Heller Estate

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon •Heller Estate

California: Monterey County

Offer Expired:Dec 03, 2007 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say

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EXCLUSIVE ALERT! Today’s wine is another Wine Spies Exclusive! Through our special relationship with the winery, we are able to make it available to you today, even before it is distributed to restaurants and other fine retailers

Mission Codename: Good things come…

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Activate recon assets to listen for rumors of a new Heller wine release. Then, scoop an exclusive for our Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Heller Estates

Wine Subject: 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Rich Tanguay


The Wine Spies have been fans of Heller Estates wines from our very first sip. Their award-winning wines always delight with a sophistication and a sense of balance and elegance that does not belie the down-to-earthness present in all heller wines.

When we learned that Heller was set to release its new 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, we sent Agent Red to investigate with this simple directive:

If the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is great, secure an allotment for our thirsty Field Operatives!

Read below to see how he accomplished this mission.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and inky, bordering on purple with legs that are initially very short and widely spaced. With exposure to the air, this effect becomes less pronounced and the legs tighten up and run the length of the glass

Smell – Initially, a perfume rush of blackberry with vanilla custard and rice pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg. After swirling for a while the wine gave off more subtle earth and herbal qualities with a hint of vegital and subtle sweet oak

Feel – Bright and firm initially, with medium to strong tannins that awaken the salivatory machinery in your mouth. This is a fun sensation that makes you want to hold the wine in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Tannins are firm and grippy, drying the tip and the back of the tongue

Taste – Deeply layered with concentrated mid-palate flavors of blackberry, plum and vanilla, mild oak and a nice vegital flavor after airing. There is a hint of the green pepper so common in Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon, but make note: this wine is not overpowered by this flavor. Rather, it is complimented by it and given a rounding that makes the wine beautifully balanced

Finish – Extra long finish with tannins that dry but then leave behind a flavorful sweetness that tapers gradually

Conclusion – Having tasted several vintages of Heller Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, I can say that each is unique and none ever disappoint. Their 2003 vintage was excellent, I think that the 2004 is even better. This is a big wine that is ready to drink now, but I also think that it will be a great wine to hold for a few years, where age might tend to soften it a bit. Monterey Cabs tend to be overly bell pepper or even chile verde and that sometimes bugs me. Being partial to Napa, Sonoma or even Washington State cabs, I find that this wine can hold its own against wines from those regions. I also think that if this wine were a Napa cab, it would cost far more. This is one of the benefits of great Monterey County wines of any variety!

Mission Report:

For months now, I have had my assets around California on high alert. (note: My assets are those people that I rely on in the field to provide me with regular wine intel)

This is the time of year when wineries begin to release new vintages. Its an exciting time for us, and also a very busy one as we strive to keep up with and taste many new wines – to bring you only the best.

When one of my spies messaged me about the new 2004 Heller Estates Cab, I knew that I had to get to the winery as quickly as possible.

Heller is one of my personal favorites in Monterey County. Their wines are distinctive, organically farmed with love, and always balanced and delicious. When I tried this wine, I was elated. Heller had done it again! This is great and deeply layered and bold and, surprisingly, less green pepper than I am used to from this regions Cabs. This wine drinks more like a Napa Cab, but with a slightly more vegital quality that I really love.

It was clear right away that this wine would be well-loved by our Operatives and I was very pleased when I was able to secure some for our Operatives as an exclusive, well in advance of general availability!

If you have never had a Cabernet Sauvignon from Monterey County, I encourage you to try this one. If you have tried Monterey Cab, but not a Heller Cab, try it! If you have already tried Heller wines, well, I don’t need to tell you. You’ve already clicked the Order button…

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Cachagua region, where this wine was born, can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

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Overlooking the Cachagua region of Carmel Valley, (“Cachagua” is believed to be an Indian Derivative of the French “cacher” and the Spanish “agua” – “hidden waters”), and framed by the dramatic surrounding hills, lie the beautiful mountain vineyards of the Heller Estate. The 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir are planted at an altitude of 1200 – 1500 feet, producing rich, luscious grapes, which result in outstanding premium wines.

The vineyards are essentially dry-farmed, the roots of the vines descending deep in the loamy, sandy soil in search of the underground “Cachagua” springs. These stressed vines produce outstanding luscious fruit, which are then skillfully crafted into the extraordinary Cabernets that have been described by wine reviewers as “super-rich, with lots of tannin and explosively long finishes”. The Chardonnays are reviewed as “dramatic, blockbuster wines which are rich, exceptionally age worthy, and can easily last 5-7 years – an uncommonly long time for a California Chardonnay”

Crest of the Heller Estate BuildingThe vineyards are certified 100% organic. Neither herbicides nor pesticides are used in the production of the grapes. This certification was granted after three vintages of clean farming, although the vineyards have always employed organic methods throughout the years.

In 1994, the vineyard was sold to a group of European investors, who immediately set about upgrading the winery and buildings; new vineyards were planted and new French Oak barrels purchased to age the wines. Rich Tanguay, formerly of Topolos & Buena Vista, is the winemaker overseeing the production of these award-winning wines.

Now renamed “Heller Estate”, the wines are all estate bottled and, as stated above, organically produced. The current production is approximately 25,000 cases annually.

The vineyards are planted on sandy, clay loamy soils and despite the altitude the area is very warm and free from frost. The great variation in daily temperatures (which are sometimes 40 degrees in one twenty four hour period) helps to produce these exceptional age-worthy and full-bodied wines.

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