2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
 
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Winemaker Philippe Melka & The Vines of Parallel Philippe Melka on Black Diamonds Vineyard

Philippe Melka earned his degree in Geology at l'Université de Bordeaux in 1989. But in Melka's last semester, on a whim, he registered for a wine course at the Faculté d'Oenologie, long led by enologist Denis Dubourdieu.

A half-dozen years later, Melka had completed two graduate degrees, one in Agronomy, the other in Enology. Upon graduation, the most storied châteaux of Bordeaux engaged young Melka, including Cheval Blanc, Petrus, and Haut-Brion. Already sporting a résumé that could have helped him land a winemaking post anywhere in France, Melka, always adventurous at heart, traveled the New World's wine trails. In 1994, the Frenchman moved to Napa, where he would quickly establish himself as a winemaking force to be reckoned with.

From the mid-1990s to today, Melka has authored world-class Cabernets at Dalla Valle, Bryant Family, Hundred Acre, Dana Estate, Seavey, Gemstone, Roy Estate and Vineyard 29, earning as many 100-point scores as any Napa Valley winemaker in recent history. In 2005, Food and Wine Magazine named Melka its "Winemaker of the Year." Robert Parker, always one of Melka's brightest torchbearers, named him one of the "nine most important winemakers in the world."

All that's great news for Philippe, but not such great news for boutique winery startups looking to convince Melka to lead them to Napa's high-scoring Promised Land. While no one in Napa Valley is more understated and self-effacing than the M. Melka, and while we never eyeballed an invoice for Melka's winemaking services, from what we understand, the annual fee paid by clients flirts with the sticker price of a Panamera Turbo.

Like most things in life, if you want to be a player in Napa Valley, you've got to pay to play.

While we recalled a Napa sommelier once singing the praises of this 2009 powerhouse, we knew little about Parallel's tiny production. Then, while perusing the results from the annual San Francisco International Wine Competition, we noticed that the 2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon had returned home sporting Double Gold. That's when we started digging deeper. Here's what we uncovered.

First presented at Premiere Napa Valley with the release of the stunning 2006, the Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon stunned collectors when the judges awarded it one of the top five scores of the tasting, alongside Bill Harlan's BOND, Lail, Shafer and Chappellet.

The core of the Parallel Cabernet is drawn from a magnificent planting high above St. Helena. If you've spent any time studying Napa's geology and the way in which ancient rockslides filled the substrata with the volcanic material that would give birth to the most richly structured Cabernets in the New World, as soon as you step out of the car — looking down at Lake Hennessey in the distance and the valley below — you know you're standing on hallowed ground. When we asked how the proprietors had manage to lure Philippe Melka to Parallel, the answer was quick and straightforward: Melka hadn't come for the money. The enologist to the stars hardly needs more pocket change. He came, we were told, as he has for the last 20 years, to practice his craft with the small-berry Cabernet clusters off of Black Diamonds Vineyard. If you have a few minutes, check out the video below:


In the glorious 2009 vintage, Melka pulled out all the stops, making for Double Gold in San Francisco and one of the more luscious, gorgeously honed Cabernets of the vintage. Deep-purple/jet-black to the rim, infused with explosive aromas of crushed black fruits, violets, and graphite, bracketed by new-wood cedar. The attack is rich, broad and compact, wonderfully pure and finely delineated, packed with blackberry preserves, drizzled with sweet créme de cassis. Gorgeous on release, we've come to never underestimate the phenomenal age-worthiness of Melka's Cabernets. Drink now or, far better, lay the 2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon down for a decade. Bottles like this one are made for cellar slumber.

$72 to the winery's closely held mailing list. A tad over HALF PRICE today on WineAccess. Shipping included on 4.


Tasting Notes

2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"Deep-purple/jet-black to the rim, infused with explosive aromas of crushed black fruits, violets, and graphite, bracketed by new-wood cedar. The attack is rich, broad and compact, wonderfully pure and finely delineated, packed with blackberry preserves, drizzled with sweet créme de cassis. Gorgeous on release, we've come to never underestimate the phenomenal age-worthiness of Melka's Cabernets. Drink now or, far better, lay the 2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon down for a decade. Bottles like this one are made for cellar slumber."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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