Sunday, October 28, 2007

Heitz Cellar, an Unforgettable Flight

We decided to take a trip over to Napa and find Heitz Cellars, a producer to very fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot wines. If you wish to explore truly well crafted wines, make the trip to Heitz. We feel that Heitz Cellars was one of the most important stops we made.

The reason for our trip was to experience wines that were not accessible to us because of geographical distribution, wines that do not fit our budget, and wines that have limited production. Above all, we wanted to experience for ourselves the marriage of terroir and craftsmanship. This one stop satisfied all of these points.

Heitz Cellars has a beautiful tasting room with good acoustics with a friendly host. We were made to feel welcome and invited for a tasting. (This sounds like a no-brainer, but this can set the tone of the tasting experience.)

We tasted:
2005 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
2005 Petit Verdot
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Trailside Vineyard, Napa Valley
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bella Oaks Vineyard, Rutherford
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Oakville

The Chardonnay was crisp, and very well balanced between fruit and oak. This is not your Kendall-Jackson type oak bomb. This wine is more a celebration of the Chardonnay grape gracefully flavored with French oak…but with a very light touch. Aromas and flavors of lemon, apple pear, peach, pineapple, slate, mineral and vanilla. Crisp taste with a short to moderate finish. Just Yum.

The Petit Verdot is a nice fruit forward, tart wine with tree fruit flavors with nice soft tannins. I picked up strawberry, blackberry, cherry, plum, current, earthy notes, smoke and chocolate. Our pourer suggests red Italian sauces, French onion soup and Cajun food.

Next were the featured cabs. As I evaluated each cab, I began to understand what a truly unique winery Heitz Cellars is. Heitz cabs are aged in oak for three and one half years, one year in American oak and the remainder in French. This gives the wines an unbelievably smooth wine with structure for aging.

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon “Martha’s Vineyard”
Heitz Cellars

AVA: Oakville
Alcohol: 14.2%
Price: $110

Color: Ruby red
Intensity: Deep
Aromas: Strawberry, blackberry, cherry, violet, smoky
Flavors: Strawberry, blackberry, cherry, current, jam, mint, eucalyptus, anise, black pepper, Allspice, cedar, sandalwood, tobacco
Body: Full, dry
Acidity: Moderate
Tannins: Suede
Finish: Long

Like all Heitz cabs we tried, the oak and toast are subdued. Well aged tannins balanced with fruit and mint. The fruit still shines through as when it was young, but shows great maturity. This was a privilege to be able to taste.