2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Q Hill Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
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 Renteria.
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT: Today’s wine is a stunner! If you love big Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, we invite you to be blown away by this wine
Mission Codename: Q is not just for James Bond
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Renteria, taste through their wines and pick the one wine that stands out the most. Then, secure a load for our Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Renteria
Wine Subject: 2002 Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Karen Culler
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 busniess 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.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep Burgundy with a darker heart and solid color-concentration right out to the edges of the glass. This wine also has a very loose surface, but settles fast on swirling. The wine’s fat but tightly-spaced legs move down the glass quickly
Smell – Super deep aromatics of dark blackberry, black plum, leather, currant and licorice with subtle tomato vine and mildest cigar box
Feel – Velvety and ultra-smooth at the front of the mouth, then the wine’s medium tannins bite down softly on the mid-palate
Taste – Beautifully balanced with layers of fruit of mixed berry, dark cherry, black plum, cassis and currant, with the slightest smoky herbal taste and light sweetwood
Finish – Big flavors persist for a long time here and the wine finally tails off with a mouth-watering acidity and soft to medium tannins
Conclusion – WOWZERS! Here I thought that 2004 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon was the vintage to beat and, indeed, we have been featuring some incredible 2004 here of late. However, this wine utterly blows me away with its perfect balance of flavors, aromas and grand mouth-feel. The is nothing too subtle or, conversely, over-the-top about this wine; It strikes a perfect balance while delivering great character. Because this wine is in limited supply, be sure to grab up as much as you will need. Drink now or cellar for another 10 or more years.
When we have fully infiltrated a winery, our follow-on missions to secure additional wines usually just involve a covert communication to the winery. When we got word that Renteria was preparing to move its 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon to its library – effectively taking it out of general circulation – I sprang into action, calling on my contact at the winery, Codename: Wolf Mother.
Wolf Mother was able to divert a small quantity of today’s superior wine, allowing us to make it available to you, our Operative. The rest is going into the Renteria library, which means that you’ll never be able to get your hands on this wine again.
Thank you, Wolf Mother, this is a great wine and we appreciate you giving our Operatives the only last chance to grab up a few bottles of your great Cab!
Previous Mission Recap, in which we present to you our original mission report:
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 2004 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.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the new Renteria winery can be seen in this satellite photo
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The 2002 vintage was ideal in terms of growing conditions and the wines from it are rich and plush. This wonderful year added to the richness that is always present in Q Hill wines and added a lush middle palate as well. Because of the hillside location, the warmer growing region and the low yield, the wines from Q Hill are very firm and highly structured with an abundance of acidity. The aroma is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet of dark fruit-blackberry and currant with leather and anise notes.
About The Vintage: Q Hill Vineyard always produces a wine that is very full, forward and has firm tannins and abundant acidity. Because the tannins need time to age and the acidity allows this, the wine benefits from a longer aging time than most Napa Valley Cabernets. This wine should reach maturity in 15-20 years. It was bottled on September 17, 2004.
Q Hill, with its 40 degree slope (think double diamond), was planted by Oscar’s father, Salvador, in 1974.
The hillside location of the WoodenValley vineyard, located in the southeastern part of NapaValley, produces extremely low yielding, usually less than 1 to 1.5 tons per acre, clusters and tiny berries.
Because of the hillside location, the warmer growing region and the low yield, the wines from Q Hill are very firm and highly structured with an abundance of acidity.
The aroma is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet of dark fruit, blackberry and currant with leather and anise notes.
About The Vineyard: The Q Hill Vineyard was planted by Salvador Renteria in 1974 in Wooden Valley, a small valley within Napa Valley. This region is located in the southeastern part of Napa Valley and has a more continental microclimate than most of southern Napa Valley – less fog, warmer days and nights during the growing season and cooler temperatures in the dormant season.
Q Hill is one of the few hills in this vineyard and was planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon, clone 7, on AxR rootstock. Because it was planted on a phylloxera susceptible rootstock, it was abandoned in the early 1990’s, awaiting its turn for replanting. Oscar Renteria, Salvador’s son, remembers his father talking about the wonderful grapes grown on Q Hill and he started to prune the vines again to make them productive in time for the 1997 harvest. The vines are extremely low yielding, usually less than 1 to 1.5 tons per acre, with very few clusters and tiny berries.
About The Winery:
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 1993, 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 William Selyem, 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.
Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyards: 100% Q Hill Vineyard, Wooden Valley, Napa Valley
Harvest Dates: October 2, 2002
Brix at Harvest: 25.9
Finished pH: 3.36
Finished TA: 0.74 g/100ml
Winemaker: Karen Culler
Production: 244 Cases
Release Date: Fall 2006
Suggested Retail: $45.00 per Bottle