Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Snowden Rutherford Cabernet w/ ribeye steak

Snowden Rutherford Cabernet w/ ribeye steak

With ribeye steak leftover from our gala Mother’s Day dinner, Linda prepared the chopped up baked potatoes with corn, peas and asparagus as a delicious side. Following the extraordinary Rutherford and Oakville Napa Cabernets recently, and on Sunday, I pulled from the cellar this aged vintage label from the appellation.

Seeking the closest geographical source for a comparison tasting, I pulled from the cellar a 2001 Snowden estate bottled cab. Snowden is from the lower southern end of Oakville district in the foothills about 700 feet elevation. The wines ended up being in stark contrast in terroir and style - but both well suited to the grilled steak.

I wrote about Snowden Vineyards in a blogpost back in 2015, excerpted here, when we tasted an earlier vintage release.

From October, 2015

Snowden Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

We first discovered Snowden Vineyards during their inaugural release back in the early nineties. We hosted co-owner Scott Snowden at one of our wine producer dinners at Brix in Napa Valley back then. I recall we enjoyed hearing his reminiscences about his family living down in Oakland and visiting Napa Valley and eventually settling there, and him and his brother taking over and developing the property after his father's death.

Today, Scott is a managing director for Snowden Vineyards. An interesting side note, he has also appeared as a visiting judge in Craig Johnson's fascinating "Longmire" mysteries, one of our favorite streaming series! 

Snowden's parents scoured Napa Valley and the adjoining hills looking for a suitable parcel that they could afford. Eventually they found and acquired a remote parcel in the hills on the east side of the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Rutherford in the spring of 1955, a 160 acre ranch that had been in the Albert and Jane Eisan family since 1895. 

Along the south boundary of the property, Albert's uncle, Ward Eisan, owned a comparably sized parcel which was even more remote than Albert's -- access to Ward Eisan's property was through Albert's. Today, Ward Eisan's ranch is the site of Rutherford Hill Winery, Auberge du Soliel Hotel and Restaurant, Katheryn Hall Winery, and Sloan Winery.

According to their website at the time - "Following Wayne Snowden’s death in 1977, Wayne and Virginia’s sons, Scott and Randy Snowden, assumed responsibility for the property. In 1981, they removed all of the then-producing vineyards and orchards and replanted them to Cabernet Sauvignon utilizing budwood from Jordan Vineyard near Healdsburg.  Through the 1980s, they sold grapes from the resulting 11 acre vineyard -- today called "The Brothers Vineyard" -- to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  During that period, the family worked closely with Warren Winiarski, owner of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and his viticultural consultant, Danny Schuester, to optimize trellising, training, and cropping of the vineyard, track cultural variables and correlate these to wine quality'.

"Beginning in the 1990s, grapes from the property went to a number of other vintners, including Silver Oak Wine Cellars, Frank Family Vineyard, David Ramey, Viader, and Caymus Vineyards. Commencing with the 1993 harvest, Scott and Randy began to retain a portion of each harvest for the production of estate-specific family wines. Gradually, an increasing amount of the grapes produced from the property were used in Snowden wines."

Linda recalled tonight, that the artistic label on this bottle was designed by Scott’s wife. We recalled he shared that she was also involved in designing the Marilyn Merlot labels that are so popular amongst collectors, and of which we hold more than two dozen vintages. Today, Joann Ortega Snowden is a partner in Ortega Design Studio in St. Helena where she and her twin sister, Susann, design wine labels and other graphics for wineries in the United States and Europe. 

Today, the fourth generation of Snowden’s are involved in helping manage Snowden Vineyards producing Snowden wines. According to the current website, the current winemaker is Diana Snowden Seysses, a Napa Valley native and the eldest of the four third-generation-Snowdens active in the family’s vineyard and wine endeavor. Diana graduated from the Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California at Davis in 2001. 

During and after her studies, she worked at wineries in California and France, including Robert Mondavi Winery, Mumm Napa Valley, the Araujo Estate, Ramey Wine Cellars, Fleur de Boüard, and Domaine Leflaive. In January, 2003, Diana became oenologist at Domain Dujac in Burgundy. Diana became winemaker at Snowden commencing with the 2005 harvest and since then has divided her professional time between California and Burgundy, where she lives with her husband Jeremy and their sons, Aubert and Blaise. 

We acquired our first Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1993 vintage and every vintage thereafter through the nineties, and off and on since. According to our Cellartracker records, we still hold ten vintages of this wine.

Like another tasting when we opened a 1997 vintage release, tonight, the 2001 release was still showing well. Back then I wrote, “This '97 is a testament to the vintage, considered a top vintage with longevity for Napa Cabernet, which took several years to finally open and reveal its true potential, even to the point of being outscored by the sleeper '98, considered inferior in the early years after release but showed well in intermediate years while the '97 was still closed and 'lying low'.”

“Now, at eighteen years of age, this '97 is most likely at its peak, will not improve any further with aging, but is not showing any diminution either. It showed dark blackish garnet color, medium body, firm, a bit tight, slightly astringent the first evening upon opening, but notably, this astringency was totally gone the next evening, black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of cedar, black olives, oak, and tangy tannins on the long lingering tongue puckering finish.”

As noted, we have held a dozen vintages dating of Snowden dating back to their inaugural releases in 1993-94. We still hold a half dozen and pulled this 2001 release hoping it would be a ‘Goldilocks’ tasting - not too young, but not too old. It proved to be so, just right!

Tonight, the 2001, at twenty three years, the important fill level and cork were still perfect, as was the foil and the label. I have to say this exceeded my expectations, still seeming to be at the apex of its drinking window, showing well, and likely still to have several years yet of enjoyable quality drinking. Some of this is attributable to the 2001 vintage, for sure.

My records show we lasted tasted this vintage release of this label back in 2014 as covered in this blogpost - 2001 Vintage Napa Cab Comparison Reveals Contrasts in Terroir

Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

We discovered Snowden shortly after their inaugural release in the early nineties and still hold several vintages dating back to then. We met Scott and Randy Snowden during our early Napa Wine Experience events from that era.

Tonight this was completely consistent with that earlier tasting back in 2015. In fact this bottle seemed to be holding up better than that earlier bottle, perhaps due to bottle variation and did not have the symptoms  of diminution or deterioration
experienced earlier.  I gave this bottle a 91 rating, better than that earlier tasting. 

The '01 was dark garnet colored with a subtle rust on the rim, full bodied, firm and a bit tight, forward black cherry, black currant and black cherry fruits, accented by tones of black tea, black olive, herb, cedar and spice, finishing with a gripping lingering tannins.  

RM 91 points.