Bursting Parker's Bargain Hunter Bubble
As we cellar-hopped in the valley in the late spring of 2012, tasting 2010 Napa Cabernets in bottle, we quietly wondered when the news would break. The coldest growing season on record had produced a very small crop, down close to 30% from the highs of 2007. And while the vines were reported to have been several weeks behind in mid-August, a phenomenal Indian summer, punctuated by a couple well-timed heat spikes, jump-started sugars.
When the harvest finally came, the top addresses on the valley floor -- and even more so, in the fully exposed mountain cutouts -- would be treated to extended hangtime, bringing clusters to magical phenolic maturity.
We were floored by the vintage, from the nosebleed slopes of Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder and Pritchard Hill, to the sculpted vines of the Oakville Grade. Still, we wondered. Out of barrel, these wines were anything but transparent. While the colors were deep, the flavors truly profound, the 2010 Cabernets were elegantly and powerfully reigned in, a bit closed. How would the critics -- so often intrigued by the obvious -- respond? Six months later, we'd find out.
In December 2012, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate would publish the vintage report that would suck every top-shelf 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon out of Napa's cellars. The Advocate called the vintage "epic," making for Cabernets that are "magnificent and viscerally thrilling." Two dozen wines would earn 98-100 point scores, many drawn from those south facing mountain patches already described.
For the most part, The Wine Advocate Issue #204 burst the bargain hunter's bubble. The combination of the vintage hoopla and the tiny harvest served only to reinforce prices, pushing them past the highs of 2009. There would be just one counter example -- a deep, dark, powerfully concentrated blend, drawn from two of the most priceless, high elevation perches in Napa Valley. It would come from Peter Snowden's Rockledge -- and it may well be the finest mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ever proposed on WineAccess at anything like today's price.
The 2010 Rockledge Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of two mountain components. The first is a steep, southeast facing slope set at 2,000 feet in a protected carve out at the top of Mt. Veeder. The second is drawn from one of the most magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon spots this side of Pauillac -- a magnificently exposed 8 acre plot on priceless Pritchard Hill!
Opaque purple-black to the edge, infused with crushed blackberry and red currant, splashed with sweet mountain herbs. The attack is simply massive, slowly peeling away fine layers of black fruit density, finally showing off the voluptuous core that just sings of Mt. Veeder. Firmly muscled, vibrant and terrifically persistent, the tannins are Pritchard Hill dusty and sumptuous, arguing for a decade or more of cellar slumber.