Most of the times I choose the wine. However, sometimes the wine chooses me! This is one of those times.
The wine is Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. The occasion was a dinner with my son, Will, and his wife, Dana. We were celebrating the birth of my Grandson, Beny.
When the notice of Beny’s pending arrival was announced his parents sprang into action. Through the thoughtful use of a pair of baby socks two wines were crowned, one sock for each bottle to be opened upon the baby’s arrival. When I got my bottle, I was so clueless that the lovely and talented Josephine had to explain the situation to me. Sorry folks I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed.
For my bottle I had selected Sassetti Livio Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, and I’ll have more on that in another post. My son selected the Heitz Cellar.
Heitz Cellar holds a venerable spot in wine history. Started in 1961 on an eight-acre vineyard about a mile from St. Helena, ground zero for California wine, Joe and Alice Heitz set up shop. Joe was born in Illinois, but was in the Air Force stationed in California during the Second World War. At the end of the war, he stayed. He took classes at UC Davis, earning both a bachelor and a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology in 1951. He worked with the dean of Wine, the guy who started the California wine revolution, Andre Tchelistcheff, at Beaulieu Vineyard for 10 years.
He and his wife Alice purchased “The One and Only” vineyard in 1961, and started his own wine business. In 1965 they purchased a 160 acre ranch which would become their home and winery. The original winery is the visitors center today.
His breakthrough moment came in 1965 when he signed an exclusive agreement with Tom and Martha May, owners of some pretty extraordinary grapes on a 34 acres of land in Oakville California called Martha’s Vineyard. Hietz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet became the benchmark that all California Cabernets would be compared to for the next twenty years. The 1968 vintage was considered the greatest wine ever made in America up to that time.
Robert Parker once wrote of a Martha’s Vineyard wine that it had, “no nose.” Heitz sent Parker a box of linen handkerchiefs with a note to blow his nose. Men were men back then.
At the age of 81 Joe passed away. Warren Winarski, another of the California wine pioneers, said that Joe Heitz was the first to grasp the single vineyard concept and the first artisan winemaker in Napa.
Okay, on to our wine. Well, I think Parker was right, the wine had a very slight nose, especially when compared to today “Parkerized” fruit bomb Cabs of California. This is an old school European style Cabernet, definitely not your typical California Cabernet. I think many who like the high power Napa wines would be a bit put off with this wine. Color was a deep purple, very nice in the glass. Flavor was excellent, no flaws but no excitement either. What we have is a excellent tasting, food friendly, possibly over-priced but not-so-typical California wine.
Did I like it? YES! Would I run out and buy another bottle? No, but a lot of that is the price tag. Did this wine capture the hopes and ambitions I have for my grandson? Absolutely. I hope he grows to see and appreciate life in all it various shades, shapes, and flavors. I also hope he acknowledges the work of a great winemaker like Joe Heitz.