2010 Lawrence Harrison Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Lawrence Harrison Vineyard
California: Napa Valley: St. Helena
What if we told you that there remains a microscopic family-owned Cab vineyard hiding in that golden triangle where Backstoffer’s historic Dr. Crane, Las Piedras, and Bourn vineyards merge?
And what if we told you that today we bring you EXACTLY that, but also from a bygone TOP vintage such as 2010 rated 97-Points by Vinous, with savings north of 60% on top?
Drop all you’ve got going and load up that cart, for…
“One of the most dramatic young Cabernets I have ever tasted.” – Dan Berger, 80
Well, if you’ve been an Operative long enough, you will recall Leo Joseph. Who would have thought that there are still hidden gems awaiting discovery? Wow, just WOW.
St. Helena is not only the home for mythical vineyards cult modernists such as Schrader Cellars, Morlet Family, or Melka swear by, but also home for blue-chip collectible classicists such as Spottswoode, Beringer, or Vineyard 29. Stylistically, Leo Joseph, belongs to the latter.
Shockingly vibrant color for its age, deep ruby with a crimson rim. Pure and intense on the nose with black raspberry, cassis, mineral, and dried herbs. Juicy red fruits, teeming with vibrant freshness and ultrafine tannins on the ‘impossible to stop sipping’ palate. Elegant, complex and deep with cherry, chocolate and earth tones on the long lingering finish. A potentially perfect pairing would be pan-seared duck breast, with a balsamic glaze and mashed potatoes.
Why is this Cab SO good, we kept wondering! More we read, the clearer it got, Leo Joseph is old school Napa at its best. The winemaker is a Robert Mondavi alumnus from the 1970s when they rose to legendary status. It’s yet another phenomenally rich and highly acclaimed 2010, but done in a lighter, more restrained style. If you like classicists such as Heitz, Stag’s Leap or Corison, you will LOVE this beauty. Pure, sublime, graceful Napa Cabernet as it always was meant to be.
This wine is so under the radar that we had to dig into local newspaper articles to unveil the praise it deserves, while lengthy, the below excerpts are compelling reads.
Dan Berger, Press Democrat, 2014 - An unknown, but great wine
There are a lot of great wines that fly well below the radar of wine lovers. One reason for this is that a wine may be made in a style that the owner believes won’t appeal to many wine reviewers, so the producer doesn’t send samples to most reviewers. Another reason: the company making the wine has little or no understanding about how to market wine, and thus its distribution is largely by word of mouth. Both of these scenarios apply to a Napa Valley wine called Leo Joseph Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a story that started some 15 years ago when George Vierra, one of the Napa Valley’s best winemakers, was playing bocce ball one Friday night. Another player began chatting about a dream she had to make a great Cabernet to honor her father.
After a brief chat, Carolyn Harrison Lawrence knew Vierra could help with that dream. “George made me go to a UC Davis vineyard management class,” Lawrence told me. “We researched every element of how to plant the vines — trellising, the right clones…” George had said a vertical trellising system might reduce the chances of making a classic cabernet where Lawrence’s old dry riverbed vineyard would be planted. So Carolyn chose an older method of growing grapes called Double Guyot, widely used in Bordeaux. Planted in 2002, the small vineyard produced its first commercial grapes in 2005. And Vierra was poised to make a classic. I have known Vierra for more than 30 years. As a former winery owner (Vichon, Merlion) as well as Napa Valley College instructor and wine consultant, he has long preached that structure is essential to great Cabernet Sauvignon.
So he picked the 2005 Cabernet three weeks earlier than anyone else in the area of Sulphur Springs Avenue in St. Helena. And the resulting wine was a startling throwback to an era when Cabernet smelled and tasted like Cabernet. It was aged in used barrels that were fitted with new heads, so George could control the amount of oak it received. Just 270 cases were made from the 0.8-acre vineyard. The wine was structured the way cabernets from the past (1960s and 1970s) were made — to be savored with a meal and to be aged in the cellar. It also was a surprising look back to decades past when lower-alcohol Cabernets ruled. The 2005 wine had 13.8 percent alcohol, an aroma of tea, red and black currants and dried herbs, and a startling complexity, especially nice with food. Moreover, it didn’t deteriorate with air and only improved as it sat.
Despite the classic nature of the wine, it sold slowly. Part of the reason was that Lawrence never developed a sales system. Nor where samples sent to most wine writers. As a result, the only place to find the wine is direct from the winery. Over the years, she and Vierra made Cabernets in 2006 (still fresh and appealing), 2007 (called Lillian’s, and a more approachable wine), 2008 (with a silky finish), and 2010.
The latter wine has just been released and it is one of the most dramatic young Cabernets I have ever tasted. Loaded with complexity, depth, nuances of tea, dried herbs, black cherries, and subtle spices, it is structured just as was the 2005, with lower alcohol, terrific acidity for pairing with meals, and superb potential to age. In the face of literally dozens of Napa cabernets that sell for $100 and more, the 2010 Leo Joseph is a relative bargain…
David Stoneberg, Napa Valley Register - Good things come in small packages
There’s something exciting about being involved in a new business venture, especially if you’re in St. Helena, the heart of the Napa Valley, and the business is making, releasing and selling wine. But, if you just turned 100 years old, as Lillian Harrison did Oct. 31, it can be scary. “A lot of money has gone out and that was the scariest thing for mom,” said Harrison’s daughter, Carolyn Lawrence. “She asked me what would happen if the wine didn’t sell. I told her, ‘Well, then, we’d have a heck of a party and drink a lot of wine.’
Fortunately, when we sold the first case, I deposited the check into her account and things were OK with her.” Harrison and her daughter are joint owners of the Leo Joseph Estate Cellars and the Lawrence Harrison Vineyard, which they began in 2002. Joining them in the business are Donna Lee Lawrence, Harrison’s granddaughter, who is in charge of accounting and sales for the startup company and Harrison’s great-granddaughter, Erika Lawrence, who at 19 is in her second year at U.C. Davis. Donna Lee, a graduate of the University of Phoenix in San Jose, studied business administration and accounting. She has spent the last two years working in the City of Napa’s finance department.
The Leo Joseph Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes harvested from their tiny 0.2-acre vineyard that surrounds the Harrrison and Lawrence homes on Sulphur Springs Avenue, just south of St. Helena. It was made by George Vierra, a noted winemaker in the Napa Valley for the past 40 years and a family friend. Another family friend, Paul Garvey, has a vineyard management company and is in charge of the vineyard, which is planted to a small amount of Cabernet Franc and a larger number of Cabernet Sauvignon clones. In 2004, the women sold the grapes and received 20 cases of wine made from their grapes. “I’m very happy with this wine,” Lawrence said. “It’s a good, drinkable wine that goes with food and I like the flavor of it. I don’t like Cabernets that knock your socks off. We wanted to go back to the old European red wines that could be enjoyed.”
Shockingly vibrant color for its age, deep ruby with a crimson rim
Pure and intense black raspberry, cassis, mineral, and dried herbs
Juicy red fruits, teeming with vibrant freshness and ultrafine tannins
Elegant, complex, and deep with cherry, dark chocolate, and earth tones
Pan-seared duck breast with a balsamic glaze and creamy mashed potatoes
What the Winery Says
- George Vierra
- 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc
- St. Helena, Napa Valley
- Lawrence Harrison Vineyard
- 0.89 acres
- 4, 337, 15 and 191 (Cabernet Sauvignon) and 332 Cabernet Franc
- 22 months in used French oak
- 4 barrels