Jaffe Estate

Jaffe Estate marries the agricultural and the celestial, the earth and the sky, to create transcendent wines.

Jaffe Estate 2007 Metamorphosis and 2008 Transformation
Jaffe Estate 2007 Metamorphosis and 2008 Transformation

Jaffe Estate is located in the St. Helena district of Napa Valley, sharing a boundary with the Rutherford Bench. Its location in the alluvial fan and its Bale Loam soil are ideal for the production of Bordeaux-style grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Jaffe Estate team is led by owners Gary and Pam Jaffe, winemaker David DeSante, and vineyard manager Michael Neal. DeSante’s story is reminiscent of other winemakers’ stories I have featured on my blog, such as Cynthia Cosco, Tammi Ramsey, David Jeffrey, and Mike Anderson, who left other careers or pursuits to follow their passion of making wine. DeSante left medical school in Virginia to pursue winemaking in California and now produces wine for Jaffe Estate, his own label, and other boutique Napa brands.

On Thursday, August 29, 2013, the virtual wine community will be celebrating Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet blends around the world during the fourth annual #CabernetDay. I have participated in #CabernetDay since its inception with wonderful wines from Caymus Vineyards, Meander Wines, and Trentadue Winery, I am honored that one of the wines I will be tasting this year is the Jaffe Estate 2007 Metamorphosis (Cabernet Sauvignon), a sample graciously provided by the winery. I’ve been told that wine is tasting beautifully now and am thrilled to share it with you in two weeks.

It’s not too late for you to enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon and Jaffe Estate’s other releases for #CabernetDay, Labor Day weekend, and beyond. For a limited time, Jaffe Estate is offering a three-pack special: one bottle each of their current releases, the 2007 Metamorphosis (Cabernet Sauvignon), 2008 Transformation (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot), and 2009 Transformation (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot) for $147.50 plus shipping, regularly $204.00 plus shipping. It’s an ideal gift for yourself or the red wine lover in your life.

I hope you will join me for #CabernetDay 2013 in two weeks! Cheers!

2012 #CabernetDay

Meander and Trentadue La Storia Cabs

I have not missed a #CabernetDay since it began the Thursday before Labor Day weekend in 2010. This year I had the honor of tasting two different, yet beautiful Cabs: the 2010 La Storia Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon by Trentadue Winery, Alexander Valley, and the 2006 Meander Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. I tasted the wines across the week heading into #CabernetDay with traditional steak dinners.

2010 La Storia Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot), winemaker Miro Tcholakov

La Storia Cabernet Sauvignon

The La Storia, being very young, did require some decanting. But once it opened up, it was a delicious, fruit-forward Cab full of cocoa, dark berry, and vanilla flavors. The wine spent 16 months in French and European oak. On a recent trip to Trentadue (blog post forthcoming), I learned that the other European oak used is Bulgarian and that is what adds a brown sugar, maple-like characteristic to this wine. (Sample provided by Trentadue Winery, $30 at trentadue.com.)

2006 Meander Wines Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), winemaker Amy Aiken

Meander Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Amy Aiken’s passion is producing Cabernet Sauvignon, and it shines through in this lovely wine whose grapes are sourced from Morisoli Vineyard in Rutherford, CA (50%) and St. Helena, CA (50%). This wine was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak, 75% new. It has aged well in the bottle, with balanced, soft flavors of blackberry, cherry, chocolate, and spices. (Sample provided by My Preferred Wines, $62.95 at mypreferredwines.com.)


Every Day is Cabernet Day: Seasons in the Vineyard by Amy Aiken, Meander Wines

Amy Aiken of Meander Wines

For me, every day is Cabernet Day! Some days I taste Cabernet from barrels. Some days I taste Cabernet from bottles. Many days I am planning for making Cabernet by ordering barrels, yeast and other supplies.

Some of my favorite Cabernet Days are actually in the vineyard. Walking the vineyards and feeling the seasons of the vines gives me a great sense of peace as well as inspiration.

2011 Day in the Dust at Rubicon Estate, where I first met Amy Aiken

A spring vineyard is full of optimism as buds swell and burst forth to begin crop production for the vintage. Leaving behind the threat of frost are timid green leaves which unfold to capture the sun to grow and feed the grapes. The smell of bloom is a blend of bee pollen and honeysuckle. So much to look forward to!

Summer in the vineyard is a time of strong growth and development. The sturdy structure of the vine supports a tremendous amount of leaf growth and the setting of the grapes.  Leaves are deep green and toughen in the sunshine. The berries start to size up with the nourishment from the vines. Veraison heralds fall and harvest.  When the color change is complete we turn the corner to maturity.

Meander Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Fall is signaled by a gentle yellowing of the leaves through the canopy.  The leaves yield to the grapes and begin to “fall” from the vine.  Grapes continue to soak up the sun and mature.  The sugar rises and flavors develop.  I pop the berries into my mouth and taste the sweetness and sense the tannins.  This is when I wait for the vineyard to hit stride. The smell of harvest is in the air as other vineyards are being harvested and the harvest “buzz” is on. Mother Nature takes control with cool evenings and warm days to even up the maturity of the crop.  All in sync to produce a beautiful beginning of a wine.

So begins the journey of the wine….once in the winery the grapes most delicious expression is my goal…

Happy Cabernet Day….Meander More!

Meander Wines

2nd Annual Cabernet Day with Caymus Cabernet

2009 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Yesterday, September 1, 2011, was the 2nd Annual Cabernet Day, a day where Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc lovers celebrate Cabernet at gatherings and virtually around the world. For the second year, I was sent a sample of the 2009 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (last year I tasted the 2008 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley and the 2008 Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley). I had tasted the 2009 on July 12, 2011, when I visited Caymus Vineyards on a trip to Napa.

In the process of preparing for the tasting, I learned that the 2009 Cabernet is not a single-vineyard wine, but rather a blend of grapes from eight sub-appellations of Napa Valley. As states winemaker Chuck Wagner,

I would generalize that Napa Valley wines are comprised of two styles − the mountain (brawn) and the valley (supple). This is a significant fact about Caymus cabernets. They are a blend of both mountain and valley fruit − creating dimension and richness in character.

I also learned that Mr. Wagner prefers younger wines, wines which are 12 years or younger, which might explain his winemaking philosophy and process. Caymus Cabernet is made to be enjoyed young  or cellared for 10+ years.

I opened the bottle at room temperature and enjoyed a sample. My initial thought was, “Velvet cassis.” It was so smooth and creamy on the tongue, and it took me back to my summer abroad in France, when I first tried crème de cassis liqueur and a white wine cocktail, my first Kir. I tweeted this comment on Twitter and Caymus’ social media director replied, “The winemaker recommends it be tasted at 60° F.” And there it was, my “ah-ha moment” of the evening.  I poured a little more into my glass first (of course, I wasn’t going to stop tasting!), then placed the remainder of the bottle in my refrigerator. About 45 minutes to an hour later, I poured a little more into my glass and tasted. Wow, I was simply amazed how the chilling of the wine brought out new dimensions in taste for me, such as chocolate. At that point, I had to amend my nickname to “Velvet chocolate cassis.”

This wine will be etched in my memory as the wine that took me back France, if but only for an evening. However, I do have some of this beautiful wine left, so perhaps another Proustian moment awaits me tonight.

2009 Caymus Cabernet Sauvigon, Napa Valley
14.4% alcohol
$68.00/750 ml bottle directly from the winery; $60.00-$70.00 at various online retailers

For more information about Caymus:

Caymus Vineyards
8700 Conn Creek Road
Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: 707-963-4204/ Fax: 707-963-5958
Tasting: 707-967-3010