There are two seemingly divergent philosophies in the case of producing nice wine. One is to work with prime growers all through a area or appellation, buying the very best fruit doable with a purpose to specific some better reality concerning the land classic after classic; the opposite is to farm one’s personal winery, and to work, yr in and yr out, to discover the character of that exact patch of the planet as a method of showcasing not only one particular a part of a area, however the way it adjustments from one classic to the subsequent. Each of them have the potential to supply wines of honesty and profundity. That is the story of two extremely profitable standouts, each of which excel with Cabernet Sauvignon but come at it from totally different angles. Taken collectively, they showcase the fantastically excessive ranges of high quality and depths of profundity that America’s most well-known area is understood for.
Memento Mori was based in 2010 by Hayes Drumwright, Adriel Lares, and Adam Craun. The identify, which interprets from the Latin as “do not forget that you’ll die” or, alternatively, “bear in mind you should die,” is a reminder to the three companions that success is about leaving all of it on the proverbial area, and dealing to succeed it doesn’t matter what the challenges. Drumwright, in any case, was a Division-1 swimmer in faculty, a 20-year-old scholar hitting what ought to have been the height of his youth, when he was identified with testicular most cancers. He survived, however the course of his life, the best way he noticed his function on this planet, was altered. After he graduated, he discovered his option to tech, and because of the dot-com increase, Drumwright was a millionaire by 28…earlier than the bust introduced him to chapter by 29. Since then, his enterprise achievements have been substantial, together with Trace3, POPin, and InstantScale, the enterprise capital agency. The identify Memento Mori, then, is a reminder to the group that they should take advantage of day by day. Throughout a zoom interview and tasting, the group defined to me that the identify, for them, is a reminder that, since nothing is assured, they need to dwell day by day to the fullest. Given what he’s been by means of, Drumwright instructed me, “I actually don’t suppose I ought to be petrified of embarrassment or failure.”
That, thankfully, hasn’t been a problem with Memento Mori. The group’s first classic was 2010, and the flagship wine that yr was based mostly on a mix that utilized solely 5 of 13 barrels. This, in fact, induced winemaker Sam Kaplan no small quantity of concern, as he didn’t wish to pass over such a big share of their wine. However true to the Memento Mori identify, and its imploring to “bear in mind to dwell,” he was instructed to bottle it and never fear about the remaining. Since then, the companions have constructed relationships with a number of the prime vineyards in Napa, and every classic, they launch a restricted variety of single-vineyard Cabs from the very best of them. Their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon every year is a mix of all the ones that they work with. For the 2019, it’s a shocking mixture of fruit from Beckstoffer Dr. Crane, Beckstoffer Las Piedras, Oakville Ranch, Vine Hill Ranch and Weitz Winery—a veritable who’s who of prime Napa vineyards.
The wine is being made by Sam Kaplan, who has been with the Memento Mori group since their first classic 2010 and has been instrumental in facilitating entry to such commemorated vineyards. He’s additionally the founding winemaker at Arkenstone and, together with his spouse Nancy Kaplan, began MAXEM Wines, which focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and whose identify is an homage to their youngsters, Max and Emma.
As for the wines, they’re stellar. The flagship Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is dense, wealthy, and seamless, and rises from the glass with charred-mint-flecked aromas of crimson and black currants, mountain and brambly berries, cigar tobacco, and smoldering cedar, all earlier than a palate of pure silk, with purple berries, crushed blueberries, springtime flowers, candied orange peels coated in darkish chocolate, espresso and the oils of its crema, recent figs, pomegranate syrup, and pralines. A savory be aware sweeps in, and rolls by means of the lengthy, balanced end. That is highly effective and scrumptious, with a lot left in reserve. Take pleasure in it now – 2050, and probably past.
Realm Cellars, then again, has taken a barely totally different strategy. In 2012, proprietor Scott Becker and winemaker Benoit Touquette teamed as much as revive the practically bankrupt model. It was an surprising partnership: Touquette introduced a deep nicely of expertise and contacts within the winemaking enterprise to the desk—he had labored with Andy Erickson, some of the esteemed winemakers of his era, at Ovid, Screaming Eagle, and extra—however Becker, following 5 years within the Air Drive after which a graduate diploma from Harvard Enterprise Faculty, was newer to the world of wine. Nonetheless, an opportunity assembly at Harvard with Jack Cakebread, and a subsequent mentorship by the likes of Cakebread, Invoice Harlan, Bart Araujo, Jim Barrett, and Frank Farella, was all it took to spark his ardour for the wine enterprise. After a number of years, he was able to make his transfer to Realm.
Earlier than they took over, Realm was based mostly on what Becker referred to as an “asset-light mannequin,” and their wines have been targeted on bought fruit. Ultimately, nonetheless, they determined that they needed to personal a single property winery, and so they have been finally in a position to purchase a 90-acre property on Wappo Hill in Stags Leap District from Napa legend Bob Hartwell. Touquette was the winemaker for Hartwell, and it’s that relationship that allowed the chance to amass the land to even current itself. It was additionally a deeply private acquisition for Touquette, that “speaks to the Napa Valley and this passing of the baton,” he instructed me. “There’s relationships, and naturally it needed to make sense from an financial viewpoint, however there’s greater than that.”
It’s a fantastically various winery, and Touquette instructed me that he’s notably drawn to the truth that it incorporates quite a lot of range when it comes to terroir, which affords them the chance to supply wines of distinct character. All instructed, they’ve property vineyards in Coombsville and Stags Leap District, personal 150 acres of land in whole, and work with prime vineyards all through Napa Valley. They produce 12 wines whole, together with seven single vineyards and the remaining blends. “The home fashion,” Becker instructed me, “is the stability of huge wines which are nonetheless mild on their toes.” A latest tasting of two present releases bears this out in uniquely scrumptious methods.
Realm Cellars Farella Winery 2019 Coombsville, Napa Valley
Aromatically, this jogs my memory of a younger classic Port in plenty of methods, with its exuberant purple berry fruit, huckleberries, violets, and candy spice and tobacco notes lifted with extra flowers and a delicate core of mineral. These precede a silky but brilliantly structured palate that virtually drips with purple and black plums, blackberries, boysenberries, the caramelized prime of an ideal vanilla crème brûlée, and cigar humidor, all of it washing over the palate with melted licorice and a savory end dusted with cinnamon, clove, allspice, and ash. The tannins are candy and well-integrated already, although this can be even higher in a number of years, after which proceed evolving for an additional 25 years, at the least. Drink now with air, however higher to carry till 2023 after which take pleasure in over the next quarter-century.
Realm Cellars Hartwell XX 2019 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Youthful, but so deep and incisive on the nostril, with licorice, rooibos, crushed black raspberries, brandied cherries, candy spice, citrus, and the suggestion of incense, all teeing up a palate of immense ripeness and generosity, but severe construction whose ripe tannins usher in savory flavors of ash, soy sauce, sizzling rocks, and beef bouillon, that are glorious counterpoints to the black cherries, plum stones, fig molasses, and cafe mocha. Wants time, however what a wine this can be: Drink 2024 – 2050 and past. Monumental.
Each of those producers, Memento Mori and Realm, embody a lot of what Napa Valley does brilliantly: They’re wines that specific world-class land, constant and uncompromising visions, and they’re each producing wines which are deeply private to the individuals behind them. That, it appears to me, is the proverbial secret sauce behind them, and what makes each such standouts in in the present day’s Napa Cab panorama.