2010 Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera Proprietary Red Napa Valley

2010 Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera Proprietary Red Napa Valley

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A past Wine Access story about 2010 Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera Proprietary Red Napa Valley

100pt Celia Welch — An Introduction on ‘Dynamite Hill’


In the late 1990s, after a long and fruitless search for vineyard land in Napa Valley, Eric Grigsby and Mary Rocca discovered a 12-acre parcel set on a little knoll just south of the Stags Leap line. The couple commissioned a viticultural consultancy to dig several dozen pilot holes to evaluate the makeup of the soils and the viability of planting. While the conclusion of the study suggested a particularly rocky terrain, given the neighborhood, that hardly seemed out of the ordinary. The deal was consummated a month later.

But as is so often the case in the winegrowing business, appearances can be deceiving. While the soil studies spoke of a rocky substrata, nothing Mary or Eric read prepared them for the task at hand. After the first passes by the land rippers went for naught, the crew went for the gusto and brought in the dynamite. The blasts were heard for miles up and down the Silverado Trail. When the dust settled, fragments of solid rock were strewn all over the “Collinetta” — before the D10s rolled back in for the mop-up. It would take months for the vineyard crew to carve Cabernet Sauvignon into a vineyard that came to be known as “Dynamite Hill.”

It was about this time that Mary Rocca began putting out feelers for a winemaker. Rocca aimed high, but with the Napa Valley wine market percolating, the most established talent was oversubscribed. Finally, in 1999, Mary was introduced to a young woman who had been drawing raves for her work at Staglin. While neither Rocca nor Grigsby knew it at the time, that introduction to Celia Welch (Staglin, Cora, and Scarecrow) would lift “Dynamite Hill” into the critical limelight.

In Issue #204, The Wine Advocate ignited the vintage fire, calling 2010 an “epic” Napa Valley vintage, making for “viscerally thrilling wines loaded with character and personality.” A short time later, Wine Spectator piled on with a cover story that featured Hall of Famer Tom Seaver holding a crystal stem filled with his 2010 Diamond Mountain GTS. The headline read “2010 California Cabernet: A Classic Vintage for the Cellar.” Such was the case on Rocca’s Dynamite Hill.

The 2010 Rocca Family Vineyards “Vespera” is a muscular blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Petit Verdot, and 17% Petite Sirah. Inky purple-black. Finely delineated aromas of blackberry, licorice, and crushed rock. Densely packed, chewy texturally, and still perfectly primary, the core is infused with blackberry and mountain blueberry preserves. Highly mineral and energetic, finishing with sophisticated tannins and great length. Drink now-2023.

$50 on release. $25 today — NO MISPRINT — exclusively on WineAccess. Shipping included on 4.

Expert Ratings and Reviews

89 Points Wine Advocate
88 Points Vinous Media
87 Points Wine Spectator

Customer Ratings

Based on 28 ratings

Best Bordeaux blend in many years....

This is nearly a 5. I'm sorry I only order one case it was such a bargain. Dark and rich. BlackBerry and plumb compliment hints of toasted oak and vanilla. Smooth and balanced

This one sets up nicely for sipping or dinner.

Other Vintages of Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera Proprietary Red Napa Valley

Napa Valley 2010

The 2010 vintage in Napa was cool, late, and long, yielding elegant, focused, almost Bordeaux-styled wines — a definite departure from recent great vintages in which heat, drought, sun, and fruit driven power are the hallmarks. These are solid, structured wines that will need a few years to shed their youthful grip and tension. It will be interesting to watch how the 2010s age, but if you’re fond of restrained, classically-styled Napa Valley Cabernet, this is your vintage.

The season started late, with ample rainfall. After several years of very dry conditions, rain was welcome, though it pushed back the ripening cycle (bud break, flowering, and fruit set) by about two weeks. Frost was never a problem. The summer that followed was cool, and growers worked to adjust canopies and crop loads to accommodate the slow pace of ripening. Veraison occurred about two weeks late, and by the middle of August many were predicting that harvest would be almost three weeks later than average.

With vineyards pruned and canopies thinned for the cool conditions (temperatures regularly topped out around 70℉ during mid-summer), a couple of heat spikes in late August and early September (some to well over 100℉) presented challenges for growers. Many vineyards that were set up for optimal sun exposure in the cool conditions were damaged by sunburn. This required hard work to isolate and drop the damaged bunches. A reduction in yields was part of the collateral damage. After the spikes, cool temperatures returned, and September stayed cool except for a brief warm spell at month’s end.

The harvest was late but the grapes needed the extra hang time to develop. The brief warm spell at the end of September, and another in the middle of October, helped the plants eke out a little more ripeness. With rain predicted in the third week of October, it was time to pick, ready or not.

Overall, it was a tricky and challenging year. Managing the cool summer and then dealing with the heat were major obstacles. The best, but most labor intensive and painful strategy, seems to have been to thin bunches and set up for maximum ripening, meticulously select out the berries damaged by heat, and then pick as late as possible before the rain. The growers that did this ended up with a small but concentrated and classically balanced crop. It was certainly labor intensive, and costly, in terms of the reduced yields, but who said grape growing was easy?

The best wines from this vintage are solid and deeply colored, with beautiful aromatics, concentration, purity, and detail. Generally speaking, alcohols are lower than the norm, and the wines express lively, deep, dark fruit notes, elements that only come from long, cool growing seasons. They have the acidity, tannin, and structure to match the fruit, and should be long-lived, classy wines. Where growers got it wrong, you can find green notes and a weird combination of cool-climate unripe, herbal tones, oddly mixed with overripe, candied or bitter, burnt characteristics (from bunches affected by the heat that weren’t sorted out). From the weather to the wines, we’re talking about a vintage of peaks and valleys, but when winemakers and growers really got it right, quality is outstanding.

Key Dates

First heat spike causes sunburn and shrivels berries; Temperatures over 100℉ recorded in some spots

First rainfall arrives and signals the end of optimal harvest window

Three days of temperatures over 100℉ impact the grapes

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