Sunday, June 25, 2023

Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend 2005

Sunday night dinner at home on the deck, Linda was preparing grilled New York Strip steaks, baked potatoes and fresh corn on the cob - one of my favorite summer meals. I pulled from the cellar a premium aged Napa Valley Bordeaux varietal blend - Cloud View from Pritchett Hill. 

This is a Bordeaux Blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Merlot sourced from the Cloud View Vineyards located on Pritchard Hill toward the southern end of the Vaca Mountain Range that forms the Eastern boundary above Napa Valley. 

I have a mini-vertical of this wine from 1999 through this vintage 2005. Normally, I would drink the oldest vintage as part of cellar management, but I chose the newest or latest vintage tonight since Linda prefers younger wines. 

Also, I wanted to compare it with the David Arthur wine we drank the other evening, another Pritchard Hill label Cabernet

Cloud View Vineyards was owned by Leighton & Linda Taylor. The estate was 23 acres of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon planted on hillside vineyards between an elevation of 1000 and 1500 feet, notably at and above the fog line which reaches to 1200 feet.

Leighton was a former marine Biologist who wrote extensively about marine life including several well-regarded books and one film about whales. 

This was the last vintage produced by the winery which ceased operation in 2005 when it was sold to Tim Mondavi who established Continuum Estate on the site. 

When it was produced in the late 1990's to 2006, they focused winemaking on this one wine each year; a Napa Valley Estate Red Wine blended from the best grapes from the property - part Cabernet Sauvignon and part Merlot, the ratio varying slightly from year to year.

Pritchard Hill is the site of some of Napa's most prestigious labels; Brand, Bryant Family, Colgin, Del Dotto's ultra-premium Villa Del Lago, Ovid and of course, David Arthur.

While Pritchard Hill is not an official appellation (AVA - American Viticultural Area), it certainly could be, but lacks a sponsor to apply and lobby for designation. Donn Chappellet, the earliest settler in the modern era owns the 1971 Pritchard Hill trademark and firmly declares, “It will not become its own AVA.”

The grape and wine of choice produced there is Cabernet Sauvignon, sometimes blended with other Bordeaux varieties and in at least one case, a Syrah, which we own from the very limited production. 

The hill is named for homesteader Charles Pritchard who planted vines and produced the 1890 vintage of Zinfandel and Riesling. Pritchard Hill’s modern era began in 1967, when Donn Chappellet acquired and developed their property on the advice of André Tchelistcheff, then at Beaulieu Vineyard.

When Chappellets bought the property, there was an existing vineyard planted there to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Gamay and Johannisberg Riesling. He eventually replaced these with Bordeaux varieties, except for a brief experiment with Chardonnay. Chappellet's approximately 100 acres of planted vines makes their vineyard the biggest on Pritchard Hill.

Following Chappelett over the next decade were two Long families, unrelated. Bob Long and his wife, Zelma (then the chief enologist for Robert Mondavi, established Long Vineyards, which is no longer operating), and David Arthur Long and his father, Donald, planted their vineyard in 1978. Today, David Arthur Vineyards is owned by David, his brother, Bob, and Bob’s wife, Joye. Bob Long also has his own brand, Montagna. 
We visited David Arthur on Pritchard Hill during our Napa Wine Experience in 2013, and previously, we visited Chappellet on other side of Pritchard Hill during our Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley Experience - Autumn '09 with our visit to long time resident/producer Chappellet Vineyards.

Pritchard Hill is known for red soil known as Sobrante, described by David Arthur’s and Montagna’s winemaker, Nile Zacherle, as “volcanic clay loam.”The terrain is littered with huge boulders which some wineries, like Colgin and Brand, dynamited to clear the land to make it suitable for planting.

The high altitude well drained poor soils produce low yields of small, intensely flavored grapes with thick skins. Pritchard Hill sits above the fog line which comes up to 1,200 feet above sea level allowing for extra sunshine when the lower elevation is shrouded in fog. Notably, on Howell Mountain, further north in the Vaca Range, the 1200 foot elevation where the fog stops, is the demarcation point between Napa Valley and Howell Mountain appellations' designated wines.

Legendary winemaker Philippe Melka, one of our favorite producers, makes wines at Gandona, Brand and was Bryant Family’s winemaker until 2006, calls Pritchard Hill “the best of both worlds: Oakville sophistication with the extra intensity of a hillside.” The Brand estate had been owned by the Miner Family Winery till it was purchased by businessman Ed Fitts. Portuguese Gandona owners bought the land from Bob Long (Zelma’s husband) when Long Vineyards ceased operations. 

Another of our other favorite wines in our cellar is Arns Melanson Vineyard Syrah produced by John Arns over on Howell Mountain. He obtains the fruit for this single vineyard designated label from the 10.5 acre vineyard on Pritchard Hill that is planted to Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah. Greg Melanson acquired the vineyard back in 1988. Previously, it was owned by Round Pond; Bob and Zelma Long planted the original vineyard in the early 1970s. For years, Melanson sold fruit to the likes of Heidi Barrett (for La Sirena) before starting his own brand.

The Bryant Family Pritchard Hill 13 acre estate was developed in 1985 by the all-star team that included winemaker Helen Keplinger, consultant Michel Rolland and vineyard manager David Abreu. Todd Alexander worked there on Pritchett Hill where he gained notoriety when his wines earned high ratings and critical praise. There he learned the craft under legendary viticulturist David Abreu and winemaking consultant Michel Rolland, following in the footsteps of notable producer Peter Melka before moving to Walla Walla Washington to take on winemaking and production at Force Majeure.

David Del Dotto, developer of a vast portfolio of Napa properties and brands, and producer of one of the largest collections in our cellar knew "Pritchard Hill was a key vineyard site from drinking Bryant Family,” he says. “David Arthur convinced me of the potential of these wines.” From the broad portfolio of Del Dotto labels, he reserves the Villa del Lago brand for his ultra-premium estate Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ovid was developed in 2003 by former software entrepreneurs Dana Johnson and Mark Nelson who bought their vineyard land in 1998 and launched Ovid five years later. They assembled the superstar team including vineyard manager David Abreu, winemaker Austin Peterson (who worked with Michel Rolland at Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol) and consulting winemaker Andy Erickson (formerly of Screaming Eagle, now at Dalla Valle).

Cloud View 2005 rear label
The Cloud View Vineyards estate ceased operation with the 2006 vintage when it was sold to Tim Mondavi when he struck out on his own after the family broke away from Robert Mondavi Winery. He acquired the Pritchard Hill estate and founded Continuum Estate. The 62 acre vineyard is the second largest in the region. Note that the Cloud View brand was not sold so we might see it re-emerge in some fashion at some point in the future although the website is gone and the domain name is for sale.

At a vertical tasting by fellow Cellartracker Thirsty1, he wrote, "the 2003, 04 and 05 were fairly interchangeable; mature fruit, acid and tannins in balance. All delicious in their own right. The 1999 was the oldest and looked the part. It was brick around the rim and had that dried blackberry note, plowed earth and cocoa powder texture. It was the only one, aside from the 2000, that I would say was on the decline. Incredible wines on an incredible night." He and I corresponded and actually traded bottles of vintages of Cloud View to each fill a hole in our respective verticals.

At the The Best of the 2005 Napa Cabernet Tasting at the Premiere Napa Valley ’07, Cloud View was rated at the second highest tier alongside an esteemed selection of wines from prestigious producers.

The event draws nearly 1000 winemakers, restaurateurs, and retailers each year - a who's who in Napa Valley wines. Premiere Napa Valley is produced by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a combination of celebration and fundraiser for the Vintners Association. Between 150 and 200 members of the Vintners Association donate up to a full barrel (20 cases) of what is typically a unique blend, block selection, single vineyard designate, or varietal from their best wine.

Vinography blogger founder and editor Alder Yarrow rated the 2005 vintage wines at the event in his special report. From that report, many of our favorite, popular and well known producers and labels stand alongside Cloud View in this vast extensive horizontal tasting.

2005 Darioush “Apadana Block: Exclusive Single-Vineyard Release” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Pine Ridge Winery “Epitome Select” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Groth Vineyards & Winery “Preview” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Cliff Lede Vineyards “Cinnamon Moon” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Amuse Bouche Winery Cabernet Franc/Merlot Bordeaux Blend, St. Helena
2005 Cloud View Vineyards “Pritchard Hill” Cabernet Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Paradigm Winery “CS4C” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Monticello Vineyards “CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine” Red Table Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Terra Valentine Bordeaux Blend, Spring Mountain District
2005 Larkmead Vineyards “Larkmead Harvest 111” Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Vineyard 29 “Premiere Napa Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Outpost Wines “Inaugural Vintage of True Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2005 Joseph Phelps Vineyards “Backus Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Quintessa “Corona Sur” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 von Strasser Winery Petit Verdot Diamond Mountain District
2006 CONSTANT-Diamond Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Diamond Mountain District

As shown in the picture above, at eighteen years, the fill level, label, foil and importantly, the cork were all pristine. The wine showed no sign of diminution of age whatsoever, likely at the apex of its drinking window and profile, and should age gracefully for several more years.With this tasting, I changed my Cellartracker tasting window from 2018 to 2023.

I'll watch carefully for another opportunity to enjoy this rare label and the other five vintage releases that I hold in the cellar.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, rich concentrated full round but approachable balanced and integrated dark berry and plum fruit accented by floral, smokey vanilla, clove spice and notes of camphor with a long tangy acidic silky tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.

The website is no longer active and the domain name is for sale.