Great Wines: Selections from California’s 2012 Harvest

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Great Buys: Highlights from California’s Extraordinary 2012 Harvest

The 2012 Harvest in California was superb and well-deserved after a very difficult and short vintage in 2011 and short vintages in 2009 and 2010. We will be purchasing heavily on the 2012 vintage and suggest you do the same. Many years ago while working for a wholesaler in CT, I purchased heavily on the 1985 vintage Cabernet, Merlot, and blends. I still have many in my cellar and they are still stunning wines. We will be opening some 1985 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Bosche and Sycamore at Fluke on April 17 where we will be enjoying all of their current release wines also. Last year we had a Heitz Wine Cellars dinner at Fluke and I opened up a couple bottles of the Napa Valley Cabernet and Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet, both were superb. It can’t be denied that the best California wines age beautifully.

The wine critics are all in agreement on the 2012 vintage and also already raving about the 2013 vintage. The Wine Advocate rates the 2012 vintage 96 out of 100. Many wines were scored in the 90’s and there are 100 point wines to be found including some we will have to offer. The Wine Spectator’s James Laube raves about the 2012 vintage in Napa:

“Winemakers in Napa Valley were not only elated by the quality and quantity of the 2012 harvest, but a few see a level of excellence that supersedes past vintages, going back decades. “2012 will be a new high-water mark for Napa and California,” said Chuck Wagner of Caymus, who celebrated his 40th harvest in Rutherford. “I’d say that it is likely that many vintners have made their best wines ever.” Celia Welch of Corra echoed that sentiment. “The vines appeared so beautifully balanced that even some veteran growers were fooled by the size of the crop load. If the vintage presented a challenge, it was one of logistics,” she said, as in, “where can we put all of the fruit above and beyond what we had planned for?”

No growing season is easy, but 2012 presented few challenges. A mild spring led to a good fruit set. Summer and fall brought warm temperatures, but no heat waves. All the fruit enjoyed a long, slow ripening. Early indications are that Cabernets will be dark, rich and ageworthy, inviting comparisons with 2001, 2002 and 2007. “The saturation of color is amazing; the wines are almost black,” said Jeff Ames of Rudius and Tor. “The Bordeaux varieties are all heavy with tannins but it is sweet tannins and not drying at all.”

“Skins appeared to be pretty thick so I’m guessing it will be a high-structure year even with the bigger crop,” said Thomas Brown, owner of Rivers Marie and winemaker for a dozen wineries, including Outpost and Schrader. “The one thing we know for sure is there will be plenty of wine for everyone – a really nice change after the last two years”
-James Laube

Could this be comparable to the 2009 and 2010 vintages in Bordeaux? Both superb vintages and collectors, consumers, and even Hedge Fund companies around the world bought in as much as they could. Don’t miss out on your chance to purchase some stunning wines from this historic vintage. 

Please find below a few bargain wines from this vintage that we have in the store already, followed by a few premium wines available now, and a sample of those that we have coming in the future.
Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles 2012 – $12.99
In 1999, Agustin Huneeus developed nearly 700 acres along the Estrella River benchland in Paso Robles, nearly 400 acres of which is Cabernet Sauvignon for the Esatncia Cabernet program. This emerging region is ideal for producing grapes that result in complex and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon displaying intense dark fruit flavors followed by a long, rich finish. I had the pleasure of working with Agustin as his broker for Connecticut and Rhode Island at the time. The 2012’s aromas of ripe, dark black cherry, chocolate and currant complement the spicy peppery notes and hints of toasted sweet oak. Flavors of jammy dark fruit are accompanied by soft velvety tannins, followed with a long, rich finish.
…We also recommend…
Estancia Merlot, North Coast 2012 – $11.99
Aromas of intense, concentrated dark fruit, blueberry pie, and blackberry compote. On the palate, soft fleshy fruit, cherry cola, with a pleasant, lingering finish of toasty vanilla.
Irony Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast 2012 – $16.99
Opens with enticing aromas of boysenberry, black cherry and cassis, with a hint of cedar notes. This medium-bodied wine delivers dark berry flavors, mixed with layers of chocolate covered black cherries and baking spice.


Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2012 – $19.99
Aromas of baking spices, hints of cedar, chocolate and toasty oak notes frame bright fruit of red cherry, black plum, and cranberry. These aromas led to flavors of red plum, cassis, blackberry and cherry.

…We also recommend…
Simi Merlot, Sonoma 2012 – $14.99
Deep garnet with a ruby edge, the 2012 Simi Sonoma County Merlot has rich, dark notes of blackberry and plum with cocoa, nutmeg, and earthy hints of cedar and bay laurel. Smoky bacon notes frame bright fruit aromas into a compelling mixture of bright fruit with exotic spice and toast. Red and dark fruits play off each other with layer after luscious layer—both youthful and concentrated.

Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford 2012 – $29.99

The 2012 Rutherford is a beautiful representation, with notes of dusty, loamy soil, dark black cherries, black cassis, cedarwood and Christmas fruitcake. Fleshy, round and sexy, it should drink well for 8-10 years.
The following wines are among first premium California Cabernet, Merlot, and Blends from the 2012 Vintage available in store.

Freemark Abbey Merlot 2012 – $27.99
* Wine Advocate Rated 92pts *

A cross-Napa Valley blend, the 2012 Merlot is their largest cuvée (15,500 cases), and is composed of 85.2% Merlot blended with other Bordeaux varietals. Only 21% new oak is used, so the fruit component dominates. A dense plum/purple color is followed by notes of chocolate, berries, tobacco leaf, forest floor and mocha. This lush, fruit-driven, hedonistic, sensual Merlot can be drunk over the next 7-8 years.

Shafer Merlot 2012 – $59.99
* Wine Advocate Rated 90pts *
The 2012 Merlot, which comes in at 15.5% natural alcohol, is a beauty. It’s 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest a touch of Malbec. The wine reveals notes of black cherries, tobacco leaf, mocha and darker-berried fruit with a hint of white chocolate. It’s ripe, medium to full-bodied, but fresh, elegant and well-delineated. This beauty should drink well for a decade or more. Year in year out, this is one of the superstar wineries, not only in Napa Valley and all of California, but in the entire world.

…We also recommend…
Shafer One Point Five Cabernet 2012 – $84.99 (1.5L bottle)
* Wine Advocate Rated 94pts *
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon One Pint Five is a big-time winner, a blend of almost all Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine has an opaque bluish/purple color, almost indigo, and is full-bodied with dense chocolaty crème de cassis notes, licorice and a touch of minerality. The wine has well-integrated wood, is full and seems balanced and rich enough to age for two decades or more.

Round Pond Kith & Kin Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $34.99
Intense, with vibrant, snappy, extracted dark berry, underbrush, fresh earth, black licorice and cedar notes. Maintains focus and ends with a persistent push of flavors. Drink now through 2021.

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2012 – $49.99
* Wine Advocate Rated 90-92pts *
The 2012 barrel samples I have tasted include the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, an inky-purple wine loaded with flowery black currant fruit, sweet tannins and a slightly more generous, fleshier, fatter mid-palate and finish than the 2010s. Will last 15+ years.

Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford 2012 – $47.99
The first vintage produced entirely from estate-grown fruit; a blend of 92% Cab & 8% Cab Franc. From the winery: “Has all the hallmarks of a legendary Rutherford Cabernet: deep, cassis aromas, classic notes of ‘Rutherford Dust,’ and earthen flavors of cedar and black olive. Plush mouthfeel across the palate with velvety tannins, balanced by bright acidity and firm structure, hinting at promising years to come.”

Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2012 – $49.99
* Wine Spectator Rated 92pts *

Fairly rich and concentrated, with excellent depth and a range of flavor built around dark berry, mocha, espresso, cedar and tobacco notes.

Last but not least, here are just a few Wine Advocate’s highest-rated 2012 wines that we will be offering as soon as they arrive.

Lail Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, J.Daniel Cuvee 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 100pts *

Absolutely perfect and one of the monumental wines of my long tasting trip in Napa is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon J. Daniel Cuvée. I didn’t see this from barrel last year. Aged 20 months in 75% new French oak and representing 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from three vineyard sources: one in Calistoga, one in Oakville and one in Howell Mountain. Robin Lail and winemaker Philippe Melka hit pay dirt with a wine that has an inky purple color, an almost amazing bouquet that reminded me of 1989 Chateau Montrose when it was young. Sweet almost truffle-infused earth, graphite, forest floor, blackcurrant and black cherry notes are followed by a full-bodied wine with a hint of mocha and licorice. Superb purity, an incremental, yet full-bodied mouthfeel, and an extravagant, layered texture and finish make for the finest wine Robin Lail has produced to date at her winery. Drink it over the next 25-35 years.

Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 100pts *
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder is as compelling a Cabernet Sauvignon as one could ever hope to taste. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a high-elevation site boasts an inky/purple color, and smells of ink, blueberry liqueur, blackberries, black raspberries, mulberries, licorice, charcoal and camphor. With magnificent fruit richness, a layered, full-bodied mouthfeel, and incredible length, this seamlessly constructed 2012 should provide immense pleasure for 25+ years. Kudos to winemaker Chris Carpenter as he is clearly at the top of his game.

Verite Le Desir 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 96-100pts *
Made from a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon & 3% Malbec, the 2012 Le Desir should turn out to be one of the most explosively fragrant wines in this portfolio (primarily because of the significant Cabernet Franc in the blend). Deep, dark purple color, followed by gorgeous aromas of blueberries, black raspberries, lead pencil shavings, incense and camphor. With excellent concentration, a full-bodied mouthfeel and an amazingly long finish, it should be cellared for 5-7 years, and drunk over the following three decades.

Verite La Muse 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 96-100pts *
A blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec from Bennett Valley, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill and Knights Valley, revealing wonderful sucrosity along with a sexy, up-front perfume of plums, graphite, licorice, Christmas fruitcake, kirsch, black currants and blackberries. This big, full-bodied, opulently-styled wine will probably be the easiest to drink early on, although it needs at least 5 years in the bottle to reach its peak. It should keep for 25+ years.

Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 96-98+pts *
The flagship offering, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard is a much longer-term proposition, even for a 2012. It boasts a thick-looking, dense ruby/purple color, sensational extract and richness, abundant notes of blackcurrants, blueberries, blackberries, spring flowers and forest floor, and full body. However, it pulls back before it becomes heavy or overly extracted. The finish lasts 45-50 seconds. This beauty is still in barrel, and will warrant 5-6 years of patience after its release. Like most Cabernet Sauvignons made from the Eisele Vineyard, it should keep for 25-30 years. The only difference I could find between this effort and those made by the Araujo family is that the 2012 possesses slightly more density and structure.

Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 96pts *
Revealing the great blending skills of Beringer’s winemaking team, this wine is a winner. Having purchased Private Reserves for many years, I can attest that they age incredibly well. The sensational 2012 (10,000 cases) boasts an opaque purple color along with abundant aromas of charcoal, burning embers, crïme de cassis, chocolate, blackberries and licorice. The long, complex, compelling, full-bodied texture along with terrific purity and a savory, rich mouthfeel result in a classic, quintessential Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to drink now and over the next 20-25 years.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
* Wine Advocate Rated 96+pts *
The opaque purple-hued 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a glorious bouquet of crème de cassis, spring flowers, a Pauillac-like lead pencil note, and background new oak. The overall impression is one of restraint combined with richness. This full-bodied effort possesses good acidity and ripe tannin. It has been crafted for the long-term. The hallmarks of great Spottswoode wines are their purity and elegance combined with serious power. The 2012 has that in abundance. This youthful, reserved Cabernet will benefit from 3-5 years of cellaring, and will keep for two decades or more.

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