The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2016

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20  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2016 SAN FRAN INSIDER I f you're fortunate enough to have one, a good neighbor can increase the value of your property. In the case of the producers and winegrowers of the Stags Leap District AVA and their immediate neighbors to the east in Atlas Peak, good means "good tasting," and that's exactly what SF Insider experienced at tastings hosted by these neighboring AVAs. While they share different vantage points of the dramatic Vaca Palisades Range, which forms their common border, their terroirs and wines are different and equally fascinating. The northern border of Atlas Peak is home to Napa Valley's largest contiguous vineyard, Stagecoach. Developed by Dr. Jan Krupp in the early 1990s, more than half of the estate's 650 acres under vine are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Krupp describes the vineyard's volcanic red basalt soils as "Napa's terra rossa," and the AVA enjoys a longer growing season as it sits well above the fog line. Krupp's 2013 The Doctor ($100), a savory Tempranillo- dominated blend, is lean, focused and expressive on the mid palate. "Atlas Peak is one of Napa's single best AVAs for off vintages," said Alpha Omega Winemaker Jean Hoefliger, who looks to the AVA for consistency and for "some of the best Petit Verdot in the world." Hoefliger barrel ferments 80 percent of his Stagecoach 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($200) to polymerize and round the significant tannins. From the AVA's eastern facing slopes comes a refined, deeply-spiced block- buster: Hesperian Winemaker Philippe Langner's 2013 Kitoko ($80), redolent with lilac, madrone and meaty, ruby-black fruit. From a high vantage point at the Antinori estate, Antica Napa Valley, a dramatic view of Foss Valley opens up below. The valley floor sits at 1,450 feet and the soils here are the alluvial loam series Bale and Perkins. According to Antica Estate Director Glenn Salva, 25 percent of the estate's vineyards are planted on the Foss Valley floor to Chardonnay clones Weimer and 4. At higher elevations the volcanic soils weathered from basalt are Aiken, Boomer, and Hambright series. These rocky, well drained soils are where the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Sangiovese Grosso clone from Montalcino's Il Poggione are planted. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($110) from Antica's Townsend Vineyard, a west-facing site that overlooks Rector Canyon and the Stags Leap AVA below, was deeply-extracted and lean with red berries, dried herbs, smoke and balsamic notes. As the region's first AVA, Stags Leap marks a moment in time for Napa Valley. The AVA is character- ized by wide diurnal temperature swings and west-facing toe slopes that reach 400 feet up the Palisades. Cliffe Lede Winemaker Remi Cohen presented a blind vertical spanning 19 vintages (1991–2010) from a variety of soils—low-vigor Boomer and Aiken are found upland with Bale and Haire series loams at lower elevations. While the oldest vintages were fully developed and tiring, the perfectly balanced 2002 Silverado Solo was the first in a series of showstoppers—rich red and black cherry, complex spice and an earthy sapidity. Cliff Lede 2003 Poetry was floral with a bright hit of sweet brown spice and cherry vanilla through the finish. The wide range of wine styles produced in the AVA makes it challenging to generalize, but the mid-2000s were revealed as a sweet spot. A racy and restrained 2005 Ilsley had dark plummy fruit, sassafras and star anise; the 2006 Chimney Rock Tomahawk was umami and black fruit upfront with a lean, focused finish; and a 2007 Terlato was dominated by ferrous minerality, madrone and white pepper. Of the El Niño vintages, Pine Ridge Vineyards Winemaker Michael Beaulac's 2009 was the most com- plete, with blue and black fruit, well integrated cedar and vanilla. Good Neighbors by Deborah Parker Wong Antica Napa Valley Estate Director Glenn Salva oversees 600 acres of valley floor and hillside vineyards. Cliffe Lede Winemaker Remi Cohen led a blind vertical spanning 19 vintages from the Stags Leap AVA.

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