June 7, 2016
I read an article today by one of my favorite wine journalists, Randy Caparoso, a man who over the years has distinguished himself as a restaurant wine buyer, marketing consultant, and writer.
Randy wrote about a meeting he had 30 years ago in Hawaii with the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. Tchelistcheff remarked in the interview that since Cabernet Sauvignon produced the best wine in California, it was planted everywhere. During his career, however, less than 10% of the Cabernet Sauvignon available to him was capable of producing wine good enough for him to classify as private reserve.
Great Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley is not a given.
When we were ready to plant Cabernet Sauvignon on our Conn Valley Ranch in 1984, we dug more than 20 test holes on the property. The exposed 8’ depth of soil from each of them was analyzed by the best soil chemist in the area.
He directed us to plant Merlot on all of the land below 600 feet elevation. Why? Because above 600 feet the soil changed dramatically, and became much more suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon. Once onto higher ground, the clay/loam/gravel soil was given over to rocky land rich with Basalt. Cabernet Sauvignon is a vigorous grape variety, and the rocky hillside soil retards its vigor, which is much better for the wine.
Next we hired Dave Abreu who installed almost ½ mile of drain line under the proposed vineyard so any available water would be removed quickly and efficiently, again retarding the vines natural vigor. Next we selected two rootstocks – 420A and 3309 – both of which are opted for in vineyards when low vigor is sought.
Finally, after all of this preliminary work designed to create the best possible Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard, we selected plant material that was not from nursery grown clones, or heat-treated to remove virus. Our budwood – as it’s called – was from what the French call Selection Massale cuttings, taken from the healthiest vines in an existing vineyard. This furthered our ability to restrain the vigorous tendency of Cabernet Sauvignon. This reduction in vigor has kept the crop levels low and the grapes more flavorful. The wine is richer and more complex as a result.
The Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in the hills of Conn Valley is one of the rare 10% in the Napa Valley capable of producing great Cabernet Sauvignon. This happened through careful planning, though, not simply the good fortune of being in the Napa Valley. The project that we began in 1984 with the purchase of our home ranch, has now exceeded our wildest expectations. It only took 30 years.
We’re now selling our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been accurately referred to as one of the best examples of this vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley. At the same time it’s been named one of the best values as well.