With intensely destructive fires ripping through Northern California right now, it’s more important than ever to support the wine industry that is such a key part of the economy and culture of the region…and that, over the course of the pandemic, has already taken a serious hit.
Which is why my Wines of the Week today both represent the best of what California’s winemakers do so well: They express the unique character of a particular patch of the planet through the lens of wine, and in an overwhelmingly delicious way.
My white Wine of the Week, The Hilt Estate Chardonnay 2017, is crafted by winemaker Matt Dees in the windy wilds of the Sta. Rita Hills. Over the years, Dees has worked with some of the most important people in the business, having been mentored by Andy Erickson and gaining experience at Staglin, Craggy Range in New Zealand, and now, serving as head winemaker for Jonata, The Hilt, and The Paring. (All three are owned by Stanley Kroenke, who also owns Screaming Eagle and Bonneau du Martray in Burgundy, as well as the Los Angeles Rams.)
I tasted three Chardonnays from The Hilt recently during a Zoom session with Dees, and it was a fascinating masterclass in the importance of soil and the bravery it took to plant vineyards in the inhospitable-to-grapevines hillsides of the Sta. Rita Hills on which the fruit for these wines is grown. All three—the Radian Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, this Estate Chardonnay 2017, and the “Vanguard” Chardonnay 2012—are thoroughly unique bottlings, yet they all share a common sense of almost electric energy pulsing through every sip that is a testament to the rugged land in which they’re rooted. Wine “is absolutely the magnifying glass into the soil,” Dees said, adding that “Chardonnay is the microphone for me personally.”
The 2017 Estate Chardonnay ($45) is phenomenal, with hints of hazelnuts and almonds alongside apricot pit aromas, all preceding vibrant flavors of persimmon, grilled lemon, a hint of brown butter, fennel bulb, fresh-squeezed lime, and a dash of spice. The excellent acidity serves as a counterpoint to the nuttier bass-note flavors that ring through the finish, which is lively with acidity, a saline character, and lime zest. “There’s a message that the vineyards want to convey that’s worth hearing,” Dees said, and he’s right: Like the best wines of California, and of the world, this one is inextricably tied to its place of origin, and in the most delicious way.
My red Wine of the Week is the Amici Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($195), a stunning red that embodies why this particular vineyard is one of the most exciting in Napa Valley’s Oakville appellation. Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard may get more attention (and, indeed, it’s the source of some of Napa’s most profound Cabs), but Missouri Hopper should not be overlooked: A who’s who of Napa standouts craft wines with grapes from there, including Alpha Omega, Purlieu, Venge, Bacio Divino, and more.
Amici’s 2017 Cabernet from the vineyard is flat-out beautiful and utterly classic with aromas of mixed currants, cigar humidor, and eucalyptus that all set the stage for an overtly delicious palate with sweet brambly berries, black cherries, plums, spice cake, espresso beans, and a hint of sachertorte. And while the oak is still absorbing, this is remarkable already, with a touch of singed sage and bay leaf, especially on the floral peppercorn-flecked and mineral finish, keeping it wildly fresh. This has another 15 – 20 years or more ahead of it, but there’s no need to wait that long. I certainly wouldn’t be able to.
Finally, earlier this week, Angel’s Envy, the standout Bourbon (and rye) producer in Louisville, Kentucky, officially announced a whiskey that fans have been hoping for for a long time: The Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Japanese Mizunara Oak Casks ($349.99). It’ll be available on September 1st.
Ten years ago, on August 19, 2010, legendary Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, his son Wes, and grandson Kyle—both also highly respected and accomplished whiskey professionals—first added Bourbon to an ex-Ruby Port barrel, thus beginning the journey of a whiskey that has become both a standout and a mainstay. Since then, August 19th has been referred to among enthusiasts as Founders Day. Yet even by the Hendersons’ high standards—Angel’s Envy is now overseen by Wes and Kyle—this bottling is remarkable, an equal-parts blend of both four-year-old and nine-year-old Bourbon that is then finished for a further two years in Japanese Mizunara oak barrels.
The result is spectacular. It’s a beguiling burnished amber-gold color with a supremely subtle elegance to the nose. Honeyed notes of white fig, delicate sweet spice, and almond blossoms all precede a palate of amazing character and perfectly calibrated concentration—neither too dense nor too delicate—that is flashed through with flavors of orange marmalade, baba au rhum, a hint of coffee beans, and a finish marked by distinct notes of vanilla- and cinnamon-spiced cherry financier. This is majestic, one of the most profound Bourbons I’ve had all year.
Reviewed By This Is Article About Classic California Chardonnay And Cabernet, Plus A Whiskey That Was Worth The Wait was posted on have 4 stars rating.