2006 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Napa Valley: Oakville
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Mission Codename: The Kings Cabernet
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Saddleback Cellars and negotiate with winemaker, Nils Venge, for the latest vintage of his exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars
Wine Subject: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
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’. In 1982, Nils was the first California winemaker to win a 100 point score from Robert Parker, Jr.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark, dense and evenly concentrated purple hues, from edge on through to the clear but darker core. When swirled, chubby, color-stained legs ring the glass, moving slowly downward.
Smell – Warm, jammy jammy berry pie and black cherry, followed by ripe and sweet blackberry, bramble and red plum. Big oak is present, at first, but subsides significantly as the wine opens up. As it opens, it reveals baking spice, softly toasted oak, mocha, cedar and tobacco.
Feel – Plush, warm and generous with a body that starts soft and middle-weight. After a moment, the wine settles onto the tongue where it gradually becomes bigger and more mouth-filling. Firm, developed tannins at mid-palate give the wine a chewy feel.
Taste – Ripe, dark and jammy with red and black fruits (from the nose) that are framed by flinty baking spice, mocha, soft black pepper, cigar box and soft oak.
Finish – Extra long, with plenty of fruit and earthy bramble lingering for a long time. Gradually, these fade, and the palate enjoys a plush, crushed velvet dryness that supports spice and oak.
Conclusion – The 2006 Saddleback Cellars Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep, bold, complex and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers the big Napa Valley style that so many love. We were lucky enough to feature Nils’ 2005 Cabernet last year and this, his latest vintage, reinforces our belief that Nils is still the King of Cabernet. With plenty of dark fruit and firm tannins this is a Cab that is built to be bold – but it has a soft side, as well. Just be sure to decant this wine for best results. We decanted a bottle for an hour and we were rewarded with a softer wine with better fruit and less pronounced oak. While many wineries are releasing their 2008s or 2009s, Nils holds his Cabs until they are ready. This is admirable, as release schedules can so often be driven by economic concerns, rather than by quality. Ready to drink now, this is a wine that could age for another decade or more. Be sure to buy a few bottles – to enjoy now, and later.
AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
NILS VENGE: Most of the grapes come from our Oakville Estate with the remainder from Star Vineyards in Rutherford. The 2006 vintage is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
NILS: Grilled New York steaks with a compound Blue Cheese Butter.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Oakville sub-appellation (in the Napa Valley) so special a place for Cabernet Sauvignon?
NILS: Oakville soils are excellent for expressing aromas, black stone fruit, balance, and elegance.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
NILS: Preparing the vineyard for the 2011 harvest season.
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 approximate location of the Saddleback Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
About This Wine:
Wonderful, heady aromas of ripe black cherries, peppery 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 short ribs.
Vintage Notes: In 2006 we were blessed with a normal sized crop level here in the Napa Valley, taking Saddleback two weeks to harvest all our Cabernet grapes. Fortunately, the quality was absolutely spectacular so we were able to make our 25th Anniversary wine as well as our staple Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon wine! 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 11% prime Cabernet grapes from Star Vineyard in Rutherford. This year the wine was made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
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 fourteen 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.
Harvest: Oct 21st – Nov 4th, 2006
Average Sugar: 24.7 Brix
Acidity: 6.0 g/L
Cooperage: 60% new French Oak, 5% new American Oak