Monday, December 28, 2020

Ristow Estate Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Ristow Estate Napa Valley Quinta de Pedras Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

We had Dr Dan and Linda over for Sunday night dinner and Linda prepared delicious beef bourguignon. I had considered an aged Bordeaux but pulled from the cellar this vintage big Napa Cab for the occasion. 

Prior to dinner with a selection of artisan cheese, fruits and nuts we opened this unique sipper - Moët & Chandon Petite Liquorelle - a cognac infused rich desert and sparkling wine. Linda found this cleaning out the pantry. We don't know where we got it or how long we've had it but it has been several years at the very least. It was very tasty, dark tea colored, full bodied, sweet, nutty with tones of sweet mocha. Like everyone else on Cellartracker reviewing this, there were no sparkling bubbles in it. It was novel and fun sipping as an aperitif, or as a digestive.

For our dinner we served this Ristow Estate Napa Cab. Ristow was located in the eastern hills of Napa Valley between Silverado Trail and Soda Canyon Road, a few hundred yards south of the Stags Leap District near the intersection of Oak Knoll and Silverado Trail. 

Ristow Estate was founded when Brunno Ristow, a plastic surgeon from Brazil, bought the property just east of the Silverado Trail in 1983.

Brunno and Urannia Ristow planted 9 acres of Cabernet in 1989 just south of the Stags Leap District. They called the vineyard Quinta de Pedras, Portuguese for "place of stones," aptly named for the topography of the rocky, inhospitable ground.

"From the very beginning, when we wanted to plant, people said, 'Are you crazy? There's no soil here,'" says Urannia, 55, whose family farmed coffee and vegetables in her native Nicaragua.

In 1991, they bought an additional 10 acres on softer ground. Encouraged by the quality of their early crops, they bought and planted eight more contiguous acres in 1992.

In those first few years, they sold the grapes to Raymond, Shafer, Leonetti and William Hill wineries. Brunno had intended to bottle a Ristow Estate label, but waited until the 1995 vintage by which time he was pleased with the vineyard's quality and volume of grapes. In 1995 they produced 1,000 cases. 

Winemaker Pam Starr, 39, joined Ristow in 1997 and crafted the 1996 Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon which was already in barrel. After working with the vineyard for three years, Starr recommended replanting Block 1, the original vineyard. The rock was so thick in some places that even a massive bulldozer was unable to penetrate it. It took nearly six months and expenses skyrocketed costing $30,000 an acre just to split the rock.

The 1997 vintage Quinta de Pedras' was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator with 1684 cases produced. Ristow also grew Merlot and Petit Verdot, but they didn't make the final blend and Ristow released 100% Cabernet until the 2001 vintage release. 

Cecilia de Quesada Harris (Ristow's daughter, step-daughter) began working in the family wine business in 1998 running the marketing and sales for Ristow Estate. In 2005 Cecilia and her husband Wil took over Ristow. They also created Pedras Wine Company, the second generation of vintners to produce Cabernet Sauvignon from the family’s Ristow Estate vineyard. Wil a polo player owned El Ragon Argentine restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach, an MBA, he used to own some vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Brunno continued to oversee vineyard operations

The Harris's inserted Jamey Whetstone, 37, as winemaker to replace Starr. He was an assistant at Turley. The wines were made at the Napa Wine Company from 40% of the production, the remainder was sold to neighbor Signorella, Joseph Phelps and Maclean.

The vineyard was sold in 2012 but the Harris' continued with the Pedras label sourced with fruit from a historic vineyard in Rutherford. They produce limited production of their Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, and from 2016, Pedras rosé of Pinot Noir sourced from Sonoma County. Their recent releases were 2017 Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, 2016 Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, and 2017 Pedras Pedras Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Cellartracker shows 27 vintages of Ristow Estate Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon with vintage releases as late as 2016, however, only a dozen bottles are indicated in inventory and no tasting notes posted for the vintages 2006 through 2016. They also all show the same label photo. The last indication of life for the brand was 2005. Some published reports cite between 100 and 130 cases were produced of the Ristow label in the following years.

At twenty-one years, this 1999 Ristow Cabernet Sauvignon, Quinta de Pedras Vineyard was outstanding and showed no signed of diminution from aging whatsoever. There is much life left in this release, I could imagine it lasting another ten years. The label, foil and cork were perfect, the neck caked with a layer of sediment. 

For the 1999 release, the Ristow Estate winemaker was Pam Starr and production was 1960 cases. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes:

The dark purple colored wine exudes aromas of cassis, blackberry, chocolate and exotic spices. These generous flavors follow the aromas with wonderful concentration and acidity on the palate. The intense flavors are balanced by a mineral earthiness reflective of the distinctive rocky terroir, the thumb print of the Quinta de Pedras Vineyard. The wine possesses soft but persistent tannins that finish seamlessly and provide structure for aging.

My notes: Such a complex wine could easily of been mistaken for an aged, quality Bordeaux. Dark inky blackish purple colored, full bodied, intense bouquet of ripe black fruits exploded from the bottle upon opening, blackberry, plum, and black currant with aromas of exotic spice, herbs, anise, and dust,  fruit forward on the palate with ripe black fruits, cassis, dark mocha, spice, leather, earth, and a seamless integration of acid, alcohol and tannin with a long finish that went on and on and on.

RM 92 points.

This was was awarded  94 points by Wine Enthusiast and 92 points by Wine Spectator.