Ever since working for the late Geoffrey Roberts in the mid 1980’s I have loved good California wines. I have found it irritating, therefore that the types of California wine that most people drink bear no relation to the greatest examples. The trouble is that they are shockingly expensive to most of us and so they get relegated to special occasion wine status, or never get tasted at all and consumers go around thinking that all wine from California is like Blossom Hill.
Well, it really isn’t. The roll call of top notch California producers that make wines that can hold their head up in any company is long and impressive: Heitz, Stag’s Leap, Clos du Bois, Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Château Montelena, Clos du Val, Mondavi, Duckhorn, Cakebread, Shafer, Ridge and many, many more. Of course the style of wines to come out of California are many too. Chardonnay is justifiably famous from Napa as well as the cooler coastal areas, Zinfandel, especially from Amador or Livermore has its supporters as does Syrah, or Pinot Noir from Monterey and Santa Barbara. However, when I think of California wine, my thoughts invariably turn to Cabernet Sauvignon and blends based upon that wonderful grape. I was really delighted therefore to find a new one the other day – new to me anyway. In truth it is shockingly expensive, but it is very, very good.
Altagracia 2005, Araujo Estate, Napa Valley, California
The Araujo Estate is named for its owners Bart and Daphne Araujo and consists of one of the greatest California vineyards of them all, the Eisele Vineyard in northern Napa just east of Calistoga. This site was originally planted in the 1880s and over the decades has provided the fruit for many famous wines, including, until 1991, the acclaimed Joesph Phelps Eisele Vineyard Cabernets and the 1971 Ridge Eisele Vineyard Cabernet.
Bart and Daphne bought the vineyard in 1990 and immediately started building a winery so that they could make their own wine from this prestigious site.
They regard themselves as custodians of the terroir and do all they can to protect it, employing organic and biodynamic methods to maintain the land in perfect health and balance. This attention to detail, however it is done, certainly shows up in the finished wine.
I can almost do this wine justice in one word – sumptuous!
The wine is an an utterly hedonistic and delicious experience that is so enjoyable you have to force yourself to concentrate on the complexity of the flavours and aromas in the glass.
The nose is fragrant and richly fruity with cassis and blueberry gently spiced with cedarwood, cocoa and savoury truffle notes.
In the mouth Altagracia is smooth, round and velvety with a mouth-filling flavour and rich texture. You cannot fail to be seduced by the succulently ripe fruit which is supported by integrated smoky, spicy oak with flashes of sweet vanilla, mocha and chocoalte, fine grain tannins, touches of rocky minerality and a long, long finish. The fruit is rich and concentrated, with a poised delicacy about it and no hint of jammyness. Neither is the hefty 14.8% alcohol too much, everything is in balance here.
The wine is simply beautiful and is so delicious now that it seems a shame to keep any back, but I would love to try it in a decade or so, it has enough of everything, including some acidity to enable it to age very well.
Altagracia 2005 is a blend of
91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot, all from the Eisele Vineyard.
Given how wonderful this wine, I am quite amazed that this is merely the second wine of the estate, how good must the first wine be?
£69.95 per bottle from Uncorked wine merchants
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