2004 Sweetwater Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Sweetwater Ranch
California: Napa Valley
What we say
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT: Today’s wine is, in a word, spectacular! 2004 was an incredible vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and today’s wine is a praiseworthy example
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Mission Codename: The Wine Gods have smiled upon us
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Our Operatives demand another great 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignon. Send Agent Red to Napa Valley to investigate claims that Levendi Winery has crafted an ’04 Cab that beats wines at twice the price. If verified, procure a suitable quantity for our Operatives to enjoy
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Levendi Winery
Wine Subject: 2004 Sweetwater Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley
Winemakers: Alison Doran
Backgrounder: The Wine Spies have had the great fortune to bring you some of the finest wines available anywhere. Of particular note are the handful of stellar 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignons featured here in recent months. If 2004 was a great year for Cali Cabs, then 2004 was an especially great year for those born in California’s Napa Valley. Today we send Agent Red, this agency’s red wine expert, to Levendi Winery, where he discovers today’s remarkable Cab. Read his tasting notes and mission report below for a complete profile of today’s wine.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deeply concentrated ruby red to deep garnet at its core, this wine maintains great depth of color right out to its edges. On swirling, the wine looks deep, but not murky. Its tight surface and fat, tightly-packed legs contribute to the wines distinctive looks
Smell – On opening, the wine presented unique and very strong (and very pleasant) aromatics of dried sweet flowers, fresh cut bamboo with cherry syrup and sweet chocolate. After a few hours in the air and the aromas are nearly completely different! After it airs out the aromas change to become more soft, exhibiting fresh blueberry, gourmet chocolate, dusky currant and ripe red cherry – with a hint of fresh sweet flowers
Feel – Cool and light at first, the wine slides across the front palate then becomes richly mouth-coating with wonderful medium tannins
Taste – Delicious and smoky with big fruit of cherry, blueberry, cassis and dark plum with dark chocolate and a hint of toasty oak at the end
Finish – Begins bright, sweet and fruity, then is followed by a delicious tartness and flavors that tail off slowly with a velvety chocolate dryness
Conclusion – I actually find myself at a loss for words. Those of you that know me probably find this unlikely. This is an incredible wine that perfectly illustrates the best of what the Napa Valley and the 2004 vintage have to offer fans of fine wines. The only surprise here is that the wine is not more expensive, easily holding it own against the $100 cabs I enjoyed earlier in the week. Even without the lower price, I declare this wine distinctly more enjoyable. If you love Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, you must try this fantastic example from Levendi.
“Awake, Mortal!”, the voice thundered.
I shot up from my slumber – and promptly banged my head… on the ceiling? I looked around. Outside a window the countryside streaked past.
I remembered that I was on a train, traveling from Montenegro where I had taken some R & R time – to Greece, where I would be doing some deep background research on the origins of wine.
Looking at my watch I realized that I still had a few hours before I reached my destination. As I lay my head back down on my pillow, a voice bellowed, “You dare to sleep in my presence, Mortal?!”
My eye snapped open and, to my horror, I found that I was no longer on the train. Instead, I seemed to be in a huge atrium that was surrounded by pillars. In the center, a large figure sat atop what appeared to be a throne.
A deep laugh thundered from the man and then, “Fetch me a fresh amphora and come here, Mortal, my thirst is strong this day! Ariadne is in her chambers pining for Naxos, and Ikarios is busy tending the vines and arguing with shepherds again, leaving me unattended!”
From my research into ancient Greece and Greek mythology, this thundering figure could only be Dionysos, the Greek God of wine and fertility. How did I get here? Was I dreaming?
Playing along, I grabbed up a amphora of wine. He smiled warmly at me and took the amphora in one mighty hand. He lowered his nose into the mouth of the amphora and inhaled deeply. Smiling, he said, “Mortal, I have taught you well! You even put poor Ikarios to shame with your toil. Your wine making skills are nearly perfected. Perhaps I will grant you immortality after all.”
With this, he raised the amphora to me and shouted the word, “LEVENDI!”
Back in my train cabin, I blink the sleep away as the word echos in my mind. Levendi, Levendi. The word is familiar somehow… I quickly pullout my spy communicator and speak the word into its tiny microphone. An instant later, after completing its satellite connection to our W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexux Engine) databases at Central Command, I am presented with these results:
1) A traditional Greek toast, “Levendi” acknowledges a hard day’s labor and achievement
2) A fine winery in California’s Napa Valley
Of course! Increasingly I had been receiving intel on Levendi Winery from my informants. Then and there, I decided to cut my trip short – and rush to taste Levendi’s wines!
See my tasting notes above…
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Sweetwater Ranch Vineyard, where today’s Cabernet Sauvignon was grown, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
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Levendi Winery, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
About This Wine:
This Levendi Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine with flavors of fresh currant and blueberry accompanied by smooth, ripe tannins, topped only by a luxurious finish of dark chocolate.
About The Vineyard:
The Sweetwater Ranch vineyard produces grapes with intense flavors and individuality that sets it apart from other Napa Cabernet vineyards. Located in the foothills of the Oak Knoll region, the cooler climate bodes well for less tannic, fruit-forward and easy-drinking Cabs.
About The Winery:
The Greeks claim to have invented wine. We think Napa Valley grapes perfect it. Combining our proud Greek heritage and the traditions passed down through the generations with the best-grown, hand-selected fruit in the region, Levendi has found the perfect balance of craftsmanship and legacy—richly poured into a glass.
Wine, after all, is a labor of love—an art form onto itself. And like all great art, it is meant to be shared. We see our wine at the table with family and friends. And at all those special moments with loved ones with whom life itself is worth celebrating.
In ancient Greece, wine was vital to both culture and community. The wines produced were inventive and integrated into every facet of life—from worship to commerce. Today, Mediterranean communities still hold wine in the highest regard. And from one generation to the next, wine is propagated, refined and shared with family.
Our family, the Gianulias’, has a strong Greek tradition of private winemaking dating back for centuries. Since 1926, on American—and Napa Valley—soil, we have propagated, refined and developed special handcrafted vintages to share with our family. And yours.
The Greek toast “Levendi” acknowledges a hard day’s labor and achievement. It celebrates the fields, the rain and the sun that nurture our special grapes. Essentially, it’s a toast “to celebrate life.” And it is the philosophy on which we craft our wine.
About The Winemaker:
Every year presents new challenges in winemaking. That’s because winemaking is indelibly—and eternally—tied to agriculture. Agriculture is unpredictable. And that’s where Alison Doran’s passion really begins—solving problems and producing remarkable results from her hand-harvested, hand-selected grapes.
For more than 30 years, Alison has been walking the vineyards that produce the finest varietals in the region. Spending a majority of her time on vineyard management, she keeps an eye on every aspect of vine growth—limiting their vigor so that they produce the most concentrated and intensely flavored grapes. She developed her skill from mentoring by renowned wine expert Andre Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in winemaking from UC Davis and spending time in the legendary winery-filled region of Alsace, France. Since then Alison has honed her craft into a distinctive style all her own—harvesting at optimum ripeness, and making sure she gets the “pop & jump” out of every grape.
At Levendi, Alison has brought vitality and excitement to the development of each vintage. The result of her labors is embodied in the exquisite taste and velvety feel our wines deliver glass after glass—a testament to Alison’s dedication to the vineyards, to the fruit and to her passion for the perfect pour.
Sweetwater Ranch Vineyard, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Elevation 300 Feet
Soil Type Clay Loam
Clone 8 and 337
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard
The 2004 growing season provide very good grape quality with a crop that was smaller than average. Harvest took place on October 31st.
20 Months, 100% French Oak, 50% New
Deep, dark purple in appearance. Rich and mouth filling with flavors of fresh currant and blueberry accompanied by smooth, ripe tannins, topped only by a luxurious finish of dark chocolate.
Alcohol 14.5% by volume
Total Acidity 4.5 grams/Liter
Detailed Vineyard Report:
The Sweetwater Ranch is located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, adjacent to the Stags Leap District. This vineyard is home to the grapes that are used to produce our signature Cabernet Sauvignon. The climate in this region is moderate to cool, and Cabernet Sauvignon in this area needs a long growing season to mature with warm autumn temperatures.
Soils are rich, silty clay loam, ideal for minimal irrigation. Prior to 1999, this vineyard was planted to Chardonnay, but when Phylloxera struck it was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, with small plantings of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 105-acre Sweetwater Ranch is divided into two sections: The Rigi section, which covers 25 acres and the Sweetwater section which covers 80 acres. The vines are spaced 6×4 and face North to South. Close attention to sunburn is critical because of the intense sun exposure on the West side of the vineyard.
Sweetwater Ranch is planted to clone 337 on the SO4 rootstock. Clone 337 is widely planted in California and is appreciated for its small berries and moderate yield. The wines it produces are typically dense and complex, often times with cassis and tobacco as the predominant aromas and flavors. The SO4 rootstock thrives in moist clay, which makes the Sweetwater Ranch soil a perfect match. Because the climate is generally cooler in the Fall, harvest typically takes place late October, with grapes reaching 25-26° Brix. Optimal yields are 4-5 tons per acre, but this vineyard can easily reach yields of 6-7 tons per acre.