All Shook Up — Shawna Miller’s Earth-Shattering 2014 Vintage
Luna Vineyards winemaker Shawna Miller has worked harvests in both hemispheres and in the hallowed cellars of Beaulieu Vineyards and Rombauer, and her mentors have been some of the greats: Tom Peterson, Philippe Melka, Julien Fayard, Rob Lloyd, and Rob Mann. So, it was with much anticipation last week that we arrived early for our 9:30am appointment to meet with her, and to taste her 2014 California Cabernet Sauvignon.
Good thing we’d skipped our coffee that morning (so as not to wreck our taste buds) — the story Miller told us was bracing enough.
It was 3:20am on Sunday, August 24, 2014, when a magnitude-6.0 earthquake rocked Napa Valley out of slumber. The town of Napa, Mount Veeder, Yountville, and Oak Knoll sustained the most damage. Residential and commercial losses were pegged at $300-$400 million, with the wine industry taking a $80 million hit.
When the tremors shook Miller out of bed, her first thought was to make sure her family was safe. Right after, she thought of how her wine and her colleagues at Luna had fared. The epicenter of the quake was mere miles away. Later that morning, her heart sunk when she saw Steve Matthiasson’s photos on Twitter of barrels strewn about his family winery. Luna’s barrel room was just two miles east of Matthiasson.
Miller was filled with dread as she drove before daybreak to Luna. “Everything was dark, the power was out, and as I pulled into the winery, I braced myself for the impact. I shined my flashlight into the tasting room — broken glass was everywhere,” she said. “I walked over to the winery and took a deep breath before opening the cellar door…
“It was unbelievable. We had lost all our wines glasses in the tasting room — but no wine, no tanks, and only one barrel was knocked on its side. We were incredibly lucky.”
Lucky or not, winemakers in 2014 had to balance quick cleanups and damage assessments with the hard work of harvest. In the last of three consecutive drought years, grapes had ripened at breakneck speeds and harvest was underway the morning the quake struck — the earliest it had been in memory.
“People kept asking me if the grapes fell off the vines,” Miller said, chuckling a bit at the thought. “I said, ‘No, they’re fine — they’re resilient,’ and in fact, in 2014, though our yields were down, we had beautiful, small clusters, with intense concentration.” Echoing Miller’s comments, Wine Spectator has called 2014 a “dream vintage, with quality along the lines of 2012 and 2013.”
A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Sirah, Miller’s source for the Cabernet asked her to sign an NDA. And even though we can’t tell you who’s growing the Cabernet, we CAN tell you that it’s a powerhouse, prominent wine producer in Paso Robles, and chances are you’ve enjoyed their wine.
The 2014 Luna Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, the second vintage of Cabernet Miller produced, is a beautifully sleek, luscious wine that embodies the concentration and structure of this “dream vintage.” Deep ruby-red in color, gorgeous black cherry fruit is tinged with licorice and violet notes. Velvety, lush, and juicy on the attack, packed with bright and sweet dark-berry and blue-fruit preserves and graphite notes. Velvety tannins are supported by mouthwatering acid, and a lengthy finish reveals vanilla and mocha spice.
Miller’s suspenseful earthquake story wasn’t the only thrill we got that morning. We tasted a $38 Cabernet, but left with an agreement to offer it to WineAccess members for just $14.99/bottle. Shipping included on 6. Will you taste the luck bottled in this exceptional 2014 Napa Cabernet without listening to Miller’s story as you do so? We hope so.