We first came across this wine on the list at the new Notting Hill restaurant The Ledbury, reviewed recently by Nick. We were impressed by the 2001 which, at £40 on this pretty smart wine list, seemed to offer a lot of unmistakably Napa Valley character, with a slightly burly, dry finish and no shortage of rich, ripe fruit on the palate – rather reassuringly bumpkin-like for a Napa Cabernet in fact.
Its importers Vineyard Cellars, the wine retail company run by Englishman Sir Peter Michael of the eponymous Sonoma winery, The Vineyard restaurant-hotel outside Newbury, Classic FM etc, have just a handful of bottles of the 2001 left, they tell me, but have just imported 250 cases of the 2002 about which American wine writer Robert Parker has recently raved, I’m told. Well – given 89 points to.
The real miracle of this wine is that it offers you the experience of very good quality Napa Cabernet for just £15.80 (inc VAT) retail in the UK, or $19.99 to $23.39 in the US (see www.winesearcher.com for stockists). I was interviewed by a journalist from a French business magazine the other day who was scraping up the fag ends from the Mondovino ‘debate’ into a France v the rest story. My interviewer was clearly already convinced that all French wine producers were good guys and all New World ones were evil, so I fear my comments may have fallen on deaf ears. But I was trying to convince him that the vignerons I found who took the greatest trouble to maximise quality in the vineyard today were more likely to live in the Napa Valley than in the Médoc. These people not only have the will to make great wine, even more importantly they have the means. Satellite pictures of each parcel of the vineyard. The latest, most expensive open-topped oak fermenter etc etc They may go and screw it all up by picking too late, but that’s another story.
Waterstone is an outfit designed to scoop up surplus wines from top producers, as you can read in this winery profile. Good luck to them. I’ve read rumours that their Cabernet comes from Harlan Estate which I simply do not believe, but if I were selling the wine, I’d certainly be happy if anyone did. No matter. Just lap up this wine. The 2002 is rather smoother and more civilised than the 2001 – slightly less characterful and more true to Napa Valley norms, you might say. Whatever your views on Napa Cabernet, you’d have to admit this, in its ultra-smart, simple package, is a great buy.
I tasted this alongside a Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Sonoma which is retailing at exactly the same price in the US. The Waterstone, a name with extra resonance in the UK as being our equivalent of Barnes & Noble, was streets ahead in terms of density and fruit integration. Yet another bargain from California – but then thanks to the state’s recent planting frenzy which elevated it to the world’s fourth most important wine producer, it has a heck of a lot of wine to sell at the moment.
British wine lovers can also find the wine, at £17.99, via this link,
from Easy Wine/Wine of Course, 216 Archway Rd, London N6 5AX .