2009 Carl Roy Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder
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Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley Sumptuous Tannins on Mt. Veeder

In speaking to the top mountain Cabernet-makers in Napa Valley, it's clear that the true story of the often PHENOMENAL 2009 vintage has yet to be told. The reason, it seems, is simple. This is an unusual tale full of tangents and subplots, one in which many got caught with their pants down, but others came through with the harvest of a lifetime.

We've now made all the rounds. On Howell Mountain, our source was Sean Capiaux, whose 2009s off of Cimarossa's west-facing perch earned 95pt raves from The Wine Advocate. We spoke to Craig MacLean who again worked his lush, chiseled, blackberry compote magic at the base of Spring Mountain at Juslyn. Luc Morlet and Wes Steffens way up at the top of Spring Mountain Road would rate the Vineyard 7 & 8 2009s higher than either the 2008s or monumental 2007s. Phil Titus, at Chappellet on Pritchard Hill would largely mimic the refrain.

As to the last mountain AVA, our source was Chad Alexander, who turned out one of the more magical Cabernet Sauvignons of the vintage off of three Hollywood acres 2,000 feet up Mt. Veeder -- the mountain that Capiaux and MacLean like to call "Chad's Mountain."

MacLean, perhaps, would be the most vociferous. "Everyone talks about 2007, and I understand that. We had tremendous concentration at Juslyn. Small berries. High sugars. But we also had extraordinarily firm tannins, most of which were obscured in youth by all the ripeness and alcohol. In many ways 2009 was like 2007, but with far more mature tannins. To me, it's the best of the decade. And out of the gate, perhaps the best in 20 years."

One after another, Capiaux, Titus, Morlet and Alexander sang a similar tune. If 2007 is viewed as the denser, and more age-worthy of the two vintages, the top 2009s are upstaging their '07 cousins, with their cornucopia of black fruit juiciness, silken texture, and plush tannin structure. But unlike 2007, where almost every winery was successful, 2009 also featured clunkers. How was it that the greatest mountain Cabernet winegrowers couldn't stop talking about their uber-rated 2009s, while others above the fog line weren't uttering a word?

On a lazy June afternoon, as Alexander bounced us up the warmest face of Mt. Veeder in his Outback, pointing out cutouts and ravines where he'd spent so many childhood mornings. At 2,000 feet, under a turquoise sky, with a stretch of white solar panels set just in front of a Hollywooder's 20,000 square foot home, we trekked the three volcanic acres that accounted for what Alexander believes is the finest Mt. Veeder Cabernet he's ever made.

"2009 was really a perfect growing season IF you were ready in time. There were lots of similarities to 2007. A dry growing season. Pretty mild. Not much in the way of intense heat spikes. The berries were small in 2009, just as they were in '07. Sugars were high. But grapes were just juicier. The vintage was made or broken in early October. For those of us who were working on warm facings and where yields were really small, we harvested everything at the beginning of October. When the rain came, the critics made a big deal out of it. But for Sean, Craig and me, the storm was a non-factor. Not only was everything in, but what we picked was as pristine as any clusters we've ever harvested on Mt. Veeder."

Chad's hand-picked three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon off the famous actor-comedian's prized ranch were picked on October 5th. Not only were the grapes sweet, but Alexander said the seeds were brown and perfectly ripe. When the mountain tannins are hard, winemakers back off long vinifications, fearful of astringency. But in 2009, Chad went for the gusto, treating his super-ripe, small berry clusters to a seven day cold soak, before a long, 18-day vinification, explaining not only the phenomenal concentration of the 2009 Carl Roy Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, but this powerhouse's wonderfully refined, silken texture.

The 2009 Carl Roy Cabernet Sauvignon off those three Mt. Veeder acres is jet purple/black in color. Infused with luscious aromas of blackberry preserves and sweet mountain herbs, the attack is both massive and generous -- a huge mouthful of crushed black fruit compote, finely layered, silken in texture, bracketed by classic '09 sumptuous tannins.

Tasting Notes

2009 Carl Roy Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder
"Jet purple/black in color, infused with luscious aromas of blackberry preserves and sweet mountain herbs, gently dosed with new wood cedar. The attack is both massive and generous -- a huge mouthful of crushed black fruit compote, finely layered, silken in texture, bracketed by classic '09 sumptuous tannins. A brilliant effort -- like all the others -- harvested a week before the storm. Drink now for its primary fruit juiciness or age for 6-8 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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