Howell Mountain Vineyards

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon •Beatty Ranch Vineyard

California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain

Offer Expired:Sep 09, 2010 at 11:59 pm
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What We Say


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Mission Codename: Closer to heaven

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Howell Mountain Vineyards, a long time Wine Spies favorite, and return with their 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon – from the fabled vineyards of Mike Beatty.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Howell Mountain Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Dave Phinney

Backgrounder: Napa County’s Howell Mountain AVA, established in 1984 is known for its wines of deep concentration and intensity. The higher elevation and relatively flat aspect make the location great for vineyards, and specifically Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vines in the Howell Mountain area were planted in the 1880s.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest garnet, with a darkening heart. When swirled, the wine shows a heavy surface that settles quickly. When it settles, it leaves behind several rounds of chubby, wine-stained tears.

Smell – Lush raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry and black cherry lead the way. These are lovingly accompanied by bramble, soft fresh salad herbs, cinnamon, subtle clove and almond wood.

Feel – Voluptuous and round, velvety at the edges of the palate. After a few moments, the easiest dryness appears at the back of the palate, and spreads frontward.

Taste – Dark blackberry, ripe raspberry, boysenberry, black cherry and black currant. After you swallow the wine, additional flavors evolve on the palate, including bramble, toasty oak, cocoa powder, and brown spice.

Finish – Long and lingering, with a bushel of jammy mixed berries that give way, ultimately, to bramble, spice and soft minerals that reveal themselves after several long moments.

Conclusion – This is another fantastic offering from our good friends at Howell Mountain Vineyards! We have always loved their Cabernets and their Zinfandels, and today’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, from the 1800-foot elevation vineyards of Mike Beatty, really reinforces our adoration for their wines. With elegance on the palate, the feel of this wine is made all the more special by its depth of flavors and aromas. This is a classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a soft side that makes the wine easy to drink on its own – or pair easily with even lighter fare. This wine gets our hearty recommendation.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Dave Phinney

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: The winemaker I admire most, just for his basic approach and philosophy, said it best: “Even a mediocre winemaker can make a good wine from the best fruit, but the best winemaker can’t make a decent wine out of (lousy—have to paraphrase here) fruit.” It’s something I’ve taken to heart, paying attention to what happens in the vineyard, and I’m lucky to have had great sources and as importantly, growers to work with. I’d say I try to stay out of my own way, and let the character of the vineyard and the fruit come through, trying to maintain that balance that’s so important.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Dave. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

DAVE PHINNEY: It’s my pleasure as it is wonderful to be able to share our wines.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

DAVE: It was on a trip to Italy during my college days and meeting the people who produce wines that made me realize just how much heart there is in making wine.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

DAVE: Phil Steinschriber, Randy Dunn, Doug Fletcher, and Jerry Luper were all early influences

RED: Who do you make wine for?

DAVE:I make it for myself and find that others happen to like the same style.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

DAVE: The 2004 HMV Cabernet is 100% Cabernet from the famed Beatty Ranch and Black Sears Vineyards in Howell Mountain. Dry farmed and cold soaked for 5 days prior to fermentation.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

DAVE: Give it a try with grilled rib—eye, a nice hearty lasagna, or stilton cheese.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Howell Mountain region so special?

DAVE: It is one of the best appellations in the valley to grow big, hearty red varietals that have aging capabilities.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

DAVE: Harvest. Hopefully it is just around the corner and am getting the equipment and myself ready.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

DAVE: Experience wine with an open mind and realize it changes both in the bottle over time and in the glass as one drinks it.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

DAVE: Wines are quite diverse and there are as many styles as stars in the sky. Sharing it with good friends and family are always the best way to enjoy it.

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 Howell Mountain region in Napa County can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

Our 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet is made from fruit grown by Mike Beatty on the famous Beatty Ranch, the oldest Cabernet vineyard in the appellation. At over 1,800 feet in elevation, the vineyard is known for its rich, concentrated Cabernet fruit flavors. Planted to Clone 6, it is dry-farmed for low yields and exceptional quality. We harvest select blocks to achieve the utmost intensity and depth of flavor.In 2004, warm temperatures in March forced early budbreak, and unusually dry spring conditions hastened flowering and kept vine vigor under control. Summer was unremarkable until picking time, when a brief hot spell jump-started what had been a gradual beginning to the harvest. A longer, hotter spell after Labor Day turned paying attention into getting a move on, and harvest was underway. Grapes were hand-harvested and sorted, then given a five-day cold soak before fermentation. The must was allowed to warm and natural, indigenous yeast began fermentation. After pressing, the wine aged 20 months in 100 percent new French oak. On pouring, the wine is brilliant medium-deep ruby, with spicy fragrances and a hint of almond essence. It quickly reveals aromas of ripe berries, cocoa, and sweet oak. On the palate, the wine opens with brambly flavors, followed by notes of cinnamon, roasted meats, dried herbs, and olives. Superbly balanced, it has medium-full body, supple texture, and a sustained finish. As always, classic mountain Cabernet.

About The Winery:

Howell Mountain Vineyards was acquired in 2005 by Rutherford Bench LLC, which is owned by the Chow Family. The Howell Mountain Vineyards brand was originally established in 1988 to handcraft limited releases of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beatty Ranch and Black Sears vineyards in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain region. From their elevations of over 1,800 feet, Howell Mountain grapes are known to produce exceptionally bold, full-bodied and rich wines.

Howell Mountain:

Howell Mountain is located northeast of St. Helena, above the Silverado Trail, with the Napa Valley to the west and Pope Valley to the east. With its high elevations, the mountain avoids the influence of fog that blankets the valley floor beneath, creating a climate that is cooler than most of Napa Valley during the day, but warmer at night. Because of this, Howell Mountain grapes have a character distinct from those grown on the Napa Valley floor, and have led to the region being recognized in 1983 as Napa Valley’s first sub-appellation.

The appellation encompasses around 14,000 acres, yet only 600 acres are planted due, in part, to the rugged nature of the region. The soils of this area are mostly well-drained tuff and volcanic rock. Water retention is poor, producing vines with low vigor and deep roots. These conditions are ideal for growing grapes that are small, tightly clustered and powerfully concentrated, for intense fruit flavors in the wines. In addition, the grapes develop thick skins that yield rich tannins. Tannins are important in the production of good red wines as they provide flavor, structure, and texture.

About The The Vineyards:

At an elevation of over 1800 feet, the Beatty Ranch has some of the oldest vines on Howell Mountain. Planted on 2m x 2m spacing with head trained vines, the vineyard is carefully cultivated using minimal chemicals and no irrigation and has produced top quality Zinfandel fruit for over 80 vintages. The Beatty Ranch consists of 18 acres of Zinfandel and 14 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 13.9%

Appellation: Napa Valley

Release Date: October 15, 2008

Special Designation: Howell Mountain

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Year: 2004

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