Friday, December 4, 2020

Horizontal tasting of 2004 Napa Valley Mountain Cabernets

Horizontal tasting of 2004 Napa Valley Mountain Cabernets from estate visits and private wine tastings

Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill flew in from Socal for our Mom's funeral proceedings this weekend. For such a poignant family gathering celebration of life dinner, we prepared a grilled beef tenderloin dinner and opened some special wines. We pulled from the cellar a pair of Napa Cabernets from Estate visits that we attended together - this Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet and the Ladera below. Notably, tonight's dinner was a tribute not only to Mom, but to wine producer Freddie Constant who passed since our visit.

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

With the late Freddie Constant at the Constant
Diamond Mountain estate

I wrote a while back when we opened a bottle of this label for another special dinner.  

We discovered and acquired this wine when we visited the spectacular picturesque Constant Vineyards estate high atop Diamond Mountain during our Diamond Mountain Appellation Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011.

We still hold close to a case of Constant wines and tonight we were rewarded for being patient as this wine has developed very nicely.

Our tasting and visit back then were hosted by proprietor Freddie Constant, founder and proprietor. Sadly, Freddie passed away in 2014. All of our group that were there remember him fondly and toast him each time we drink his wine.

The Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard sits at the peak of Diamond Mountain on the Mayacamas Range separating Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west and is one of the area’s highest, oldest, and smallest wineries in the region. At 2121 feet above sea level, it may be the highest, or certainly one of the highest, vineyards in the region.

Constant Diamond Mountain Estate Vineyards
The Diamond Mountain District appellation, one of the smaller Napa wine districts, sits just south of and above the town of Calistoga in the northwest corner of Napa Valley.

The unique terroir and micro-climate at the very top of Diamond Mountain provides grapes with optimal sun exposure and elongated ripening periods, The sun drenched slopes with their rocky terrain and volcanic soil produce rich concentrated Bordeaux varietal fruit.

Today the area is home to some of the most notable and prestigious labels including the namesake label Diamond Mountain vineyards. Our afternoon on the mountaintop retreat was one of the more memorable settings from our many Napa Valley trips.

The mountaintop land that would become Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard was first settled in 1895 by Andras Rasmussen, a Danish immigrant. After working in the wine industry for 15 years at Talcoa Vineyard (now Hudson Vineyard in Carneros), at Summit Vineyard and Winery, and studying viticulture at UC Davis – Rasmussen purchased 120 forested acres atop Diamond Mountain, cleared about 30 acres himself, and planted the first grapevines at the summit.

The vines were abandoned in the 1920s and 1930s due to Prohibition.

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard was established by Freddy and Mary Constant in 1993 when they bought a dilapidated but historic farmhouse and set upon reestablishing the vineyards which by then were overgrown and wild.

The couple had backgrounds as radio station entrepreneurs but their plan on Diamond Mountain was to grow and sell grapes to winemakers. They believed they had a unique and spectacular plot of land capable of producing premium fruit and soon they were growing grapes for several of the best winemakers in the area.

The started producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon but their first vintage in 1993 was not to their standards and it was never released.  They released their first vintage in 1995 under the Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard label. They proceeded to build a winery on the estate producing their wine under the Constant label and brand. In 1999 Wine Spectator wrote that Constant was “a new can’t miss Cabernet, this vineyard is able to produce stunning wines on a consistent basis.” The original winemaker was the notable Philippe Melka. With the 2009 vintage, Paul Hobbs took over as consulting winemaker.

Notably, we collect Philippe Melka wines to this day an featured his label at a recent business dinner

Freddie and Mary hired renowned architect Howard Backen who built a stunning house along with a tasting room hospitality center overlooking the valley floor with a full view of Mount St. Helena.

In 2016, Aries Liu and Sai You became the property’s caretakers with the continued commitment to producing some of Napa Valley’s best Bordeaux varietals.

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

I believe this is the best, most memorable Constant Cabernet I have had and may be, at sixteen years of age, at the apex of its drinking profile and window.
Deep garnet purple color, medium-full bodied, delicious concentrated but smooth and elegant and nicely balanced ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruits with hints of black currant, notes of spice and graphite.

RM 92 points. 

The blend includes small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

We also acquired this bottle during another winery visit with Jan and Bill. 

Ladera Lone Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

We served another label from this producer that we also acquired during our Napa Valley winery visit together during Sister Jan's visit from SoCal a couple weeks ago. 

Once again I pulled from our cellar a bottle of Napa Cab from a producer we visited with Jan and husband Bill during one of our Napa Valley Wine Experience trips together. Shown left, Jan and Bill with proprietor/producer Anne Stotesbury at Ladera Vineyards and Winery up on Howell Mtn during our Howell Mtn appellation tour in 2008. 

We last tasted and posted about this wine just a couple months ago when I reposted 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 in northeast Napa Valley.
The fabulous historic winery building consisted 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 was founded when Stotesburys moved their family to Napa Valley from Montana in 2000 when 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.

Ladera initially primarily focused on Cabernet Sauvignon of which we still hold a several cases of four different labels across several vintages from this era.  

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

Stotesburys sold the Ladera land on Howell Mountain in 2016, following the earlier sales of their Lone Canyon and the Mount Veeder properties.

Ladera Lone Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Ladera produced several labels of Cabernet Sauvignon including several sub-appellation designated labels from Howell Mountain and this one from Lone Canyon. This is our first tasting of several bottle in a mixed case we acquired a while back near its release. 

This was awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator and 90 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm, tight and concentrated complex black berry and black raspberry fruits with notes of black tea, cassis, mineral sage and herbs with fine smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.