2010 Ellman Family Cabernet Sampler 4-Pack
 
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4.2 out of 5 stars and Ellman Family Vineyards The Opus One School of Thought

When you taste Kian Tavakoli's tiny-production Cabernet Sauvignons, drawn primarily off of Andy Beckstoffer's famed Georges III Vineyard in Rutherford, it doesn't take long to figure out where Tavakoli cut his winemaking teeth.

There seem to be two schools of Cabernet thought these days in Napa. On one side are those who push extraction to the max, extending the time the juice is on the skins, "punching down" aggressively, extracting color and tannic structure.

The second school, the one Kian perfected at Opus One, is more gentle. Conscious of the potential astringency of Napa's tannins, Tavakoli prefers to keep the cap in place, "pumping over" instead of "punching down." One of the most brilliant young winemakers in the valley explained why.

"There are no sure things in winemaking," Kian told us a month ago over dinner at Farmstead. "But if you're looking for concentration at all cost, and you don't mind the hard tannins that might come with, you're more aggressive with punch downs. On the other hand, if your winemaking strategies were formed at Opus One, you prioritize textural richness — and you handle your Cabernet more gently."

When we first tasted the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons in barrel, particularly those made by the second school of thought, we discovered some of the more sumptuous young reds we'd ever tasted in the valley. Initially, the critics were on the fence, but over the last year, both the Wine Advocate and now Wine Spectator have mimicked our early enthusiasm.

In what would go down as one of the coolest growing seasons in Napa history, particularly on the rockiest valley floor sites, yields were unusually small, down close to 30 percent off the highs of 2007. At the October harvest, Tavakoli would bring in small-berry clusters of magical phenolic maturity. Natural sugars were high, but more importantly, seeds were perfectly brown, and tannins were ripe. "In my opinion, 2010 was the finest Cabernet vintage I've seen since I came to the valley," Kian told us.

Eleven months ago, in its exhaustive vintage report, Parker's Wine Advocate called the 2010 campaign "epic." Earlier this month, Wine Spectator finally piled on, featuring Napa's top 2010s in a glossy cover story on this "Classic Vintage for the Cellar" — few richer, plusher or more velour-like than the 2010 Ellman Jemma and BB.

The 2010 Ellman Family Vineyards Jemma Proprietary Blend Napa Valley is jet purple/black to the edge with gorgeous aromas of cassis, graphite and licorice, tinged with new-wood cedar. Suave and silken in the mouth, with terrific black-fruit concentration, while showing no sign whatsoever of overripeness or desiccation. Finishes with sumptuous, dusty tannins, arguing for a decade or two of cellar slumber.

The 2010 Ellman Family Vineyards Brothers Blend (BB) Proprietary Blend Napa Valley has a slightly more Right Bank makeup, a gentle dose of Lake Cynthia Vineyard Merlot plumping up and sweetening a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon base. Deep purple to the rim with high-pitched aromas of mountain blueberry, sweet spice and anise. Intense and youthful on the attack, packed with crushed-black-fruit preserves, black cherry and bitter chocolate, the tannins here are softer and more elegant. Drink now-2025.



Tasting Notes

2010 Ellman Family Vineyards Jemma Proprietary Blend Napa Valley
"(95% Cabernet Sauvignon, the core of which is drawn from Rutherford's famed George III, adjacent to Caymus) Jet purple/black to the edge with gorgeous aromas of cassis, graphite and licorice, tinged with new-wood cedar. Suave and silken in the mouth, with terrific black-fruit concentration, while showing no sign whatsoever of overripeness or desiccation. Finishes with sumptuous, dusty tannins, arguing for a decade or two of cellar slumber."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

2010 Ellman Family Vineyards Brothers Blend (BB) Proprietary Blend Napa Valley
"A small dose of Lake Cynthia Vineyard Merlot plumps up and sweetens a base of 60% Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon) Deep purple to the rim with high-pitched aromas of mountain blueberry, sweet spice and anise. Intense and youthful on the attack, packed with crushed-black-fruit preserves, black cherry and bitter chocolate, the tannins here are softer and more elegant. Drink now-2025.""
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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