Let’s talk about terroir
Perhaps one of the most important words you never learned in high school French class, terroir is defined as totality of all the environmental factors affecting the growth of the grape. It is, aside from the type of grape itself, one of the single most important aspects which affects how a wine tastes.
Napa, like most of the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, is not just one homogenous valley, but a veritable cornucopia of growing conditions, comprised of complex topographical variations, numerous different soil types, a reasonably large spectrum of temperatures, and even multiple microclimates within relatively small geographical regions.
Because of this, in 1981, during the early years of winemaking in California, certain regions with similar growing characteristics within Napa valley were identified. These were termed “American Viticultural Areas”, or AVAs, which are set by the Federal Government, and allow us to further specify where a wine is from. As consumers, knowing the AVA a wine hails from can help us have an idea of what qualities a wine may possess, even if we haven’t actually tried the wine before. Currently, there are 16 recognized AVA in Napa Valley. One of these AVA’s, and the subject of this post, is the Diamond Mountain District AVA.
Let’s talk about Diamond Mountain
Located at the far North end of Napa Valley, high above the city of Calistoga to the West, this AVA was first proposed in 1999 and formally established in 2001. In addition to being at a higher elevation than most other AVAs (the entire elevation is at least 400 feet above sea level) which allows it to avoid some of the cooling fog other AVAs are subject to, the soil type is largely a porous volcanic soil. This allows the grapes to cool quickly at the end of the day, further enhancing flavor.
Wines from Diamond Mountain District are often described using words like “firm”, or “structured”, and are known to be somewhat tannic when they are in their youth. For this reason, many of the wines are barrel and/or bottle-aged longer than their counterpart wines from grapes grown on the Valley Floor - where tannins are often less – before they are released to the public for consumption. While the stronger presence of tannins may require some extra decanting and aeration if you want to enjoy the wines young, they generally offer significantly longer aging potential in the long run.
There are only 11 wineries on Diamond Mountain, many of them with hard-to-find wines with “cult” status. These so-called “cult” wines are wines that have built a devoted following of wine connoisseurs over the years by consistently producing wines of extraordinary quality but in limited quantities. It is precisely because of this status that – in years of abundance – it is important for wine makers to sell any extra wine made to the “bulk” market. This allows them to maintain a relative scarcity of their wine label and continue to command top-dollar prices.
Utilizing a long-standing connection in the wine industry, we benefitted from such abundance with the 2014 vintage. After tasting the wine from the barrels and confirming the wine was excellent (it was), we purchased several barrels of both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the winery (one with cult-like status - though we cannot say who). We then finalized a blend of our wines, then had it bottled, labeled, and sent to our distribution facility in the city of Napa where it now awaits a home in your wine cellar!
Some notes on Claudine Cabernet Sauvignon
You’ve purchased your cult wine at a significant discount through yours-truly and now you want to enjoy it the right way, right? Here are a few tips to maximize the enjoyment of your 2014 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet:
We hope this has been both informative and helpful, and continue to be extremely grateful for your interest in and support of our wines. Thank you all – family and friends both near and far – for helping make the 2016 launch of Claudine Wines the amazing success it has already been. We look forward to sharing more wine with you in 2017.
-Lance & Spence // Brian & Becky