Tasting Notes by
George Heritier




hile following up on some of our past Underground features, I’ve had the opportunity to try several new bottlings lately, and also to check on the progress of some old friends we’ve tasted previously. Case in point: Fred Fisher stopped by a few weeks ago with four current selections from the Fisher Vineyards portfolio, all of which more than live up to the high standards that one expects from a winery with such a fine track record.

Fisher Sonoma Chardonnay Mountain Estate2004 Fisher Sonoma Chardonnay Mountain Estate, $58.99, 14.1% alc.: I quite enjoyed the 2003 version of this wine, and the ’04 is every bit as good; medium straw in color with a tinge of lime, it offers toasty oak over pear and tropical fruit, shaded with hints of mineral, all in the classic Fisher style. Velvet smooth on the palate, with excellent balance, length and best of all, great promise for the future. Sees 14 months in French oak, 50% of which is new.  Find this wine

2003 Fisher Napa Cameron Red Wine, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, $53.99, 13% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec 14.5% alc.: A lovely dark garnet hue, this wine is produced from 6-10 year old vines from Fisher’s Napa Estate vineyards. Like the ’02 version, this is meant to be drunk early and enjoyed for its exuberance, and it certainly performs admirably in that regard, giving up sweet oak over rich, delicious black currant and black cherry flavors and aromas, all with subtle hints of chocolate underneath. Well structured, with a long finish, it can be enjoyed now or laid down for a few years.  Find this wine

2002 Fisher Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Coach Insignia, $74.99, 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 14.8% alc.: Deeper and darker than the Cameron in both color and character, this is a fine follow-up to the excellent ’01 Coach Insignia, with spicy sweet oak, black currant, dark plum and black cherry characteristics that meld seamlessly into the greater whole; rich, lush and delicious, and structured to improve for several years, yet already drinking well, with the tannins showing mostly on the finish. 
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Fisher Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Lamb Vineyard2001 Fisher Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Lamb Vineyard, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, $132.99, 14.3% alc.: Not as sweet on the nose or on the palate as the Cameron or Coach Insignia bottlings, this features subtle toasty oak over deeper, darker black currant and cassis shaded with earthy undertones and some subtle cedar and tobacco; still a relatively young wine, it should start to show its best around 2011. It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison with this and the 2000 Fisher Lamb Cab that I enjoyed so much last year.  Find this wine

These four fine wines only reinforce my appreciation for Fisher Vineyards, and after having spent some time with Fred’s daughter (and Fisher winemaker) Whitney, it was a treat to finally get to meet the patriarch of the family. The same can be said for Nicole Duncan, who is not only involved in Sales & Marketing for the rising Napa Valley star winery Ladera, but is also the daughter of Ladera owners Pat and Anne Stotesbery. Nicole came through town not long ago, and we tasted through the current selections that are available in Michigan.

2001 Chateau Woltner Russian River Valley Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard, $26.99, 14.8 alc.: The last vintage of this wine that will be produced, this pale gold shows classic Russian River Valley Chardonnay character, with sweet toasty oak over rich ripe pear, underscored with subtle minerality. Medium to medium full body, with a long finish and showing a little heat, it saw 50% new and 50% old French oak; 33% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation.  Find this wine

Ladera Napa Cabernet Sauvignon2003 Ladera Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot, 3% Merlot, $35, 14.9% alc.: Comprised from almost equal parts Lone Canyon and Howell Mountain fruit, dark garnet blend is smoother and more approachable than those two single vineyard bottlings, with its sweet, spicy oak over sweet cassis, black currant and black cherry character, supported with a little earth underneath it all. Silky textured, with good structure and a long finish, this is very nice now, or you can easily hold it for five years. Find this wine

2003 Ladera Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, $68, 15.3% alc.: Referred to as Ladera’s “Gentleman Cabernet,” reflecting one side of Pat Stotesbery’s personality, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, dark garnet in color, with elegant flavors and aromas of smoky, toasty oak, cassis, black currant and dark plum, shaded with a note of mahogany; with ample structure, it is deep, rich, creamy long and luscious, but it too seems to show some alcohol heat.  Find this wine

2002 Ladera Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Lone Canyon, $65, 14.9% alc.: This one is known as Ladera’s “Cowboy Cab,” reflecting the other side of Pat’s persona, and I got a somewhat different take on this one from the last time we tried it; this time it’s all about black currant and cassis accented with chocolate and tobacco, being well structured, yet quite approachable. Like our previous encounter with this, it again shows a little heat, but as with the others noted here it is a minor distraction.  Find this wine

It’ll be interesting to follow the progress of Ladera, as we have since late 2004. Another
Napa producer we’ve been keeping on our radar is Schweiger Vineyards, and when Judie Murdoch, ace sales representative of their Michigan distributor Wines of Distinction, asked if I’d like to meet and taste with Diana Schweiger Isdahl, the daughter of winery owners Sally and Fred, and now in charge of Schweiger Sales, Marketing and Public Relations, I gladly accepted. I’ve tasted all but one of these previously (the Cabernet Sauvignon Port V being the only new acquaintance), and I always enjoy seeing how they’re coming along.

2004 Schweiger Vineyards Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc Uboldi Vineyard, $16.99, 13.5% alc.: Pale to medium straw with a slight tinge of lime in color, and still going strong, with flavors and aromas of garlic sweat, boxwood, gooseberry and a hint of green melon; good cut, intensity and length, and the once subtle oak is no longer apparent. This does everything that good Sauvignon should.  Find this wine

2003 Schweiger Vineyards Napa Chardonnay Spring Mountain District, $29.99, 14.6 alc.: Medium straw to pale gold in color, with pure, creamy pear Chardonnay character; well balanced, with good cut and a nice finish, and like the Sauvignon Blanc, still going strong. Find this wine

2000 Schweiger Vineyards Napa Merlot Spring Mountain District, $19.99, 13.9% alc.: Deep, dark ruby red in color, I enjoyed this even more than the last time I had it, and even then, it was one of the rare California Merlots that I could drink on a regular basis. It shows excellent heft to the full bodied black currant and blackberry flavors accented with a nice kiss of sweet oak, and these are reflected on the nose as well. Still showing the good structure that got it here, it never needed any Cabernet Sauvignon blended into it to bolster its constitution, and is drinking very well right now. So much for the “so-so” vintage…  Find this wine

Schweiger Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District2001 Schweiger Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, $42.99, 13.9% alc.: Dark garnet color, with sweet, toasty oak over delicious black currant, cassis and a hint of chocolate; shows a lovely, smooth character with good structure and a long finish. This one is right there, right now.  Find this wine

2000 Schweiger Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, $19.99, 14.2% alc.: It might have been better to taste this before the ’01, as the younger vintage is brighter and a bit more fruit forward, while this is darker, with a more earthy personality. Still, it shows everything it has the last ten times we’ve had it, so I always enjoy another sip or three, and it’s an excellent value at this price.  Find this wine

Schweiger Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Port V Spring Mountain District, 375 ml, $49.99, 18.9% alc.: Rich, thick and viscous, all deep, dark chocolate and cassis in character; effusive and scrumptious. I’d have like to have spent a little more time with this to get a more thorough take on it, but its appeal is undeniable.  Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,


Other Recent Wine Explorations

QPR All Stars: MAN Vintners & Marqués de Cáceres

12 From the Perrin Family

Harvest Images from Berthet-Rayne

Wicked Couch & Spit

Not Just Flotsam and Jetsam

More Wines With Friends

Wines of Domaine Berthet-Rayne

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© George Heritier October, 2006