is a Negociant offering while the latter is Estate Bottled?

As their website indicates, "Deep Sea wines showcase the maritime influence on grapes grown in California’s coastal climate. The grapes for our wine are grown in vineyards close to the Pacific Ocean, (where)Vineyards along the California coastline are cooled by fog and ocean breezes."
So it is with Deep Sea, a collection of labels but a conundrum in branding. I say this because we also hold Deep Sea Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, the Deep Sea reference to proximity to the Ocean and its effects work for the Central Coast, and would work for the Sonoma Coast, but are a paradox when associated with inland NapaValley.

This leads me to the branding question; if the Conway Family owns spectacular lands with estate vineyards with such a rich heritage, why not leverage such and establish the pedigree and branding associated with terroir for your wines?

The personality of family association is strong for branding and building brand affinity and loyalty. Look at the number of premier labels bearing the family or 'place' name.

Indeed, the Conway Family feature a wonderful photo of their beautiful extended family of seven siblings and offspring.

 So Deep Sea, or Conway Family Wines, is Deep Sea Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon an oxymoron, an anomaly, or a step along the path to establishing an evolving, maturing branding strategy?

I see on their website the inaugural release of another label - Conway Santa Barbara County Cabernet Sauvignon. I will look forward to tasting their signature brand premium label release (s) and will watch their evolution with interest.

Meanwhile, we tasted the Deep Sea Paso Robles Merlot 2009

Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, bright full aromatics project the flavors to come - full, somewhat forward black berry and black raspberry fruits with tones of cedar, a slight mustiness and hints of creosote and earthy leather on a moderate, soft tannin finish.

RM 86-87 points.

What is the real Deep Sea?