2003 Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
95 Points - Wine & Spirits
Vineyard and Vintage
Ladera’s Howell Mountain vineyard is very much in keeping with our philosophy of sourcing grapes from high quality, hillside locations; a perfect compliment to the Lone Canyon vineyard across the valley. The Howell Mountain vineyard is located at an elevation of 1600 to 1800 feet, with gently rolling terrain. The soils are iron-rich, red, clay loam soils with an abundance of gravel for excellent drainage. Because of the elevation, the climate is very different from the valley floor of Napa. It tends to be above the fog line in the summer and so receives sun for a longer duration during the day. Because of the higher elevation, the temperatures are cooler in the day and warmer at night than the valley floor. The longer sun exposure and warmer nights allow Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen every year. The resulting wines are soft and elegant, with a finesse reminiscent of wines from Bordeaux.
The primary Cabernet Sauvignon blocks for the 2003 Ladera were first planted in 1997. Subsequent plantings in 2001 also produced a small amount of grapes for this wine. There are 9 Cabernet Sauvignon clones on 5 different rootstocks, giving a multitude of combinations to suit every soil and microclimate on the ranch. These blocks were trained as vertical shoot positioned vines on 5x8 and 4x7 spacing.
The 2003 growing season was very cool. For those growing grapes on Howell Mountain, an already cool area, a season with below normal temperatures can be nerve wracking. Fortunately the rain stayed away until we finished picking the last of the grapes on October 30th and we were able to enjoy a long, slow harvest. As always, it was a low yielding year at Howell Mountain at less than 2 1/4 tons per acre—normal for Howell Mountain, but low for most of Napa Valley.
Winemaking and Tasting Notes
The grapes were fermented for an average of 12 days with native and some commercial wine yeasts. After fermentation, the wines were pressed immediately at dryness. The wine was barrel aged for 22 months in new (73%) and used (27%) French oak barrels. The wine was bottled August 19, 2005.
The 2003 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is a characteristic wine for Howell Mountain. The cool year allowed the fresh fruit aromas to develop and show through in the wines. It is full of toasty wood and black and red fruits—blackberry, plum, currant and cherry. This wine wonderfully expresses both the vineyard and vintage characteristics. The palate shows the terroir of Howell Mountain with its velvety, lingering tannins, in combination with rich, vibrant flavors: all products of a mild climate.
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