We are upon the 40th harvest since Mom and Dad bought this place, and devoted their lives not only to making wine, but, even more totally, to each other. This harvest will be totally different than the previous thirty-nine, as our lives at Mayacamas are fundamentally, forever altered now. Mom passed away in June.
My mother, Elinor Travers, called “Nonie” by many who knew her, had been living with a bone marrow disease affecting the blood, for which there is no known cure, for the past four years. Even during the time of her body’s illness, Mom still continued to live with the same gentle spirit of warmth, genuine personal care for others, enthusiasm for life, and unconditional love that had always been her essence, and which all who met her felt quite immediately and directly. She was the constantly welcoming spirit behind Mayacamas Vineyards. She died peacefully with my Dad, my brothers, her brother, and me by her side. We knew this time would come for her, as it will for us all, but still we were somehow unprepared. Speaking for myself, having grown up in the atmosphere of her love, there seemed to be a subtle quality of endlessness to her quiet, compassionate presence, and for me something in her almost defied the idea that we would one day have to be without her.
Dad asked me to write the newsletter this time. As we deal with the loss of Mom, the grapevines have done this year what they have always done, growing from the dormant, clipped-back stage of winter into the full leafy flush of summer. It has been a very hot summer at times, and several blocks of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay have already been picked and crushed, with more blocks almost ripe as I write this. It is one of our earliest harvests. And as always at this time of year, there is another vintage of wine being released for sale.
This time, the only wine we are releasing is the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, as we are holding back the 2005 Pinot Noir for another year to allow it to mature that much more, in order to let it become a little more supple before release. We released the Library Selection 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon earlier this summer.
The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is classically balanced in terms of acid and tannin structure. The bouquet comes on with red cherry, strawberry, and plum aromas, reflective of the ripeness of 13 ¼ % alcohol wine, which is pretty ripe for us, but still restrained in the context of today’s Napa Valley Cabernets. The wine is showing very pure berry varietal character in the nose and revealing its Mt. Veeder origins with side notes of licorice and bay leaf. On the palate, the typical Mayacamas blackberry, black cherry, red cherry, pepper, and mint are all in evidence, with the usual mountain volcanic dustiness as well. It has a slightly richer texture in the mid-palate than the 2001, and has slightly less tangy acidity, but still enough crispness to allow a very long finish and to go extremely well with all kinds of beef, lamb, and game dishes. As with any Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon, this one will age very well for at least a couple decades before it even thinks about getting tired.
The Library Release – the 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon – is drinking beautifully now. It’s fresh and lively with great acidity, and dark plum and black cherry aromas, with a slight smokiness on the edge, and deep red cherry and black cherry flavors on the palate. Secondary flavors include cedar, faint mint, and powdered lava/volcanic ash, that last distinctly recalling what a kid thirty years ago would have tasted upon biffing his motocross around here. Trust me. The tannins have integrated very nicely, and the texture is rich in the classical, Bordeaux-like sense. This has always been one of Dad’s favorites.
Dad wrote the newsletter with great joy just over two years ago, when my brother Matt and my sister-in-law Ursula had a baby boy. Of course toddling Jackson Travers gave Mom tremendous happiness as well, and we are all so grateful that she got to know her first grandchild. Jackson was yet another Travers guy contributing to quite a streak: for 104 years in a row, all Travers children had been male. Not a single girl had been born with our family name for more than a century.
Well, nothing last forever. Matt and Ursula had another baby just 46 days after Mom died. They named the little girl after Mom. On this 40th harvest we now have another Elinor at the ranch, a very little one.