Mission Codename Fire-breathing dragon
When the alarm clock went off this morning I literally SPRANG out of bed, ran into my daughter’s room, dabbed it up, and then did a little moonwalk over to the coffee maker. Not in anticipation of that fresh Peet’s brew, but because today was THE day…
Yes, THAT Schrader. The Oakville cult wine powerhouse that receives 100-point scores from the Wine Advocate and all across consecutive vintages under the direction THE Thomas Rivers Brown. Double Diamond is their entry level offering, but it serves up that same plump, pure, downright sexy style you’d expect from arguably one of the world’s finest Cabernet producers.
The 2018 vintage was yet another winemaker’s dream, and while this is just a baby, it comes packed with unbounded potential. Maybe it’s the 50% To Kalon fruit. As a recap, To Kalon, planted in 1881, has always been “Napa’s Top Terroir” as Wine Spectator calls it, and the true essence of Oakville.
Or maybe the secret sauce that TRB brings to the equation. Who cares!? This stuff simply crushes the competition and offers a glimpse at the intensity. BIG, plump, lush, and deeply mouthcoating layers of juicy blackberry jam, cassis, sweet pipe tobacco and vanilla, all laced with hearty tannins. It’s young, for sure, but surprisingly approachable and forward right now. Of course, you could lay it down for years…
We probably didn’t need any caffeine today - this alone has us pumped up beyond any safe level of excitement. And you’ll feel the same way when it lands on your doorstep. If you can get some before it’s gone, of course…
No reviews on it yet, just a teaser buried inside a recent TRB (he seems to appear on the cover every other month!) Insider Weekly Alert:
Thomas Rivers Brown’s Hot Hand – Wine Spectator
“A relative value bottling from Schrader worth checking out, Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Double Diamond 2018 is a juicy, bouncy Cab with steeped plum and blackberry puree flavors spiked with a nice savory edge. It’s forward and approachable in feel, but has weight and drive, so don’t be afraid of cellaring it for a couple of years either. The 2018 Double Diamond is more than 50 percent To Kalon fruit.”
All checked out with a few cases? Phew! Now continue to read up on the seemingly endless rave…
Superstar Thomas Rivers Brown says winemakers belong in the vineyard as much as the cellar. Senior editor James Molesworth recently spent two weeks blind-tasting nearly 300 California Cabernets in Wine Spectator’s Napa office. Some of the most exciting wines from those tastings will be revealed in the next three editions… Stay tuned to the Insider for more big scores, coming soon…
Wrapping up my most recent Napa trip, I sat down with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown at his Mending Wall facility. Located on the Silverado Trail in St. Helena, Brown, 48, built the facility in time for the 2014 harvest. He shares it with Outpost and Pulido-Walker and makes wines for about a dozen of his 45 clients here.
Tasting through a run of Brown’s client’s wines, there is a consistent style: Brown isn’t afraid of fruit. But there are clear distinctions from wine to wine, as he prefers to work with and bottle specific sites. As a consulting winemaker with serous gravitas, Brown is clearly in control of how the wines are made. But he makes it clear that there is a selection process, based on site and what potential clients want to do. This isn’t a single recipe being forced on differing terroirs.
“We reserve 51 percent of the calls on decision,” says Brown. “We tell our clients we’ll make the best possible wine in a given year for the sight. If we had a client say ‘Make my Stag’s Leap vineyard fruit taste like Harlan,’ we don’t do it. We won’t do anything that doesn’t make sense in terms of what the site can do. And we won’t do anything to endanger the project long-term.”
The Schrader Cellars lineup is highlighted by the Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard CCS and Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard bottlings. These two vineyard blocks were planted the same year, with the same clone (clone 4) and same rootstock; the only thing separating the two parcels is a road. The 2017 CCS is very intense, with dark currant and plum fruit that is really packed together with a classic Oakville loamy undertow. It’s coiled-up on the finish, with almost bristling energy waiting to unfurl. In contrast, the 2017 Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard is more refined and supple in feel, though it maintains that tug of sweet structure and loamy earth underneath its cassis and plum sauce flavors. It has a bit more beguiling feel versus the raw power of the CCS.
The Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley LPV Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard 2017 provides a gorgeous display of Napa power, as waves of cassis, plum reduction and blackberry puree roll through authoritatively, laced with tar, apple wood and melted licorice. There’s an echo of warm stone on the finish, but the fruit just powers on and on.
There’s also a relative value bottling from Schrader worth checking out. The Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Double Diamond 2018 is a juicy, bouncy Cab with steeped plum and blackberry puree flavors spiked with a nice savory edge. It’s forward and approachable in feel, but has weight and drive, so don’t be afraid of cellaring it for a couple of years either. The 2018 Double Diamond is more than 50 percent To Kalon fruit.
As for the winemaking, Brown prefers to emphasize fruit, knowing that more than a few of even his biggest name bottlings will be consumed on the early side.
“We want them to have a vinous quality, which takes about 14 months in barrel, and then we watch from there,” he says. “We want to bottle them fresher, without tertiary hints, because we know people may drink these young or older. Maintaining that freshness is key, so max is 18 to 19 months [in barrel]. I think élevage has been shortened in the valley in general these days. Other than Abreu, Harlan, not too many people are doing the two-year élevage.”
“It wasn’t that long ago when winemakers weren’t in the vineyards,” Brown says, touching one of the valley’s newer trends. “Helen [Turley] was the first, in the late ’90s, who said she wanted control over the farming. People looked at her and thought she was crazy. They said, ‘Put your lab coat back on and go back to the cellar.’ There are still some growers who bristle when you want to go in the vineyards, because they don’t want to be told how to farm, but it has to be a collaborative effort.”
“Also some technology has saved us labor, such as pump-overs. Now we can do them remotely, instead of having an intern stand there looking at their phone for two hours. That gives us the labor to do more quality control elsewhere. To be honest, I was nervous at first, because I like to have my hands in everything, but we watched them all and the cap is getting covered properly and they work great. Any time technology maintains or improves a task and frees up your labor to do something else, I’m for it.”
Inky, black in the core with deeper ruby towards a purple ring
Layers of juicy blackberry jam, cassis, sweet pipe tobacco, and vanilla
BIG, plump, lush, and deeply mouthcoating, all laced with hearty tannins
This stuff simply crushes the competition and offers a glimpse at the intensity and length
Take this one out to your favorite steakhouse to see the somm begging for a taste
What the Winery Says
2018 'Double Diamond' Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
- Thomas Rivers Brown
- 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Oakville, Napa Valley
- Total acidity
- 5.2 g/L
- 16 months
- 50% new French oak