2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Estate Grown
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 Phelan Vineyard.
INCREDIBLE WINE ALERT!: Today’s wine is one of the best Napa Cabernet Sauvignons that we have ever had the pleasure to taste
SAVINGS ALERT!: Enjoy an additional 5% off (a total of 20%) plus FREE GROUND SHIPPING, when you buy 6 or more bottles. Enter coupon code: CABSPY at checkout
Mission Codename: Over the moon
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Locate and procure a great… no.. an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon for our well-deserving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished! (in a round about way)
Current Winery: Phelan Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Arlene Phelan
Backgrounder: Napa, California is revered for its wines. Particularly for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines available anywhere in the world. For today’s wine, Agent Red had the great fortune to meet winemaker Arlene Phelan – and to taste what he declares to be her “Astoundingly great” Cabernet Sauvignon. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and inky, bordering on purple with a dark, almost black heart with a heavy and dense-looking surface and legs that start slow and then streak down the glass
Smell – Mighty and lush with a potent perfume rush of blackberry, cassis and cherry with clove, leather and cigar box. After swirling for a while the wine gave off more subtle earth and fresh herbal qualities with a hint sweet oak
Feel – This wine hovers on your tongue initially, a great sensation that is followed by soft tannins and a deep texture that coats your mouth
Taste – Delicious and deeply layered with concentrated mid-palate flavors of blackberry, plum, a soft hint of vanilla, mild oak and sweet but subtle mocha.
Finish – Extra long finish with tannins that dry but then leave behind a flavorful sweetness that tapers gradually
Conclusion – This is an incredible wine! Drinking this wine, I am reassured that the Napa Valley deserves its reputation as the premier Cabernet Sauvignon producer in the world. 2004 was a banner year for Cali Cab and this wine represents best of breed, delivering a rich and great feeling wine that is super long on flavor and finish. If you don’t LOVE LOVE LOVE this wine I would be shocked. Actually, I would probably wonder if you were insane, or maybe lost your tastebuds in a freak accident. Seriously, though, this is a superb wine that I can’t get enough of!
Its late and I am exhausted. Thank goodness I am back from my latest mission abroad. These International missions can be grueling, especially those which require me to go deep under cover.
I grab my suitcases from the turnstile and head out the airport doors to catch a cab home. Its late and its cold and I am miserable, but I will soon be back at Central Command – and that give me small comfort.
“Where to, Mack?” asks the cab driver.
I give the driver the approximate address and settle in for the half-hour ride. I use the time to catch up on some Wine Spies emails on my handheld device. After a few minutes, I sense that something is wrong. Looking out the windows, I discover that we have just deviated from the proper route.
I lock eyes with the driver, in his rearview mirror. A moment later, the doors lock, and the windows and the divider between me and the driver tint to a opaque black. I cannot see outside of the vehicle. Grabbing at the handle and at the lock, I discover that I cannot open the door.
“Settle down, Mack.” says the driver.
Keeping my cool, I ask him where he is taking me. Silence. .. We drive on.
After nearly an hour the vehicle stops and I hear the driver door open and then close. I wait a few moments, bracing myself for my own door to open. It never does and I try the door handle again. The door swings open and I discover that I am inside of a vast darkened and empty warehouse.
Across the expanse, a pool of light catches my eye. Under it is a small table – with an object sitting atop it. As my eyes adjust, I am instantly aware that the object is a wine bottle.
I quickly make my way across to the table. Once there, I pick up the bottle and read the label. “Phelan Vineyard – 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon” . My heart skips a beat. This particular wine had been eluding me for some time, its creator a difficult woman to place under surveillance.
This is the sort of wine I had hoped to return with. Instead, my away mission had been a total bust.
Looking down at the table, I notice a small envelope. In neat handwriting, I read the words, “Agent Red”. Opening it, a small card falls to the table, writing-side-down. I flip it over and read, “Don’t move!” My training kicks in and, without thinking, I grab the bottle and dive beneath the table. In that instant, a light flashes before my eyes and familiar voices shout out, “Welcome home!”.
“Welcome home, Red!”
It’s Agent White and the rest of the team.
“We know how badly it went for you in [CENSORED] and we thought we’d cheer you up. Arlene Phelan sent you this bottle with her regards. It seems that she was running counter surveillance on you for some time. She hopes that you enjoy the wine.”
And did I ever! Arlene Phelan is my new Napa Valley Hero. Her wine is fantastic and once I settled back in and made contact with her, she was more than happy to make a small allotment available to our Operatives for today. Don’t buy any, though, what you don’t snap up, I will!
What the Winery Says
Phelan Vineyard, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
Awards & Accolades:
93 Points – World Wine Championships – Beverage Testing Institute, Tastings.com
About The Wine:
A powerful, full-bodied Cabernet.
The opaque color signals the concentrated aromas and flavors that distinguish the fruit of our mountainside vineyards. A perfume of ripe black currant and baked cherries opens in the glass, edged with cloves and a hint of leather.
On the palate, this Cabernet delivers lustrous blackberry and plum wrapped around a core of warm spice. The deep, powerful finish flows to waves of espresso and dark chocolate.
Showing rich texture and substantial weight, this wine is best enjoyed today after decanting, or cellar it for 5-7 years.
The widely acclaimed 2004 season was a winegrower’s dream. An early spring led to warm, consistent summer temperatures. After extended hang-time on the vine, the fruit achieved ideal ripeness and superb flavor development.
About The Winery:
Arlene bought the land that part of the vineyard is on in 1969 with an idea that she would build a home on it sometime in the future. After marrying and moving to Cleveland, Ohio with Gerry for fourteen years, they returned to build their dream house. After construction of their home, the next logical step seemed to be to add a vineyard in an old olive orchard that existed on the property.
After working with several consultants, Arlene attended Napa Valley College taking most of the vineyard and winemaking classes which allowed her to feel confident she could manage the vineyard herself. She was working as a bilingual kindergarten teacher at the time, making communicating with Spanish speaking workers very useful. Arlene taught school full-time in Napa and managed all aspects of the vineyard spraying, mowing, pruning and watering usually early evenings, early mornings and weekends with part-time help.
An Oakland, California native and graduate of Mills College in Oakland, her love of growing things and gardening began as a child growing up in an Italian immigrant family where a large garden always was plentiful and homemade wine was on the table every night.
Gerry grew up in Canada, Montreal and Ontario where he went to high school and college. He moved to the United states after he and Arlene married in 1972 in Napa, California.
The adjacent property became available and was acquired by the Phelans in 1996 and they immediately planted to grapes.
Gerry and Arlene believe that great wine begins in the vineyard. For this reason Arlene monitors the watering schedule carefully and checks to be sure each plant receives water at the crucial times during the growing season. Some leaf pulling occurs on the shady side of the rows, some thinning is done in heavier crop years. In the beginning in 1992 to 1995 Arlene did every vineyard job in an effort to understand what was involved and the time it took to do it. She sprayed by hand, pruned, picked up the prunings and hauled them out and burnt them. Now she has the vineyard mowed and pruned, but continues to discuss daily during the growing season the best practices fort what is going on in the vineyard. No vacations are taken during the growing season, generally March 31 through October 31.
After a difficult process the Phelans received all the necessary permits to build a wine cave which is now in place, and is where the wine is stored and racked. A consistent 58 degrees keeps the wine naturally cool and minimizes the need to top and eliminates huge electrical use.
The hillside vineyard sits at almost 1,200 feet in a growing region located in the southeast corner of the Napa Valley known as Mount George. This part of the Napa Valley is cooler than most of the area, but the altitude of the vineyard and its northwest exposures provide excellent ripening conditions for the Cabernet Sauvignon based wine. The limiting mountain soils naturally control the size of the crop ensuing the grapes have excellent concentration of flavor.
The area is above the fog line ensuring warm summer days and cool evenings, the exposure allows sun into the canopy from early morning until late afternoon during the growing season, creating deep magenta color and intense berry flavors in the wine. Cool breezes off San Francisco Bay allow air into the canopy keeping mildew problems to a minimum.
The first area planted in 1992 is on rootstock 3309 clone 8. This area is head trained, spur pruned but is slowly being converted to head trained, cane pruned on the advice of consultants to ensure better vine health. The newer vineyard planted in 1996 is on rootstock 110R clone 337 and is head trained, cane pruned.
All of the fruit for the wine comes exclusively from these two vineyards, harvested together and blended into 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon wine.
100% estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon.
Only 500 cases produced.