2015 Napa Valley – First Impressions by Antonio Galloni
The 2015 Napa Valley Cabernets I have tasted from barrel so far are positively stunning in their beauty. Despite a year with considerable challenges and low yields, 2015 is shaping up to be a vintage of opulent, voluptuous wines with real personality and character.
The 2015 Growing Season
Drought conditions and higher than average temperatures during the 2014/2015 winter caused the soils to warm up early, even more so than Napa Valley’s growers had seen in 2013 and 2014. Cool weather in May during flowering had some effect in lowering yields, depending on the site, but more challenges lay ahead.
Throughout the year, temperatures were higher than normal. “In 2015 we had 26 days over 100 degrees, whereas in a normal year we might see 10-12, including a stretch of five consecutive days with temperatures of 104 degrees,” Lou Kapcsándy told me. It was a similar story at Joseph Phelps. “We had 20 days over 100 degrees. Dehydration was a real issue,” winemaker Ashley Hepworth reported.
The most critical period arrived in mid-September. I had tastings scheduled for Monday September 14. The day before, Howell Mountain was evacuated because of a serious threat from a raging fire in neighboring Lake County. It was during this stretch of several days that temperatures were unrelentingly hot. “We started picking on September 9. Temperatures were above 100 degrees for four out of the five days we picked, and on the last day we had to deal with intense winds from the fires in Lake County.” Lisa Togni relayed. Some producers picked in September, but more than a few also waited things out until October, when conditions improved dramatically.
The 2015s From Barrel
I spent several weeks in Napa Valley this past spring tasting through the 2015s from barrel. Spring is one of my favorite times to taste in Napa Valley because it is the best time to see the wines in a finished enough state to get a sense of the year, but before blending, which means at many properties it is possible to taste parcel by parcel or variety by variety. In many ways, tasting young Cabernet from barrel in Napa Valley during the spring is much more similar to tasting young Burgundy than Bordeaux as the wines have often not been racked or touched at all, whereas in Bordeaux, for example, the blends need to be mostly finished by that time in order for the wines to be presentable for en primeur.
So far, the 2015 Napa Valley Cabernets I have tasted are stunningly beautiful. Two thousand fifteen is a classic Napa Valley vintage built on opulence, texture and voluptuousness. Interestingly, the wines also appear to have a good deal of freshness as well, especially for a warm year. Unfortunately, yields are down around 30-35% across the board. Although weather during flowering was less than optimal, growers cite dehydration as the main culprit for lower production.
To be sure, the estates I have tasted so far represent la crème de la crème in Napa Valley. Given the quality of fruit I saw in the field, I expect the 2015s will be less consistently brilliant across a wider range of producers than in truly exceptional years like 2013. Still, there is no question that there is plenty to look forward to. The best 2015s are racy, exciting wines that are hard to resist, even at this early stage.
Estates Tasted: Abreu, Ampère, Blankiet, BOND, Bryant, Casa Piena, Colgin, Continuum, Dalla Valle, Dana Estates, Futo, The Grade, Harlan Estate, Hardin, Harris, Hobel, Jones, Kapcsándy, Kinsella, Mending Wall, Ovid, Outpost, Joseph Phelps, Piper, Pulido-Walker, Promontory, Rivers-Marie, Round Pond, Rudd, Saunter, Screaming Eagle, Seaver GTS, Steltzner, Staglin, Stone the Crows, TBD (formerly Reverie), Philip Togni, VHR – Vine Hill Ranch and Wallis.
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One of the many fun aspects of producing your own wine is discovering the internet buzz that is circling about your wine in the many different styles of wine blogs.
Here are a few of the discovered write ups about Wallis Family Estate:
This is a man on the quest to visit all of the Napa Valley wineries- http://www.napawineproject.com/wallis-estate/
From our Texas supporters- http://hemingsway.org/wine-notes-1/2016/4/10/wallis-estate
Guilty by association of TRB: https://www.palatexposure.com/people/a-whos-who-list-on-the-california-wine-scene/
Wallis Family Estate is looking forward to participating in CabFest Napa Valley 2016, which is set for March 4 – 6 at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville. It is our hope that we will see you there! CabFest is a three-day, luxury lifestyle event that shines a spotlight on Napa’s signature wine varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon. The full weekend includes recording artist Mat Kearney live in concert, wine symposiums, wine celebrity and author Karen MacNeil. Wallis Family Estate will be featuring out 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wallis Family Estate will be pouring our 2016 BEST IN CLASS winning wine, Seraphim along with other past vintages. Make sure you visit us there for a taste!
After 20 months in French oak barrels, our 2013 vintage has been bottled! It now has to rest one more year before it is ready for enjoyment. Patience is important when making Cabernet Sauvignon. Thomas Rivers Brown has done a superb job crafting this vintage paired with an optimal growing year in 2013. This vintage will be one for the record books!
"This was so good, we had to go back and taste it 3 more times. With Napa superstar Thomas Brown behind this incredible Diamond Mountain estate, Wallis is quickly becoming a name to watch. What really caught our attention to this estate is how much all the critics seem to be in love with this fast rising winery. Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are all gushing over these gorgeous wines, and they all seem to be in agreement- this is a TRB estate with a very bright future! With the vines close to 20 years in age, they've had the chance to dig deep in the rocky soils, and are not only producing deep, dark fruit character, but great notes of coffee, cocoa, and black olives, and a solid back bone of great structure too. This was one of only a handful of wines we went back to taste several times....it was that good." Gary Vaynerchuk
9 Impressive Napa Cabernets
New reviews of California Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2012 vintage
Augustus Weed, Wine Spectator
Posted: January 26, 2015
Tasting Highlights bring the best wines from our editors’ most recent tastings to WineSpectator.com members.
The 2012 vintage of Napa Cabernets is proving exceptional. The long growing season allowed the grape to ripen slowly, but also produced a record-breaking crop. An early assessment of the vintage indicates that the wines are rich and ripe in flavor, with better balance than many of the 2011s.
Many of these wines, made from thick-skinned grapes, feature ample tannins and should age well over the long term.
Edward Wallis’ Cabernet, the top-scoring wine here, is dense and chewy, with fine-grained tannins, but also elegant, showing the balance of the vintage. It comes from 13 acres of Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties planted in 1997 in the Diamond Mountain District. Thomas Rivers Brown is the winemaker.
Amici’s Napa Valley Bottling exhibits the ripe, juicy side of the grape and vintage. Joel Aiken, who has his own eponymous label, used grapes predominantly from Rutherford and Atlas Peak, and aged 50 percent of the wine in new French oak for 20 months. At $45, it hits the sweet spot for price and quality.
Rounding out the selection are wines from Janzen, Roberts & Rogers, Cliff Lede and Vine Cliff. H Posert is the label of the late Harvey Posert Jr. and his son Harvey Posert III.
WALLIS FAMILY ESTATE Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain District 2012 Score: 92 | $85
Firm and dense, this is well-focused on a tight core of mineral-laced dark berry, vanilla bean, licorice and espresso notes. Chewy and elegant, supported by fine-grain tannins, this wine will best be served by short-term cellaring. Best from 2016 through 2028. 500 cases made.—J.L.
AMICI Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $45
Delivers a core of ripe blackberry and wild berry flavors, supported by lively acidity and firm tannins. Ends with a persistent fruit- and cedar-driven finish. Drink now through 2026. 3,200 cases made.—J.L.
JANZEN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $65
A juicy, zesty style, with a racy streak to the core of wild berry and blackberry fruit. Snappy acidity keeps the flavors lively. Ends with firm tannins. Drink now through 2024. 650 cases made.—J.L.
CLIFF LEDE Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2012Score: 90 | $75
Strikes a balance between elegance and finesse, with a mixed core of dark berry, savory herb, cedar, crushed rock and tobacco flavors. Firmly tannic on the finish, ending with a burst of black licorice. Drink now through 2026. 5,776 cases made.—J.L.
ROBERTS & ROGERS Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2012 Score: 90 | $90
Packs lots of rich, extracted flavors, with a mix of roasted coffee, cedar, dark berry, loamy earth and licorice flavors. Despite the power and density on display, this shows a measure of finesse that will take some time to fully reveal itself. Best from 2016 through 2028. 850 cases made.—J.L.
TURLEY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $40
Pleasant, firm, rich and deftly balanced, this offers a mix of ripe dark berry, cedary oak and black licorice flavors, leading to a long, pure finish that tightens toward the end. Drink now through 2024. NA cases made.—J.L.
H POSERT Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley II & III 2012 Score: 89 | $75
Exhibits a dusty, cedary edge to the dried berry, currant and dried herb flavors, combining complexity with finesse. Ends with firm, drying tannins. Drink now through 2024. 173 cases made.—J.L.
VINE CLIFF Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2012 Score: 89 | $85
Features a toasty oak overlay, adding dimension to the taut core of dried dark berry, licorice and tobacco leaf flavors, ending with savory tannins. Drink now through 2026. 1,192 cases made.—J.L.
VINE CLIFF Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 88 | $60
Firm, with a tight core of dried dark berry, savory herb, cedar, tobacco and sage notes, tilting toward progressively drier tannins. Drink now through 2024. 2,230 cases made.—J.L.
Look for Wallis Family Estate on page 77 in the Wine & Spirits December 2014 issue. We received Years Best, Best Buy with 92 points for our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon! This will make a great gift for under the Christmas tree or served with a Holiday meal.
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