So much goes on in our busy world, with so much information bombarding us from many directions. There’s lots of competing and conflicting points of view, so thank goodness for a glass or two of wine to help put things into some sort of perspective.
There has been quite a bit of national news coverage about California’s dwindling water supply of late. It is a serious situation and important for business, farming, and individuals to put plans in place to manage this most precious resource (personally, I look forward to my business trips back east so I don’t have to take military showers!).
I wanted to give you an update from here in Napa. The three to four weeks of steady rain we had last November/December replenished our local reservoirs and went a long way towards ensuring a healthy grape crop this year. The warm and very dry weather since has advanced the beginning of the growing season by a few weeks (vineyards already look like its mid-May). It is months until harvest so lots of things will affect the overall quality of this year’s crop between now and then. But we are off and running, and will deal with each new condition as it arises.
I am very pleased to announce the release of our 2012 Headwaters, currently available only on our website. The fruit was grown on five small vineyards, four in Coombsville and one on State Lane in Yountville. The varietal composition is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot. Spicy aromatics of anise and cinnamon lead to a mouthful of rich blackberry and pomegranate flavors. This is a completely satisfying bottle of wine with complexity and elegance. As a customer once described an earlier vintage of Headwaters “It out-punches its weight class”.
There has been only one review of the 2012 Headwaters published and that’s from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Last October he wrote that “…Headwaters is a juicy, dark-fruited effort with good purity and ripeness, but little complexity. It offers good fruit and body, but lacks that extra nuance and character…Nevertheless, I like what’s there”.
Fair enough, but it certainly is a bit conflicting with what I wrote in my own description above. Besides the subjective nature of tasting and evaluating a wine, there are a few facts that I believe are relevant to this review. When Robert Parker comes to Napa each year he visits and tastes on-site at many of the leading name wineries. For the remaining Napa wineries he invites us to submit samples through the Napa Valley Vintners to be tasted over a few days at the Meadowood Club. Previously, Bob would come to Napa in October, taste the wines, and then publish his report in December. Two years ago, he changed the schedule so that he now publishes his Napa Report in October, therefore calling for the samples in August. The relevance is that our wines are only bottled in late July.
You’ve probably heard the term “bottle shock” which refers to the unstable condition of a wine for the first few months after bottling. More or less what happens is that after gently maturing in an oak barrel for twenty-some months, the wine is pumped through a sterile filtration and bottling line, shaking the liquid up quite a bit. Every wine reacts differently to the process but eventually they all settle down and become the wine they were grown to be.
I recognize that most of the other wineries that submit samples face similar circumstances and may have received a more accurate review than COHO (though some wineries send in barrel samples instead of bottled wine). I know the drill and have willingly submitted my samples the last two years, but not without concern because of the variable nature of recently-bottled wine. We only are offered the opportunity to submit wines for the year The Wine Advocate is calling for (or younger), and not when they are being released into the market and “showing” the way we expect them to. C’est la vie.
While I’m on the topic of wine writers/reviewers I want to address the 2011 Vintage from Napa Valley. As I wrote in a previous newsletter the cool and rainy weather we experienced made for challenging conditions that tested the good judgment and experience of winegrowers. I believe these adverse conditions (and early sampling of the wines) led to many writers painting a very negative picture of the vintage.
Certainly, there are wines from 2011 that I thought had “holes in them” and that would reinforce the unfavorable view of the vintage. But I‘ve also tasted a number of Napa wines from 2011 that have deep fruit, complexity and excellent structure. The kind of wines that may develop a little slower than from riper vintages, but will offer lots of enjoyment in the glass, and will age gracefully.
I like to think that the 2011 Headwaters, 2011 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot, and 2011 SummitVine Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon are wonderful examples of the latter. My opinion is bolstered by the reception they have received by the people I consider the most important wine critics of all, fine wine retailers, many of whom have told me that the COHO wines are among the best Napa wines they have tasted from 2011. Actions speak louder than words and you will find our 2011s in many fine wine shops in all the markets in which we have distribution.
Of course, I’d love for you to purchase our 2011s from our website, so to help you find out how well made these wines are for yourself, I am running a 20% off promotion on the above three wines through the end of May. Mix or match 12 or more bottles from 2011 to qualify for the discount. The COHO wines from 2012 will be offered at their regular price (with 10% odd on 12 or more bottles purchased).
To close, I would like to raise my glass in tribute to my friend, viticulturist Michael Black, who died last week. Mike, a fourth generation Napan, was well versed in all the rural arts of our area: hunting, fishing, abalone diving, carpentry, and, most importantly, viticulture. His passion for Merlot, his unwillingness to abandon it for fashion (and more money growing Cabernet Sauvignon), certainly made Mike the kind of grape grower and man that is easy to admire. There was always a twinkle in his eye, but also a steeliness of purpose that made pushing the envelope in pursuit of excellence his mantra. I have always felt extremely lucky that COHO has had the opportunity to make the wine from Mike’s vineyard, not just because of the amazing wine the vineyard produces, but because it gave me the chance to have this wonderful man in my life.
As always, thank you for your continued interest and support of COHO.