1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
LIMITED AVAILABILITY ALERT:
There are very few cases left. Act quickly.
LIBRARY RAID ALERT:
Renteria gave us exclusive access to their private Library for today’s special wine… and we pulled every last case. Once we sell out, there will be no more of this wine left. Anywhere.
SECRET SAVINGS ALERT:
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Mission Codename: If you wish long enough…
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: After a two year hiatus, send Agent Red back to Renteria. Raid the winery’s stash of 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that was recently reported to be drinking brilliantly.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Renteria
Wine Subject: 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley
Winemaker: Karen Culler
Backgrounder: Napa Valley is revered worldwide as the ultimate area in which to produce fine Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2006 vintage has produced some remarkable examples and we were lucky to get our spy-hands on today’s fine offering from our friends at Renteria. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and winemaker interview, below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – With remarkable coloration, there is non of the brickish quality that one might expect from an ‘aged wine’ like this. With beautiful crimson hues, throughout, the wine shows slightly darker at its core and only slightly lighter at the edges of the glass. Tall, plump tears start high up on the glass wall, before marching very slowly and very steadily downward.
Smell – On opening, this wine presents lush black cherry, rich ripe blackberry and dark tobacco. As it opens, it reveals such lively fruit, with notes of blueberry, currant, Rainier cherry and sweet plum. Under these, cigar box, flint, cocoa powder and dark anise round out the nose.
Feel – With a crushed velvet feel on entry, and then cool and light-weight at the mid-palate, this wine becomes quickly grippy and mouth-coating. Firm, medium tannins and a well-balanced acidity beautifully frame the fruit. Minerals feature at the end, along with hints of warm spice.
Taste – Rich and well layered, with delicious black fruit of sweet and tart plum, overripe blackberry, smoky blueberry, black cherry and cassis. These layer over sweet brown tobacco leaf, black tea leaf, brown spice, dried fall leaves and hints of dusty cocoa and dried earth.
Finish – Ultra-long, with fruit that takes a very long time to tail off. As the fruit fades, earthen characteristics ease their way in as a chewy, mineral laden dryness slowly encroaches.
Conclusion – Today’s spectacular 1999 Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley is a remarkable wine that absolutely floored us with its bold, delicious fruit and perfect aromatics. There is a surprising amount of fruit and color in the wine, letting us know that the wine was aged tenderly and to perfection. This is an aged wine, so some flavors fade from some points on the tongue faster than they do on others, which was an endearing, learning experience quality. Overall, this wine is gorgeous and just perfect. The only ‘problem’ that we had with the wine is that the winery has less of it left than we thought. We are making every last case available to you, but you have to act quickly. We will sell out. Drinking beautifully, now, we think that the wine is near its peak. We’ll hold onto a bottle for a few more years, though, just for fun! Get it while you can, and… enjoy!
Presented for your reading enjoyment, what follows is our original mission to Renteria:
With harvest nearing, I was only able to observe the Renteria family at work in their estate vineyards. This time of year, it is difficult to have a sit-down with most winemakers. Rather than go undercover using an assumed identity to gather intel, I decided to visit the winery to learn what I could from other on-site staffers.
My contact at the winery gave me a leisurely tour, detailing for me the rich history of the Renteria family and their love of growing the grapes that make up some of the finest wines in the world.
The family itself now owns 53 acres of vineyards in Napa and is planting 27 more. In 1997 they launched their own Renteria label and today produce 1,800 cases annually of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
While taking our tour, Oscar Renteria, who now runs the family business, gave a quick wave and a smile. As we watched him speaking animatedly with his workers, it was obvious that this was a man who was passionate about his business and about wine.
The site where the family is building its winery and wine caves is stunningly beautiful. While construction only just began this summer, it is clear that this will be a wonderful destination for wine lovers.
A trip to the makeshift tasting room after our tour was a perfect way to retreat from the heat of the Napa summer afternoon. Inside I learned more about the family history and about the love that ties this particular winemaking family to each other and to the earth that they farm.
With the help of consulting winemaker, the famous Karen Culler, Renteria is producing some fantastic wines. Of particular note to me was their Knittel Vineyard Pinot Noir, a great Pinot that is simultaneously a classic example and a tasty interpretation, born of a rich winemaking history, modern growing and production techniques, and, oh yeah, lots of love.
Winery Background Check:
While it is not uncommon to find tenth-generation winemakers throughout Europe, America is too young a country for this to be possible.
Today in this country, there are a small handful winemakers whose families are becoming multi-generational artisan winemakers.
45 years ago, a young Salvador Renteria arrived in California from Mexico. He began work as a field laborer and worked his way quickly to vineyard supervisor. After years spent developing his own planting techniques, he got the attention of major wine producers like Beaulieu Vineyards, Clos Pegase, Cuvaison and Silverado – and went to work planning and planting these now famous vineyards.
Salvador went on to found his own vineyard management company where he put his love of the business to work as he managed some of the largest and most successful vineyards in the Napa Valley.
Salvador’s son, Oscar, grew up in the vineyards alongside his father, learning the family business from top to bottom. In 1993, Oscar took over management of the company and carried forth the traditions and the love of wine production that his father imbued him with. Working with select vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River, Renteria still grows world renowned grapes for clients that include William Selyem, Robert Mondavi Winery, Caymus, Rombauer and Duckhorn. By combining practical, generational field knowledge with innovative trials and experimentation, the Renteria family has found a balance which allows them to grow the finest grapes possible.
Karen Culler started her winemaking career as a child, making homemade wine with her father and grandfather in Ohio. Her job was to destem the clusters by hand.
Many years later she attended the University of California at Davis to get her Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology (grapes and wine). After graduating from UC Davis in 1984, she started a 6 month internship at Robert Mondavi Winery in their Research Department. Six months turned into two years and when Robert Mondavi purchased Vichon Winery, Karen joined Vichon as Assistant Winemaker in 1986. In 1989, she became Winemaker.
In 1996 started her own label, Culler Wines, and began producing her well respected wines with the harvest of 1997. She also consults as winemaker to various other wineries in Napa Valley, such as Renteria, Wolf Family Vineyards, Ladera, and Rivera.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The Knittel vineyard is located in a prime site, south of Highway 12 on Los Carneros Road on the Napa side of Carneros. An experimental vineyard, it was planted by Renteria Vineyard Management in 1997. It has all of the aspects of a perfect Pinot Noir vineyard: planted on an east facing, gentle hillside on clay soils in a cool microclimate to five different Pinot Noir clones. The different clones not only add complexity but also impart various sensory components to the wine. Clone 115 is the largest block and adds depth and tannin structure. The Dijon clones 667 and 777 give the wine’s aroma the higher fruit tones, while the complexity and “spice” flavors come from the California selections, Calera and Swan.
The approximate location of Renteria’s Carneros Knittle Vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.
The location of the Renteria winery can be seen in this satellite photo
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The 1999 vintage was extraordinary in the Napa Valley. It started with a cool season, lasting through verasion. Then there was a short heat spell during maturation, which pushed the grapes through ripening. Both of these weather patterns contributed to stellar grape and wine quality in 1999.
The 1999 Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon was primarily (76%) grown in Wooden Valley, in an old hillside vineyard. It was planted in the ‘70’s, but looks even older. The vines are extremely low yielding, usually less than 1-1.5 tons per acre, with very few clusters and very small berries. The richness and thick texture in the wine comes from these low yields. The wines from this vineyard always have a very nice acidity, which maintains the freshness and contributes to its longevity.
The balance of the wine was grown in the Stag’s Leap District. The Stag’s Leap wines tend to have excellent balance with soft tannins and distinct aromatics of berries and dark fruits. All of these characteristics balance the rich and tannic distinctiveness of the Wooden Valley Cabernet to make the Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon a truly remarkable wine.
About The Winery:
Our winery is under construction at 1727 Partrick Road at the top of Mount Veeder. Check back often for updates and to see construction progress. We broke ground on the caves at the end of 2006 and we are putting the finishing touches on them. The next step is the construction of the winery. We hope to be crushing here in the near future. Map to Winery.
The Renteria’s are building a winery and a cave system on Mt. Veeder for the family’s wine line, Renteria Wines. With Oscar Renteria assisting, winemaker Karen Culler produces over 2000 cases annually, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, as well as 700 cases of a secondary Cabernet label, Salva Tierra. The goal is 5,000 cases a year.
Salvador Renteria arrived at Sterling Vineyards in 1962 from Mexico working first as a field laborer, then a vineyard supervisor. After several years, Salvador left to oversee the formative vineyards of Beaulieu Vineyards, Clos Pegase, Cuvaison and Silverado. While working these vineyards, Salvador initiated novel vineyard experiments which earned the respect of famed vintners such as Andre Tchelistcheff, Rick Forman and John Thacher.
Urged by these winemakers to implement trials on trellising, canopy management and other innovative grape management techniques, Salvador was among the first in the Napa Valley to do so. Salvador had the rare ability to focus the divergent ideas of different winemakers and as a result guided their vineyards into lower yields and higher quality grapes. Because of his skill and Hispanic heritage, Salvador was also able to bridge the difficult cultural and communication gaps that often exist between wineries and vineyard workers.
In 1987, based upon the high demand and stellar reputation of his winegrowing, Salvador started his own vineyard management company, Renteria Vineyard Management. At the time, it was one of the first Mexican owned vineyard management companies in Napa Valley and is now among the top three. Tending many of the most prestigious Napa Valley vineyards, Salvador quickly garnered a reputation for his exceedingly high standards- a reputation his son Oscar would embrace and upon which he would build.
In 1995, Oscar Renteria, who had worked alongside his father for many years, assumed proprietorship of Renteria Vineyard Management. Oscar continued to care for the handful of distinguished vineyards his father cultivated and progressively increased his clientele. Working with select vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River, Renteria grows world renowned grapes for clients that include Robert Mondavi Winery, Caymus, Rombauer and Duckhorn.
Continually increasing the quality of geographically diverse vineyards, Oscar implements new approaches in vineyard technology. While father and son continue their hands on approach to viticulture, Oscar believes the infusion of technology is insurance for the future. By combining practical, generational field knowledge with innovative trials and experimentation, the Renteria family has found a balance which allows them to grow the finest grapes possible.
Appellation: Napa Valley
Compostion: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyards: 100% Napa Valley: 76% “Q Hill” Wooden Valley
24% Baldacci Vineyard, Stag’s Leap District
Cooperage: 42% new French Oak barrels, aged for 22 months