2009 Clos Julien Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County
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Vineyards of Lake County The Red Hills Time Machine

When you hear the name "Beckstoffer" anywhere on the Silverado Trail, the talk is all To Kalon, the manicured Oakville parcel that attracts the biggest winemaking names in the valley for an annual 5-digit-per-ton auction. Who shells out the big bucks for Andy Beckstoffer's To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon? Fred Schrader, Behrens and Hitchcock, Luc Morlet, Tor Kenward … you get the picture. What do those bottles go for? Well, if you're really feeling your oats this morning, go ahead and pick up a magnum of To Kalon "Old Sparky." It'll only set you back 3k. Chump change.

But the Beckstoffers didn't get where they are by playing it conservatively. In 1996, after years of soil studies, they gambled on the high elevation slopes of the Red Hills. Set between the Vaca and Mayacamas ranges, these nosebleed vineyards are perched at 2,000 feet, high above the Napa fog line. The soils are impossibly rocky, strewn with giant chunks of black obsidian rock, yielding wonderfully juicy, high-toned Cabernets.

As too many of you recall, between 2008 and mid-2011, we treated the WineAccess membership to weekly salvos of Napa Valley Cabernet bargains. Back in the crisis years, we were trotting out top quality 2005s and 2006s for little more than $20/bottle. Buyers were ecstatic. Justifiably so. But when the market turned around, on the heels of four straight short crop harvests and a rebounding economy, many refused to turn back the clock. That's what drove us, and several of To Kalon's greatest winemaking names to Beckstoffer's new stronghold in the high ground of the Red Hills.

The summer of 2009, as Robert Parker would report in his exhaustive vintage coverage, was glorious. For guys like Beckstoffer who are always pushing the envelope in the vines, every cluster was harvested well before the October rains, delivering BB-sized berries of superb concentration. Ninety percent of the 2009 Clos Julien Cabernet Sauvignon is drawn from Beckstoffer's manicured Red Hills holdings, explaining the flashy raspberry, wild-cherry juiciness, and all that high-toned mountain freshness. The rest is comprised of a healthy dollop of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon muscle, injecting a lush core of crème-de-cassis chewiness.

Tasting Notes

2009 Clos Julien Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County
"Deep ruby to the edge. Fresh aromas of black cherry, a splash of cassis, tinged with sweet spice. Rich and juicy on the attack, full of red raspberry sweetness, a splash of crème-de-cassis, firm and lush. The finish is high-toned and vibrant, with fine, supple tannin structure, speaking to this rocky, high elevation site. Drink now for its primary fruit juiciness age for up to 4 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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