2015 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley.
Diamond Creek, one of the first single vineyard wines and a California legend, still makes one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the state and this latest Gravelly Meadow is a gorgeous wine with a deep purple/crimson color and ripe tannin, it’s a wine that is packed with fruit and should age, like all Diamond Creek’s, for another two to three decades. I was saddened to hear of the passing of Boots Brounstein this week, and I will always be grateful of her kindness and support over the years, she and her late husband Al, were wonderful people and their passion for wine infectious, they were always generous with their time with me and I will never forget that. When I first got into the wine business, I used to attend a special Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in Napa Valley, at the Greystoke or the CIA and the Brounstein’s were enthusiastic and even in his poor health Al would charm the room, and many times he even would have a secret bottle under the table to share, these were great moments they have always stayed with me. Diamond Creek, which I have many times compared to Chateau Latour, have always been treasured bottles and they have a fantastic track record for quality and staying power, I recently had a 1981, which proved all my beliefs, still remarkably fresh and brilliant in detail, and not too long ago I had a mid seventies version and it too was nearly perfect, I think maybe only Ridge come close to the age worthiness of Diamond Creek. The winery began when Al Broustein bought about 70 acres on Napa’s Diamond Mountain in 1967, and he planted around 25 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a small amount of merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot on four distinct terroirs, incredibly all were within 60 feet of each other with Volcanic Hill, Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow and the tiny Lake cru all becoming prestigious sites and are always bottled and vinified separately. By the early to mid seventies Diamond Creek was producing powerful mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that rivaled the best Bordeaux and their long time winemaker Phil Steinschreiber has made some of the state’s greatest wines, and the current 2015 vintage is top notch, and for me, this Gravelly Meadow is Cabernet that lives up to the historic wines from their past with blackberry, plum, black currant and blueberry fruits on the full bodied palate along with touches of smoky wood, anise, minty sage, sweet tobacco leaf, violet florals and lingering creme de cassis all wrapped in a firm structure, though unlike the 1970s and 1980s, the tannins are lush and smooth, mostly from the vintage rather than any winemaking changes.
Founded in 1968, Diamond Creek was California’s first exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard, though many more have followed, especially those famous “Cult” producers in the early nineties like Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Bryant Family that were, I’m sure inspired by the visionary Al Broustein and his pioneering and iconic wines. Even though, he thought he had a special place, Al brought in iconic Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff (of BV Georges Latour fame) and got his seal of approval. As the winery notes, Brounstein, who loved Burgundy and Bordeaux equally, but knew that Napa, even back in the late sixties, was not well suited for Pinot Noir and opted for Cabernet. So he went to Bordeaux, checked out places in Pauillac and Pessac Leognan and talked some of the region’s top vintners into giving him some vine cuttings. (And) Because there was a seriously long quarantine process before using them on these shores, Brounstein had the cuttings shipped to Rosarita Beach, in Baja California, where. Al flew his own plane down and picked up the cuttings and secretly brought them back to Napa, an exercise he repeated — seven times! This parcel, the Gravelly Meadow, is one of the coolest micro-climates on the property, it is a five-acre vineyard that was originally a pre-historic river bed, that the Broustein’s noted, that this stony plot, with it’s gravelly soil drains rapidly and the vines struggle for moisture, resulting in the lowest yields and giving amazing concentration. Al Broustein famously suggested his Gravelly Meadow wines were some of his favorites and can be described as “earthy, cedary, jammy and ripe blackberry with a spicy expansive finish.” All of which I agree with, and this 2015 can easily fit that, though I find them more complex than that certainly and they develop a real Medoc like loamy character as they age that takes away the jamminess, without losing the purity of fruit that make these Cabernet’s so compelling. In modern times, this traditional or old school Napa wine seems timeless and in my mind only Cathy Corison’s, who’s latest Cab is fantastic too and Philip Togni’s wines are in same vein. I love these wines and while not cheap, they are often better than wines twice or three times the price, and while in recent years the climate and warm years have made these wines beautiful in their youth, they still reward patience, making them attractive to collectors, and this 2015 looks set to be a classic.
($225 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive