-7-ChappelletMountain Cuvee 2017Napa Valley, California Alc. 15.2%Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon 55%/Merlot 28%/Malbec 8%/Petit Verdot 6%/Cabernet Franc 3%RRP ¥6,300Made from fruit from vineyards around Pritchard Hill and Atlas Peak, this lush and layered Bordeaux blend opens with alluring fruit-driven aromas of cherry, currant and plum, with notes of graphite, cedar, clove and nutmeg. The berry and spice are echoed on the round, mouthcoating palate, where they mingle with hints of black tea, vanilla and savoury herbs.ChappelletSignature Cabernet Sauvignon 2016Origin: Napa Valley, California    Alc. 15.3%Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon 79%/Petit Verdot 12%/Malbec 9%RRP ¥11,500A classic hillside Napa Valley Cab Sav, luxurious and powerfully structured that is built for aging. Aromas of ripe berry, cherry, cedar and cigar box, with dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla and clove notes. On the palate, rich and well-knit tannins underscore silky berry liqueur avours, with hints of bay leaf and anise. CODE10896CODE11194◆How do you approach blending and how much does it vary year to year?We are really good at blending because we have so much experience with it. We start with the top wine, the Pritchard Hill, and spend the most time on that. Coming up in late February we will be tasting all of the 2019 vintage wines. It takes about 3 days for the reds and 2 days for the whites, and we grade all the wines very simply on an A, B, C kind of rating. A lot goes into it, we know all the chemistry on the wines, their origins and the barrels they are in, then we blind them and are looking for what is good. Then we have a tasting of just the A’s. Some we call out as controversial, and we get down to the most rock-solid cluster of A1 from the estate ‒ these are the ones that can be blended with, to see if they make it into the Pritchard Hill. There is a lot of scrutiny, and then a lot of blending that goes into it. My biggest role at the winery is trying to figure out what to do with all this wine we made ‒ it is a lot of fun, and takes a lot of time. ◆What kind of profiles are you are aiming for with your different wines?The Pritchard Hill and Signature Cabernet are not so different from each other. The Pritchard is composed of those super selective A grade wines, and we are looking for a big, powerful but still elegant wine, dark fruited, chocolatey, espresso, with oak contours, the graphite minerality that comes from Pritchard Hill. And then we look for opulence so if somebody tastes it they should know immediately it is a great wine ‒they just go ‘Wow.’ It is designed to be that way and that’s the beauty of having a big Cabernet estate with a range of fruit. The blend is always a high percentage of Cabernet, a small percentage of Petit Verdot and not much Malbec, because we have such good Cabernet now we are less reliant on some of the blenders. The Signature is much more inclusive. In the past we used Merlot, but not recently because we don’t have the quality Merlot as nobody is planting it. What we have is great Malbec and Petit Verdot and lots of different Cabernets, not all from the estate, but some from the vineyards that border the property. It is a more far-ranging wine with softer tannin, though still big and rich, a mountain wine, but with more immediate appeal. Compared to a valley floor or any other wine it is still a big and age-worthy wine ‒ I’ve been drinking and collecting Chappellet wines for a long time now, and Signatures age just as good as the Pritchard Hill. They may not go the distance, but at 10 or 20 years you are going to enjoy that Signature much in the same way as the Pritchard Hill, which after 20 years still has more years ahead of them.◆Achieving iconic status ‒ was it hard work the whole way?Chappellet had some outstanding successes in the early 70s, but then we had to line up with all the other great producers. When I came on board in 1990 it was a long road, because we had to replant all the vineyards, build a new winery to have more state-of-the-art, it seems like a long time, and we started have measurable success around 96-97. So we have been growing as a quality producer, and have been on a high plateau for a long time. Then we really punched through to another level when we built our new winery which made me realize it wasn’t just our knowledge of winemaking, but also employing better equipment ‒ a new crusher, optical sorter, and then in the winery perfect temperature and humidity control, it is just not one thing but the way everything comes together it became a game changer ‒ you could feel it happening, you could taste it. All of a sudden you are like ‘Wow, we kind of did something here’ and we spent a lot money, but on the right things. Absolutely maximizing everything you’ve got is the only way to make it happen to get up to that level.The team have been together for a long time, both my assistants have been here 14 and 16 years, and a number of others in the winery 6 to 8 years. They all know what is going, we get together and work together so we are not reinventing the wheel every harvest.◆Just briefly, can you touch on sustainability? All the water we use in the winery and run off from the roofs is collected, goes through a bio-purification system that breaks down all the organic material, and then into a holding pond for use in the vineyards. The vineyards were all certified organic in 2012 ‒ before that many but not all of them were. Organic required cover cropping, building up the soil and the micro-organisms, composting, bird boxes and more, and has been a big learning curve. Solar panels on our new winery produce more energy than we use, so heating and cooling is all covered in the new winery.◆What does the future hold for Chappellet?So now we can take our knowledge and the fact we have just finished replanting the last block and develop some new vineyards. We are working on getting permits to develop 20-25 acres of new vineyards on our property that used to be too expensive to develop, but with the current price of wine from Pritchard Hill we can afford it. It will allow us to make more of the same quality of wine so we can build the business, working towards a Bordeaux model of making 10-20,000 cases of great wine. For Pritchard Hill we’re at 3,000 cases and our goal some day is to make 5,000 cases, the Signature Cabernet has been around 12,000 and we’re like to make 15 or 16,000 once the new vineyards are producing. It doesn’t sound like a lot if you are Robert Mondavi, but we kind of do this one case at a time, as it has to grow in quality as well as quantity. We hope to have vines in the ground by 2023.We remember on our first visit to Chappellet being impressed by the beautiful view of the vineyards on Pritchard Hill overlooking Lake Hennessy. Looking at the network of vineyards on the steep terrain, respect grows for founder Donn Chappellet's passion and pioneering spirit to establish his winery here.Hugh Johnson says of the Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon: “An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.”《From Village Cellars》

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