2010 William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
 
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William Knuttel and 4.18 out of 5 stars! Old-School Trellis on Rutherford's Dust

When Bob MacDonnell purchased this 250-acre property in the heart of Rutherford, everyone in the valley understood the potential of the spot. On one side sat mighty Caymus. On the other, Andy Beckstoffer's $15,000/ton Georges III. MacDonnell spared no expense in re-shaping and replanting the vineyards, attracting two of the greatest names in Napa Valley history — Grgich Hills and Duckhorn — to Round Pond.

Bill Knuttel didn't have Grgich's or Duckhorn's resources, but the brilliant winemaker who first cut his teeth at Saintsbury before moving north to Cabernet-land, couldn't get his mind off one small parcel at MacDonnell's ranch. Set almost adjacent to the winery, it had wide spacing. More unusually, the trellising was decidedly old-school, with broad-leaf canopies shrouding bunches from the summer sun. To Knuttel, those rows seemed perfect.

"The soils at Round Pond, just like at Caymus, are textbook Rutherford Dust," Knuttel told me. "I've never seen a vintage where Caymus' Cabernet didn't fully ripen. The risk is the contrary — the possibility of overripeness. If the canopies are properly tailored, one or two stretches of 100-115 degree days fry exposed bunches. The berries shrivel and raisin, making for syrupy, Port-like Cabernet. The first time I saw that patch at Round Pond was in 2000. I wanted the fruit, but when you're standing behind Grgich and Duckhorn, it's best to temper expectations."

Each summer, from 2000 until 2009, Bill Knuttel lobbed in a call to Round Pond. Initially, he'd had hope, but as the years passed, reality set in. "I called almost out of habit. It was like a ritual. They were always courteous, but the answer was always the same: 'Give us a call next year.'"

In the summer of 2009, Knuttel dialed up Round Pond for the 10th time. Unbeknownst to Bill, his timing couldn't have been more perfect. With the global economy in freefall and Napa's Cabernet market teetering, the old California trellis plot had freed up. Knuttel steadied himself, then locked into every cluster he could.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate called the 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintage "epic," describing the top wines as "utterly brilliant, with deep colors, precise fruit, ripe tannins and expressive aromatics." But in what would otherwise be one of the coolest growing seasons in valley history, the valley was struck by two surprising heat waves, one in July and one in August.

Many had already begun to pull leaves, exposing bunches to the sun in the hope of jumpstarting maturity, when the thermometer soared to 110 degrees. All would suffer blistering consequences. As to Bill Knuttel's 2-acre parcel, set almost right up against the Round Pond winery, the old California trellis system provided ample shade to the small-berry Cabernet Sauvignon. Even after the second heat spike in August, the vineyard never missed a beat.

Knuttel's 2009 release of this stunning Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was one for the WineAccess record books, drawing an average score of 4.18 stars out of five, one of the highest ever for an under-$30 Cabernet. This beautifully chiseled 2010 takes it up a notch.

Deep purple/black to the edge with plush aromas of crushed black fruits, red raspberry and violets, gently charred by new French cooperage. Rich, plush and powerful on the attack, though still showing the marvelous restraint that's so typical of the top Cabernet of 2010, the core is packed with black-fruit preserves, drizzled with crème de cassis, all the opulence buttressed by the firm Rutherford Dust tannins.

$58 on release. HALF price this morning on this WineAccess exclusive. Just 80 cases are up for grabs!
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Tasting Notes

2010 William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
"Deep purple/black to the edge with plush aromas of crushed black fruits, red raspberry and violets, gently charred by new French cooperage. Rich, plush and powerful on the attack, though still showing the marvelous restraint that's so typical of the top Cabernet of 2010, the core is packed with black-fruit preserves, drizzled with crème de cassis, all the opulence buttressed by the firm Rutherford Dust tannins. Drink now for its primary fruit hedonism or far better, lay this one down for 7-9 years in a cool cellar."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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