“If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.”
-Falstaff, Henry the Fourth Part II
When I was in college, “sack” could mean a few things, but wine wasn’t one of them. However, with that word the Bard was referring to Spanish Sherry; and that brings up an issue that’s often on our minds: wine structure.
For us, a wine’s acidity, tannins, viscosity in the mid-palate, and the like should be at the service of three essential things: enjoying wine with food; faithfully expressing a specific place on the earth; and allowing the wine to evolve in the bottle, thereby giving the fruit a way to move through time so that its nuances can change and become more complex without the wine degenerating too soon in the process. That third element of Mayacamas wines, longevity, is at the heart of what we’ve always called our “Library” program, in which we re-release – pull out from our cellar as if from behind a stack of books – an older Chardonnay and an older Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines, having been stored in perfect conditions by us, and now having transformed in the bottle, are made available in a very limited fashion. They are particularly expressive of what we’re doing as a winery. Having that third dimension of time to allow more subtleties to emerge, these wines have more to say.
And that brings us to the wines we are now offering. Currently, our Library release is the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. The bouquet is a mix of blackberry, black cherry, and cedar notes, along with Mount Veeder dust and an echo of ground pepper. On the palate, its mountain tannins have integrated nicely, and a still-fresh acidity upholds lots of black cherry, plum, and deep-woods cedar flavors. The finish goes a long time (see: forswear thin potations).
The Library release on the Chardonnay side is the 2002. Now just getting into its first full bloom of maturity, it has rounded into a honeydew melon and lime-on-the-lips temptation, with bright acidity and a slightly fleshier mouth-feel than it had in its youth.
Meanwhile, we announce the new releases, beginning with the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine reminds me of the white Graves I enjoyed recently. While the fruit of our S. B. is a little more pronounced than what you typically find in Bordeaux, with pineapple, lemons, and mellow limes up front in the nose, the balanced attack of bright acidity in the mouth is quite similar to white Graves, with a strong finish. Grapefruit and a crisp version of honeydew melon on the palate make for a winning result.
We also present our 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. I would say that this isn’t your father’s Napa Cab, except I can’t say that myself. You’ll know who made this when you pull the cork. It isn’t 28-plus degrees-brix of ripeness Oakville-Rutherford style Cab. More restrained and traditional than that in terms of ripeness, on the nose it has plenty of red currant notes, and deep swaths of cherries like the ones you see around mid-May on the road through the old Cab vines. It also suggests sage and bay leaf. In the mouth, more cherries blanket the palate, with the ranch’s typical volcano smack of the earth. Black tea and plums lead into a long finish. It’s actually pure Mount Veeder, and that’s as it should be. The wines at Mayacamas have always been strikingly themselves, due to terroir and also the personality of the guy making the stuff. Somewhat contrarian to the current in California vogue at any given moment, our winemaker made the maiden voyage in the Huge Alcohol Zin boat, then abandoned ship before everyone else jumped in. We haven’t made one since 1984. Dad didn’t like how it aged. We used to be assailed for the massiveness of our Cabs; now everyone’s gone bigger in Cab, too, and we are still plotting a course more like the old world style that inspired the old man in the first place. Having worked a few harvests in Bordeaux myself, I’m fully on board with that, too.
Available now too is our 2003 Merlot. Its even ripeness of fruit brings out volumes of red cherry, black cherry, an violets in the nose. The palate continues where the bouquet leaves off with the red cherries, along with dark plum notes to compliment a deep mineral edge. The acidity is very alive, and the tannins pronounced but smooth.
We are also now offering our 2005 Chardonnay. Young but already attractive, this wine is crisp, clean, and tangy. The fresh citrus fruit in the nose is complimented by a substantial dose of minerality. Look for this one to go the long haul in the cellar with aplomb. Again contrary to almost everyone else, we’ve employed no malolactic fermentation in Chardonnays for decades, and eschewed the excessive use of new oak. Now, others are coming around to this style as well. Our guy had the guts to do that when it was maverick. In college, that’s what we used to call sack.