Thursday, April 7, 2022

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon

This is from producer and vineyard of the same name, Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate located in Red Hills in rural Lake County, thirty-five miles north of Calistoga and the northern tip of Napa Valley. 

Setting out to produce their own wines, three founders/partners Michael Terrien and brothers Peter Molnar and Arpad Molnar discovered an abandoned orchard of bonsaied walnut trees on a steep ridge half a mile above sea level on volcanic slopes in the Mayacamas Mountains in the hills above Clear Lake in Lake County, California in 1998. The three founded what is today Obsidian Wine Co., planted their first vines in 1999 and 2000 and debuted their first Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002 followed by their first Poseidon Vineyard Chardonnay the next year.

Today, they own and farm their our own vineyards, vinify and produce their own wines, and even 'cooper' their own barrels. They produce a dozen labels, primarily cabernet and red blends.

Their vineyards are planted in rich red volcanic soil primarily to cabernet sauvignon across three climactic zones ranging from 2,300 to 2,640 feet. The uppermost portion sits above the inversion layer on the steepest, rockiest slope, ten degrees warmer on average than the lowest elevation of the vineyard. As a result, vines above 2,500’ bud and ripen a month earlier and produce powerful, ripe flavors. The lower third of the vineyard has the gentlest slope and the coolest temperatures, yielding wines that are the most aromatic and nuanced. The central portion of the vineyard is the most protected site, affording vines the longest hang time and yielding beautiful balance.

Co-founder and Managing Partner Arpad Molnar, grew up riding three-wheelers over mounds of pumice at the family vineyard where his dad grew grapes for Napa Valley wineries. In the early '90s, he and his brother Peter moved to Budapest, Hungary and began exporting barrels from a cooperage which sourced wood from the storied Tokaj forest. Today this cooperage, Kádár Hungary, is the company’s exclusive supplier of oak and is owned by the Molnar family, in partnership with the Taransaud cooperage. 

Before beginning his entrepreneurial adventures in wine, Arpad graduated from UCLA and Harvard Business School. Along the way, he picked up skills in strategy, operations, and finance, working for GE, The Boston Consulting Group and the obligatory technology start-up.

Co-founder, brother, Peter Molnar grew up tending to vineyards as a teenager, suckering and tying vines and driving irrigation tractors during summers in the vineyard where his father grew grapes for Napa Valley wineries. He moved to Budapest, Hungary in 1990, working in the World Bank and USAID programs to privatize the country’s wine industry after the fall of communism. In the four years before returning home to manage the family vineyard in 1994, Peter helped build a winery, started a négociant company, and began collaborating with Kádár Hungary, a cooperage located in the renowned Tokaj region, that the Molnars now own, in partnership with the de Pracomtal family of Taransaud Cooperage, in Cognac. In 1995, the Molnars teamed up with winemaker Michael Terrien to vinify their first Pinot Noir from Poseidon Vineyard, aged in Kádár barrels. 

Michael Terrien, Co-founder grew up in Maine but headed west to California, where restaurant work piqued his interest in winemaking. Michael earned a degree in Enology at U.C. Davis and made wine at Acacia and Hanzell under the tutelage of some industry greats. With friend Peter Molnar they decided to make some wine together, starting with just a few dozen cases for friends and family, eventually founding Obsidian.

For more than a decade winemaker Alex Beloz who has crafted Obsidian wines applying artistry and his engineering degree, Alex' intimate and longstanding knowledge of the vineyards and Obsidian's coopering has raised to a high art the skill of matching oak to wine. 

Obsidian wines are the only Cabernet Sauvignons in California (perhaps the world) aged in 100% Hungarian oak barrels. They exclusively use barrels made from Tokaj oak by Kádár Hungary, the cooperage that they have owned for the nearly three decades. Their oak for their barrels is sourced from Kádárok Völgye (Valley of the Coopers), the region of the Tokaj appellation has a written history of over 1,000 years of coopering.

The forest in Tokaj is planted to the same oak species used in France, Quercus Petraea, however the trees grow more slowly due to the volcanic soils, resulting in 30% higher density of the wood. These super-tight-grain barrels are low in vanillan and relatively high in eugenol, which tends to emphasize herbal and spice components, and are toasted slowly at low temperatures to avoid imparting overt toasty notes. For this Estate bottling, they use exclusively Kádár Tokaj barrels from our own cooperage, 40% new, aged 18 months.  

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills-Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

This flagship estate cabernet sauvignon reflects the terrior, personality and verticality of the complex mountain estate, sourced from eight vineyard blocks harvested in over 20 unique lots. 

This release was awarded 93 points and *Cellar Selection* by Wine Enthusiast, and 91 points by Wine & Spirits.
At a dozen years old, the fill level and most importantly the cork were still perfect, there is still life left in this mountain Cabernet with no signs of diminution from age whatsoever.
This is a good value, high QPR (quality price ratio), quality California Cabernet, being from Lake County, not carrying the 'Napa tax' of the price afforded the cache' as Napa prices have escalated in recent years.
Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex dense powerful mountain fruit flavors of black berry accented by notes expresso, smoke, spice and cedar with bright acidity and tongue puckering dry tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.