Howell Mountain Vineyards
1999 Beatty Ranch Zinfandel
Zinfandel •Beatty Ranch
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 Howell Mountain Vineyards.
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
We always feature great wines, but today’s wine is an absolutely incredible Zinfandel. Grab some, Operative, before we run out
Shipping Included on 6 bottles or more. Enter this coupon code at checkout (discount will be shown before you complete your order): NAPASPY
Mission Codename: The Secret Cache II
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Investigate the reports that Howell Mountain Vineyards still has a small handful of cases of its 1999 Beatty Ranch Zinfandel Cabernet Sauvignon. If true, procure ALL remaining cases for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Howell Mountain Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Dave Phinney
Backgrounder: Back in April (on Agent Red’s birthday, in fact), we featured a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley winery, Howell Mountain. We were fortunate to be able to raid their remaining stash of the wine and our Operatives responded by snapping it up quickly. Howell Mountain makes wines of remarkable distinction and incredible quality and today Agent Red returns from another covert mission to the winery, victoriously clutching the few remaining cases of Howell’s 1999 Beatty Ranch Zinfandel, a wine so special that we caught him trying to hide a few cases away from himself. Read our greedy agent’s tasting report below, followed by his mission report
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet in color, indicative of the wines age with concentration of color right to the suddenly-pink edges, the wine has a very bouncy surface and thick, tightly-spaced legs that move slowly down the glass
Smell – Dark and concentrated with deep concentrated jammy fruit of mixed dark berries, with a pronounced ripe blackberry, followed by smoky blueberry cobbler with a hint of vanilla and spice
Feel – Smooth, rich and round, with a quickness across the front palate that leads to an all over mouth-coating quality as the wines supple tannins take hold, especially inside the cheeks!
Taste – Layers of rich flavors that echo the nose, with pronounced fresh and ripe blackberry and blueberry up-front, followed by smoky dark cherry and mildest spice – with great acidity making it a flexible wine for pairing
Finish – Deeply flavorful and delicious, with flavors that really linger, plus supple tannins that add a hint of dryness and keep the flavors going strong for an extended duration
Conclusion – Yum! I love wines with a bit of bottle age on them and today’s Beatty Ranch Zinfandel is a beauty that is sure to please. A ready-to-drink wonder of a wine, no additional aging is required to be thoroughly enjoyed. Buy a few, though, as few more years of bottle aging would only serve to make this great wine even better. If you love refined Zins that don’t knock you on your rear with gigantic jam and spice, this one is a sure winner.
For those of you that read our previous mission report, you may recognize some of what follows, which has been updated for this wine.
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 1999 Zinfandel 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 ‘99, its got just enough bottle age to make it a ready-to-drink wonder. 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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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 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.
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.