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Subtle Sauvignon Blanc and Powerful Cabernet
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 20, 2022
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Titus Vineyards, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021, and Cabernet Sauvignon Family Estate Reserve 2019 ($36, $113): 
The property today known as Titus Vineyards can trace its wine history back to 1841 and has been continuously farmed for more than 150 years.  Dr. Lee Titus, a radiologist, purchased the land in 1968 and soon began farming the vineyard.  As the old vineyards were replanted, Dr. Titus focused on the five classic Bordeaux varieties.  Brothers Eric and Phillip Titus today run the family property; Stephen Cruzan became winemaker in 2015 with a resume that included work at several notable Napa Valley properties.

I had not tasted the Titus Vineyards wines in several years, and welcomed the opportunity to sample three 2019 reds and the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc.  Although Titus is a red wine winery, the Sauvignon Blanc ($36) earns kudos from me for its delicacy and freshness, as well as its very complex aromas and flavors.  The wine is dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and layers of aromas that begin with lime, pear, apple, and segue into lemongrass and blossom.  In the mouth, ripe lemon and passion fruit also play a role.  All these aromatics are rendered almost subtly, allowing the fresh acidity to sing.  I was not surprised to read that the wine rests briefly in neutral French oak barrels after its stainless steel fermentation — not because I perceived any oaky character but because of its gentle, creamy texture that I associate with oxidative maturation.  Viognier represents four percent of the blend, and that portion is barrel fermented and aged for four months.

The most impressive of the Titus Vineyards reds was the 2019 Family Estate Reserve ($113), a wine packed with concentrated, focused fruit within a firm, structured frame.  This is a powerful wine but not imposing or impenetrable.  Aromas and flavors include dark cherry, blueberry, espresso, and dark chocolate, along with toasty oak which is appropriate for a young but age-worthy wine.  These aromatics carry through the finish, evidencing the wine’s quality. The wine’s texture is soft and fleshy but, again, not impenetrable.  This is a wine to age (the winemaker suggests drinking from 2025 to 2039), but it welcomes you now.  Five percent of this blend is Petit Verdot.

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65) is a blend of 81 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5 percent Petit Verdot, 7 percent Merlot and 4.5 percent Malbec.  The wine’s salient characteristic, to me, is its smooth, supple texture so that the wine seems to glide through your mouth.  The wine is dry, full-bodied, with soft tannins — but the rear palate shows the wine’s oak.  And yet, it’s a beauty, and worth trying.  This wine aged 20 months in French and Hungarian oak that was 60 percent new.

The 2019 Cabernet Franc, $62, (blended with 7 percent each of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon) is fresher, brighter, juicier than the Cabernet Sauvignons and more red-fruited.  It’s also a bit lighter and less dense, a good bet for warmer weather, but with a structure that will support aging.  Its winemaking and grape sourcing is different enough from the Cabernet Sauvignon — some cooler vineyards and shorter fermentation times — that you can’t make a direct comparison between the two varieties, but the sensory difference in the wines is worth the exercise.

2021 Titus Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 91 Points
2019 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Family Estate Reserve, 93
2019 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 90
2019 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Franc, 90