S.P. Drummer Wines
2005 Napa Valley Blair Vineyard
Red Blend •Blair Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
The Wine Spies always strive to bring you exceptional wines, but today’s wine is so excellent that it deserves this special recognition.
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Mission Codename: The beat of an S. P. Drummer
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to S.P. Drummer Winery, and procure their latest release, the delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that first captivated our Operatives in 2008
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: S.P. Drummer / Rumpus Cellars
Wine Subject: 2005 S. P. Drummer – Napa Valley – Blair Vineyard
Winemaker: Scott Peterson
Backgrounder: Today’s wine is a unique blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley’s Blair Vineyard. The Blair Vineyard is located midpoint between St. Helena and Calistoga along the Silverado Trail at the north west end of Napa Valley. This region, north of the famed Rutherford AVA is among the latest regions to be specifically designated ‘communes’, giving Napa Valley a similar structure as Bordeaux Medoc. This is Cabernet country and after tasting this magnificent blend of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc, we are sure you will agree – this is a delicious wine, from California’s big red Mecca.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby hues with a fine pink edge. Slightly darker at its core. When swirled, the wine leaves behind tall columns of skinny, wine-stained tears.
Smell – Lush and earthy, with damp potting soil that supports dark candied cherry, sweet plum, currants, stewed berry compote and Herbes de Provence. Under these, linger hints of crushed violets, wet cedar shavings and super subtle butterscotch.
Feel – Cool and light across the front palate, then soft and plush at the mid. As fine grained tannins take gentle hold, a soft dryness spreads slowly, from tongue-tip to back-palate, bringing a chalky minerality.
Taste – Dense, complex flavors that lead with dark mixed berries, black cherry and smoky cranberry. These sit atop, crushed black flower petals, a hint of clean potting soil and chalky minerals.
Finish – This wine leads with dark fruit that lingers as the palate goes gently dry. As the dryness spreads, crushed flowers and chalky minerals replace the flavors. Overall, the effect is pleasant and dynamic, inviting the drinker to take another generous sip.
Conclusion – Scott Peterson makes a great bottle of wine, and this release of his fabled blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc is his best release yet. I first fell in love with the 2004 vintage of this wine, but the 2005 S. B. Drummer Red Wine is even better. More complex and more austere, this wine exhibits a certain maturity – where the 2004 displayed more frivolity. I appreciate these character traits about both vintages, but found myself drawn into the 2005. The Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon link arms in this blend, with neither overpowering the other. If you are a fan of either varietal, there is much to love in this delicious Napa blend. Pair with a seared steak or a giant burger, right off the grill!
Special note: Decant for at least an hour, and be rewarded with more notable fruit and a more velvety feel.
This is not a mission report, so much as it is retelling of how I came to learn of S. P. Drummer wines.
Normally, I am more on top of things, but in the case of today’s superb wine, I was lagging in my sleuthing abilities. I should have found this wine way soon. I fact, thanks to some clever sleuthing on the part of S. P. Drummer winemaker this wine found me.
You see, we have featured wines that were made by Scott in the past. Most notable of these wines was a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon from Joseph Family Vineyards. That particular Cab garnered a Superior Wine Alert, and it became of my my favorite wines of 2008. Usually, when I am on the ball, tasting such a wine will trigger me to delve more deeply into both the winery and the winemaker. In the case of that wine, I dropped the ball.
Thank goodness Scott Peterson tracked me down and put today’s incredible red blend in front of me! Scott calls his wines his “true babies” and his “personal commitment wines” is his halllmark. Having had the great pleasure of tasting his S. P. Drummer wine, I can say that he is a true and committed father!
A BIG thank you to you, Scott. Your diligence – and your exceptional sleuthing skills – are appreciated. Keep on making such fantastic wines.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Blair Vineyard on the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Calistoga can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (fifty-five percent) and Cabernet Franc (forty-five percent) from the Blair Vineyard located on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. The vineyard site is characterized by gravelly alluvial deposit soils that support excellent drainage and soil sustainability. The individual Blair Vineyard lots yielded an intensity and vibrancy that is indicative of the warm, late 2005 harvest; deeply aromatic wines with rich feshy favors. The blend of CS/CF is lush and concentrated with a ripe stone fruit complexity and elegance.
TASTING NOTES: The intensity of aromatics push forward with exotic flowers, violets and lavender refective of fne Cabernet Franc. Ripe black cherries and plums with layered cassis aromas fll the glass and the senses. Flavors start as a layered core of ripe stone fruits that are deep and complex, full in the mouth, and yielding muscular, but velvety, tannins. The summation of both Cabernet varieties yields a lush and elegant wine.
WINEMAKING: The wine components were fermented and aged separately prior to blending and bottling. The Cabernet Sauvignon remained on the skins for forty days to allow for tannin extraction and softening, while the Cabernet Franc was pressed at dryness for maximum aromatic retention. Consistent with the stylistic design of S.P. Drummer wines, in order to develop mouth feel and textural components, heavy doses of oxygen and multiple rackings were employed in the frst year of the aging process. A minimal approach was employed in the second year, with only one or two rackings to ensure continued maturation and natural clarifcation. The wine was aged twenty months in ffty percent new French Oak.
About The Winemaker:
Scott Peterson enrolled at the University of Maine to study Forestry in 1980. He soon decided he did not want to be stuck in the woods, so he bought a truck and a dog, and drove west with his sights on Malibu and the pursuit of windsurfing. Scott was derailed in Sacramento where he got involved in the restaurant trade. He soon developed a keen interest in food and wine, which led him to consider enrolling either in The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, or the University of California at Davis to study winemaking. Scott chose Davis, where he graduated in 1988 with a degree in Enology.
Scott’s first winemaking position was with Villa Mt. Eden, followed by Conn Creek and Kendall Jackson Winery. In this time, Scott had two mentors who influenced his views on winemaking. At Napa’s Conn Creek Winery Scott collaborated with the “father of California winemaking”, Andre Tchelistcheff, who had trained a younger generation of winemakers, including the Mondavis. At the time, Scott was in his mid-twenties and Tchelistcheff was in his early eighties. Tchelistcheff’s profound knowledge and systematic, scientific approach to winemaking, and his humble non-self-promoting personality had a great influence on Scott. He instilled in Scott the notion that with extreme attention to detail in the vineyard, and timely intervention in the cellar, special wines can be created. At Conn Creek, Scott also worked with Jed Steele, a skilled promoter as well as winemaker, with a wealth of winemaking. From Jed, Scott recalls, “You have to know how to make the wine taste good.”
Scott rapidly moved up the corporate ladder at Kendall Jackson. Instead of opting to open one of the winery’s prestigious new Cabernet facilities in 1996, Scott defected from corporate winemaking to start his own consulting business, as well as to produce his own wine. His first consulting position was with Argentina’s flagship producer Catena, where he succeeded Paul Hobbs as consulting winemaker. Scott oversaw production of Nicolas Catena Zapata, Catena Alta and the Gascon wines.
Scott comments about his winemaking experience in both the northern and southern hemispheres, “For the past six years, I’ve been harvesting grapes twice a year. If you really like to make wine, and I do, then harvest is really what winemaking is all about. Only by experience can you truly make world class wines.”
Scott produced the first vintage of his own wine in 1999, which totaled 360 six-bottle cases. He named his blend S.P. Drummer, which derives from an important part of Scott’s childhood. Growing up in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, Scott played the drums for six years as a member of the Fife and Drum Corps. He became attached to the drums, which were reproductions of the original drums used during the 18th Century.
The wine comes from Blair Vineyard, Scott’s favorite Napa Valley source of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, located on the Silverado Trail between Calistoga and St. Helena, just south of Three Palms Vineyard. At release, he priced the wine at $45, feeling he was giving an excellent value. He and his father blitzed the San Francisco market and sold most of the wine in a week.
Scott comments on the constituents of the blend (60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc), “Cabernet Sauvignon grown on rocky sites such as Blair Vineyard produces small berries with chalky tannins, which are important for mouth structure. Winemakers normally choose Cabernet Franc for its perfume; it’s always floral with an herbal or oregano note. Blair Cabernet Franc is reminiscent of exotic black flowers and has an incredible density of flavor, almost atypical for this variety. I believe it is one of the top two or three sites for Cabernet Franc in North America.”
Certain aspects of S.P. Drummer are striking: a velvety mouthfeel, voluptuous concentration, elegant tannins and early drinkability. Scott racks the wine three to four times in the first six months, almost saturating the wine with oxygen. Experience has shown that heavy doses of oxygen when the wine is young develops mouthfeel by transforming the tannins from bitter and astringent to soft and mouth-coating.
Scott believes that oak should not to be a flavor on its own but should augment the aromatics and add structure to round out the wine’s mouthfeel. The wine gets its rich mouthfeel and vibrant fruit flavors by using more new oak (60%) for a shorter aging period. Scott bottles after 15 months instead of the customary 20-24 months, which he believes emphasizes the wine’s fruit character.
Total Acid: 5.7 g/L
Total cases: 620 12-bottle cases