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The Heights of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Dec 20, 2016
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Lokoya, Napa Valley-Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, and Napa Valley-Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (each $375):  Jess Jackson was one of the true visionaries of California wine.  Besides his obvious accomplishment in establishing the phenomenally successful Kendall-Jackson brand, he purchased vineyards in some of California’s most favored sites and hired the talent to produce exquisite, world-class wines from those sites.  One of my cherished professional memories is flying with Jess in a helicopter about twenty years ago and surveying the vineyards dedicated to producing Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon, captivated not only by the magnificence below us but also by Jess’s passion for the individual character of each terroir. 

Among the many wine properties that Jackson Family Estates owns today, Lokoya perhaps stands at the pinnacle.  Established in 1995, Lokoya is a collection of four Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines, each entirely from that grape and each grown in one of Napa’s prime mountain districts: Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mount Veeder.  The wines are produced in tiny quantities, ranging from 340 cases for the Diamond Mountain wine in 2013 to 1,452 cases for the Mount Veeder.  They are collector-caliber wines that can develop over decades.  At the introduction of Lokoya’s 2013 vintage in New York this fall, winemaker Chris Carpenter shared older vintages, including the 2001 Diamond Mountain and the 1995 Mount Veeder; even at 15 and 21 years of age, the wines were vibrant. 

Two aspects of the 2013 Lokoya Cabernets impressed me.  First, they are all equally great wines, reflecting a top-notch vintage; and second, each of them was different from the others by virtue of its terroir expression.  Discovering a favorite seemed to be beside the point.

Two of the wines that demonstrate how different the individual expressions can be -- despite identical winemaking -- are the 2013 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2013 Mount Veeder is a powerful wine, rich in your mouth, fleshy with soft tannins and ripe, dark fruit.  Its aromas suggest floral notes and spicy, dark chocolate, with a richness of blueberry fruit.  The wine’s flavors are concentrated; blueberry and dark plum mingle with earthy mineral notes for interwoven complexity, and the flavors carry to a really impressive finish that echoes the ripeness of the fruit.  Despite its power, this wine is accessible.  Its acidity is a light within the darkness of the fruit and it gives the wine a touch of elegance.

The 2013 Spring Mountain to me is all about the interplay of depth and power.  Its perfume is captivating, suggesting cedar -- instant gratification for classicists -- with ripe, red fruit and high notes of pine and licorice, as well as unmistakeable floral tones.  The wine’s structure is sleek and linear, smooth tannin forming the periphery while silky dark fruit fills in the middle and mineral notes enliven the whole.  This is not an explosive wine but one whose power is framed and contained.  Mount Veeder is the richer of the two and Spring Mountain is the sleeker. 

Winemaker Carpenter practices low intervention in making all four Lokoya wines, fermenting them with native yeasts, aging the 2013 wines for 19 months in all new French oak barrels, and bottling them unfined and unfiltered.  All four of the 2013 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignons have 15.1 percent alcohol by volume -- although not one of them is out of balance in its alcohol.  These are gorgeous wines.

Mount Veeder, 94 Points
Spring Mountain, 94 Points