Succulent, dusty tannins are bolstered by racy acidity and the finish gushes with more baking spice, cinnamon and mocha.
Why would wunderkind winemaker Jay Buoncristiani (author of the 98+ point “The Core”) agree to make just a few hundred cases of wine from four acres in Oak Knoll with a Bay Area orthodontist? Read on for the story of how toothbrushes helped forge a remarkable partnership.
Buoncristiani and his three brothers are one of the great cult winemaking stories in Napa Valley. Beginning as home winemakers, with a few barrels of Cabernet in a Napa Valley garage, the Buoncristianis’ ascent has been steep, culminating with Jay’s 98+ point 2014 Cabernet called “The Core.”
But if Jay’s sterling reputation as a winemaker is now well established, his talent for FINDING wine is less appreciated. Of all the wild stories of Cabernet discoveries, even Jay will tell you that the one that led him to Scott and Pauline Asbill’s Penché takes the cake.
Lots of successful people dream of buying a property in Napa Valley, living the good life as they tend a few acres of world-class Cabernet. Most learn quickly that “the good life” and “tending” don’t jive. Scott Asbill is either a glutton for punishment or a slow learner. The story Jay told us about the Bay Area orthodontist and his vineyard determination not only explains why Penché is such a powerhouse label, but also why a wunderkind winemaker like Jay Buoncristiani partnered with the Asbills.
In 1999, Scott and Pauline Asbill bought their dream home in the shadow of a centuries-old oak tree, which inspired the label name “Penché,” French for “leaning, bending, or tilting.” By 2002, an insidious rumor made its way up the valley. The vine mealybug was said to be infesting the fine, nutrient-rich soils of Oak Knoll.
Pauline Asbill was concerned; Scott couldn’t sleep. Pauline awoke one morning to find her husband already on edge, armed with a pair of new toothbrushes. Convinced Scott had lost his mind, Pauline nonetheless went along as they walked each row, inspected every plant, pulled back bark on anything that looked suspicious, and scrubbed the wood with those toothbrushes to remove anything that was suspect.
That’s either love or madness or both, but stories like these have a knack for traveling the Napa Valley grapevine, particularly in circles like Jay Buoncristiani’s. Jay made his way to Oak Knoll to meet the orthodontist-turned-master-grape-grower with the intention of buying some fruit. When he saw the meticulous attention Scott Asbill paid to this sensational vineyard, Jay decided to do one better. He and Asbill agreed to team up to make just a few hundred cases of one of the valley’s more exquisite Cabernet and Proprietary Red Blends.
In 2008, Buoncristiani culled together Penché’s “Argent” Red Blend from a patchwork of Napa Grand Cru vineyard sites. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes hail from the Penché Estate Vineyard in Oak Knoll, while Merlot comes from Larry Hyde Carneros Vineyard. Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is sourced from the 900-foot elevation Saunders Vineyard in Oakville, and a block of coveted Malbec from Stagecoach Vineyard rounds it all out.
Upon release, Wine Spectator called the 2008 Penché “Argent” Proprietary Red a “bright, ripe, juicy” blend of “richness and depth.” The same wine has matured into a chiseled, opulent powerhouse, showing little sign of bottle age. Gorgeous deep garnet to the rim, complex aromas of black fruit, plum, currants, and sweet baking spice. Vibrant, elegant, and supple on the attack, mouth-coating black cherry fruit mingles with black raspberry, and cedar spice tinged with black olive notes. Succulent, dusty tannins are bolstered by racy acidity and the finish gushes with more baking spice, cinnamon, and mocha.
92 points from Wine Spectator. $50 on release. Just $27.99 per bottle. Total production: 250 cases. The last 350 bottles of the vintage are now up for grabs — ONLY on WineAccess.
Very good for the price
A very balanced and delicious wine. A bargain at this price.
like the 2007, pleasant, refreshing and smooth drinking red.
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