Day in the Dust:
A Tasting of 2005 Rutherford Cabernets
caressing turns of Calistoga Road brought us gently out of the
hills and into St. Helena. Picturesque houses line the street.
Theyíre cozy and painted warm colors with well kept lawns
and small flower beds that blush in the balmy morning rays of
sunlight that pour into the serene little town. It's an ideal
day to spend in the Napa Valley. The temperature hovers pleasantly
in the upper seventies. Above the sky is a dazzling blue with
scattered wisps of clouds highlighting the vast canvas. The small
outdoor tables in front of coffee shops and bakeries look quite
inviting, but they're not what we seek. Rutherford wine is foremost
on our minds.
few miles up the road, we enter the little town, it's population
sitting just under 600. Passing the familiar landmark of the Rutherford
Grill, we find the Rubicon Estate off to our
right, the long drive way nestled among the majestic fields of
the property that extend out into the tranquil countryside. Those
who make the stroll up are greeted with the regal welcome of a
long red carpet that stretches from the parking lot right to the
expansive main building. The lofty walls and towers whisper of
times long ago when chivalry and romance were staples of everyday
life, at least in the legends.
romantic aura of those olden tales are, of course, fitting for
Rutherford. The area was established by a romance.
When Thomas Rutherford married Elizabeth Yount, they were gifted
1,040-acres of land as a wedding present in 1864. That land has
grown into a very special place in the world of wine with a proud
tradition of quality dating all the way back to the 1880ís.
Now, the wines of today carry on the quixotic nature of Rutherford's
beginnings, reminding us all of those old western days with their
signature dusty finish.
stretched tables anticipate our arrival with rows of wine glasses
laid out quite precisely. Sitting down, all listen intently to
stories of the 2005 crop from those who walked among the vines
as they ripened. We are regaled by accounts of pristine weather:
mild conditions and few heat spikes, favorable temperatures during
bloom, and encouraging amounts of rainfall. On the vines, the
grapes were full and plentiful, with even the casual bike rider
noticing the abundance of ripe fruit. Winemakers in attendance
from Quintessa and Beaulieu Vineyard
were both quite pleased by how the crop turned out.
the quality of the grapes, it is no surprise that the wines we
tasted reflected that excellence. Rather than opting for big,
bold, fleshy cabernets, which was more common for the 2004 vintage,
these 2005 wines were more classically structured, emphasizing
rich fruit flavors, lush tannins, and the classic finish of Rutherford
dust. In the words of sommelier Christie Dufault, Rutherford
wines are “generally restrained" and prossess an “evident
texture, which other appellations in Napa Valley just don't achieve."
These classic characteristics of the six-square mile appellation
came through nicely in the wines, and thus, I wouldn't score a
single bottle below an 85. In the triple digit price range, Rubicon,
Beaulieu, Quintessa, and Scarecrow
all stood out. For the wines priced in the double digits, Monticello
and Rutherford Grove were both worthy of notice.
the building through the grand main doors and stepping out into
the pristine fresh air, I think all of us looked back with a bit
of longing. We'd enjoy a truly indulgent array of cabernets in
a quaint setting on a picturesque day. Given a choice, none of
us would have left. Still, there is consolation. Personally, I'll
very much look forward to these cabernets release, knowing that
opening a bottle will bring me right back to the day we spent
in Rutherford Dust.