I reviewed the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 last year and enjoyed it so much, I had to do a vintage update. One of the things I love (besides the taste) is the story behind the name.
At 50 years old, John Shafer left his business shoes and commuter trains behind in Chicago, trading them in for a pair of boots and a TD-9 tractor. Without a green thumb to speak of, he picked up his family and purchased his first piece of Napa Valley property. On that property were old sheds and ancient farming equipment — among them an International Harvester tractor from the 1950s. One of his first challenges was learning how to drive the rickety old beast — but he loved every moment of it.
I can very much relate to this story: shifting gears, changing trajectory — that’s really what life is all about isn’t it. And when you find success in that new direction, so much the better. So cheers to you, John, and the Napa Valley legend you created by making that decision.
Here’s the thing about Flora Springs — they are utterly reliable. Whether you’re looking for something big and bold (say hello to the Trilogy blend) or something light and crips (you must taste their Sauvignon Blanc) or something right in the middle (I’ve got a Chardonnay that’s right up that alley — review to come) — they’ve got something suited to every flavor profile and they do it well. I’d have to say that having tasted much of their portfolio, producing bold reds that are approachable now but can also age for decades is kind of their “thing.” Case and point, this 100% Merlot harvested from their very own estate vineyards along Napa’s valley floor.
I love where Sauvignon Blanc is going. I love that winemakers are now working with various clones, implementing various aging techniques, and finding ways to finesse the Sauvignon Blanc expression while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the fruit.
I have a theory that everything Flora Springs produces is absolutely reliable. In fact, when I pulled this from the cellar last Friday night my partner, who’s more of a Sauv Blanc skeptic than I said, “Ok, but as long as it’s not too Sauv Blanc-y.” And all I had to say in reassurance: “Don’t worry, it’s Flora Springs.” True story. Here’s the rest of it…
Clos du Val built their foundation like many Napa wineries did in the 1970s, with the great, noble Cabernet Sauvignon grape. According to the winery, the “crown jewel” of their estate program is the Hirondelle Vineyard located in the Stags Leap District. The vineyard spans 100 acres and is planted to nine different Cabernet Sauvignon Clones.
Stag’s Leap’s place along the valley floor gets love from the sun and cooling breezes from the San Pablo Bay, which means grapes plush tannins but also a vibrant acidity. This is probably why — as you’ll see in my notes — Clos du Val is able to craft an age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon that is also completely approachable now.
I was so excited to try this Cabernet Sauvignon from Stony Hill. Even more so than the Chardonnay — but don’t ask me why. I guess there’s some pretense when you see the words “Napa” and “Cabernet” on the bottle. It can turn some people off because it may automatically connote “big, bold, chewy” -type vocabulary. But not so here, and this predominantly has to do with seasoned winemaker’s, Mike Chelini’s, winemaking techniques. According to the winery, Chelini is constantly monitoring the vineyards throughout the season, harvesting by chemical balance rather than by flavor alone. Testing the grapes for the perfect amount of pH versus acidity, means grapes with just enough acid to encourage ageability in the resulting wines. So what Chelini produces are both red and white wines that can age for years to come or be enjoyed straight out of the bottle. And with this Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon — you can honestly go either way.