First, let me start by giving you all a little perspective on what I feel makes the best Block wines. As you probably have already guessed, in my opinion, the best of the Block series are the wines that convey a sense of place that can be missing in many wines. Now, I do enjoy a nice Napa Cabernet as much as the next person, although sometimes, many times, they can become interchangeable and yes, even monolithic. Chunky, extracted and hugely fruited, there is no doubt these are quality wines, just sometimes I don’t know where one begins and the other leaves off. But wines like Block 629 Atlas Peak A.V.A,
Block 015 and 074 Sta. Rita Hilla A.V.A. (all of which are going or gone) and Block 815 and 816 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Chalone A.V.A. as well as the new Block 980 Howell Mt. A.V.A. (all of which are currently available!) all clearly capture the special terroir, delivering typicity and focus, two elements I always look for in wines. Yep, you’re going to pay a little more for them, in most cases, but the inherent quality is what wine is all about.
While we are on the subject of the Block 980, let me add that this is, along with the five or six Block wines I mentioned above, my favorites under this label so far. The Block 980 was sourced from a single vineyard up on Howell Mountain, where there is usually little or no wine available for a project like the Block wines. Finding any is difficult, finding one that captures the Howell Mountain ‘thing’ is a rarity. Try this wine. I spent the better part of a week staying at a winery on Howell Mt. last summer, and every evening, once the day of tastings was complete, we would retire to the patio and enjoy the Cabernets, Merlots and blends from the winery we were at. In this setting, you grasp quickly what it means to be Howell Mountain. The Block 980, which I have tried 4 or 5 times over the last month or so, immediately takes me back to those nights up on the mountain - that’s what wine is supposed to do! Oh, and it is ten or fifteen bucks less than anything else we offer from that A.V.A !
And a little info to help answer questions regarding the differences between the three new BLOCK Cabernets from the Stag’s Leap District, the 716, 756 and 775; all three of these gems originate from a single vineyard in the SLD. They break down like this:
- BLOCK 716 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 337 and is a fruit from the top blocks of the vineyard. It is aged in 60% new oak, a mix of French and American.
- BLOCK 756 is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. This Cabernet is Clone 15 and again is aged in a mixed barrel selection.
- BLOCK 775 is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (both Clone 15 and 337, same fruit as above) and 25% Merlot aged in a mix of French and American barrels.
Shayne Hebert, Wine & Spirits Sales Manager
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne