• The Final Release: Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux

    The Final Release: Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux

    Chateau Moulin de Tricot is the first place my mind goes when I think of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux. They personify all of the grace and regal structure that Margaux has been associated with for centuries. Unfortunately, the estate was recently sold, and the fruit will be blended into another chateau's Grand Vin de Bordeaux. The 2019 release is the last vintage of our go-to Margaux wine.

    Margaux's gravel soils is especially suited to Cabernet Sauvignon. Still, Merlot plantings have steadily increased on the left bank to provide more soft-fruited wines that capitulate to a global palate. Moulin de Tricot always stuck with tradition, with 75% of the vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have unusually dense vine spacing with 9,500 vines per hectare, providing naturally concentrated yields.

    Margaux wines have often been called "the iron fist in a velvet glove," explaining the balance between grace and dead-serious regal structure. Even more, every experience with Moulin de Tricot has felt like an "aha" moment. The intensity of dark fruit, graphite, cigar box, and a long finish is something extraordinary. Stock up on this final vintage while you can!

    Shop Chateau Moulin

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Timeless Napa: 2019 Snowden The Ranch Cabernet

    Timeless Napa: 2019 Snowden The Ranch Cabernet

    Finding jaw-dropping hillside vineyards beyond each weave and turn of Napa Valley's roads is common. However, finding winemakers that live up to the landscape by pursuing graceful, nuanced, and site-specific wines is more of a challenge. Diana Snowden Seysess typifies this essence like few others in the valley do, and the winery's history explains why the personification of place is her ultimate intent.

    Snowden eschews many winemaking practices that have become commonplace today. No cultured yeasts are employed, no enzymes to enhance color, no "bleeding" of the must for concentration, no fining, and no sterile filtration. Diana presses off the skins when they're dry rather than ongoing maceration to pick up more density and extraction. The wines never see more than 50% new French oak.

    The Snowden Ranch began in 1878 after the Homestead Act encouraged the settlement of new agricultural lands in the valley. The Snowden family took control of these vineyards in 1955, planting different parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon. Through the 1980s, the family worked closely with Warren Winiarski of Stags Leap Cellars to improve their vineyards. Finally, Snowden Vineyards produced its first wines from the family estate in 1993.

    Diana grew up in Napa Valley and graduated from the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program. In 2003, she became the oenologist at Domaine Dujac and worked alongside her now-husband, Jeremy Seysses, crafting some of Burgundy's most celebrated wines. Her time between Napa and Burgundy brings extraordinary perspective. These wines re-shape how Napa Valley speaks to sense of place.

    Shop Snowden

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Beauty & the Boss: 2017 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon

    Beauty & the Boss: 2017 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon

    Oakville's To-Kalon is arguably the most hallowed vineyard in all of California, planted in the 1870s. Most notably, it's been the main component of Robert Mondavi's Reserve and To-Kalon cuvées. Mondavi also buys fruit from the MacDonald family, whose parcel sits at the desirable westernmost part of the vineyard at the Mayacamas Mountain Range base. For 60 years, the family farmed their head-trained Cabernet Sauvignon and sold all the grapes to Mondavi.

    Graeme MacDonald has an impressive resume: He studied wine at UC Davis, then worked at Opus One, Colgin, Kongsgaard, and Scholium Project. But his most difficult task was convincing his family to let him farm and produce wine from their sacred To-Kalon vines. After all, they could sell the grapes to Mondavi for $20,000 per ton. Graeme and his brother, Alex, negotiated with their family to harvest a small portion of the vines, and their inaugural release was the 2010 vintage.

    While To-Kalon translates to "The Highest Beauty," its first owner, Henry W. Crabb, was fond of calling it "The Boss Vineyard." MacDonald's Cabernet is both beauty and boss. It's incredibly structured with hints of black olive, bitter chocolate, and graphite. While the fruit spectrum is dark, vivid raspberry and violet tones point to Graeme's insistence on preserving freshness and avoiding the overripeness that has permeated Napa in recent decades.

    Graeme's philosophy is as old-school as the 19th-century photos on his small farmhouse's walls. The rare California Sprawl vine-training allows the canopy to shade grapes, prevent sun damage, and preserve freshness. As neighbors tear out vines that aren't capable of giving six tons per acre, Graeme is taking steps to ensure the oldest vines continue to thrive. The unique location of Macdonald's parcel is over 90% gravel, which allows the vines to travel deep below for water and nutrients. In the context of Grand Cru To-Kalon, MacDonald's parcel sits in the sweetest spot.

    Shop MacDonald

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Provence Renegade: Domaine de Trévallon

    Provence Renegade: Domaine de Trévallon

    Eloi Dürrbach of Domaine de Trévallon believed Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon made a compelling duo in a very particular pocket of Provence. Since the early 1970s, he's proved this slice in Les Alpilles, aka the Little Alps, can produce some of France's most celebrated wines.

    Trévallon is situated in the remote village of Saint-Etienne-du-Grès, a limestone goldmine on the north side of the Alpilles mountains. Driving here from Bandol on one sweltering July afternoon, I began to wonder how Cabernet Sauvignon could thrive here. But upon arriving on the northern side, temperatures quickly dropped, and I immediately felt ushered into this new land, Baux de Provence. The garrigue shrubbery of the south gave way to a picturesque roadway leading to Trévallon.

    The estate covers 17 hectares of almond and olive trees and vines, most of which are planted to the latter. Cabernet Sauvignon was widely planted here pre-phylloxera, but in the 1930s, the appellation system set rules establishing which varieties could be labeled under particular zones. Cabernet Sauvignon got the boot. Still, Dürbach knew Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah achieved something greater as a blend than each on their own, so he labeled his rouge under France’s lowly Vin de Pays category.

    After whole cluster fermentation, the red wines age in large, old foudre, a critical element in giving them tremendous clarity and brightness. They call to mind the dark graphite and tobacco-inflected wines of Pauillac, with the black olive and violet of Côte Rôtie. Burgundy, Rhone, and Bordeaux take the lion’s share for most significant French reds. Still, the consistency and heights that Trévallon achieves each vintage are unsurpassed. Dürrbach has won the hearts of collectors across the globe!

    Shop Domaine Trevallon

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Rutherford Bench Whisperer: Cathy Corison

    Rutherford Bench Whisperer: Cathy Corison

    When asked to name my favorite Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, my mind instantly goes to two places: Cathy Corison in the valley and Philip Togni on the mountain. Not to take away from the brilliant wines produced elsewhere in Napa, but these two heroes sit at a different table. If Togni is famous for his rugged and dark fruit-inflected Spring Mountain wines, then Cathy Corison is the standard-bearer for Napa's most restrained and finessed style.

    The Corison Cabernets strike me for their ethereal yet still defined, concentrated black cherry, violets, cigar box, and graphite tones. The most surprising feature is how beautifully the wines age despite being lauded for their grace and elegance. Experiences tasting Cathy's bottlings back to the 1990 vintage are great reminders of how well these age and hold their structure and fruit.

    Corison's Napa Valley bottling comes from vineyards spanning Rutherford Bench, and Kronos Vineyard is at Kathy's home winery in St. Helena, from old vines planted on phylloxera-resistant St. George rootstock. The Kronos bottling may not be dubbed "Cult California" like some of the behemoth 100-pointers, but it is still among the rarest and, as far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest wines in America.

    Terroir-driven Napa Cabernet has become a selling point over the last decade, but Cathy has been on this path since founding her winery in 1987. Of course, the story began many years before. After graduating with a master's degree in enology from UC Davis, Cathy worked at Freemark Abbey in 1978 and was the winemaker at Chappellet throughout the '80s. As styles shifted in Napa, she was resolute in telling her own story, emphasizing a sense of place without artifice. Corison Winery sources grapes from the famed seven-mile-long Rutherford bench, just west of Highway 29.

    Shop Corison

    Posted by Max Kogod