The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2016

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20  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2016 SAN FRAN INSIDER W hat's the difference between a cult wine and a unicorn wine? While they both trade on scarcity, quality and occasionally scores, price isn't always a deciding factor. To well-heeled wine enthusiasts, cult wines are whatever they can afford, but find nearly impossible to obtain. To sommeliers, unicorn wines are those they hunger to drink and pour but must go to great lengths to procure. On Mondays at San Francisco's RN74, Wine Director David Castleberry proffers by-the-glass pours of unicorn wine. On one particular Magnum Monday, it was Domaine de Montille 2008 "Le Cailleret" 1er Cru de Puligny-Montrachet hand-carried from France by Raj Parr for that very purpose. After making a few treks to Ovid Winery, which perches like an aerie on the face of Pritchard Hill and looks west over Napa Valley, to taste with winemaker Austin Peterson, cult wine has begun to take on a deeper meaning. Historically associated with wine styles that have earned 100-point scores, it's fair to say that cult wines don't have a reputation for being universally food-friendly while the exact opposite applies to unicorn wines; they enjoy and often times demand the company of food. Peterson—who shares a well-known surname with wine- maker Dr. Dick Peterson and his daughter Heidi Peterson Barrett but is no relation—is a second-generation winemaker who made and sold his own wine to finance his Davis educa- tion. When Ovid founders Mark Nelson and Dana Johnson appointed him winemaker in 2010, he had been assistant to consulting winemaker Andy Erickson there since 2006 and worked for advisor Michel Rolland after he graduated. When you're at the solar-powered, gravity flow winery, it's inevitable that your attention is continually drawn outward in an effort to drink in the panoramic view. But even during a late summer lunch when the table is laid with the estate's organically-grown fruit, nuts, vegetables and flowers, accom- panied by Peterson's decidedly food-friendly wines, there's little distraction from what's happening in the glass. After tasting the 2012 releases of Experiment V6.2 and Cabernet Sauvignon late last year, this generous vintage reveals that Ovid's estate vineyard, which was planted in 2000, has now come fully into its own. The Cabernet Franc–dominant Experiment V6.2 is a blend with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon that Peterson said was developed from an earlier Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot blend. Medium- bodied, with cool tannins and seemingly endless secondary flavors of tea, tobacco and earthy minerality, its dried sage or coyote brush signals the dominant variety. Blended with close to 25% Cabernet Franc, Peterson's Cabernet Sauvignon shows classic cassis and violet markers, dark blackberry and mulberry fruit, but without any berried sweetness and more depth and structure. Described as a "pretty baby," the tannins are resolved and on the plus side of medium. The drier vintages that followed 2012 would naturally bring more concentration to Ovid's mountain fruit, but without tasting the five-case lot of 100% estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon labeled S.P.Q.R. that was offered at Premiere Napa Valley, that's just an assumption based on Peterson's description of the vintage. That particular lot of Ovid will be available through the Nakagawa Wine Company in Tokyo, effectively making this cult wine a unicorn for American consumers and sommeliers alike. Unicorn, Cult or Both? story and photos by Deborah Parker Wong Ovid winemaker Austin Peterson during Premiere Napa Valley 2016. The winery's five-case lot of 100% estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon labeled S.P.Q.R. was nabbed by the Nakagawa Wine Company in Tokyo. Experiment V6.2 retails for $230 in Tokyo. At San Francisco's RN74, David Castleberry has reinvented the wine program to include Magnum Mondays, Half Bottle Hump Day, a Flying Blind flight of benchmarks to challenge tasting skills and the ever-elusive unicorn wines that are announced by RN74 on Instagram.

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