2012 Nichols Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder Napa Valley
 
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Britt Nichols and Thatcher "Blame it on THATCHER!"

In 2006, in order to pay her way through school, a young collegian landed bartending jobs at three of the hottest restaurants in the Monterey area — Michel Richard's Citronelle, Estéban, and The Chef's Table. While counting out tips at 2am, the waiters were often treated to tastes of some of California's greatest wines — what Britt Nichols came to call "the DUI leftovers."

"In Monterey, like here in Napa, when you go out, you either appoint a designated driver, walk, or you leave a quarter of a bottle on the table. I was almost always walking. Once I was of drinking age, I took full advantage."

Within a few months, Nichols caught the wine bug. The following semester, she changed her major to enology, doubling up on her course-load to catch up to the rest of the class. After graduation, the young enologist moved to Napa and worked the harvest at Chappellet at the top of Pritchard Hill.

After her stint at Chappellet, Nichols went on a tear. Six months at Jordan. A year at Keller Estate. Then, in 2010, she landed one of the most sought-after enology jobs in the valley, working under Nicolas Morlet at Peter Michael, monitoring the making of the 95+-point 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon "Les Pavots." Just before we met Nichols for the first time on a warm summer evening in 2013, one of Napa's most revered Cabernet-makers, Bordeaux-émigré Philippe Melka, had lured Britt Nichols to his consultancy.

That introductory dinner at Angèle was, as always, a blast. A dozen winemaker friends joined us on the patio. No one came empty-handed. The conversation grew increasingly animated as the Kistler, Peter Michael, Melka and Bond corks popped. Britt Nichols was charming but reserved, seemingly letting the guys be guys. But when the conversation turned to the extraordinary 2012 vintage, one that Chuck Wagner at Caymus had already called "a watershed year" for Napa Valley, Nichols suddenly perked up and took center stage.

Six months later in the tasting room, we'd learn why.

After the roller coaster summers of 2010 and 2011, Napa's winegrowers were treated to day after day of turquoise skies in 2012. Temperatures were mild. Nights were cool. Most remarkably, despite the impeccable health of the Cabernet Sauvignon clusters from Oakville to the top of Mount Veeder, yields were high, creating an unusual opportunity for young winemakers looking to get a foot in the door with some of the top vineyards in the valley. It would be this precise scenario — with one unexpected plot twist — that caused Britt Nichols to reach out to WineAccess last fall.

Like many of the most talented young enologists in Napa Valley, Nichols recognized the unique opportunity and rolled the dice in 2012. In the end, she crafted four sensational 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons — 4 to 8 barrels of each — all drawn off vineyards that would have been off-limits in a less copious vintage. Given the cost of grapes, new French cooperage, and the price of other wines coming off the same vineyards, Nichols hoped to sell her Pritchard Hill, Oakville, and Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignons for $75/bottle. And well she might have, had Thatcher — now 6 months of age — not thrown a monkey wrench into his Mom's travel and marketing plans.

The just-released 2012 Nichols Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon is a KNOCKOUT. Drawn from a steep hillside planting perched at 1,800 feet in elevation. In 2011, the vineyard barely eked out 1.5 tons per acre. A year later, yields were a healthy 3 tons/acre. Hand-harvested in the first week of October under perfect conditions, clusters were larger than normal, berries fabulously concentrated and juicy.

Deep purple/black, infused with a luscious mix of small black fruit, ripe cherry and graphite, laced with new-wood cedar. Rich, round, and voluminous on the attack, packed with the juicy blackberry preserves that are so typical of the wonderfully round, pliant Cabernets of the vintage — at once dense, supple, and compact, finishing with textbook Mt. Veeder backbone. As to drinkability, there are two options here: Drink over the course of the next two years for the sheer primary-fruit hedonism of it all — or lay down until 2020 for the late inning fireworks still to come.



Tasting Notes

2012 Nichols Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder Napa Valley
"Deep purple/black, infused with a luscious mix of small black fruit, ripe cherry, and graphite, laced with new-wood cedar. Rich, round, and voluminous on the attack, packed with the juicy blackberry preserves that are so typical of the wonderfully round, pliant Cabernets of the vintage — at once dense, supple, and compact, finishing with textbook Mt. Veeder backbone. As to drinkability, there are two options here: Drink over the course of the next two years for the sheer primary-fruit hedonism of it all — or lay down until 2020 for the late inning fireworks still to come."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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