Sunday, August 16, 2020

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

As posted in these pages earlier when I wrote about this producer and label, we discovered this wine and purchased it following our visit to the Ladera Vineyards estate and winery up on Howell Mountain in 2006 and then again during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008

We'd driven past the property, formerly the historic Chateau Woltner many times over the years on our treks up Howell Mountain. 

The fabulous historic winery building consists of production and barrel storage below and a rustic tasting room upstairs. It is surrounded by spectacular gardens, beds of lavender, and of course the vineyards.

Ladera primarily focused on Cabernet Sauvignon of which we still hold a several cases of four different labels across three vintages from this era. We also acquired some of their Pinot Noir which was sourced from Sonoma County, as well as this Malbec grown from estate fruit, of which we still hold a half case in our cellar.

Rick with Ladera owner/producer
Anne Stotesbery
The seeds for Ladera were planted in the early 1970s, when Pat and Anne Stotesbery fell in love while attending university in Northern California. Among their many shared interests, they discovered a passion for wine, and were soon taking wine classes together, and traveling to wine country for tastings.

The next two decades took them to Minnesota and Montana, where they ran a 3,200-acre ranch with 750 head of cattle, during which time, their interest in wine continued to grow.

With deep agricultural roots on both sides of their family, Pat and Anne Stotesbery acquired their first Napa Valley mountain vineyard in 1996. Their original vineyard was on Mount Veeder, the following year they purchased their second mountain vineyard, Lone Canyon.

In 1998, Pat and Anne made their first non-commercial vintage of 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 As a reflection of their commitment to making mountain Cabernet Sauvignons, they selected the name Ladera for their winery, which means “hillside, or slope” in both Spanish and Italian.

They moved their family to Napa Valley, and in 2000, they acquired a historic Howell Mountain property featuring an 82-acre vineyard. For the next 16 years, this property served as the home for Ladera.

Around 2008, their son Dan visited us while on a wine promotion trip and we took him around to several of the local wine merchants in the area. 

In 2016, following the earlier sales of the Lone Canyon and the Mount Veeder properties, with their children grown and pursuing careers of their own, Pat and Anne sold their land on Howell Mountain.

Rustic Ladera tasting area in the historic
chai and barrel building back in 2006.

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

 Ladera produce several labels of Cabernet Sauvignon including several sub-appellation designated labels from Howell Mountain and Lone Canyon. This is their basic label sourced from fruits from Howell Mountain and lower elevations in the foothills nearer the valley floor. 

At seventeen years, this is at its apex, if not past its prime drinking window and will not improve with any further aging. The fruits are a bit subdued, perhaps starting to diminish or were already that way. My only previous tasting note was ten years ago, October, 2010, when I wrote: "Dark garnet color - full bodied, a slight funky woody cedar aroma and flavor undercurrent on opening turning to full forward spicy boysenberry - almost whisky-like, and tones of licorice and black berry on a spicy, leathery moderate tannin finish."

At that time I gave it 88 points. Notably, I was going to give this 88 points based on tonight's tasting, before I read this earlier review and tasting note. 

Tonight it was consistent with that earlier note, with somewhat subdued fruits, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a layer of black tea moderates the spicy blackberry and boysenberry fruits, turning to the notes of licorice and leather on the gripping tannin lingering finish.