2011 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve Napa Valley
Expert Rating
AG 95+ points
(Read the full review below)
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2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Honor Roll
Wine Retail Price Score
Colgin Tychson Hill $610 97+
Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyard $500 96+
Scarecrow Estate $750 96+
Screaming Eagle Estate $1500 95-97
Anderson's Conn Valley Estate Reserve $85 95+
Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select $250 94-96
Schrader Ccs Beckstoffer To Kalon $350 95
95+ Points: Right Beside Colgin, Araujo and Screaming Eagle

We've often said that this job is mostly about timing. Never more so than today.

Last October, we returned to St. Helena. We'd spend two weeks cellar-hopping, as we always do, from Howell Mountain to Pritchard Hill. The subject of our barrel-tasting was the topsy-turvy 2011 vintage. By day 5, it was clear that the quality of Napa's Cabernets had never been more disparate. Lesser growers had been hamstrung by the growing season drama. But the greatest names of the valley had turned out some of the most extraordinary and surprising estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons in a decade.

Our decision to advance our trip by almost four months wasn't made without careful deliberation. The market is now piping hot for the Napa elite. With the overheated Silicon Valley just an hour and a half away and the Dow hitting new highs, the rich have forgotten Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and AIG, and are once again spending like there was no tomorrow.

As yields were down by as much as 40 percent in 2011, the laws of supply and demand were hardly on our side. If we waited for the experts to publish their 2011 vintage reports, and if the scores were as high as we suspected, we could well be shut out by our most reliable partners. So we resolved to roll the dice, making our purchases before the pundits weighed in — hoping to convince wineries to hedge their vintage bets on WineAccess.

From 2002-2010, few estate-grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons have consistently outpointed Anderson's Conn Valley. On these manicured hillsides above St. Helena, where the Conn Creek flows off of Howell Mountain, Todd Anderson has authored nine straight 94-98 point Reserves. First it was Robert Parker who raved about these "long-lived, impressive Cabernets," suggesting that most vintages won't hit full stride for 20 years after bottling.

In 2009, Parker handed over the Wine Advocate reins to his handpicked protege, the inimitable Antonio Galloni. Galloni never missed a beat, following up where Parker left off, rating the luscious 2009 Anderson's Conn Valley Reserve 96+ points and the 2010 93-96 points.

With Galloni's report still a month away, we headed up to Conn Valley with fat wallets — loaded for bear.

How to explain the astounding quality of the 2011 Anderson's Conn Valley Reserve in a vintage where lesser producers struggled? The 2011 growing season was a roller coaster, featuring a series of ever-changing weather patterns. "The key to the vintage," we were told, "was in who was controlling the vineyard work. If you were paying someone else to farm your grapes, relationships between growers and winemakers were adversarial. Growers complained of the added cost of sending vineyard crews out two or three times more frequently than in a normal vintage. Winemakers contended that if the added work wasn't done, the fruit would never reach full maturity. Many long-term relationships were strained."

But at Anderson's Conn Valley — as at Araujo, Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle, Colgin and Schrader — there were no such concerns. "We never worked so hard as we did in 2011," Todd Anderson told us. "It seemed like the vineyard crew spent the entire summer and fall in the vines." All that work paid mammoth dividends at harvest.

The 2011 Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a marvel. Dark purple to the rim with superb vibrancy and lift, this magnificently textured 2011 combines extraordinary natural concentration with the high-toned backbone that so distinguishes 2011. Packed with dark cherry, plum and licorice, showing great density and compactness, the tannins are firm, arguing once again for a decade or two of cellar slumber.

Our negotiations with Anderson had nothing to do with price. This is no time to go bargain-hunting in Napa Valley, particularly when negotiating with one of the hottest properties in the valley over the last decade. Our discussions were only about quantity — and our willingness to commit before Galloni again weighed in. By the time we made our way down the mountain towards St. Helena, Todd Anderson had earmarked 1,500 bottles of what would soon be one of the highest-scoring Cabernets of the stunning 2011 vintage.

Tasting Notes

2011 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve Napa Valley
"Vibrant, layered and beautifully textured, the 2011 impresses for its vibrancy. Dark cherry, plum, graphite, menthol, tar and licorice all jump from the glass in an intense, powerful, structured wine endowed with serious density. The tannins are naturally quite youthful, but they should begin to soften with time. Todd Anderson and his team have done a magnificent job with the Estate Reserve."
95+ points -- Antonio Galloni, vinousmedia.com


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