For decades, St. Helena's Spottswoode has consistently been a source for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon focused on understated elegance. In 2011, I was fortunate enough to live on the eastern edge of the Spottswoode vineyard, spending summer evenings watching the sunset over the towering Mayacamas Mountain range.

The alluvial clay loam soils mark this territory gently stretching down from the Mayacamas, and drainage of this terroir at the foot of the mountains separates exceptional from the ordinary. It's estates along this stretch, like MacDonald further south in Oakville, that produce wines of great structure that age effortlessly.

The property here was founded in 1882 but has changed hands several times, until 100 years later. In 1982, owner Mary Novak produced the first estate-bottled wine with the help of a famed consulting winemaker, Tony Soter. Spottswoode became one of the first vineyards in Napa Valley to apply organic farming in 1985.

Spottswoode, as Parker alludes, is the prime destination in the valley for wines built upon their sense of grace, much like those of Château Margaux. You won't find inky black fruit character or milk chocolate here. And with age, Spottswoode maintains inflections of black cherry fruit and licorice, with tobacco and cedarwood becoming more prominent. Barely registering at 13% alcohol, these wines maintain a close connection to times past.

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