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Suckling, ’07 Napa Cabs, 2010 vintage, Top 10 Wines of the Week

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Former Wine Spectator critic James Suckling, who’s been all over Facebook lately (Twitter, too; what’s up with that?), was tasting in Napa, and wrote that he wasn’t sure that 2007 is the “vintage of the century” for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. That stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest on his FB page! Even I felt compelled to write in, and while I didn’t declare ‘07 the vintage of the century (we still have, what? 90 years to go) I did say it has yielded some pretty sensational Napa Cabs and Bordeaux blends. And that was before I reviewed this week’s top ten wines. The list is heavy on ‘07 Napa Cabs. Special shoutout to Rodney Strong for their ‘07 Symmetry Meritage, from “just over the hill” in good old Alexander Valley.

1. Vine Cliff 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. 956 cases, 14.5%, $75

also Vine Cliff 2007 16 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon, $150 and Vine Cliff 2007 Pickett Road Vineyard Cabernet, $150

2. Paul Hobbs 2007 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (actually, Atlas Peak). 498 cases, 15.1%, $150

also Paul Hobbs 2007 Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon, $235

3. Hall 2007 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 2,763 cases, 14.8%, $80

also Hall 2007 Ellie’s Cabernet Sauvignon, $55

4. Paul Hobbs 2008 Ulises Valdez Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. 423 cases, 14.5%, $70

5. Gloria Ferrer 1999 Carneros Cuvée Sparkling Blend, Carneros. 2,000 cases, 12%, $50

6. Vine Cliff 2008 Proprietress Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros. 349 cases, 14.7%, $60

7. Brogan 2007 Buena Prierra Vineyard Helio Doro Block Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. 220 cases, 13.5%, $90

also Brogan 2006 Michaela’s Reserve Pinot Noir, $110

8. Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry Red Meritage, Alexander Valley. 5,583 cases, 15.1%, $55

9. Iron Horse 2005 Ultra Brut, Green Valley. 500 cases, 13.5%, $50

10. Knights Bridge 2008 West Block Chardonnay, Knights Valley. 200 cases, 14.5%, $65

More on the weird 2010 vintage: As I reported here, many vintners have been pulling leaves off from the canopies, in order to hasten ripening due to the cold summer and to let the clusters dry out from the overnight dampness. Then came this week’s heat wave, with temps approaching 110 degrees. You can guess what happened. All those naked grapes, under the broiling sun: raisins! That’s why they call it “farming.” Mother Nature always has the last word.

  1. Ryan Flinn says:

    I’m really curious to see what’s going to happen with this year’s harvest. What incredible bad luck, from the long, cool months to the heat spike. Plus so many farmers have been green harvesting to reduce the likelyhood of mold (to the point where they were cutting more grapes off the vine than they left) and now they have raisins. Could have been interesting without the heat to see how Napa wines developed with the long slow growing season.

  2. And of course, now we’re right back in the middle of another serious cold spell.

    RE: Cal Cab vintages. 2005 ranks at the top of my personal list for vintages of the last decade. But that could just be that the sample I’ve had of those wines have been better than the sample I’ve have of 2007s. Plus the 2005’s have the advantage of more time at this point. It will be interesting to see how my perception changes (or doesn’t) over the next couple years.

  3. While commercial pressures are strong and CA has fairly consistent weather year to year, I think growers need to allow for years of distinctly different character. They also need to find some patience. They are trying too hard and it is only making a “difficult” year worse.

    If they want to avoid all this stressful vintage variation, they could do what many producers of CA’s other major ag product do, grow indoors.

  4. Ned, I can just see those indoor vineyards!

  5. Interestingly enough, Laube has been giving “Suckling-esque” ratings to the 2007 Napa “First Growth” cabs. With Sucklings departure from WS…will laube now be taking up Sucklings overscore-aholism. We’ll just have to see…..
    I’ve tasted a few 07 Cabs and though they were very nice to exceptional, esp the 07 Rudius and Caymus. I’ve also barrel sampled (and bottle sampled) some of the 08s and I think, despite the bad rap that 08 got, there will be some very good wines here as well.
    Whats been your impression of the 08s?

  6. Andy, I don’t follow the Spectator anymore, so I hope people will keep steveheimoff.com informed about what’s up over there!

  7. It’s amusing the hand wringing over 2010 and weather most winemakers in the world would celebrate. But here, from what you hear, we have to have it hot and dry and early to make decent wine. Here in California the prospect of grapes only getting to 24 Brix in late October has a lot of folks wondering how it could be possible to make good wine. My God, what if it were to rain? We’re about the only winemakers in the world that can’t handle rain. How is it possible they make wine in France or anywhere you get 10 or 15 inches of rain during every growing season?

    I remember a celebrated consulting winemaker complaining in mid-October about the 2005 harvest, that his grapes were 28 Brix, but he was waiting for the acids to drop! (completely clueless on what happens to grape composition during dehydration.) I wish Andre T. was still around today. We’d have a good laugh.

    With weather, no matter what it is, there are always winners and losers. And I am seeing many vineyards that are thriving. So, regarding the Vintage of the Century, it is clear to me it will be 2010.

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