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Wine of the week: Relativity Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley 2009

Relativity Cabernet Sauvignon 20009

Napa Valley is a series of appellations and vineyards. Some are OK; some are stellar. Grapes from the best-known named vineyards command much higher prices than those from more generic parts of the appellation. Now this is not something you didn’t know yesterday.

What you might not have known yesterday is that the growers of these very expensive grapes hit the same wall that the economy drove us all into in 2008 and 2009, etc. So what do you do if you have a perishable asset that isn’t commanding the prices you expect? You find another way to salvage your fiscal year.

One of the ways grape growers were able to salvage their years was by selling the grapes at far lower prices than they would normally command. Of course, in doing that they still had to protect the value of their brand. You can’t have a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for $40 listing it’s source as the To Kalon Vineyard. That could do irreparable damage to the brand and the price structure going forward.

In California wines generally follow the rule of 75% minimums. To call a wine a Pinot Noir, there can be no more than 25% of other grape varieties. To put the name of an AVA on the label, 75% of the grapes must come from there. Ditto for a named vineyard.

So back to the recession. In 2008 top growers were not able to command the prices they had just a year or two earlier. In order to salvage their businesses, many made under-the-table deals and sold their grapes to winemakers for greatly reduced prices. The buyers could only use up to 74% of the grapes in their blend, and could not mention the name of the vineyard.

And this is the story of Relativity Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and 2009, which is the current vintage. This is a stunning wine with superlative balance, lovely flavors and beautiful velvety tannins. The length is long; the finish, lovely. To me this is what a top Napa Cab should taste like. And it’s only $32 at Uncorked Wine co., 98 Christopher Street in Manhattan.

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