Friday, April 2, 2021

Grassi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Grassi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 

We opened this Napa Cabernet up for a dinner of grilled beefsteaks. This is a label that we hold several vintages of from 2005 through 2011 but this our first tasting.

Producer Mark Grassi grew up in Northern California in Walnut Creek but moved to Napa Valley in 1980. He initially worked in the construction business but moved to pursue a career in the wine industry. To that end he took classes in viticulture and enology at Napa Valley College and worked on refining his

In 1989, Mark launched Grassi & Associates, builders of custom homes, wineries and estates in Napa and Sonoma Valley. The firm became known for its green building techniques and outstanding craftsmanship. In 1999, he and his wife, Jami, acquired 14 acres in one of Napa’s finest winegrowing areas. That vision became reality with Grassi Wine Company, founded in 2001. 

In 2000 Mark dug the first test pits on the Grassi family’s Napa Valley land and set aside four acres for planting. Early on, key guidance and wisdom came from Mary Maher, vineyard manager for Harlan, and Peter Franus of Franus Wines, who also helped oversee the first three vintages.

The Grassi vineyard was sited in what was once an ancient riverbed, located on a bench above the valley floor at the bottom of Soda Canyon Road below the Atlas Peak Appellation. There the soil is tempered by cobblestone, ranging in size from thumb to cantaloupe. The cobbles keep the soil from being too fertile and provide superb drainage. The vineyard slopes gently to a center drainage running east to west. The vines were planted on a tight grid to provide excellent density for flavor concentration.

Planting continued over two years. The first release recurred in 2008 with the first commercial release - the 2005 Grassi Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine Spectator recognized Grassi and mentioned them among "hot new" Napa Valley Cabernet producers. 

Grassi expanded focus on producing Italian red varietals in tribute to their Italian heritage while also continuing to expand the Cabernet program. In 2010 Grassi released the first vintage of Ribolla Gialla, an aromatic Italian white wine inspired by their Italian heritage, a varietal they had enjoyed for many years before producing it themselves. They then expanded production further, once again inspired by their Italian roots, with the release of Mezzo Mezzo, a Sangiovese-Merlot blend, in 2013.

Today Mark and Jami’s daughter, Cassandra Grassi, is carrying on the family business to the next generation. 

Grassi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

As I wrote earlier, this is one of several vintages we hold from 2005 through 2011 of this label and is the first we have tasted. Normally as part of cellar management one will drink the older wines first as they're more likely to lose their drinking window. An exception is a lesser vintage that may have less aging ability than a more robust vintage. To that caution, I chose the 2011 to drink. It exceeded our expectations in every respect and showed no cause to worry about rushing to consume the rest from that vintage at ten years of age.

Being from a lesser lackluster vintage, Napa 2011, our expectations were modest but were exceeded as this showed bright vibrant expressive complex black fruits of currant, black berry and black cherry with notes of olive, spice, cigar box and hints of graphite, oak and vanilla. 

Wine Advocate gave this ratings of 89 to 92 points. Antonio Galloni gave it 94 points. I gave it 92 points.