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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Chappellet Mountain Cuvee

United States (California)

cabernet sauvignon (51%), merlot (46%), malbec (1%), cabernet franc (1%), petit verdot (1%)

Chappellet Mountain Cuvee 2007

A pleasing, substantial nose of dark fruit, cedar and spice. Medium in body, a smooth, polished blending. A little tannic now, and more alcoholic (14.9%) than I like, but overall great juice with good heft that should work well with a variety of foods. Nicely focused Bordeaux blend and offering very good value for the pocketbook.  $

The winery founders are Donn and Molly Chappellet, with second generation family members now in charge. Chappellet, started in 1967, was only the the second winery to establish in the Napa Valley after Prohibition, and the first Valley winery to set its sights above the Napa Valley floor. Out of range of fog, with longer, sun-filled days and a steeper contrast in day/night temperatures, Chappellet vintages went from strength to strength. It has long been seen as one of Napa’s premier wineries.

Chappellet lies atop the renowned Prichard Hill, its vineyard elevations extending from 800 to 1800 feet above sea level. It is made up of 34 separate and distinctive blocks, the majority devoted to cabernet sauvignon. It is the varietal for which Chappellet is best known. It makes up the majority of the 25,000+ cases produced annually.

Yet only 16% of the property is under vine, a reflection of the winery’s commitment to the health of the ecosystem. The uncultivated land surrounding the vineyards acts as a natural buffer, keeping out chemical blow-over from other properties. The Cappellets have long seen themselves as stewards of a profoundly important part of the Napa Valley, a commitment that goes back to the early 1980s. The Napa winery was one of the first to use cover crops to maintain a natural organic soil balance and to prevent soil erosion. Today its social responsibility extends to on-site composting, water conservation, solar energy, and even the construction of bird boxes in the vineyards to encourage natural predators to keep insect and rodent pests in check.

In charge of winemaking for the past two decades has been Phillip Corallo-Titus. He generally ferments and ages the vineyard blocks individually, to take complete advantage of the individual variation in soil makeup, elevation, and exposure. The blocks each have their own character in terms of vine age and cultivation, giving the talented winemaker much to work with, allowing his creative talents to fully express themselves, in good and not-so-good growing years. It is this intimate knowledge that has produced such an eye-catching blend as Mountain Cuvee. No optical illusion.


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