Thursday, February 27, 2014

The bagging of Lot 215, Oakville East - Exposure 2014 Cabernet Franc #PNV14

In three of the past four years I have traveled to Napa with a group of Orlando friends to participate in Premiere Napa Valley (PNV), the annual, invitation-only, grand tasting and auction targeted at members of the wine trade. In three of those four years, The Wine Barn has acquired one of the auction lots and this year was even more fruitful for our town as (two lots) and The Wine Barn (one lot) kept our flag flying high in Napa. In this, and a subsequent post, I will profile the wineries whose offerings will, in the future, be gracing the tables and cellars of my fellow Orlandoans.

Continuing its four-year winning streak, The Wine Barn Syndicate bought a 5-case lot of 2012 Cabernet Franc produced by Oakville East. I will profile the winery first and then return to the auction lot.

Oakville East, as the name foretells, is located in Napa Valley's Oakville AVA on its eastern border with the Vaca Mountain foothills. I have previously written about the Oakville AVA and described its climate as "Mediterranean-like" (a result of the interaction between the cool San Francisco Bay air and the warmer air from the San Joaquin Valley) and its soil in the east (our area of concern) as being dominated by the volcanic composition of the Vaca Mountains.

The grapes included in Oakville East's wines are sourced from micro-vineyards owned by six families and farmed by their individual staffs as well as by an Oakville East vineyard manager who oversees/consults with them on an ongoing basis. Prior to placing their grapes into the collective, these small-plot owners sold their grapes to their larger, more-famous neighbors. The vineyards are currently farmed organically but are on a path, beginning in 2008, towards biodynamic farming and have enlisted Phillippe Armenier, noted bio-dynamicist and winemaker, to assist them on this journey. The Oakville East vineyards are shown in the table below.

                                    Oakville East Vineyards




Cabernet Sauvignon

On the Rocks


Cabernet Franc

Side Hill Lie


Cabernet Franc

1.5 acres
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc Petit Verdot

1 acre (1500 vines)

Cabernet Sauvignon

2 acre

1300 vines

Vertical Trellis
700 vines

New Block
660 vines


3.5 acres

The winery's first release was a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon comprised of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. That wine lives on today as Oakville East - Exposure. The winery also produces a Bordeaux blend which is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc and a smaller Petit Verdot contribution. This wine is called Oakville East - Cold Stone. The winemaker for the initial offering was Sarah Gott of Phelps and Quintessa fame but, with the commencement of the 2010 vintage, Marie-Laure Ammons, a Phillipe Melka protégée, has taken on the role of head winemaker.

Oakville East's 2014 PNV offering was a 5-case lot made from grapes sourced from the Saunders Vineyard. This Cabernet Franc wine was bolstered with tiny amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged for 22 months in 70% new French oak barrels. The winery describes it as a "huge wine with ... soft, elegant tannins" that make it equally suitable for early drinking or cellaring.

We encountered the wine for the first time at the Women Winemakers' event at the Bardessono Hotel on Thursday, February 20th, and tabbed it as a wine of interest both on the basis of the winemakers enthusiasm and its quality. Andrew's (owner of The Wine Barn) notes: "Pencil lead, violets, currants, and licorice. A dense wine but with a good mineral and acidic core. It shows its Cabernet Franc character very well. An excellent 40-seconds+ finish with the oak presence, although evident, in balance." This wine joined the Mondavi and J. Davies lots on our acquisition-candidates list.

Maurie-Laure Ammons, Oakville East Winemaker
On the day of the auction, we got out early to take a final taste of our acquisition candidates. Our motives were pure but we got sidetracked into tasting Schrader (again and again), Scarecrow (again and again), Shafer (did not want Elias to feel lonely), Arkenstone (they have a great Sauvignon Blanc, by the way), and Memento Mori (Arkenstone winemaker is a partner in this venture; he is a comer).

Wish she would conclude that interview -- Scarecow
Has there ever been a kinder, gentler winemaker
That's wine on Andrew's lips, not blood

The bidding began while we were still at lunch and by the time we got to the auction hall, the madness was in full swing. Everything was twice to three times its highest previous price. We kept waiting for common sense to intrude but there was no stopping the flashing paddles or the frenetic auctioneers. We began to panic. Ron kept yelling for a strategy session (a little late, don't you think). "The boat is leaving the station and we are not gonna be on it," he screamed again and again (he lost his voice, by the way). Finally the auctioneer deigned to look in our direction and pinged our paddle just as we were about to lower it dejectedly for the 45th time. We kept waiting for someone to jump in and steal our thunder. It had happened before. But no one did this time. They were all spent. Or, Boa Constrictor-like, they were stuffed after the "meal"and had to crawl off into their collective corners to digest their commitments. We did not care. We had our lot. The 2014 Oakville East - Exposure Cabernet Franc.

Used with permission of Andrew Montoya, The Wine Barn

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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