2011 Fiancetto Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Loam Napa Valley
 
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The Vineyards of Napa Valley Cash on the Barrel

In June 2012, when we first saw the size of the 2012 crop on vines above St. Helena, we saw the makings of today's story. After four consecutive small harvests — down as much as 50 percent off the highs of 2005 — Napa Valley was starving for a bumper crop. Based on what we were looking at, growers were about to get just that.

The weather held out right up until a precocious harvest. Vineyards that typically turned out 3 tons per acre were gracefully carrying five. Berries were juicy and plump. Seeds had browned to maturity ensuring supple tannin structure. Pickers took to the rows under perfect blue skies. When the tonnage was finally evaluated, 2012 would go down not only as an excellent crop, but the second largest in recent Napa Valley history.

Many young winemakers, bootstrapping new brands with their savings, recognized the opportunity provided by 2012. Some resisted temptation and purchased the same tonnage in 2012 as they had in 2011. Others upped the ante, jumping on grape contracts from vineyards that were typically off-limits — doubling down on purchases. Those who did knew they were playing with fire, as the money they'd set aside for bottling their 2011s was now being spent on 2012s. They'd need to do something to bridge the gap, and they'd need to do it quickly. That's where we came in.

Since his first releases in 2009, Ry Richards — the wunderkind winemaker who spends his days aside Phil Titus at Chappellet — has been turning out deep, dark, plush Cabernet Sauvignons drawn off handpicked parcels on the valley floor. Each micro-cuvée is named for the soils from which its drawn. In 2010, some of you got your mitts on Richards's superb 2010 Fiancetto "Sobrante Loam," lighting up the WineAccess scoreboard with 4- and 5-star ratings and reviews.

Ry is a winemaker, not a businessman, as straightforward as they come. So when he called to describe the challenge that's now facing so many on the Trail, we listened attentively. When Richards then cut to the chase, saying that he'd be perfectly willing to trade his 2011 "Gravelly Loam" for the cash that went into making it, we didn't miss a beat. The funds that would go towards paying for 2012 clusters were wired to the Fiancetto checking account — and WineAccess made off with one of the most opportunistic Cabernet bargains in a long, long time.

This one's an absolute beauty. The 2011 Fiancetto Cabernet Sauvignon "Gravelly Loam" is drawn from the poor rocky soils above St. Helena, a stone's throw from 100-point Hall and Duckhorn's Three Palms. While the site would carry 6 tons of fruit per acre in 2012, the cool summer of 2011 would yield just two!

Glistening purple/black to the rim with chiseled aromas of crushed black fruits, violets and new-wood cedar. Dense, briery and compact on the attack, packed with blackberry preserves, all braced by the fine tannins of 2011. Plush and polished right out of the gate — the top wines of 2011 are as elegant on release as any vintage of the new millennium — but don't be fooled. Like all of Richards's Cabernets, the backbone here is sneaky. Drink now — 2020!



Tasting Notes

2011 Fiancetto Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Loam Napa Valley
"Dense, briery and compact on the attack, packed with blackberry preserves, all braced by the fine tannins of 2011. Plush and polished right out of the gate — the top wines of 2011 are as elegant on release as any vintage of the new millennium — but don't be fooled. Like all of Richards's Cabernets, the backbone here is sneaky. Drink now--2020!"
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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