Bargain Hunting Up Howell Mountain Road
Wow, the 2006 Temple is just as good if not better than the 2005. The blackberry notes are prominent on the nose and the finish. I found the WA tasting notes to be right on the money. Time will tame the slightly rough tannins but all in all this is an outstanding cab.
-- Mark from San Antonio, TX
My goodness this was good! I only hope that more is coming one day. A deep, rich, smooth mountain Cabernet.
-- Mikel from Dekalb, IL
Temple Family Cabernet
We were blown away with this wine. Excellent example of mountain fruit. Unbelievable value. I am sad it is sold out because I would certainly order more. I can't wait to see how it evolves over the next 5+ years (if I can keep my hands off it).
-- Tom from Dekalb, IL
The 2006 growing season in Napa Valley was hot, by far the warmest since 2004. Punctuated by heat spikes, before the long, drawn-out Indian summer, the crop size was small -- far smaller than 2005 or 2007. On the valley floor, growers inattentive to proper leaf canopy management, were obliged to sift through blistered clusters, less the dedication give way to Port-like flavors.
But high above the fog line, most particularly on Howell Mountain, meticulous growers came through with flying colors, putting out some of the most massive wines of the decade, all braced by firm tannins that would argue powerfully for a decade or two of aging. Sean Capiaux at O'Shaughnessy had a field day, as did Randy Dunn, Hundred Acre, Outpost and Tor Kenward, all of which would earn 94-96pt raves from The Wine Advocate -- most sporting triple-digit price tags.
In the early spring of 2008, we left our poolside bungalow at Meadowood with directions in hand. The concierge's Google map print out would take us up Howell Mountain Road before splintering off onto White Cottage. We'd pass Dunn's stronghold, then wind our way onto the eastern facing of the mountain. Just ten minutes past Outpost, we'd reach our destination, a gorgeous, tree-lined oasis, and 40-acre cutout, where Arthur Spencer's manicured Cabernet Sauvignon plants flourished, drenched in mountain sun. A half-hour later, we'd taste a lineup of estate-grown Cabernets, and discover the most massively concentrated, lushly textured, solidly muscled bargain of the brilliant 2006 vintage.
Most of Spencer's thick-skin, small-berry Cabernet Sauvignon would be sold off to the Howell Mountain elite just after harvest in the second week of October 2006. Spencer, as we'd learn that April morning, had held back just eight tons for his estate production, handing it all over to Jamie Whetstone so the brilliant young winemaker could apply his cellar magic.
True to Parker's description of the finest mountain wines of that topsy-turvy summer, the 2006 Temple Cabernet Sauvignon -- tasted from barrel -- was glistening purple-black in color, infused with aromas of crushed black fruit preserves, sweet mountain herbs, laced with a dash of new wood cedar (the barrel from which we tasted was new). The attack was big, rich and powerful, packed with blackberry and black raspberry, gently laced with warm vintage creme-de-cassis -- all bracketed by the firm, dusty tannins so typical of the greatest 2006s.
We tried to lock in on the spot, but Arthur, while charming, was having none of it. He was determined to lay the 2006 down, and would eventually bring his voluptuous 2007 to market before the more structured '06. As we made our way back down the mountain, retracing our steps, again flashing by the $200/bottle mailboxes, we made a note. We'd reach back out to Arthur Spencer on the first of September and March -- each year, until the winegrower either gave in, or hung up on us. It would take three calls, but eventually we just wore Arthur down.
In January, we finally offered what would turn out to be the highest rated under-$30 Cabernet Sauvignon from the hot summer of 2006. We squeezed out 900 bottles from the tight-fisted Spencer -- offered at a price that spoke so deliciously of the Crisis years. Of the 143 buyers, 48 published ratings and or reviews. 20 would come in at 4 stars. 24 at a perfect five!