Sunday, July 26, 2020

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2003

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2003

Quiet evening at home, watching a movie, I finished off my leftovers from our dine-out Italian dinner the other night with some artisan cheeses. I pulled from the cellar this vintage Napa Cabernet. I admit I don't know much about this label and find it a bit of an enigma.

Atlas Peak is/was a small lot producer whose winemakers source grape from vineyard partners with mountaintop and lower-elevation vineyards on the both sides of Napa Valley; Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mount Veeder. Since the producers do not own the land and wines are produced from purchased grapes, these would not be considered Estate bottled or Estate wines. The rear label says it is a combination of estate vineyards and partner vineyard sources in the wine.  

Atlas Peak write that they focus on these 'cornerstone mountain vineyards' for their Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon since they provide "ideal growing conditions for building bold, well-structured wines that express the rugged elegance that comes from great fruit and hard work in hard-to-reach places. Atlas Peak’s most valuable hidden resource is literally underfoot: the elevation of its vineyard at over 1,000 feet. Grapes at high elevation, above the natural fog line, experience much lower daytime temperatures than those on the valley floor, allowing the grapes to stay cool while gaining maximum exposure".

According to the Napa Wine Project, they make their wine at their sister winery, the Geyser Peak Winery located in Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County) in Healdsburg. They write further that "the fruit for their Atlas Peak wines come from their own vineyard and fruit for their other mountain grown wines comes from premium vineyards on Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mt. Veeder. The wines from these other mountain regions are their “Mountain Series”', distinguished by the black label versus the one white label.

According to the Napa Wine Project, Atlas Peak Winery was founded in 1987 with the intent to focus on Italian varietals including Sangiovese. However over time their relatively high altitude vineyard location, specific soils & climate proved to be very conducive for growing premium Cabernet Sauvignon and now this varietal is their main focus. The actual winery was located on Atlas Peak – but they actually make their wine now at a large winery in Healdsburg (Sonoma County). Their vineyard land comprises about 500 acres making them one of the larger growers on Atlas Peak."

Interesting that they designate this as Napa Valley appellation wine, since it is inconsistent with the fact, on Howell Mountain, based on the fog line reaching up the hill to 1000 foot elevation, grapes above that level are considered Howell Mountain appellation grapes, while grapes below that level are considered Napa Valley. 

With this vintage release in 2003, 'Atlas Peak’s entire philosophy of wine production changed to a focus on the extraordinary fruit grown on the best mountaintops surrounding Napa Valley. The Mountain Cabernet series is now the centerpiece of Atlas Peak’s offerings."

At seventeen years of age, this is still holding up well with the fruits just beginning to diminish and give way to the non-fruit notes of leather and tobacco.

Winemaker Notes - The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon is rich with the flavors of ripe dark fruits and blueberries, surrounded by subtle hints of vanilla bean. The Cabernet is well structured with tannins that are soft and supple. This wine is perfectly suited for a rib eye or T-bone steak cooked to perfection, and is also an excellent match with grilled scallops. - Winemaker's notes from

Wine Enthusiast gave this an 86point rating and said, "Atlas Peak Cabernets have always seemed overly tannic, and so is this wine. But it's fruitier and riper than in the past, and may develop. It's tough and astringent, but packs a whallop with black currant flavors." 

This was dark garnet/ruby colored with medium full body, complex with concentrated sweet blackberry and black currant fruits that are accented by notes of cassis, licorice, cola, leather and hints of cigar box and Asian spice.

RM 87 points.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

We tasted and acquired this wine at the winery upon its release back in 1999 during our Napa Wine Experience 1999. This was the beginnings of our extensive cellar collection of Del Dotto estate wines dating back to their early years, that today spans more than a dozen labels. Del Dotto has grown from their 13 acre estate on Hwy 29 and Zinfandel Lane on the south edge of St Helena, the site of Del Dotto Winery Caves, to dozens of labels sourced from over 400 acres of vineyard sources across a dozen vineyard sites Napa and Sonoma Counties.

R&L with Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto at TraVigna, 1999

Over the past three years, we've visited the Del Dotto Rutherford Estate and Caves in St Helena and the Piazza Del Dotto Estate Culinary experience - both were highlights of our Napa Valley tours those years. 

In that year, 1999, Del Dotto first introduced their renowned barrel tastings in one of Napa Valley’s oldest caves at Historic Del Dotto over in the southeast corner of Napa Valley near the bottom of the Silverado Trail. Today, they have cave cellar tours at three different locations.

That 1997 vintage was heralded as top rated with promise to release long lived high quality wines. I've written often in these pages how that vintage was tight and closed and took several years to reveal its potential while at times it was overshadowed by the much panned lesser '98 release.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

This '97 Merlot at 23 years shows the longevity of that vintage as it showed well and still revealed body, structure and fruit flavors, albeit showing its age as the fruit is starting to give way to the non-fruit leather and tobacco notes.

The label, foil and cork were in perfect condition and the fill level of the bottle was ideal - all indicators of the conditions of our cellar being suitable for long term aging of fine wine.

Winemaker Notes - The wine is dark purple in color, jammy, berry aromas, with soft approachable tannins, other flavors include cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa powder.

Dark purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, the firm black berry and black cherry fruits are slowly declining giving way to the non-fruit leather and tobacco notes, accented by notes of cinnamon spice, cedar and cassis, with moderate soft approachable tannins on the tangy lingering finish.

RM 87 points.