We love a good celebration, and just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the toasting has to stop. Keep the toasting going past the holidays and create a new tradition: a late January tasting party.
And right now is the perfect time to explore three Napa Valley Appellations through a horizontal wine tasting. We have three 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons available: 2012 Cultivar Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2012 Cultivar Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wondering what is a horizontal wine tasting? It’s when you select one varietal for a tasting of the same vintage from different appellations. This is a great introduction to the nuances imparted into the wines by the land.
Before the tasting, decant all of the wines you've chosen. We recommend about an hour to two hours for our St. Helena and Rutherford and just a touch longer for our Howell Mountain.
While the wines are decanting, set out three glasses per person (eighteen for a party of six people) that way everyone can compare the color of the wines as well as the legs before tasting. Be sure to mark the wine glasses ahead of time with color-coordinated Washi tape or letterpress coasters.
Once the wines are decanted, pour at least four ounces of each wine into everyone's glasses. Be careful not to overfill the wine glasses. You want everyone to be able to easily swirl the wine without fear of it splashing out of the glass. Swirling doesn't just look cool. It serves a purpose: swirling releases the aromas and coats the glass with them. Let the wines breathe for a few minutes before inviting guests to begin.
Once your guests are seated and have their wines in front of them it's time to begin tasting. Lead them through the steps for sampling the first wine. The following steps are conveniently included this tasting sheet that you can download and print for your guests.
As the host, you can decide whether you want to share the appellations ahead of time or have your guests guess. Our tasting sheet has general notes for tasting wines on the front and tasting notes for each of our 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons on the back. If your guests are Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon aficionados, testing how well they know their appellations can be fun. Simply print the tasting sheet on two pages and hand out the tasting notes after all guests have noted their picks.
When you first look at your glass note whether the wine is clear and bright. It should be. Is the color light? Medium? or Dark and opaque? Look at the wines next to each other and record any differences you see.
It's often said that you can tell a good wine by the thickness of its legs (the drips or tears that run down the inside of your wine glass after you swirl it). This is a myth, but the legs do reveal properties of your wine. Thick, slow moving legs mean your wine is heavy in alcohol and body. It will probably taste full and very rich. Delicate wines with less alcohol will have harder to see legs.
Swirl each wine and compare the legs of each. Record any differences you see on your tasting sheet.
Swirl your wine to coat your glass with the aromas of your wine and hold up your glass to your nose. You're looking for notes that will reveal where your wine came from. Some appellations are known for sour red-cherry notes where others are known for black currants. With complex wines you may not smell all the nuances in your first whiff.
There are 88 common aromas. On the provided tasting sheet we've identified eight common types of aromas: floral, spicy, fruity, vegetative, nutty, caramelized, woody, and earthy. An aroma wheel may help your guests identify what they're smelling.
Now the part you've been waiting for: the taste! As you sip and swish the wine in your mouth you're looking at its acidity: is it tart or acidic? Is it interesting? If you ponder a wine trying to discern what you're tasting it's a sign of a complex wine.
What's the finish like? Is it long or short? Elegant or harsh. Do you want more after you finish your sip?
Be sure to clear your palate in between each wine. In addition to lots of water, wine crackers are great to have on hand. Because they're flat, they don't impart any flavor to your next taste.
For six people, we like to have three bottles of each of the wines we’re pouring. For a horizontal tasting of all three of our 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, that's nine bottles total. This gives everyone enough wine to sample as well as being able to enjoy their preferred wine with the meal.
Remember that you receive 15% off wines when you order 12 or more bottles. So if a horizontal tasting sounds appealing, stock up and take advantage of the savings.
We are excited to announce the availability of our 2012 Cultivar Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, which we bottled this past August. This is our second offering from the Howell Mountain Appellation, one of the first regions in Napa Valley to gain American Viticultural Area (AVA) status.
And right now with the cold, grey weather the Bay Area is experiencing, I’m really enjoying the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, it’s the perfect wine to curl up with and savor. Why? Because thanks to its balanced acidity and sugar and long finish, the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is great on its own or with food!
Our winemaster, Julien has advised that the Howell Mountain will age for another 10 years, but I’m having a hard time saving it. Lately, it’s my wine of choice to serve before heading out to dinner or a party.
Our 2012 Cultivar Howell Mountain is beautiful to look at with its rich, dark, smokey purple color. Once you stop staring and bring it up to your nose, you’ll smell cassis, currant, and blackberries. When you taste the wine, your palette is hit with these powerful fruits as well as more subtle notes of cedar and wood smoke and hints of truffles, licorice, and espresso. The distinct long finish and smooth tannins demands a leisurely pace. This is not a wine you want to open if you’re rushed for time. If you’re not already dreaming of mountain cabins and the outdoors, you should be. What I tell my friends is that if they like Mountain fruit they will love this wine as much as I do. One sip and I’m imagining myself seated in front of a roaring fire staring out at snow kissed slopes or fire pit overlooking the ocean.
For best results serve the wine at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit, just below room temperature. Depending where you store your wines, you may need to bring your wine up to temperature. If your wines are stored at room temperature, you may want to tuck them into the refrigerator for about twenty minutes before serving and use an aerator pour spout to decant if having just a glass. Before enjoying I then let them sit for a few minutes to breathe.
To truly appreciate the Howell Mountain you'll want to enjoy it in one of the Riedel wine glasses made specifically for red wine. The shape of the glass allows the wine to breathe. If your wine is below the optimal drinking temperature, you'll be able to use your hands to slowly warm it.
Because the Howell Mountain is so drinkable now and only 148 cases were produced, we expect it to sell out quickly like our first offering did. (We have many Cultivar and Caspar customers who needed to restock or missed out on last year’s offering lined up for this release.) Don’t delay and pick up a few bottles for enjoying today as well as a few for your cellar.
Purchase your Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon now. Bottle $72 / $57.60 Wine Club; Case $734 / $691 Wine Club
The Howell Mountain AVA is located on the Northeast side of the Napa Valley within the Vaca Range near the town of Angwin, overlooking the town of St. Helena. The boundaries of the AVA are dictated by vineyard land located at elevations of at least 1,400 feet. Often you will see photos of the cabernet sauvignon vineyards on Howell Mountain with the fog filling the Napa Valley below.
We were drawn to Howell Mountain for its unique nutrient poor soils, the decomposed volcanic ash called ‘tufa’ and the red clay that is naturally high in iron. The soil types found in the Howell Mountain appellation stress the vines planted there. The result of this stress is that the vines produce lower yields than other appellations. But these lower yields have fruit that is consistently intense in flavor with balanced acidity and sugar and a unique minerality from the volcanic ash.
Prior to Prohibition in the United States, Howell Mountain was best known for its Zinfandel. Now the slopes of Howell Mountain are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. When you try our 2012 Cultivar Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon we’re sure you’ll see why we chose grapes from Howell Mountain and why we can’t wait to share our wine.
Because of the fruit’s balanced acid and sugar, you may be tempted to drink it now. (Be sure to stock up so that you have some left in your cellar to enjoy as the wine ages.)
The 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is best paired with juicy steaks and hearty stews. For the holidays, it is the perfect complement to your standing rib roast.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks around the winery. We’re getting ready for a fun wine and food happy hour event in San Francisco AND we’ve been bottling new vintages of your favorite wines. It wouldn't be summer if we weren't a little busy, right? All fun things, though.
Just recently, we spent the day bottling the 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - 148 cases to be exact! If you were fortunate to try the 2011 vintage, you’ll know that this best selling wine is known for its big, elegant tannins and ripe plum and spicy black currant flavors. We have no doubts that our 2012 will be just as delicious, if not better!
Check out the photos from bottling day.
Bottles going through the machine.