Darn, where did those spring flowers go? What an amazing show we had this year in the Far Niente gardens—the best yet in my 11-year tenure as garden curator. Plant maturity has become quite apparent in many specimens throughout the property, and the spring display told the tale.
For those of you who witnessed this episode’s drama, I like to think of your enjoyment as an inherent part of our mission. Thank you for your participation, which brings the garden experience full circle.
Flowering began in early February with the giant camellia trees leading the way, followed by our signature azalea beds and on to the towering rhododendrons. We are now moving into the growth phase and keeping up is quite a challenge—feeding, pruning, sculpting, manicuring, and taming the wildness of this ancient Oakville knoll we call home. Working in unison with our partner, Mother Nature, we each have a hand in the balance of creation—growing together to perform on yet another season’s magical stage.
We’ve finally begun bottling the 2010 Dolce! After nearly two-and-a-half years of barrel aging (about 922 days, but who’s counting?) this vintage of Dolce is ready for the bottle.
It’s been a long journey, but it’s not over yet. This wine was harvested over several vineyard passes in the first two weeks of November – three years ago, that is. We pressed to all hours of the night, clarifying the juice after cold settling over several days in tank. After a little blending – to create unique batches of juice with a sugar concentration in the 34-35°Brix range – we sent fifteen batches of wine to barrel for fermentation. Primary fermentation lasted from three weeks (super-active yeasts) to six months (slow-fermenting yeasts).
Shortly after fermentation these batches were pale in color, almost straw-like, and had aromas of pineapple. After the first year of aging in 100% French oak, the pineapple aromas disappeared and were replaced with notes of apricot and orange rind. The subtle oxidation that occurs with oak aging allowed for this transformation of flavor, aroma and color – from pale to richly golden.
I’m not accustomed to making quick decisions with regard to Dolce winemaking: I tasted every batch, every month, and made dozens of trial blends to finally arrive at the right combination of lots for this vintage. I waited just before bottling to empty the barrels and created the blend from the best possible combination of the individual batches. It’s very subjective, but my primary goal is to the find the blend that coats the palate with a lively, oily texture that persists well into the finish … and I found it for this vintage!
After bottling, the wine will rest in a temperature controlled environment for two years before we release it for sale. By then it will be ready for consumption – but rest assured it could be aged for another twenty years to promote the development of its perfume and bottle bouquet, or rather, its unique personality amongst the vertical lineup of other great Dolce vintages. Cheers!
Party like it’s 1999? Well, the 1999 vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet was actually one of several from the decade that was crowned the “vintage of the century.” Growing seasons, harvests, farming techniques and winemaking practices conspired to produce a bevy of great wines, and the 1999 was, indeed, a wine to celebrate.
It would be hard nowadays to acquire a bottle of 1999 Napa Cab unless you have a friend with a great cellar, you’re on the auction circuit or you’re a fan of our Cave Collection. The 1999 Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon is one of several vintages we make available annually from our library. It’s a great way to acquire beautifully aged wines to replenish your cellar, or to revisit an old favorite.
Keep an eye on our blog for an upcoming post from our winemaker about the 1999 Cave Collection Cab.
While a bottle of wine can be enjoyed in so many ways (I do love a glass of wine, a good book and some mellow music), my favorite way is to share it with friends. My husband and I recently opened a bottle of the 1998 Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon with some friends at dinner and were rewarded with not only a beautiful bottle of wine but also with the thoughtful conversation about it.
We had fun looking back on the vintage and discussing what challenges that it presented to winemakers. 1998 remained cool through the first half of the year and then dramatically shifted to hot weather. What did this mean for winemaking? This meant stringent selection of clusters in the vineyard, careful sorting in the winery and blending only the best lots together. The result is a carefully crafted blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot.
As the wine opened with our meal it offered aromas of dried blueberries, perfume, anise, nutmeg and light tobacco leaf. The silky-smooth entry developed into flavors of dried fruit with a long and lingering finish—a perfect complement to a delightful dinner with friends!
We have released an allocation of 1998 Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet for your enjoyment. If you would like to replenish your cellar, you may do so online or call us at (707) 944-2861.
If you’ve been reading our posts about the Far Niente Cave Collection–our library of Napa Cabernet–you’ll notice that we’ve skipped a vintage. Our last post was about the 1996, and this month we’re writing about the 1998. This speaks perfectly to the nature of the Cave Collection. Although we release a small allocation of vintages from the Cave every January, certain vintages regularly sell out before the next Cave release, and some sell out altogether. The 1997 vintage is of the latter. Not to worry, though, as the 1998 is a beautiful, aged Cabernet still available for you to enjoy.
We are blessed in this valley to experience fairly consistent growing conditions from one year to the next, which are particularly suitable to wine grapes. Some years, though, are more challenging than others, and as often happens, the vintage’s reputation across the valley seems to be made on the weather more than on the quality and potential of the wine. The 1998 growing season experienced a long, cool spring, followed by an almost immediate turn into hot, summer temperatures. While the vines had less time to develop than usual, the weather came into balance and the grapes benefitted from the warmth of the season, coming to full ripeness before harvest. Fifteen years later, collectors who have 1998 Napa Cabs in their cellars know that the vintage has produced a gorgeous wine.
Keep an eye on this blog to hear Winemaker Nicole Marchesi’s impressions of the 1998 Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.
To replenish your cellar, you may order online or give us a call at (707) 944-2861.
A behind-the-scenes peek at Far Niente and the fine Cabernet and Chardonnay we produce here in Oakville.