The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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60  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2018 WINERY SPOTLIGHT F orever frozen in time, a magnifi- cent black stallion rears up on powerful hind legs within sight of Napa Valley's historic Silverado Trail. This imposing sculpture draws visitors to Black Stallion Estate Winery's fieldstone tasting room and garden terrace, where finely crafted Napa Valley wines await. Inside, a black-and-white photo gallery depicts scenes from the estate's pre-winery history as the Silverado Horseman's Center: For years eques- trians rode, trained, and raced on the 32-acre property, which boasted riding trails, a 24,000-square-foot indoor riding ring, a half-mile race track, and a 3,000-seat outdoor arena. "What we are trying to achieve is to make unique wines which say a lot about terroir," explains Black Stallion Head Winemaker Ralf Holdenried. "We want to make them speak more, but not be over the top—not overly oaky or with too much acidity. At Black Stallion we make the most expressive wines that are varietally true from the finest sub-appellations of Napa." Although the German transplant fully admits to being a New World convert, Holdenried still allows his Old World roots to shine in his wine- making. "We make a lot of amazing wines," Holdenried adds, "but I want to make sure this winery is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon." Anyone who's tasted the wines knows this reputation would be well-deserved, as Black Stallion's Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon highly overdelivers at $30. Among the thoroughbreds in Black Stallion's portfolio is the Gaspare Single Vineyard, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made from estate grapes. The wine showcases Black Stallion's terroir, which has an unusually high gravel content for the Oak Knoll District AVA. (Holdenried postulates that this gravelly sediment is responsible for the surprising intensity of the estate fruit.) The debut 2012 vintage (250 cases; $90) is an elegantly concentrated expression of deep black fruit and brown spices. The Bucephalus label (700 cases; $150), meanwhile, is named for Alexander the Great's horse and blends estate and Atlas Peak vineyard grapes. The 2013 vintage comprises 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah ("to pepper it up"), 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Merlot. By contrast, the "double-oaked" 2013 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve (900 cases; $98), which Holdenried says is "made for people who love oak in their Cabernet," took unblended lots from Oakville, Oak Knoll, Atlas Peak, and Howell Mountain and aged them 18 months in French oak barrels. After 20 percent of the blended wine spent an additional six months in oak, the resulting product was a robustly tan- nic and dynamic release replete with black olives and cassis. Black Stallion's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, which Holdenried describes as the winery's "cult wine," is aptly named Transcendent (limited production; $175). The label skillfully blends the highest-quality barrels from Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder, Diamond Mountain, and Howell Mountain vineyards, whose distinctive characters come together to produce a powerfully dense wine with a silky mouthfeel and an enduring finish. In his ongoing mission to highlight the terroir of Napa, Holdenried says he began producing appellation-specific wines to help Black Stallion's guests discover the nuances of the area's various regions. "I am trying to find that seamless quality in the wine, when the different aspects melt together into one," he explains. Black Stallion Winemaker Ralf Holdenreid is pictured in the winery's barrel room. PHOTO: ALEXANDER RUBIN A Whole New World EMBRACING CALIFORNIA TERROIR AT BLACK STALLION ESTATE WINERY by Emily Coleman and Diane Denham

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