I would like to wish all my readers Happy 4th of July, that is Independence Day! While I am situated in Australia, I am and will always remain an American. I don’t know if I’ll be moving back home while there is so much left of the world to explore, but it’s nice to visit, particularly on holidays not celebrated so much internationally, such as today and Thanksgiving (which yes, I know, is celebrated in Canada, though not on the same day). And since getting back to the USA this year is somewhat inconvenient, I’m celebrating my pursuit of Happiness by opening a bottle of Clos Du Val Napa Valley Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.
It is difficult to source a good range of wine from the USA in Australia. A few producers are imported, but it’s just the tiniest fraction of what’s available in California. Of the half-dozen wines from the USA that I’ve covered, I’ve only bought two here – the other four I either picked up in London or in California. I can understand why – there’s no shortage of New World style wines produced locally, and available with a different rate of tax so they’re much more affordable. Still, while I love Australian wines, I also like having choices.
In this case, I did have some choices, as I had this bottle delivered to the hotel of an Australian friend who was visiting California, and he kindly brought it back for me. I picked it because I had just been reading up on the Judgement of Paris and wanted a wine from one of the producers who represented California. I will save a fuller description of that historic event for some other time, but just quickly it was a tasting in Paris organized by then young British wine merchant Steven Spurrier (now a hugely respected gentleman of the wine trade) which pitted some top wines of California against their red Bordeaux and white Burgundy counterparts. Tasted blind by French judges, the top red was Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the top white Chateau Montelena, both of California. Clos Du Val was one of the Californian reds with its very first vintage, and this is the successor to the wine tasted then, some 32 vintages later.
Given its role in establishing California on the world stage as being capable of producing fine wines to compete with the best of France, it’s somewhat ironic that Clos Du Val was founded by two Frenchmen, John Goelet and Bernard Portet. They set about to produce top quality wine in the style of Bordeaux and spent two years searching for suitable terrior. Portlet concluded that what would become the Stags Leap AVA was just the place, and in 1972 Goelet bought 150 acres and the two of them established the winery. Shortly thereafter they expanded to include vineyards in nearby, though much cooler, Los Carneros for the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Many vintages and awards later, they produce two lines of varietal wine at different price points, a collection of smaller volume Winemaker’s Signature wines, as well as this, their flagship.
I wrote a bit about the Stags Leap District when I covered Stags’ Leap so I won’t go into any more detail than that, except to point out that the Stags’ Leap wine was classified from the greater Napa Valley, meaning not enough of the fruit in the wine came from the District itself, while this wine is in fact classified from Stags Leap District AVA. Likewise, we’ve seen these grape varieties before. And as with the two other Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from California, this is also a blend, with 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot.
As to this wine itself, in the glass it is clear and bright, with a deep ruby colour, beginning to transition to blood red. It has quick, thin legs with some colour in them. On the nose, it’s clean with medium plus intensity, a developing character with notes of sweet spice, both fresh and dried black fruits, plums and currants, plus a bit of gingerbread. On the palate it’s dry, with notes of cocoa powder, sweet spice, dried blackcurrant, and red meat. It has medium plus acidity, medium plus very fine, velvety tannins, medium plus body, medium alcohol, a medium plus flavour intensity, and medium plus length with a cranberry finish.
While all men are created equal, such is not the case for wines. This wine is excellent – a delicious, well balanced, strong wine, but not overpowering. There’s a great depth of flavour, and not a note out of place. It’s also very fresh for a wine almost 8 years old. It has good typicity, well almost – I wish every California Cabernet tasted like this, and I wish I didn’t have to bring them into Australia personally.