The Wine Advocate
December, 2008, Issue 180
Spottswoode Vineyard is one of Napa’s most well-known landmarks, and its winemaking team, owner Beth Novak, and assistants Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams, represents a trifecta of talented young women. When the history of Napa’s great vineyards is written, the 40-acre Spottswoode Vineyard, tucked behind the quaint town of St. Helena, will be counted among the finest grand cru vineyards of the region. These wines have always been good, but over the last decade, the quality has soared, no doubt because of a much more strict selection in the vineyard as well as in the winery. A very fine second wine, Lyndenhurst, has also been introduced, which has increased the quality of the flagship offering, the Cabernet Sauvignon Estate.
Spottswoode produces one of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in Northern California. The 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (nearly 100% Sauvignon from two clones, the classic clone and the more fragrant Musque clone, and a small dollop of Semillon) is so popular that it is now a cross county blend, with about 60% of the fruit from Napa and the rest from Sonoma. This melon, fig, and honeyed grapefruit-scented and flavored white sees some oak aging. Crisp, elegant, medium-bodied, intense yet classic flavors emerge from this food-friendly wine. Enjoy it during its first 1–2 years of life. (91 points)
Like Bordeaux’s top chateaux, Spottswoode has gotten serious about turning out a very fine second wine that is softer and more accessible, yet represents their vineyard character. There are about 500 cases of the 2006 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc that sees about 70% new oak. It offers up beautiful supple tannins as well as notes of spring flowers interwoven with blue and black currants, and lead pencil shavings. This medium to full-bodied, lush red should age nicely for 10 years. (90 points)
The utterly profound 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc) will benefit from several years of bottle age, and should keep for 25–30 years. This extraordinary effort exhibits notes of blueberries, cassis, spring flowers, licorice, and forest floor. Beautifully pure and full-bodied with excellent overall harmony as well as superb purity, it reveals a Château Margaux-like personality. Anticipated maturity: 2011–2030. (96 points)
Nearly all Cabernet Sauvignon with only a tiny amount of Cabernet Franc in the blend, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is not nearly as expressive as the 2005 or the potentially perfect 2007. Stylistically faithful to the vintage, it is more monolithic and muscular as well as less expressive aromatically, but substantial in size, and somewhat masculine. It is a big wine that should age well, possibly turning out better than my range of scores suggests. Dense blueberry and black currant flavors are accompanied by a crushed rock/minerality as well as substantial tannins. Because of the wine’s structure, the estate is holding it longer in barrel in hopes of softening it and bring out more nuances—a smart decision in my opinion. (91-93 points)
One of Spottswoode’s all-time great wines looks to be the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc). This inky/blue/purple-colored offering displays abundant aromas of spring flowers, blueberries, blackberries, cassis, and crushed wet rocks, superb opulence, a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, alcohol, and wood, and a texture that builds incrementally on the palate, never becoming heavy. This sensational wine should drink effortlessly for 20–25+ years. (96–100 points)
Spottswoode is also experimenting with a tiny 100-200 case lot of 11% Syrah from Paso Robles’ Terra Bella Vineyard. The 2007 I tasted which had not yet been named, looked impressive.
Previously recommended: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (91), 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (94). Tel. (707) 963-0134; Fax (707) 963-2886