2003 Howell Mountain Simpatico Meritage
California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
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Mission Codename: 99 Cases of wine in the cave…
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send newly-returned Deep Cover Agent, Agent Noir, to locate a stellar Napa Valley red blend – for our thirsty Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Bravante Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2003 Simpatico Meritage
Winemaker: Duane Dappen
Backgrounder: Today we return to Bravante Vineyard, a true sleeper hit among our Operatives. Today, Agent Red returns from the Bravante library with a small handful of cases of their ultra-rare 2003 Simpatico Meritage, a fantastic wine that is layered and delicious. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes, below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep mulberry or garnet, with a glinting rim of finest ruby. After swirling this wine, skinny wine-stained tears run slowly down the edge of the glass.
Smell – Bold cherry, blackberry, plum and bramble lead the way. These are accompanied by softer blueberry, roasted purple fig and a hint of soft eucalyptus.
Feel – Velvet entry, leading to a medium body. Soft minerality and fine grained tannins give way to a elegant dryness.
Taste – Sweet cherry juice yields quickly to darker flavors of blackberry, plum, tart boysenberry, cooked fig and soft oak, with hints of anise, cinnamon and pepper.
Finish – Long and elegant, with lingering black cherry and soft spice notes with a soft mineral dryness.
Conclusion – This is a serious wine with a elegance that makes it a sheer delight to imbibe. Deeply aromatic with balanced flavors on the palate that show off big dark fruit, tempered against bright red fruit and fine tannins. This wine paired beautifully with grilled tri-tip and grilled artichokes, and we can’t wait to pair it up with stuffed peppers or pulled pork. Enjoy this great wine now, or cellar some bottles for the next few years.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Duane. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Trio today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DUANE: You’re welcome. I am excited to be working with you spies and I promise to not reveal your true names.
RED: We appreciate that! Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DUANE: As I was growing up in El Dorado County, I worked with a friend’s father making home wine in their cave that was an abandoned gold mine. I actually did a 4-H project of winemaking. We entered our wines in the El Dorado County Fair and won ‘Best of Show’ for our Wild Blackberry wine.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DUANE: I have worked with many winemakers and have influences from several, so there is not any to really single out. Working here in the Napa Valley for 25 years has allowed me to work with and try many wines.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DUANE: I make it for the ladies. Wine sales many times ultimately come down to whether chicks dig it or not.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
DUANE: Our Simpatico is a blend of the best wines from the vintage. I blend this to be rich and elegant, with good complexity. The name is from the grapes and the owners being in simpatico
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DUANE: I love this wine with a nice dry aged steak, or a rich risotto with veal stock and some mushrooms.
RED: Yummy! In your opinion, what makes the Howell Mountain region so special?
DUANE: The Howell Mountain is a place where the soils and microclimate help produce grapes that have intensity and complexity. They have great structure that works with the complexity to produce elegance.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DUANE: I am racking the last vintage wines and preparing the prior vintage blends for bottling later this year.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
DUANE: They should get some good friends and loved ones have some of our tasty Howell Mountain wines and good food and enjoy themselves. The main thing anyone needs to know about wine is what they like!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
DUANE: Come check out the new winery and enjoy the beautiful Howell Mountain countryside.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Bravante Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
2007 Estate Winery of the Year – Wine & Spirits Magazine
About This Wine:
Only 99 cases of this wine was produced, and it represents the premium offering from our Estate vineyards. Normally reserved as a “house wine”, we began releasing small batches of the Simpatico in 2001. Bravante Vineyards Simpatico is vineyard-select and then barrel-select, to ensure that this wine is always unique and special. It has beautifully defined fruit flavors of black cherries, and 23 % Cabernet Franc brings luscious blueberry and ripe currant with hints of earth, spice and toasty oak filling the flavor spectrum. The big fruit flavors are seamlessly integrated with refined and highly structured tannic core producing an elegant long and smooth finish. This wine could be enjoyed now, but will benefit from aging for 5-7 years.
About The Winery:
Bravante Vineyards is home to premium, estate-grown and produced Howell Mountain wines. With commitment to quality driving everything we do in the vineyard and in the cellar, we are focused on crafting consistently delicious and well-made wines from our historic Howell Mountain Appellation.
From the beginning, our wine philosophy has been grounded in one word: commitment. Commitment to creating world class wine and commitment to the winemaking styles that best express the varietals of the historic Howell Mountain Appellation in Napa Valley. We are committed to continually developing our state-of-the-art estate properties with good stewardship always in mind, selecting the most appropriate root stocks and clones available in conjunction with utilizing the most advanced but gentle farming techniques. We know that every vintage offers it’s own unique challenges, and so we are ever watchful and ready to adapt to ensure that our wine-grapes are well-tended and that the quality of our fruit is the highest it can be. This overall commitment to “quality over quantity”, geared toward preserving our unique Howell Mountain terroir, helps us fulfill our winemaking commitment to our friends, family and loyal customers: bottling consistently well-made, perfectly balanced wines that offer true expressions of all that Howell Mountain fruit has to offer.
About The Winemaker:
Duane Dappen – I was raised in an agricultural family; my maternal grandfather managed a fish hatchery in Wisconson and my dad was a prized beekeeper. I was in 4-H since the age of 9, starting with raising steers for the El Dorado county fair then working with bees producing wonderful foothills honey. In high school I had some friends whose parents made wine in their cave (actually an old gold mine). Their son, myself and another friend started a 4-H project and entered the results of our work in the El Dorado County Fair Home Winemaking competition. We made some Chenin Blanc and Grenache with must donated by Greg Boeger from Boeger Vineyards in Placerville. We also produced a Plum wine and a Blackberry wine, The Blackberry wine received “Best of Show”. This was the inspiration I needed to enter the enology program at The University of California, Davis.
After graduating from UC Davis, I went to work as a cellar worker at Grgich Hills Cellars. There, alongside four other UC Davis graduates and Mike Grgich, I learned the critically important winery production processes for producing ultra premium wines. This was all about cleaning barrels, endless pump overs, lugging scores of hosing, racking wine and a multitude of additional chores that must be done to produce a fine wine. Grgich Hills was a great place to begin a winemaking career as I was surrounded by passionate, innovative peers and shown what it takes to build a great wine.
In 1989 I moved north as cellar master to one of Napa Valley’s renowned Zinfandel producers, Jerry Seps’s Storybook Mountain. The move to a much smaller operation afforded me the opportunity to oversee nearly all production aspects at the winery. This four year, Zinfandel-intensive tenure was incredibly valuable to my winemaking career.
The year 1993 brought me to Rombauer Vineyards where I began as cellar master but quickly rose to the assistant winemaker position. Because Rombauer also functions as a custom crush facility, (a facility where small wineries may bring their grapes to be produced into wine) it was a unique opportunity to work with a wide spectrum of varietals, winemaking styles and a multitude of respected winemakers. Finally, in 1998 Frank Family Vineyards offered me the opportunity to be winemaker. I produced an amazing array of wine brands including Rombauer, and Frank Family still and sparkling wines and many different boutique wineries. During this time I started working with Bravante Vineyards, producing wines from the Stone Ridge Vineyard on Howell Mountain. Using the wonderful grapes grown from our estate vineyard I started producing the wines that we have now.
Appellation: Howell Mountain
Bottling Date: September 15, 2005
Months in Barrel: 18 Months
Release Date: May 15, 2007
Varietal: 64.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23.1% Cabernet Franc, 12.4 % Merlot