Saddleback Cellars

2005 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Napa Valley: Oakville

Offer Expired:Nov 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


Today’s Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is an exceptional wine that will find itself at home with your best meals and we believe that it deserves a special spot in your personal cellar.


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Mission Codename: The King of Cabernet

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Visit Saddleback Cellars and winemaker Nils Venge and return with an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars

Wine Subject: 2005 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Nils Venge

Backgrounder: The Oakville AVA, centrally located and adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford AVA, was established in July 1993. Oakville is considered on of the most diverse AVA’s in the Napa area and grows some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in California. This wine is produced by the famed Nils Venge who is widely considered to be one of the best Cabernet winemakers in the region and is aptly named the ‘King of Cabernet’

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Intensely dark purple with ruby red hues that barely shine through its nearly inky heart. The dense ruby-purple color lightens slightly along the edges and when swirled is shown in its fast and tightly spaced thin legs.

Smell – Classic Cabernet aromas abound with lots of dark fruit including black cherry, red raspberry and other dark bramble fruit. Notes of toasted and smokey oak, savory spice and cigar box meld with licorice and earthy undertones that invite you to enjoy your first sip.

Feel – Round and plush, this well developed full-bodied and dry wine has well structured tannins. Its balanced acidity and minerality grasps a hold of the fruit and holds tight into the finish.

Taste – Generous dark fruit including the cherry, raspberry along with some blackberry and plum are woven into an earthy and savory spice base that includes toasted and smokey oak, tobacco and cedar cigar box, black licorice with a touch of mocha coffee.

Finish – This wine finishes cleanly and with great fruit with its tannins, acidity and soft minerality lingering on for several minutes while the ripe fruit gently fades.

Conclusion – The 2005 Saddleback Cellars Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious example of why Oakville as well as winemaker Nils Venge is so highly regarded in the Cabernet World. A fantastic noes of great fruit with plenty of complexity. A well developed and approachable palate. Flavors that deliver and linger long into the finish. This is a wine that is drinking great now but has exceptional cellar potential too.

Mission Report:


Subject: Nils Venge

Wine Education: UC Davis – BS in Viticulture and Enology. I have over 40 years of winemaking experience in Napa including Villa Mt. Eden, Groth, my own labels – Saddleback Cellars, Envy Wines and Cougar’s Leap/Black Rock – and as consultant for several boutique wineries in Napa, including Fortress Vineyards.

California Wine Job In Brief: As noted, I make wine under my own labels and am the consulting winemaker for several other boutique wineries including Fortress Vineyards.

Winemaking Philosophy: “First and foremost, I always strive to capture as much of the true varietal character and the character of the particular site or terroir in each wine. I also work to make each wine balanced, smooth and one that will age well.”

First Commercial Wine Release: 1974 – Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon.

With wine harvest and crush recently complete, this is a busy time of year for winemakers. As such, we regret that Nils Venge was unable to sit down with us for a new interview. What follows is our interview with Nils from earlier this year.


RED: Greetings, Nils. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

NILS: Thank you, I am happy to be back with you, again. I am sorry that I can’t spend more time with you, but harvest is here and the grapes beckon!

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

NILS: Yes, my parents were Distributors in Los Angeles and represented many high quality suppliers. I was introduced to the best quality wines at an early age. I looked forward every Christmas to see what special wines my father would pour for the dinner. Most years the selection would include a wonderful Chateau Latour and Chateau D’Yquem.

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

NILS: Definitely Chateau Latour inspired me from the start. For a domestic wine, I have always looked to Ed Sbragia’s Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as a standard.

RED: Ok, Nils, your cell phone keeps ringing, so I know that I have to let you go. Thank you so much for your time. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Saddleback Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

91 PointsRobert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate – “A better bet is the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by notes of licorice, tobacco leaf, blackberries, and vanillin. It should drink nicely for a decade or more.”

90 PointsInternational Wine Cellar – Stephen Tanzer – “Good red-ruby. Musky, smoky aromas of black cherry, meat, minerals, licorice, mocha and earth… clarity of flavor and lift in the mouth. Finishes with suaver tannins and lingering notes of brown spices and mocha.”

Silver Medal – 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

About This Wine:

Wonderful, heady aromas of ripe dark cherries, spice rack, and cigar box are emitted from this wine’s fragrant bouquet. This full-bodied wine has opulent, jammy black fruit flavors layered over silky and supple tannins with an amazingly smooth lingering finish. A perfect accompaniment with grilled steak or roast beef.

VINTAGE: In 2005 we were blessed with an above normal crop level here in the Napa Valley, taking Saddleback a full month to harvest all our Cabernet grapes. Fortunately, the quality was absolutely spectacular! The majority of the grapes come from the dry farmed 9.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on the winery estate located one-third mile north of Oakville Cross Road on Money Rd. Our soils are of Pleasonton and Bale loam series with some spots of silt and gravel. Rootstock is Teleki 5C on a 6 × 12 ft. spacing. We enhanced our blend with 5% prime Cabernet grapes from Star Vineyard in Rutherford, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc from Truchard Vineyard in Los Carneros.

FERMENTATION AND AGING: The fruit was sorted both in the vineyard and on the crushpad, then gently crushed into small fermenters. Here we left the juice fermenting on the skins for ten days after inoculation with cultured Montrachet yeast. The wine went through a combination of punch-downs and pump-overs twice daily during this timeframe. The wine was racked into 65% new French and American oak barrels and left to age for two years slowly going through native malo-lactic fermentation.

About The Winery:

Established in 1982, Saddleback Cellars is a small winery located in Oakville, in the heart of the Napa Valley. 14.8 total acres are planted to 8.4 acres Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.9 acres Chardonnay, 1.75 acres Merlot, 1.1 acres Pinot Blanc, 0.3 acres Pinot Grigio and 0.3 acres Zinfandel.

Known as “The King of Cabernet,” legendary winemaker and owner, Nils Venge, has been making stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, along with many other varietals here since its establishment. Nils’ philosophy on making wines for Saddleback is that they must reflect the best qualities that Napa Valley has to offer; sometimes a single vineyard, sometimes a single appellation, or a blend of appellations to make the best wine in a particular vintage. Despite his reputation as “The King,” Nils is a down-to-earth, cheerful, full-of-life kind of guy whose wines not only reflect the character of their region, but also seem to reflect his personality – bold, yet approachable, friendly and fun yet with layers of complexities.

In 1939, Lady Liberty welcomed the Venge family, Nils’ grandparents and his father, Per, into New York harbor from Denmark. Grandfather, Kund, was asked by his company in Denmark, George Jensen Silver, to oversee the New York City enterprise. The small family thrived in this fast paced new world. Per attended New York City College and studied business administration. When Knud retired from the silver jewelry business, the Venges looked westward, and Southern California is where they headed.

The family bought a home in the Hollywood Hills where Per was able to indulge in his love of horses. He worked at North American Aircraft as an efficiency engineer during World War II and was a member of the Sheriff’s Posse of Los Angeles County. One day, on horseback, Per spotted Gudrun Ingwersen, also a member of the Posse. When their eyes met, he knew he was looking at the woman he was destined to marry. Soon after, Gudrun gave birth to twins, Nils and his twin sister, Karen.

After the war, Per started a wine, beer and spirits distributor business in Los Angeles which specialized in Danish and European products. While growing up, Nils worked for his father on weekends and the summer holidays. When he graduated from San Marino High School, it was Per’s wish that young Nils would take over the family venture. They both agreed that they really needed to know more about wine. So, Nils enrolled at the University of Davis where he went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology in 1967. When he returned to Southern California, Nils enrolled at L.A. State College to work toward a degree in International Business Law. At the same time, Nils signed up as a Navy Reservist which sent him on a tour of duty in Danang, Vietnam.

When he returned in 1970, Nils decided that what he really wanted to do was put his degree to work in the Napa Valley and not to take over the family business.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 13.9

Harvest: We handpicked 37 tons of grapes beginning mid-Oct in Oakville and Rutherford finishing mid-Nov in Los Carneros.

Average Sugar: 23.8 Brix

Acidity: 6.1 g/L

pH: 3.60

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