2016 Larkmead, Cabernet Sauvignon, Solari, Napa Valley.
Catching up on one of the great and historic wineries and one of Napa’s top winemakers in Napa Valley, which I did at this years Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco, turned into a otherworldly experience tasting the 2016 vintage of Larkmead. Larkmead has made some awesome wines in this wildly acclaimed year, far better than I would have even expected, these are serious cellar worthy Cabernets that have incredible depth of flavor already. These are fantastical hued wines in the glass with a inky purple/black color, perfume and gripping intensity, they reveal very Chateau Latour like character, especially the Solari, one of the signature wines. The Larkmead Solari is 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon grown on a unique combination of Cortina gravels over Pleasanton loam, which is clay based soils that keeps a sense of coolness and while the wine is deeply fruited it is also less alcohol than many of its contemporaries making it an excellent micro expression of terroir and varietal, and this 2016 is a gorgeous wine that winemaker Dan Petroski calls Solari muscular, both on the nose and on the palate, but, for me, while powerful like a great Pauillac still shows an elegance and a supper long finish. The concentrated and seductively dark 2016 Solari was crafted with 21 MONTHS in barrel, allowing some of the firm tannins to sweeten up with Petroski using his favored Darnajou and giving it about 70% new oak, he says that the 2016 Solari has swagger, I agree this is awesome stuff that is showing why it’s one of Napa’s best bottles. In Larkmead’s 2016’s you find the same power, sensational textural quality and finesse you usually find in Cathy Corison’s wines with the regular Napa bottling, priced at just north of a Franklin, being no slouch either, these are an elite collection of age worthy wines, certainly worthy the prices when compared to what is the current field of rival offerings.
One of the oldest family-owned and run estates in Napa Valley, Larkmead, which was originally founded back in 1895, is now under the care of Cam and Kate Solari Baker, who have revived the property and guided it to the very top of league table. Hurt by depression, prohibition and World Wars over the years, the winery needed some love and care and that first came when Kate’s parents, Larry and Polly Solari, purchased Larkmead in 1948 and gained great respect of their peers over the years. Set between St. Helena and Calistoga on the Silverado side of the Napa Valley the Larkmead property is a unique contiguous, sustainably farmed, 110-acre vineyard with so much diversity including seven soil profiles to, what the winery calls its topography and the presence of colluvial fans makes Larkmead a rare site and a prize for their gifted winemaker. Petroski, who is also well known for his own label Massican, which focuses on the bright style of Mediterranean white wines, using an intriguing selection of grapes like Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio and Greco, has really made Larkmead a blue chip collector label in recent years. I admit to being blown away by Dan’s latest set of wines with this Solari showing outrageously well with its layers of blackberry coulis, creme de cassis, plum and black cherry fruitiness and ripe tannins along with sweet toast oak accents that never intrude on the purity as well as touches of minty herb, savory tones, anise, sandalwood, spicy tobacco, sage and floral incense. This brilliant Solari (black label) Cabernet will stand up to the test of time, it looks set to be a Napa legend in the making, if you have patience of course and a fat wallet, look for its best window to open in another 5 to 10 years and it should go past 2046! Save up and splurge on these 16s if you can, the rewards should be thrilling.
($224.95 Est.) 97-99 Points, grapelive