2008 LHV Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Lawrence Harrison Vineyards
California: Napa Valley: St. Helena
Lawrence Strikes Back
Like finding a Jackson Pollock at a garage sale.
Or a bottle of Pliny the Elder hiding behind the Coors Light at your local bottle shop.
These are the kinds of discoveries we love. In a similar vein, we recently stumbled upon a virtually unknown Cabernet producer, who quietly made wine from their tiny 0.89-acre vineyard in St. Helena. A vineyard sandwiched in between elite vineyards and wineries (Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane).
Their website hasn’t been updated in a decade. They developed few if any sales channels. Never sent samples to writers. Sometimes, people just make wine because they want to make wine - and that’s all.
And the wine they made? It just sat, aging, for years… until we liberated it for you. Best of all? The price – over 50% off! A far cry from the original $75 release price from way back then. Factor in how many price-jumps other producers have made in 14 years… and yea, $37 seems like quite the bargain.
This project began when Carolyn Lawrence teamed up with her mother, Lillian Harrison to start a winery in 2002. They named it after her late father, Leo Joseph. They had connections in the industry, with Paul Garvey as vineyard manager. And George Vierra as winemaker, of Bell Wine Cellars, who had spent years at Charles Krug and Robert Mondavi.
2008 vintage in Napa was slightly overshadowed by the previous year, yet in retrospect, it delivered similarly age-worthy, powerful wines that stood the test of time. Tasting the 2008 Lawrence Harrison Cabernet alongside the 2007 Lillian’s, we saw a lot of similarities. The main difference being 2008 had a touch more power, a bit darker fruit. We kept flip-flopping back and forth between which we liked better and, in the end, decided to take both. As with all fine things in life, the sad truth is that they were the very last few cases in the winery library.
This flashes that pure old school, classical European sensibility a la Corison, Heitz, or a Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from back in the day. Agent Noir thinks it drinks just like an aged Spotswoode (going for $200-400 these days!) While higher than 2007, this vintage still clocks in at remarkably low alcohol under 14%. It’s a terrifically complex wine, with a darker, black-fruited profile, and plenty of dusty, smooth tannins, along with terrific savory elements, and herbal notes. Definitely, one to enjoy in the near term, though it still has remarkable lasting power to lay longer if you like tertiary notes.
Maybe you scored some of the 2010 Cabernet we had a while back. If so, you already know what to expect. We uncovered the hidden treasure. All you have to do is take it home.
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.
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.
Surprisingly youthful, with a deep ruby core and the gentlest of a brick note forming on the narrow rim
A terrifically complex wine, with a darker, black-fruited profile, with terrific savory elements, and herbal notes
Has a touch more power than 2007, a bit darker fruit, and plenty of dusty, smooth tannins
Remarkably low alcohol under 14%, enjoy in the near term, though it still has remarkable lasting power to lay longer
These complex, well-aged classic Napa Cabernets are best enjoyed on their own over a few hours and ideally decanted
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