Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Clark-Claudon Napa Cabernet 2004

Clark-Claudon Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

For beef stroganoff dinner I pulled from the cellar this aged mountain fruit Napa Cabernet - a perfect match! 

The producer, Clark-Claudon estate is situated on the ‘backside’ of Howell Mountain in an area known as Pope Valley. Their 17 acres of vineyards are carved out of a 117 acre property located on the north east side of Howell Mountain between Ink Grade and Howell Mountain Road, from 800 ft to 1,200 ft elevation. It’s shallow, mountain soils, cool evening breezes and excellent sun exposure are ideal for a low yield of small, intense Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot grapes. The 17 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon are planted with clone 7 which grows well in hillside rocky soil and produces small berries with concentrated flavors. A small vineyard block is planted to Petite Verdot. After completing their initial vineyard planting, Clark decided to leave the  remaining 100 acres of forests, creeks, meadows and ponds in their natural state which serves as a preserve for native birds and wildlife.

Interesting, following my discussions in recent blogpost about the terroir and appellation specificity line of demarcation being at the 1200 foot elevation level to differentiate between Howell Mountain and Napa Valley designation, we have another such-situated Napa/Howell Mountain Cabernet. Similar to the Viader Napa Valley Cabernet Red Blend we drank the other night, this Clark Claudon Napa Cab vineyard is at 1000 foot elevation on the lower reaches of Howell Mountain. That terroir distinction doesn't apply here as the Clark Claudon property is on the backside of Howell Mountain which never sees the fog that is experienced on the Napa Valley side of the hill.

We have been collecting this label since its introduction back in 1993 and hold two decades of vintages since. We first met Tom Clark and Laurie Claudon-Clark during our Napa Wine Experience 1999 when we hosted them at one of our wine producer dinners. That night, held at what was then Pinot Blanc Restaurant in St Helena (see picture left), we tasted Clark Claudon 1995-96 against ten year old 1989 Bordeaux. 

During our Napa Wine Experience visits of 1997 through 2000 we hosted gala tasting dinners with the "'Undisccovered Dozen', emerging new wine producers to watch", featured in an article in Wine Spectator Magazine. Many of these producers released their inaugural vintage releases in or about the 1994 vintage. Those producers and winery visits included Plumpjack, David Arthur, Clark-Claudon, Robert Craig, Del Dotto, Elan, Paradigm, Pride Vineyards, Snowden, Nils Venge and White Cottage and are featured variously on my winesite An complete index of my tasting notes of these wines over the years is on the site at this link to California Producers Index. These producers make up a foundation of our wine cellar collection even today. In many of these wines, we still have vertical selections, several dating back to those early release vintages.  

We love the distinctive unique Clark-Claudon packaging with the tall slender bottles. An interesting and trivial wine-geek's observation about the Clark-Claudon branding and packaging; as mentioned, we hold close to a score of vintages of this label. All our vintage holdings but this one, the 2004 release, are packaged with the wax cap inside the rim of the bottle, topping the cork, as shown left. This one, 2004, has a 'traditional' foil top of the bottle (shown below). Not sure why?

This release was awarded 93 points from Wine Enthusiast who wrote, " ... it really needs time. Give it until after 2008, if you can keep your hands off, and will come into its own after 2010."

A decade later, going on seventeen years, this release is holding its own very nicely and showing no signs of diminution whatsoever. The fill level, label and most importantly the cork were in perfect condition.

Wine Enthusiast wrote, "The 2004 Clark-Claudon Napa Cabernet Sauvignon blends fruit from all over the winery's estate, combining multiple expressions of the fruit. The higher portions of the estate yielded fruit that was rich, deeply colored with intense tannins. The lower portions of the estate produced softer, more perfumed wine."

Tonight's tasting was consistent with previous tastings in 2015 and 2016. In 2016 I wrote it was more expressive than earlier tastings. I sense this is at its peak, not likely to improve further, but grand and capable of aging several more years none-the-less.

Like before, the room filled with dark berry fruit aromatics as soon the cork was pulled. This was dark garnet colored, rich, full, concentrated, but nicely integrated and elegant black berry and black currant fruits with accents of cassis, mocha, floral and notes of spicy oak and hints of black cherry on a lingering fine-grained silky tannin finish.

RM 92 points.


Earlier tasting posts ...