The Mount Veeder Appellation keeps raising the bar. At least, each year when I taste the wines, that’s what I find. The improvement is due to the winegrowers. But mountain fruit is the naturally great raw material that makes especially good wine. Why? Because mountain grapes benefit from several factors. Mountain soils tend to be sparse and well drained. Vines struggle and yield fewer grapes, but of higher quality. The increased UV radiation at higher altitudes produces thicker grape skins with more tannin for structure in wine, and also more color. Altitude also produces cooler climes, especially nights, which means longer hang times, greater physiological ripeness, and even healthier vines. So, the Mount Veeder winegrowers have naturally great terroir – climate and soils. They keep striving to produce better and better wines that are especially flavorful, bright, intense, and elegant.
This 18th annual Mount Veeder Appellation tasting was held August 5, appropriately on Mount Veeder, in the expansive courtyard of The Hess Collection winery. We thank our host as well as all the winegrowers for the tasting. Weather was perfect, sunny and warm, but not too. The winery is far up off the floor of Napa Valley. Veeder Summit Vineyard, the winery’s highest, lies further up the slopes reaching 2,000 feet above sea level.
My Tasting Notes
92, Tribidrag (aka Zinfandel), Lagier Meredith, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $45
This winery is an operation of Steve Lagier, formerly assistant winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery, and Carole Meredith, retired grape genetics researcher and professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis. Their vineyard produces a number of uncommon and exciting wines. This Tribidrag, the Croatian term for Zinfandel (Primitivo) is radiant purple in color and middle – light in weight. Aromas of fresh brambleberries, with sweet and sour cranberries on the palate, all in a mineral context. Juicy, and slightly lighter in style than past vintages, this Tribidrag is exciting and buoyant in character with good intensity and a generous flavor profile. Harmonious in manner with components exceptionally well-balanced, the wine finishes long. Successes continue to emerge from this dedicated and inspired winery!
90, Mondeuse, Lagier Meredith, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $45
Medium to light purple in color. Inviting and controlled aromas of blackberries and dark fruit, with black cherries and mineral notes on the palate. Purity of fruit, just the right tannins for structure, a nice refreshing quality, and elegance in character.
90, Malbec, Lagier Meredith, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $45
Colored in purple with radiant pink hues. Brambleberries and violets on the nose, with blackberries on the palate. Displays ripe, sweet mountain fruit accompanied by a few well-managed, slightly coating tannins.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder Winery, Rosenquist Ranch, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $100
Mount Veeder Winery is not exactly new to grapevines. Their first vintage was 1973. The winery lays claim to the fact that founder Michael Bernstein, along with Arlene Bernstein, made Mount Veeder Winery Napa Valley’s first to plant all five of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties. This elegant effort, wearing a midnight-ruby-purple robe, showcases ripe, sweet, opulent fruit that displays excellent purity. The beautiful deep color is typical of past vintages. Fresh, brambly blackberry fruit with a pale nuance of maltha, the acid level provides lift. Supple, silky and round, well tied together with light viscosity in touch and feel, all in absolute harmony. Gently intense in character, and very lightly coating. Kudos on the uniqueness!
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, O’Shaugnessy Estate Winery, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $135
This wine presents with an impenetrable black-purple presence. A really big wine, near heavy-weight in size. Aromas of blackberry, vanilla, walnuts, and leather. Penetrating and concentrated, this one is well-built to age. Long finish.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pilcrow, Pym Rae Vineyard, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2014, $95
The grapes for Pilcrow ‘s initial vintage were sourced from the Pym Rae Vineyard on Mount Veeder, which approaches 1,800 feet in elevation. This property was recently purchased by Alfred Tesseron, a high-profile vintner from Bordeaux, France, and owner of Classified Growth Château Pontet-Canet. Tesseron plans for biodynamic farming. The vineyard and estate formerly belonged to actor Robin Williams. This royal purple, mid-weight, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon delivers stunning aromas of sweet-sugar-plum and peony, with notes of cassis and black cherry on the palate. Overflowing with elegance, harmony, and quality fruit, this wine boasts a welcome alcohol level of bygone days at 13.55%. Elevated acidity for great freshness, and just intense enough.
90, Robert Craig Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2010, $105
This seven year old is medium-purple in color. Aromas of black currant, peony, and star thistle, with dark fruit and blackberries in the mouth. Quite well balanced, intense in character with structuring tannins, and a long finish.
92, Malbec, The Hess Collection, Small Block Series, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2013, $58
Dark, impenetrable ruby-purple with a richly fruited nose, dense with black cherries, blackberries, and a hint of caramel. On the palate, this mid-heavy weight displays dazzlingly rich, opulent fruit. Plenty of size, structure, extract, and viscosity accompanied by the appropriate acid level and a lengthy finish.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinoce, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2013, $100
This radiant-ruby-purple, opaque, mid-weight Cabernet presents aromas of sweet cranberries, Kordia cherries, and cedar. This is the most focused and delineated I have seen this wine recently. Quality fruit with quite a strong presence and plenty of intensity, but not overdone at all. Sufficient acid and structure, a hedonistic and exciting wine.
91, Red Blend, Yates Family Vineyard, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2013, $65
The Yates Family Vineyard really is a family operation. Parents and children divide the tasks between them. Michael Yates would tell you the same thing he told me when he said, “I am a farmer.” Purple with crimson hues, this extraordinary mid-weight blend, including 20% Cabernet Franc, presents an especially alluringly, inviting character. Offers copious aromas and flavors of black currant, Damson plum, crème de cassis, violet, and roasted coffee accompanied by a mineral touch. A light texture is present, and the wine shows fine balance and harmony with an intense, lengthy finish. Even more approachable than in some past vintages, although it has always been amicable.