W I N E R Y & V I N E Y A R D S

A Day in the Dust:
A Tasting of 2005 Rutherford Cabernets

By Jason Barlow

The 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.

A 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.

The 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.

Long 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.

Given 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.

Exiting 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.

F E A T U R E D -W I N E S

Rubicon Estate, Rubicon, Rutherford, Napa Valley 2005
Optimal growing conditions lead to great color and fruit intensity, and vigilant attention from the winemaking team have produced an outstanding wine of tremendous depth.  Swirling a glass releases luscious dark fruit aromas and alluring hints of sweetness.  Velvety tannins carry ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors smoothly over the palate.  The elegant finish leaves rich, lingering notes of coffee and dark chocolate.  The best wine I’ve had this year!


Rubicon Estates
PO Box 208
Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: 800 RUBICON

Rutherford Napa Valley Tastings 2008


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Other Great Related Links:
Andy Beckstoffer's Imprint On The Wine Industry
A Day in the Dust: A Tasting of 2005 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Portfolio of Duckhorn Vineyard Wine Reviews
Freemark Abbey
Rutherford Napa Valley Tastings 2008
Rutherford - Napa Valley, A Day in the Dust Newsletter

Paso Robles, CA Tastings 2008
Paris Wine Bars (Bistros) By Eric Gaudet
Italian Wine Classification
Guide to Napa Varietals
Ten Best Wines of 1998




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