Howell Mountain Vineyards

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon •Beatty Ranch & Black Sears Vineyards

California: Napa Valley

Offer Expired:Apr 02, 2008 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say

If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from Howell Mountain Vineyards.


We always feature great wines, but today’s wine is an absolutely superb Cabernet Sauvignon. Grab some, Operative, before we run out

Savings Alert!

Shipping Included on 6 bottles or more. Enter this coupon code at checkout (discount will be shown before you complete your order): CABSPY

Mission Codename: The Secret Cache

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Investigate the reports that Howell Mountain Vineyards still has a handful of cases of its fabled 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. If true, procure any remaining cases for our Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Howell Mountain Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Dave Phinney

Backgrounder: Howell Mountain makes wines of remarkable distinction and incredible quality. When intel began trickling in that they had small supply of their ‘02 Cab, Agent Red was sent to investigate. Read his tasting report below, followed by his mission report, to see how he got his hands on today’s superior wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and inky, burgundy-purple in color with dark concentrated color right to the edges, with sparkling edges, a tight surface and thick, tightly-spaced legs that creep down the glass

Smell – Dark and earthy with deep and powerful concentrated fruit of dark berry, black plum, smoky earthen meats and mushroom with dark forest floor round out the incredible aromatics of this wine

Feel – Heavy and round, with a lovely slight coolness that I did not expect given the richness of the aromas. Also, a mouth-coating effect that feels slightly stringy. This is a feeling common to ultra-rich reds!

Taste – Concentrated flavors of earthen berry, cherry, plum and smoky oak, dusky herb and braised dried meat with great acidity for flexible pairing

Finish – Rich and deep and delicious, with flavors that really linger and supple tannins that add a hint of dryness and keep the flavors going strong for a long time

Conclusion – The Wine Spies are on a tear of late. The wines that we have been privy to recently have been incredible and our quality-momentum continues to go strong. Today’s wine from Howell Mountain is a luscious, ready to drink masterpiece that does not require any additional aging to be thoroughly enjoyed. That said, a few more years of bottle aging would only serve to make this great wine even better. If you love big, chewy, dark and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, this 2002 from Howell Mountain deserves your keen attention.

Mission Report:

Sometimes wines become virtually unobtainable. This happens when a wine receives public praise, when rabid fans spread the word or when the wine gets accolades or rewards. These can cause a wine to skyrocket in price or, worse, sell out.

Today’s wine from Howell Mountain is a prime example of what happens when a wine gets some heat on it; When this fantastic 2002 was released, fans of the winery snapped up much of this limited-production wine. When supply ran low, the rest went even faster.

As a Wine Spies Operative, you know that wineries almost always keep a secret stash of their end-of-vintage wine hidden away, deep within their wine caves and cellars. As an Operative, you also know that we hare at Wine Spies Central Command can be very crafty when it comes to convincing the winery to part with a small quantity of these secret supplies.

Well, as you might have guessed, today we were able to procure a small allocation for you. We can’t tell you how we did it, but suffice it to say, we did it – and you get to reap the rewards. This is a very superb wine, with deep and hearty aromas, great texture and delicious flavors. This wine satisfies on many levels.

As a 2002, its got enough bottle age to make it a ready-to-drink masterpiece. It will continue to improve with age, so stock up. Once this wine is gone, you’ll never get your hands on any more.

What the Winery Says

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About This Wine:

Our 2002 Howell Mountain Cabernet is a blend of fruit from the Beatty Ranch and the Black Sears Vineyard, among the oldest vineyards in the appellation. The Beatty Ranch is known for its rich, concentrated Cabernet fruit flavors, while the Black Sears brings exotic spice and richness to the blend. Each vineyard is dry farmed for low yields and exceptional quality. We then harvest from select blocks to achieve the utmost intensity and depth of flavor.

The 2002 season started icily, with frost in April and rain in May. After veraison (the coloring of the fruit), a string of warm days accelerated ripening, and by September the real heat kicked in, leading to a compressed harvest that was two weeks later than the previous year. The cool summer resulted in intense flavors, husky structure and excellent balance, while the warm picking weather added richness.

The grapes were hand-harvested and sorted, then given a five-day cold soak before fermentation. The must was allowed to warm, and natural indigenous yeast began the fermentation. After pressing, the wine was aged for 20 months in 100% new French oak.

This luscious Cabernet opens with aromas of cherry and blueberry, with hints of tobacco and hazelnut. Though powerful on the palate, it is a well-balanced and elegant wine; the wine fills the mouth with flavors of rich fruit, chocolate and spice. Highly complex, with a lingering finish.

About Us:

Howell Mountain Vineyards was acquired in 2005 by Rutherford Bench LLC, which is owned by the Chow Family. The Howell Mountain Vineyards brand was originally established in 1988 to handcraft limited releases of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beatty Ranch and Black Sears vineyards in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain region. From their elevations of over 1,800 feet, Howell Mountain grapes are known to produce exceptionally bold, full-bodied and rich wines.

Howell Mountain:

Howell Mountain is located northeast of St. Helena, above the Silverado Trail, with the Napa Valley to the west and Pope Valley to the east. With its high elevations, the mountain avoids the influence of fog that blankets the valley floor beneath, creating a climate that is cooler than most of Napa Valley during the day, but warmer at night. Because of this, Howell Mountain grapes have a character distinct from those grown on the Napa Valley floor, and have led to the region being recognized in 1983 as Napa Valley’s first sub-appellation.

The appellation encompasses around 14,000 acres, yet only 600 acres are planted due, in part, to the rugged nature of the region. The soils of this area are mostly well-drained tuff and volcanic rock. Water retention is poor, producing vines with low vigor and deep roots. These conditions are ideal for growing grapes that are small, tightly clustered and powerfully concentrated, for intense fruit flavors in the wines. In addition, the grapes develop thick skins that yield rich tannins. Tannins are important in the production of good red wines as they provide flavor, structure, and texture.

The Vineyards:

At an elevation of over 1800 feet, the Beatty Ranch has the oldest Zinfandel vines on Howell Mountain. Planted on 2m x 2m spacing with head trained vines, the vineyard is carefully cultivated using minimal chemicals and no irrigation and has produced top quality Zinfandel fruit for over 80 vintages. The Beatty Ranch consists of 18 acres of Zinfandel and 14 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Black Sears Vineyard, situated 2400 feet above the Napa Valley, is one of the highest vineyards in Napa County. Its vines were planted with budwood from the Hayne Vineyard in St. Helena, and are also head trained and dry farmed. The Black Sears Vineyard uses only organic cultivation practices, and its low-yielding vines create fruit that is fully mature and ripe. The Black Sears Vineyard has 20 acres of Zinfandel.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 13.9%
Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fruit Source: Beatty Ranch and Black Sears Vineyard
Production: 335 cases

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