J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley – 2001
Winemakers: Hugh Davies, Craig Roemer
Consulting Winemaker: Alan Tenscher
Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley.
Wines are estate grown, produced and bottled.
217-acre estate, 42 acres planted to vineyards.
Two historic vineyards are on the property:
Schram first planted in 1862.
McEachran first planted in 1878.
THE 2001 HARVEST REPORT
Harvest took place from September 17 to October 16, 2001. The unpredictable character of the 2001-growing season kept all winemakers on the edge. After a dry and warm winter, vineyard bud break occurred earlier than normal. Because of this early bud break, many growers and winemakers were nervous about the potential for a bout with adverse weather.
An unexpected April frost and cool growing condition plagued the entire North Coast. Fortunately, because of our hillside’s exposure to morning sun, these Diamond Mountain vineyards were virtually unaffected by the frost. Light fog and warmer mid-day temperatures in May and June helped offset the physiological affects from the cold wet spring, allowing for a quick grape flowering and good fruit set.
The growing season slowed with a relatively cool period through July and August, allowing for the development of good color and ripe flavors. Through September and October, patience was paramount. With nearly perfect fall weather the winemakers had the luxury of "hang time ", allowing for grape harvesting of red varietals with true ripeness and maximum flavor accumulation. The winemakers were vigilant in waiting to pick at full maturity, with concentration of color and flavor in all red wine blocks harvested.
The red wine blend resulting from the 2001-growing season will age beautifully in the bottle, and years from now will continue to reveal flavor and characteristics reflecting the vintage.
A wine made in the vineyard
The grapes were hand picked at perfect maturity during 33 morning sessions yielding about one ton each. Each session lasted one-half hour and was done over the course of three-and-a-half weeks. Grapes traveled less than ten minutes to the crusher.
Thirty-three different picks resulting in thirty-three different lots is extraordinary for a project of this size. As winemaker Craig Roemer puts it, “We pick for the microclimate treating each part of a block as if it were a miniature vineyard of its own.”
Each row of vines was visited two or three times to obtain grapes of optimal ripeness and maturity. Yields averaged a low 2.2 tons per acre.
The winemaking team has long experience in making sparkling wines. Making great sparkling wines requires working with a tremendous diversity of top quality base wines to create the complexity expected of a great bubbly.
The winemakers like to say they made red wine as they make sparkling wine by using a very high number of components coming from each microclimate of the estate. Assistant Winemaker Megan Bess describes an “attention and respect for the individual aspects of the vineyard ”.
The fermentation process
Each day’s harvested fruit was de-stemmed and crushed in the warmer afternoon temperatures to maximize color and flavor extraction. Individual lots underwent a one- day pre-fermentation cold maceration. Fermentation was started with a pris-de-mousse yeast strain the following day.
Each one of the 33 lots was fermented in small tanks and kept separate until the final blending. Fermentation temperatures were maintained at 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Once this process was well started, the wine must was inoculated with a malolactic culture to transform the malic acids into softer lactic acids.
The alcoholic fermentations lasted seven to 10 days in most cases. Some wine lots underwent extended maceration, up to 20 days, on the skins to extract more intensity. Following the maceration, the must was pressed in a “baby” one-ton basket press. Free-run wines were kept separate from pressed wines until blending.
Following pressing, the wines were left to settle for 24 hours, and then were transferred to French oak barrels to complete the malolactic fermentation. By mid-November, all wines were in barrels where they would remain as individual lots for three months.
Monster mountain tannins?
Many hillside Cabernet Sauvignons seem to yield tannic wines. Diamond Mountain, in particular, has historically produced very structured wines. With this in mind, the J. Davies winemakers made tannin management a central focus. This began in the vineyard while the grapes were maturing. Then, during the fermentation process, elevated fermentation temperatures were used early. This enhanced color extraction and avoided enhancing the mountain tannins that prevail when this process is introduced later.
Lengthy macerations were used judiciously and barrels were carefully chosen to obtain those with wood sufficiently aged to avoid barrel tannin and the introduction of high levels of wood to the wine. The team worked at pairing the right barrel and barrel toast to each wine. The resulting wine is far less tannic than typical for mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon.
French oak barrel aging
While most winemakers keep all components separate during the barrel aging process and blend just prior to bottling, the J. Davies blend is assembled in the mid-winter or early spring before any block is super saturated with color or good tannin.
The experimental wine years revealed that the components blended together upfront age better than each as a single component. In other words, a higher diversity in the barrel makes for a better final wine. It is as if during the barrel aging process the various vineyard blocks must to be unified to show their very best.
“The result is greater than the sum of the parts,” summarizes consulting winemaker Alan Tenscher. Given variable vineyard blocks, and the variable wine lots produced from them, this practice allows for any potential instability issues to evolve during barrel aging rather than during bottle aging.
The final blend was aged for fourteen months. During that time, the wines were racked to facilitate elaboration and maturity. J. Davies applies attention and care to these traditional practices to assure that the wines will realize their full potential.
The wines were aged 50% in new oak, 20% in one-use barrels and 30% in two-use barrels. The winemakers worked carefully not to over-oak to preserve the beautiful purity of fruit delivered by these Diamond Mountain Vineyards.
The barrels, medium and med
2001 Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon
75% Schram, 25% McEachran
98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec
Average yields: 2.2 tons per acre
100% Napa Valley Certification Mark
Oak barrel aging: 18 months
50% new oak, 20% single-vintage barrels, 30% two-vintage barrels.
Bottle aging: 1 year
Bottled un-fined and lightly filtered.
Production: 548 cases (750ml x 12)
60 magnums numbered one to sixty
With the intent to allow the vineyards to express their natural character, the 2001 vintage picking decisions were based upon taste rather than analysis. The resulting wine shows a balance of fruit and tannin. Fresh, pure red berry aromas are intensified with notes of blackberry, clove, and vanilla spice. Select French oak barrel aging has provided a textural backbone upon which the ripe fruit flavors and soft, velvety tannins are layered. Integrated, juicy and delicious, this wine encourages lingering and invites many more sips.
J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley – 2001 – San Francisco Chronicle
“Nose of eucalyptus, berry, black cherry and dark chocolate; stewed prunes, fig, spice, coffee, mocha and toffee flavors; nicely oaked.”
J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley – 2001 – 89 points – Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine
“The first Cabernet from the Schramsberg family, this is a valiant effort and a good beginning. Its black cherry fruit aromas have a strong sense of concentration, and that same ripe fruit claims centerstage in the wine’s medium-volume flavors. Supple to start, then tighter and firmer with a bit of heat showing up as it ends.”