Howell Mountain belongs to the volcanic mountain range that flanks Napa Valley on its east side. This wine captures the rich, powerful flavors of Howell Mountain, with complexity from a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon clones. Matches boldly flavored foods, like strip loin steak with wild mushrooms and roasted fingerling potatoes. The fabulous 2012 harvest followed a near-perfect growing season.
Appellation: Howell Mountain
Barrel Aging: 21 Months, 100% French Oak (53% New)
Varietal Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
“Concentrated yet balanced, this age-worthy wine is juicy in blackberry and currant, with a chewiness to the palate that gives it strength and power. Tar, tobacco and pencil lead shift around on the palate, before the wine finishes clean and sinewy. Cellar through 2020. Cellar Selection.” - Virginie Boone, October 2015
“This is one of the best wines we’ve made,” says Winemaker Chris Cooney, as he swirls and evaluates the 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. “It fully captures the bold personality of a vineyard that we discovered high up on the Howell Mountain plateau. The iron-laden, red volcanic loam soils give this Cab its rich, saturated color and loads of deep blackberry, cassis and plum character. Violet, forest loam, maple and hazelnut nuances permeate the wide-open, dark-fruit aromas. The tannins are dynamic and chewy, and amply support the expansive flavors through the persistent finish. It’s a powerful wine, with ripeness, richness and balance from the amazing 2012 vintage.”
We sourced the grapes from a small vineyard that was planted in 1994 on a gentle hillside on Howell Mountain. Here, at 1700-feet in elevation, the Cabernet Sauvignon vines begin spring bud-break later because of cooler temperatures, but the grapes have longer hours of solar radiation—being above the fog-line—for ripening. Because the vines are never shaded because of the north-south row direction and slope of the land, a two-wire, cane-pruned trellis system is used to give the clusters a leaf canopy for dappled light and protection from sunburn.
The quality of the 2012 harvest was fabulous, following a growing season with near-perfect conditions. The year began with ideal rainfall and no significant frost after the vines began spring growth. Mild weather continued through May, assuring successful bloom and berry set. Summer was sunny and dry, but not too hot, with desirably cold nights. Harvest was well paced and easy, with rich, ripe flavors developing at lower sugar levels. After weather challenges in 2011, we felt blessed by a vintage that reminded us why we love growing grapes and making wine.
The hand-harvested grapes were lightly crushed into stainless steel tanks, and then the must was cold soaked for gentle extraction before fermentation began. To soften tannins, winemakers Chris and Trevor allowed the wine to ferment slightly warmer (90 degrees F.) than usual and to complete fermentation in French oak barrels. Four rackings naturally clarified the wine and it was bottled without fining.