Rutherford, 2007: A glorious combination
Six thousand five hundred acres of prime Napa Valley real estate comprise the Rutherford AVA. Every year, the Rutherford Dust Society (f. 1994) holds an important tasting of the vintage, at Rubicon Estate, to which I try to go. This year’s event featured 23 Cabernets and proprietary blends from the heralded 2007 vintage.
It was good to see old, familiar faces: Peter Granoff (Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant), the great Gerald Asher, Andy Beckstoffer, whom I profiled in my New Classic Winemakers of California, Larry Stone, who’s been with Mr. Coppola for many years in senior positions, the great Joel Aiken, now on his own after many triumphant decades at Beaulieu, my friends Raul Gallyot and Jo Diaz and so many others.
What made 2007 such a great vintage? The weather. A coolish season, few heat spikes, a gorgeous harvest. “One of the most perfect summers I’ve ever seen,” said Larry Stone. “It was a lot of fun being here in 2007,” said uber-grower Beckstoffer. Peter Granoff spoke of the “shift back toward elegance, balance and finesse we’re seeing with this  vintage.” I, myself, wrote that 2007 was the “Pinot Noir vintage of the century.” It was, across California, a very great year for just about everything, including Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
And what of Rutherford? It lies in the heart, the tenderloin of Napa Valley, just north of Oakville and south of St. Helena. It spans the benches and flatlands from the Mayacamas, across the Napa River, and then up into the rolling stretches of the Vaca Mountains, east of the Silverado Trail. You could argue that with such varied terrain and microclimates, Rutherford needs to be broken up. Clearly the Rutherford “Bench” (which includes the great Rubicon Vineyard, formerly Inglenook) is different from the Round Pond Estate and the hills of Hall, but it’s not my purpose to differentiate how, right now. Suffice it to say (paraphrasing an 18th century French abbot), “Il n’y a pas de vins communs” in Rutherford.
I’ll list my top-rated wines in a moment, but first I want to say that this tasting was a beauty contest and should be seen in that light. All of these are stunning, lovely wines. Some are a little more tannic than others, some are more accessible. Some show red cherry fruit, while others show black cherries and blackberries. Some are oakier, some more acidic, some more pronounced in tannins. But all, as Peter Granoff observed, display a breed and elegance that few other places in California are capable of. To have this many great Cabernet Sauvignons hail from one relatively small appellation is no small feat. (By the way, all wines were tasted blind.)
My highest-rated wine was the great Staglin 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
My second highest-scoring wine was Long Meadow Ranch’s 2007 Cabernet. It was easily the best Cab from LMR I’ve ever reviewed, and that must surely be due to the vintage and winemaker Ashley Heisey’s (previously with Far Niente) increasing grip.
Other highly-scoring wines were Peju’s Reserve Cabernet, Monticello Tietjen, Round Pond Cabernet, Honig Campbell Vineyard Cabernet, Meander’s Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet, Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour, and Rubicon. (My full reviews and scores will appear in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.)
Almost all of the wines are cellar-worthy, some for many, many years. This was a very impressive tasting and I was glad to be there.