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It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet - Day in the Dust Tasting

Rutherford Dust Society presented the 2013 Day in the Dust, a tasting of 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Rutherford Dust Society presented the 2013 Day in the Dust, a tasting of 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Steve Ferree

When you think of the great Napa Valley Cabs that have been loved for decades you will learn that many of these Cabs come from the Rutherford district in the heart of Napa Valley. Many of the most famous vintners and viticulturists in Napa Valley history have been from Rutherford including Andy Beckstoffer, Andre’ Tchelistcheff, Georges de Latour, Gustave Niebaum and more. In fact the Rutherford AVA has greater representation in the Vintners Hall of Fame than any other appellation. The headline of this article is a quote from Andre’ Tchelistcheff as he told of what made Rutherford special for Cabs.

"It takes Rutherford Dust to grow great Cabernet"
Rutherford Dust Society and Steve Ferree

The Rutherford Dust Society was founded in 1994 by the growers and vintners of the Rutherford AVA to encourage and promote the highest standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford area and to help wine lovers and wine trade discover Rutherford’s unique expression. On July 10 the Rutherford Dust Society invited press and trade to “A Day in the Dust”, a tasting of the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon’s. I was invited to attend a special event for the press at the beautiful Rutherford House at the Beaulieu Vineyards.

We learned much about the 2010 vintage Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. Famed viticulturist Davie Pina showed us how the 2010 was a cooler-than-average growing season, faced a major heat spike in late August and then had a later-than-average harvest. The result was fruit with concentrated flavors, higher acid and well structured.

Then we had a blind tasting of two 9-wine flights of the 2010 Rutherford Cabs from all points of the region. Later we had the chance to learn more about the individual wines in the blind tasting. While each of these 18 wines was from grapes grown in different parts of the appellation and produced by different vintners, there was a distinct similarity among the wines reflecting the strength and uniqueness of the area. Each of the wines showed a bright acidity resulting in a long finish. Several of the winemakers felt that these wines would age for 15-20 years due to the acidity. The alcohol level was not as high as you might have seen in the past. They had very expressive fruit characteristics and, in particular, there was a blackberry bramble quality in each of the wines. These were particularly charming wines.

One particular point about these wines is that you need to air them for a while before tasting to bring out the great flavors that are in the bottle. Use a decanter or let it sit in the glass for an hour or more.

In the afternoon we wandered over to the Beaulieu barrel room to sample wines from 35 Rutherford wineries. Lo and behold that Rutherford also has some fantastic white wines as well as the famous Cabs.

A few standouts at the tasting are:

  • Freemark Abbey 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Sycamore Vineyard – has a particularly complex and interesting nose with touch of briary patch and tobacco plus fruit. But the joy of this wine continues on from there on the palate with black raspberry, black cherry and blackberry and a wonderful blend of spices leading to a long and fruitful finish
  • Beaulieu Vineyard 2010 Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – has a very pleasant nose with ripe dark fruit and oak. On the palate there is an abundance of rich dark fruit, spices and toffee with a significant earthiness to it. The great structured tannins and lively spices result in a wine with a long finish that will cellar for a long time.
  • Flora Springs 2010 Rutherford Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – the aromas of this wine take you into a deep forest with an earthiness and mushroom qualities. As you taste the wine you will enjoy the black raspberry and blackberry combined with mint chocolate, coffee, licorice and a complexity of spices. The great finish with a touch of minerality and soft tannins will make this a great wine for that special dinner.
  • Alpha Omega 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc – a really nice white wine that combines the old world texture qualities of a Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc with the crisp acidity of the new world. A nice intensity of fruit and acid with the great aromatic quality makes this s great summer wine.
  • Talahalusi Winery 2011 Picpoul and 2011 Roussanne – this is a fairly small family run winery that has only been producing wine for a short time, but has been farmers and grape growers since the late 1940’s. Their Picpoul is unique for Napa Valley and the wine has a terrific brightness to it with nice acidity and fruit and a very pleasant aromatic quality. The Roussanne is a delicate floral wine with the acidity and freshness you would enjoy on a summer afternoon.
  • Chaix Wines 2010 Chaix Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – the Chaix family has been growing grapes in Rutherford for other wineries for over 100 years but are now also producing their own wine as well. They made 300 cases of 2010 Cab that has a very intense nose of cedar, dark fruit, safe and earthiness to it. As you taste this wine you will love the bright wild fruit, a blend of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry. The sharp acidity, layers of spices and soft structured tannins makes it a delight to enjoy.
  • 12C Wines 2011 Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon – 12C is named for 12o Centigrade (55oF), the optimum storage temperature for Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes for this delicious wine come from the famous Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III, definitely top quality fruit. This wine is a delight from the first whiff of the aromas to the long lasting finish. In between you will enjoy the aromas and flavors of dark fruit, lavender and chocolate.

For more information: Rutherford Dust Society