2012 Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Reserve Napa Valley
 
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Oakville Napa Valley The Mystery on Oakville Cross Road

We first learned about this possibility four months ago. We were speaking to Sean Capiaux, the régisseur at O'Shaughnessy, about the phenomenal quality and quantity of the 2012 harvest in Napa Valley. Sean confided that while the vintage was indeed extraordinary, even at O'Shaughnessy where yields tend to be some of the lowest in Napa Valley, 2012 gave birth to a bountiful crop. "If you're growing your grapes, there's a strong likelihood that you simply can't sell everything you brought in. The question is, with 2013 as good and almost as big as 2012, what do you do with the extra juice?"

Traditionally, when top Napa Valley wineries produce more Cabernet Sauvignon than they can sell, they turn to what's called the "bulk" market. The "bulk" market is a liquid bourse where millions of gallons of wine are exchanged each year. In most vintages, "bulk" wine is just what it sounds like — flawed outtakes dumped at hefty discounts. But in 2012, a vintage Chuck Wagner of Caymus called Napa Valley's "watershed year," much of the "bulk" is the exact same wine that will be bottled under the winery's own label!

In March, as even the cream of Napa Valley looked to lighten up on their 2012 Cabernet inventory, they took one look at the bulk market prices and went with a different approach. With the best Cabernets fetching "just" $50/gallon (the rough equivalent of $150/case!), some of the valley's biggest names elected to hedge their bets, bottling a portion of their Cabernet with unbranded corks and without labels. If sales were strong, they'd label. If not, they'd engage a third-party broker to sell off the "shiners" (wine speak for bottles without labels or branding), with the understanding that the name of the seller would never be divulged to the buyer.

It was precisely this scenario that played out when Chad got the call from the fine-wine broker at Appellation Trading.

"I've been doing this for almost four years, but I've never seen anything quite like this," Chad explained. "Had the call come from a different broker, I might have called 'B.S.', but Appellation is as reliable as they come. Any slight doubt I might have had with Appellation's story disappeared when I popped the cork."

This is what Appellation Trading Company would reveal: The 2012 CHAD Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Reserve was entirely barrel-fermented in 75% new French cooperage. More importantly, it was grown and bottled by a winery whose cellar and vineyards are on Oakville Cross Road. Given those clues, there were just five possible sellers: Opus One ($225), Groth ($125), PlumpJack ($225), Rudd ($185), and Silver Oak ($125).

In May, just days after we first published this story, WineAccess received emails from Opus One, PlumpJack and Rudd, each confirming that they were NOT the maker of Chad's 2012 Oakville Reserve. Those confirmations seem to have reduced the possible makers of this staggering 2012 to a field of two.

The mystery 2012 CHAD Oakville Reserve is black/purple to the rim, infused with a fleshy bouquet of graphite, black raspberries, black currants, and crème de cassis, framed by a healthy dose of new-wood cedar. Sweet, broad, and expansive on the attack, with a luscious mix of black-fruit concentration and surprising elegance. This is a powerhouse Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon that, while delicious out of the gate, will continue to put on weight and added complexity over the course of the next 15 years.



Tasting Notes

2012 Chad Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Reserve Napa Valley
"The 2012 Chad Oakville Reserve is black/purple to the rim, infused with a fleshy bouquet of graphite, black raspberries, black currants, and crème de cassis, framed by a healthy dose of new-wood cedar. Sweet, broad, and expansive on the attack, with a luscious mix of black-fruit concentration and surprising elegance. This is a powerhouse Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon that, while delicious out of the gate, will continue to put on weight and added complexity over the course of the next 15 years."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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