In terms of size and style, Saddleback Cellars is quite modest by Napa Valley standards. The winery, located in Oakville and nestled about halfway between Napa’s iconic Route 29 and Silverado Trail, has only 15 acres planted to vine — most devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon. What’s grand are Saddleback’s wines. Founder and winemaker Nils Venge has become legendary for his classic renditions of Napa Valley Cabernet — big, burly Cabs with considerable complexity, finesse, and ageability which he crafts with fruit from Saddleback’s estate vineyards and other premium Napa Valley vineyards. As longtime fans of Nils’ winemaking, we were delighted to have the opportunity to conduct a vertical tasting of four consecutive vintages of his Cabernet Sauvignon — 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 — courtesy of WOTBH contributor Tyson Schaedel and WOTBH’s own Richard Stone. It was a magnificent flight, and among our most noteworthy Napa Valley Cab tastings in recent memory. Here are our tasting notes:
2004: This vintage drinks like a much younger wine, with hearty green pepper and dark berry notes on the nose and palate and fresh acidity. A harmonious and vibrant wine, and a WOTBH Favorite.
2006: This vintage is a bit lighter in structure and character compared to its sibling vintages, offering some of the green pepper qualities of the 2004 with additional hints of mineral.
2007: This vintage combines deep, lingering black cherry aromas and flavors with notions of vanilla bean and leather that are seamlessly interwoven with cedar-tinged oak. A rich and complex Cab from beginning to end, and a WOTBH Favorite.
All four vintages we tasted were delicious, but the 2004 and 2007 we judged to be exceptional. We are awarding the 2004 with 92 points and the magnificent 2007 with 94 points. Unfortunately, the 2004 is sold out, but the 2007 is still available in a large format bottling (1.5 liter magnum, $135). For more information, visit the winery virtually at www.saddlebackcellars.com.
(Editor’s Note: Saddleback Cellars produces several other red and white wines in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon. See our review of Nils’ outstanding 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel at http://www.wineonthebarrelhead.com/?p=675.)