2011 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -- 525 cases, 14.2% alcohol, 50% new oak
This 21 barrel blend is comprised of all of the Corona and Pellet, all of the Panek clone 4 and select barrels of the clone 6. Pellet is a new piece for us that sits in the same neighborhood as Las Piedras, Bressler, Bourn and Hayne Vineyards to the west of the town of St. Helena. It's become quite the high quality neighborhood. As with most first efforts we included it in the appellation blend as we begin the process of understanding how to best vinify it. Its addition brings the AVA blend of the Napa to roughly 50/50 St. Helena and Oakville. That makes for a nice mix of flesh and power in the wine. There's a brightness to the red fruited character of the vintage that gives the wine freshness and vibrancy. It has a nice mix of savory and fruit driven elements that gives it a more classic California Cab quality. It feels like an earlier drinker than in years past but the great balance in the wine should help it rest comfortably for a decade or more.
2011 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon -- 150 cases, 14.4% alcohol, 67% new oak
We isolated the best barrels from Panek early on and it came as no surprise they originated from two clones picked before the rains (169, 7) and the rockiest, steepest spot out there, the clone 6 knoll. It has a nice mix of red and black fruits and features the caramelized brown sugar/maple syrup generosity that really set the 2009 apart. There's a minerality to it that provides balance and some firming on the finish. The crop here averaged 1.5 tons per acre at set which adds some nice concentration to the mid-palate. This site has been a real find for us and we've enjoyed working hard to make this bottling better every year.
2010 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -- 195 cases produced, 14.2% alcohol, 50% new French oak
This reminds me a lot of the 2008 Napa. A little less opaque than the 2009, it features a nice balance of fruit and savory elements. The nose is heavy blue fruits balanced by a little sweet tobacco and creosote. The acidity cuts through any oak impact that might have been there and helps to pull through some higher-toned red and black fruits on the palate. The wine is incredibly well focused while still packing in most every intrinsic Cabernet quality available. Last year we said this was more mid-pack in terms of structure order across the offerings but in 2010, this drinks more like the starting point.
2010 Rivers-Marie "Panek Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon St Helena -- 125 cases produced, 14.4% alcohol, 80% new French oak
We saw a more uniform goodness across all clones in Panek for 2010. All four selections we harvested are represented in the blend. Part of it we chalk up to vine maturity but I also think we have a better understanding of how to farm this site. This is a naturally low tannin site so the 2009 and 2010 wines are pretty similar. The acidity of the vintage cuts through some of the brown sugar/maple syrup quality of the previous year and gives a cleaner, less cloying wine. There’s a nice baker’s chocolate opening to the wine surrounded by more soil driven characteristics of wet stones and white flowers. The finish is a bit more structured than last year due mainly to the power and concentration of the clone 6 addition.
2010 Rivers-Marie "Corona Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville -- 125 cases produced, 14.5% alcohol, 80% new French oak
Everything about this wine is a touch better than its 2009 edition. All the wildness of that wine is reigned in and focused a bit more in 2010. There’s better oak integration, riper tannin (still abundant though) and a nice mineral driven site character that makes the wine obviously Oakville. We always talk about the AVA’s great mix of fruit and power and it’s on full display here. The nose is brooding and very black fruited but the acidity adds some higher toned notes of citrus peel and violets. After some time in the decanter, the palate becomes very plush and is driven more by texture than pure fruit or weight. The vineyard is planted next to an old pea gravel quarry and you can sense this location in the wine. There’s a nice crushed rock element that comes on near the finish that gives the wine a bit more intellectual interest and length. This again though is the bottling for the cellar so let it rest or give it several hours in a decanter.
2009 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -- 305 cases produced, 14.5% alcohol, 50% new French oak
The 12 barrel blend this year is 25% Oakville, 42% St Helena and 33% Spring Mountain from the Baconbrook Vineyard. The Spring Mountain component definitely helps the wine standout in the lineup giving it a more brooding, black-fruited quality that dominates the nose and palate entry. Elements of cassis, creosote, blackberries and menthol dominate the wine early with a sweeter fruited valley floor flavor profile taking over on the mid-palate and finish. The good early grip is replaced by racy high-toned red fruits which give the wine freshness and help prolong the finish. This wine might actually have the greatest complexity of the three right now due to the blend. It does also have some structure which will require some cellaring to absorb.
2009 Rivers-Marie "Panek Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon St Helena -- 150 cases produced, 14.6% alcohol, 80% new French oak
Our part of the Panek site is a 2.5 acre parcel just north of Turley Winery and just south of Aida Vineyard in St Helena. It’s old riverbed ground so it drains well with a strong streak of gravel shot through the black, loamy soil. The 2009 bottling consists of equal parts clones 6 and 7. This is the most classic of our three wines in this release. The pure fruit driven nose consists of sweet tobacco, purple fruits, white flowers and blackcurrants. The clone 7 component in the wine definitely adds this fruit sweetness which is in turn buffered by the more structured, higher acid, soil driven elements of the 6. Clone 6 on the valley floor can act a bit like a hillside addition with its tiny berries and thick skins and in this wine it makes for an interesting texture. The mineral notes that frame the finish give the wine length with just enough apparent acidity to add freshness.
2009 Rivers-Marie "Corona Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville -- 150 cases produced, 14.2% alcohol, 100% new French oak
We thought this would be bottled separately in 2008 but now seeing the quality of the 2009, I’m glad we waited. This is the single vineyard Cabernet we’ve been waiting to launch our program around. Located off of Oakville Grade in the western hills of Oakville, the vineyard sits at the base of an old pea gravel quarry. The first time I smelled the wine it reminded me of a modern Martha’s Vineyard with elements of menthol and eucalyptus layered into a rich, black-fruited core. The site contributes white flower and minerally notes which balance the richness and give the wine some muscle. The most structured of the three wines, this will go a while in the cellar but the balance (and if you like raw power) makes this enjoyable now with a substantial decant. We feel privileged to be working with such a great site in this prestigious neighborhood.
2008 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 14.5% alc., 50% new oak
The 2008 Rivers-Marie Cab is, in its early stages, driven by texture. Less opaque in the glass than the '07, the '08 begins with aromas of fully ripe raspberry and blueberry and is followed shortly with notes of sandalwood and pencil shavings. With air, the red-blue fruit notes dominate the nose. On the palate, the wine possesses a weighty entry and is already generous and expansive. This broadness is what we’ve come to like so much about the vintage. The mid-palate tannin sweetness is the real payoff before a textured finish of cocoa and graphite. Ultimately, this wine is really about the typicity of Cabernet.
2007 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -- 400 cases produced, 14.3% alcohol, 75% new French oak.
This wine has always been highly aromatic. Starting out with a nose of violets, wet rock and cassis, the entry takes on a richness that betrays its two hillside sources. There’s brightness to the black fruited quality that pushes the perception of the fruit to the red/blue end of the spectrum until the tannin hits. As with all hillside sites, the tannin is there it’s just a matter of managing the quality of it that sets the wine apart. The structure here takes on a fine-grained sweetness and if it deviates from a fruit focus it moves more toward the varietally correct notes of creosote, charcoal and graphite with loamy, minerally tones creeping in. Time in the decanter definitely helps to prolong the finish and mellow out some of the mountain tannin.
2006 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -- 295 cases produced, 14.7% alc., 75% new French oak
I liked this wine from day one. A large part of that stems from my love of the vintage. The great California vintages possess ample quantities of fruit balanced generally by tannin (2002) or nice, firm acidity (1996). 2006 has all the fresh fruit of a great year balanced nicely by both tannin and acidity. I can smell the wine as it sits a couple feet away from me on the desk. Saturated black-ruby with a nose of cassis, sandalwood, white flowers and crushed rock. The classic Cabernet taste components come up quickly: blackcurrants, more cassis, lavender, sweet tobacco, blackberries, blueberry, espresso and licorice. The finish is interrupted a bit by structure until the acidity cuts in framing and lengthening the backend. This wine drinks well earlier than either the 2003 or 2004 but is certainly in no danger of fading for at least a decade.
2004 Rivers-Marie Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon -- 120 cases produced, 80% new French oak, 14.7% alc.
Sometimes there are years in the extreme hills that are perfectly suited to balancing the ruggedness of the wines traditionally produced there. 2004 with its brutal heat in late August turned out to be one of those years. Everything about this wine is a bit sweeter and rounder than its 2003 counterpart. More of a saturated matte black color, the nose is pure bittersweet chocolate with waves of cassis. The palate moves to big Howell Mountain spice, espresso roast, toasted bread, Asian spice and black fruits. There is no shortage of tannin in this wine, it is just a bit riper and sweeter than more traditional vintages. Again, patience in the decanter is the key to realizing the full potential of the wine.
2003 Rivers-Marie Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon -- 50 cases produced, 100% new French oak, 14.9% alc.
Due to the coolness of the vintage, this wine carries with it a bit more acidity than the 2004. Its saturated black hue has an electric quality to it. Notes of creosote, wet stones, white flowers and smoky cassis precede a palate of menthol, sweet tobacco leaf, melted licorice and blackberries. As the wine sits in glass, it turns to baker's chocolate, melted fudge and dried herbs. The tannins are a bit steely revealing its origin as a hillside wine. Though it has been in bottle 14 months, we still decant this wine in the morning for service with dinner. Hillside wines in 2003 have an unctuosity that develops with air making them candidates for a long nap in the cellar.