Ladera, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
I have professed my love for Napa Valley Cabernets that are made from mountain-grown fruit. Mountain grown grapes tend to make wines that are flavorful with concentrated fresh fruit (as opposed to raisiny or baked fruit), with good acidity and firm tannins. When a wine’s appellation contains the word “mountain” — as in Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain or Mt. Veeder — it’s easy to know that the wine comes from a mountain site.
But in some cases, the grapes come from several AVAs within Napa Valley, and must carry the general appellation of Napa Valley. Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point.
The core of its grapes come from Howell Mountain but the wine also contains grapes from Atlas Peak, on the western slopes of the Vaca Mountains, and from Pritchard Hill, a rocky, volcanic high-altitude site in eastern Napa Valley. That alone could exclude the wine from carrying the name of any one mountain appellation. But the wine also contains some valley floor grapes from Calistoga, from a vineyard that Ladera farms.
Ladera began as a winery estate on Howell Mountain in 1996, founded by the by the Stotesbery family. After 20 years, the family decided to sell their winery and the property landed in the hands of the Plumpjack Group, owner of several prestigious California wineries. Ladera’s new policy is to focus less on its estate grapes and instead partner with key Napa Valley growers, such as Stagecoast Vineyard which grew the Atlas Peak and Pritchard Hill Cabernet in this 2017 wine.
The 2017 Ladera Cabernet has a bright but deep ruby color. Its concentrated aroma combines dark fruit — blackberry, black cherry — with strong mineral notes of smoky earth and ink, along with an herbal note suggesting sage and a whiff of cocoa. The wine enters your mouth softly, showing richness and fruit. In mid-palate, you can perceive the concentration of the fruit and the emergence of strong tannins appropriate to mountain-grown grapes. The tannins do not risk dominating the wine’s taste, however, because the soft, concentrated element overcomes them. The flavors you’ll perceive in your mouth include some red fruit and cassis along with dark fruit, mineral notes, oak spices, and chocolate. You’ll be pleased to note these flavors lingering in an enduring finish.
The wine is entirely Cabernet Sauvignon, which earns it all the more favor from me. Winemaking included a double sorting of the grapes, first by hand and then via an optical scanner. In tank, the grapes underwent a pre-fermentation five-day cold soak to extract fruit character. Ultimately, the wine aged in 85 percent-new French oak for 22 months before the final blending of vineyard lots.
The 2017 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely worthy of aging for several years, if you enjoy more developed Cabs. But even now — with aeration and large glasses — drinking it can be a real pleasure.