2006 Temple Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
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Temple Family Vineyards The Back Side of Howell Mountain … and the Rule of Two Zeros

It's a story that we're hearing far too frequently of late. As Napa Cabernet Sauvignon bottle prices surge past the highs of 2007, the cost of grapes drawn from the top vineyards in the valley have skyrocketed. The general rule of thumb when translating grape cost into bottle prices suggests taking the tonnage price and dropping two zeros to arrive at a bottle price. The math behind that rule of thumb has caused many of the top growers in Napa to reconsider the financial upside of their own estate-bottled Cabernet programs.

Tom Farella, down in piping-hot Coombsville, told us that some of the biggest winery names in the valley are now paying $7500/ton for Farella Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. "Suddenly, grape growing is looking awfully attractive," Farella told us, adding that he's now selling off 85% of his Cabernet Sauvignon, leaving almost nothing for estate production.

The Krupp family's Stagecoach Vineyard is one of Napa's most sought-after sites. Sitting high on the nosebleed slopes of Atlas Peak and Pritchard Hill, Jan Krupp confided, "The winery business is good, but the farming business is great!" Last week we were told that some are paying up to $8500/ton for Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon. Sure beats growing green peppers.

For Arthur Spencer, despite the quick adoption of Jamie Whetstone's luscious Temple Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at some of NYC's hottest spots, the arithmetic would be much the same.

Since our first visit to Spencer's mountain oasis back in 2009, when we slalomed up Howell Mountain Road -- past Outpost, Robert Craig and 100pt Randy Dunn -- before dropping down the back side, we've been mesmerized by the extravagant mountain concentration and chiseled, age-worthy structure of the Temple Family Cabernets. After Temple fruit became an integral part of some of the top bottles in the valley, finally, in 2004, Spencer decided to test the market, hiring Whetstone to craft a few hundred cases of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Then Arthur took his show on the road, quickly taking NYC by storm, earning feature placements at Jean-Georges, BLT Steak, Gotham Bar and Grill and The Ritz Carlton on Central Park. Eventually, we'd feature five vintages of Temple Cabernet Sauvignon on WineAccess, drawing raves and 160 perfect 5-star ratings from buyers.

In recent years, the notoriety of Temple Cabernet Sauvignon has spread like wildfire, pushing up the asking price at harvest to Farella-like levels. While Arthur Spencer enjoyed his day in the Central Park sun, ultimately the grape growing arithmetic proved too compelling. Finally in 2010, despite all the WineAccess and sommelier accolades, Spencer -- like so many others -- decided to shrink production, banking on the sure-fire profit of Napa Valley grape growing.

The cool Indian summer of 2006 would set the stage for one of Whetstone's greatest efforts off of Temple Family Vineyard. That early morning October harvest would yield a small crop of sparse clusters, littered with BB-sized berries. After a several-day cold soak, nursing out color and extraction, Whetstone worked his magic.

Deep purple/black to the edge, with lush aromas of blackberry, boysenberry and black olive, lightly laced with new wood cedar. The attack is rich and powerful, though finely honed. Silken in texture, muscular yet sleek, this is one of those brilliant 2006s that's drinking beautifully now, but will really benefit from another 3-5 years in a cool cellar.

Tasting Notes

2006 Temple Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"Deep purple/black to the edge, with lush aromas of blackberry, boysenberry and black olive, lightly laced with new wood cedar. Rich and powerful on the attack -- still primary and showing no sign of its 4 years in bottle -- the texture here is velour-like, finely honed, sleekly muscled, arguing strongly for a 3-5 year rest in a cool cellar. Excellent 2006."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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