Charmed but challenged by Beringer (read here), we roll up the 29 to St. Clement Winery. Another lovely Victorian home awaits us at the top of a terraced vineyard.
Fritz gilded the Gilded Age, thanks to fancy mirrors and stained glass sold to San Fran (as well as the Beringers…$6,000 of their $28,000 was Fritz’s stained glass). This was in the bathroom:
Today, Beringer owns them, which means Treasury (Penfolds) owns them, which means I sell them. But the wines I/they distribute have white labels and sit sadly in a basket. We will taste their winery ownlies (this “winery only” club only thing is quite the trend in Napa). Matt Johnson is their winemaker.
The space looks cleaned up Victorian, light and clean. My wife smells honey or wax in the room from somewhere in the past.
We start with red before white (how Burgundian!).
2010 Steinhauer Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
from 1,800 feet above sea level on Howell Mountain. Its clear ruby core leads to heavy aromas and flavors of bright, tart blackberry, orange peel, finished by flint, ash, and forest floor. It is outstanding today (5 of 5), partly thanks to 6 years since harvest. $95
2012 Star Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
We bomb down to Rutherford Valley floor with Star Vineyard’s 2012 Cabernet. Aromas ache of fruity pomegranate syrup, blackberry, and violet candy core, framed by heavy charred tobacco and graphite. The palate feels dry, with intense but finely powdered tannins, mild acid. Flavors plump up ripe red cherry fruit lingering with pencil graphite minerality. Bright, lifting, viscous, yet tight, green, jaunty, mineral and dark…too young but very good (4 of 5). $90
2013 Oroppas, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Now for Clement’s house cab. Valley and mountain fruit make up 2013’s Oroppas. 96% of it is Cabernet. This young thing looks purple and inky. Aromas smell of strawberry jam, fruit rollup, mint, but toast, a slice of vanilla, anise, and subtle cedar match the fruit. The palate feels dry but supple, luxurious, viscous yet just shy of flabby. Drink it now. It is very good, approachable, numb, too easy to last (4 of 5). $60.00
2012 Oroppas Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
If Clement’s house seemed like light squeeze, their 2012 Reserve has all the right stuff. 50% comes from Rutherford’s flan, 50% from Armstrong ranch high on Mount Veeder, followed by 6 to 8 more months in barrel. Oroppas Rsv powers out of the glass like port with hot cranberry sauce, pomegranate syrup, blueberries, honey, florals, hints of light smoke and fresh tobacco. Everything is medium plus, making for a jumpy, structured, ageable red. It is outstanding (5 of 5), will reward five years of patience, and $95.
2012 Red Blend St. Clement’s Ark and Dove
Malbec (yes) and Petite Verdot (yes-er) from Mt Veeder’s (yes-est) Parris Vineyard 2,000 fasl. In a world of drought, mountains matter. Elevation keep grapes cool. If ink had a flavor….Ark and Dove is plummy, fleshy, purple, dry, with medium acidity, and a medium plus tannic, iron structure. Plums and pomegranate. Grilled hatch peppers. Charred oak. We buy it because it is odd, needs a decade, and is very good (4 of 5). $60
Cool. Whites anyone?
2014 Chardonnay, Abbot’s Vineyard, Carneros
From right off cold, wet San Pablo bay comes Chardonnay. Passion fruit, blanched almonds, citrus, toast, ash, and mineral define it. The body feels lush and plush, yet cut by citric, early-picked fruit. Very good (4 of 5) but our palates begin to waver. $31
2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Bale Lane
Verbena, more passion and guava fruit, pear lemon juice, lemongrass, and a slight sulfuric ash make for a mouthwatering, medium bodied, saline, yet tropical white. It is very Napa, no where near NZ or Sancerre, but very good (4 of 5) $27.
So St. Clement’s winemaker Matt Johnson makes very good wine. They chase scores with huge Cabernet like everyone here. Also, they try to grab club member money by offering ever-narrowing, single vineyard wines. Each red needs years still. The whites are good but afterthoughts. Tasting them here is like trying to predict when we will live on Mars. Hints of awesomeness run throughout, but it is too soon.