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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 [2007] 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.

  1. Dr. Jones says:

    You’re mad! Taste of Oakville is a much better event with better wines.
    I’m female, can I go to the state dinner with you?

  2. Dr.J, ToO has some really good wines, but it’s way too crowded and impossible to navigate. Just mobs of people pushing and shoving. Rutherford Dust by contrast has only about 20 people, sitting at a formal tasting. Much better. And, no, you can’t go to the state dinner with me. Somebody else beat you to it.

  3. It was a very well done event. I think the Staglin was at the top of my list as well, but need to recheck my notes.

  4. What a great list to be included in! I finally met Gerald Asher, after all of these years of writing/email back and forth. He said to me, “I’m impresses with your work.” Wait a minute… That was going to be my line to him… And the wines: Big Wow. I stayed for more – after you left to go write your story – so mine will be written shortly.

    Needless to say, but I will, this was an amazing event, and I can’t wait to put my own thoughts together.

    Enjoyed your rendition…

  5. I’m glad that we are on your list. Sara Fowler is very talented.
    Tasted quite a few of the wines in the room-I must say lovely – GREAT CABERNETS-

    I also enjoyed tasting side by side quite a variety of Rutherford Sauvignon Blancs, yes… I know- not as important as Cabs- what I tasted was the distinct imprint of each winemaker for the variety.

  6. I’ll second Herta’s comments about Sara Fowler’s talents. Sara does a great job and seems to have a lot of fun doing it! I really enjoy this tasting each year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this year but my brothers were there. I’m happy to read that we’re on your list. Cheers, Chris

  7. This was the first time for us to attend this event. We felt very honored to be invited. We very much enjoyed the tasting event and the lunch afterwards. Everyone we met was very cordial and welcoming. We did have to force ourselves to have a little more of the Staglin wine at the lunch. Delicious, as were all the wines!

    Joe and Janelle

  8. Thanks for coming to the tasting and providing your overview of the wines of this great vintage. For our point of view, 2007 is clearly one of our best wines. Having been through the excitement of 1997 versus 1996 and tasting those wines now, I hope all can keep 2006 in mind. It will be great to revist them in 13 years for a similar comparison. We’ll look forward to your more complete report in the Wine Enthusiast.

  9. but did you try the Long Meadow Sauv Blanc? I thought that was one of the top wines I tasted at this event.

    Wish I would have seen you there, another time perhaps.


  10. Brian, I reviewed the Long Meadow 2009 Sauv Blanc in May and gave it a very high score. Terrific wine, one of the best SBs I’ve had all year!

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