Jaffe Estate Wines
2005 Metamorphosis - Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
California: Napa Valley
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Mission Codename: The Moon and the Stars
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Jaffe Estate and retrieve their famous 2005 Metamorphosis Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, before it is gone forever
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Jaffe Estate
Wine Subject: 2005 Jaffe Estate Metamorphosis Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley
Winemaker: David DeSante
Backgrounder: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon continues to dominate as the leader in California red wine. For good reason, too, as Napa produces some of the richest and most delicious examples on the planet. Today’s wine is a beautifully balanced delight that had us wishing for another bottle, mere moments after we polished off the first. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report for the full briefing
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby red, this wine maintains its deeply concentrated color – right out to the edge of the glass, where the wine shows off a sudden garnet-color. At its heart, the wine has a deeper core of dark but clear black cherry. When you swirl this wine, it appears to have a springy surface whose core continues to spin for a while before it leaves behind tightly packed clusters of chubby legs that emerge immediately and then streak down the glass
Smell – Bold and and intense with a big initial rush of genuine fruit of currant, anise, black cherry, earthen cinnamon and vanilla. These are followed by dark chocolate, very ripe raspberry and warm soft spices
Feel – Very round and velvety smooth on entry, then feather light weight across the mid palate. At the back of the mouth and toward the edges, toward the back and around the edges of the mouth the wine become grippy as supple tannins take hold, introducing a slight mineral dryness to the back of the tongue and the roof of the mouth
Taste -This wine begins dusky, dark and rich with juicy flavors of black currant, bing cherry, plum with smoky raspberry, soft tobacco and natural cola. As the wine opens up the wine softens and reveals flavors blackberry, red plum and soft spice
Finish – Starts dusky and dark and then finishes sweet, softly spicy and smoky-tart with dark fruit flavors that linger
Conclusion – A delightful wine that delivers the classic richness and bold character associated with the fines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A very impressive wine, we appreciate it for its depth, delicious flavors, tender feel and rush of heady aromatics. After some time exposed to the air, the feel of the wine softens and additional flavors are also revealed, making the tasting of the wine a more full experience. Balanced, food-friendly and elegant, this is a great solo-drinker or a great companion to a rich meal.
The hidden speaker on my desktop squawked, jolting me out of my deep contemplation of the soul of wine.
“Agent Red. Alert Priority Alpha. Jaffe Estate. Your cover, ‘Observatory Repairman’. Suit up in coveralls. Graphics are being prepared for the Top Secret Wine Van. End transmission.”
The electronic voice ended with an abrupt ‘POP’. I starred straight ahead, wondering if I had heard correctly. “Observatory Repairman”? Then I put it all together. Jaffe Estate. Of course! Jaffe has an actual observatory on its grounds. The start-gazing kind of observatory!
That our W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine) had intercepted a transmission regarding their need for a repair was perfect. I was suited up, out the door to the motorpool and then on the road in under 15 minutes. I reveled at our efficiency and looked forward to my inside look at Jaffe who had, until today, been a tough target for us to infiltrate.
Once on scene I was shown to the observatory. Fortunately, I was able to effect the simple repair with the help of Agent White, over subvoccom (subvocal communicator). Grateful, the winery folk offered me a short tour of the estate vineyard. I asked questions, trying to keep them subtle enough as to not raise any suspicion. I learned plenty and, at the end of the tour, was sent on my way with a bottle of their superb Metamorphosis.
Having gathered enough intel, I handed the next phase of the mission off to junior agent, Agent Syrah. He was able to woo the winery and, in doing so, was able to secure a handful of cases for our Operatives.
Enjoy today’s great Cabernet Sauvignon, dear Operative, and don’t forget to stop every once and a while to gaze at the stars…
AGENT RED: Greetings, David. We are thrilled to be showing Jaffe’s Metamorphosis. It’s an elegant wine and we here at Wine Spies H.Q. are all very impressed with it. Thanks so much for the wine, and for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DAVID DESANTE: Thanks, Red. Glad you like it!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DAVID: Sure, when I was 10 years old, I hauled 20# of grapes back from the vineyard in my tee shirt and made my first “wine” in the kitchen sink. I placed it into one of those funny-shaped, 1-pint, Coca Cola bottles and instructed my mother “not to touch this. It will be a great wine.”
RED: Great story! Tell me, where did you learn the most about winemaking?
DAVID: U.C. Davis was great. In the early 90’s, the department was basically out of funds, so we had to be really creative. The instructors were super dedicated. I owe the rigor of my education to my adviser, Dr. Roger Boulton, from Australia. Later he made sure that I worked for Robert Mondavi in Napa and Dianna Cullen in West Australia’s Margaret River region. These were equally formative experiences.
RED: How did this shape you? What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
DAVID: First, I believe that wine is simply out of context unless it is served with a meal. Second, I believe that one should master the styles of the classics before engaging in the free-form, modern styles that are available today. Like a good jazz musician, you should master your classic scales and moods before attempting rule-breaking, free-form jazz.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DAVID: Christian Moueix (classic) and Didier Dagueneau (modern)
RED: How long have you been making wine?
DAVID: If you don’t count that episode when I was 10, about 15 years.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DAVID: Myself and my wife (under our own label; “DeSante”), the Jaffe’s personal taste in the case of the Jaffe Estate wines, and always, always the consumers. I hope that they delight in our work. Reviewers? Hmm. I haven’t considered them yet.
RED: Great answer! Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
DAVID: Terroir. Its that special mix of climate, soil, topography, good fortune, and a community that is dedicated to bringing out the best that the grape has to offer.
RED: And what is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
DAVID: Travel the world and eat the foods that are typical and prized in each region. Then have a glass of wine and see how that changes the experience. Visit the producers of the wines that you enjoy the most and learn from their hard work.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVID: Currently, I am spending most of my time in the vineyards. This is typical of my early summer and fall schedule. This is also the time when we perform our maintenance work in the winery. Our blends for the ‘08’s were finished in February.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
DAVID: The Metamorphosis is an exceptional example of Cabernet Sauvignon from the alluvial fan that is located in the south-west end of St. Helena. This is an exquisite wine that I love for its raspberry, currant and cedar aromas. The palate is elegant, yet structured for longevity. The flavors tend towards the red currant and raspberry with an undertone of mocha.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVID: Braised lamb shanks or duck ravioli
RED: Yum. Can we come over for dinner?! Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
DAVID: I like to make ravioli at home on Sunday. We grow the tomatoes in our garden. I make my own pasta and filling and there is nothing else like this in the world. It is great fun for the family. Wow! Does it taste great when we are finished!
RED: Okay, now we really want to come over for dinner! Do you have an favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
DAVID: Hmmm. I must say I am loving the ’07 Chardonnay that Katharine and I have bottled for DeSante. It reminds me of a classic Napa style from the mid-1970’s or something contemporary from Chablis. During the early summer, it’s perfect.
RED: I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on a bottle! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
DAVID: Think about your meal first. Consider your guests and your mood. Experiment once in a while, and remember your favorites.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
DAVID: A 10-12 year old Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. These are very special wines when they are aged properly.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
DAVID: What is my dream project? I would like to make mobiles like Alexander Calder. He was a brilliant American artist and his work has so much to do with dynamic balance. This is also the underlying theme for winemaking.
RED: Very cool. Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
DAVID: The pleasure was mine. I wish that everyone has the opportunity to connect great wines with friends and memorable meals to have their “great wine experiences.”
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Jaffee Estate can be seen in this covert photo.
What the Winery Says
Jaffe Estate Wines, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
About This Wine:
Metamorphosis honors pioneering Napa winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, whose philosophy was, “once balanced, forever balanced.” Each of the seven unique Jaffe vineyard lots is individually vinified and plays a different role in achieving that crucial balance. Barrel fermented elements add spice to the blend, while the oldest block of Cabernet focuses the aromas and flavors.
Metamorphosis is a traditionally styled Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 15% Merlot. Aromas of black currant and powdery tannins deliver the “big” taste of young Cabernet now, while promising a long and rewarding cellar life. A focused entry of Bing cherry, raspberry and red currant carries through to the lively and textured finish, picking up savory hints of spice and toast from the French oak along the way.
About The Winery:
Who’d have guessed that a person could spend so much time studying the heavens and still keep their feet firmly planted in the soil?
For Gary and Pam Jaffe, spotting new stars in the Orion Nebula, or counting Saturn’s rings brings a fresh perspective on bud break along the vines, or the bright taste of young wine in the mouth. With its silver-domed observatory perched on the edge of the vineyard, Jaffe Estate marries the agricultural and the celestial, the earth and the sky, to create transcendent wines.
Two of Gary’s enduring passions come together here: a lifelong fascination with astronomy and a love for the Napa Valley that began decades ago. Drawn first by the striking beauty of the Valley and surrounding hills, it was the collaborative approach to growing wine grapes that compelled him to stay. He had never before encountered an industry in which competitors routinely helped one another succeed.
The more time he spent here, the clearer it became that Napa’s winemakers are committed to maintaining its reputation as the premiere viticultural region in the country. Collective success takes precedence over individual gain. Gary embraced the “we’re all in this together” spirit of the place, the mutual effort it takes to make some of the world’s finest wines.
Now that the Jaffes live in the Valley year-round, they are able to fully participate while giving back to the community. Pam created the popular Holiday Home Tour as a fund-raiser for the St. Helena elementary school, and both she and Gary are active in a variety of charitable organizations. Then there are the groups of local school kids who visit the observatory for up-close views of star clusters, planets and other celestial sights. The Jaffes encourage every one of them to come back as often as they like. Most do—usually with an excited parent in tow.
Pam exemplifies the ethos of both the Jaffe Estate and the larger Napa Valley. For her, this is the ideal place to raise a family, to commune joyfully with the natural world, to live life abundantly.
Pam spent her young adulthood touring Asia and Africa. She lived on the retired Navy ship her documentary filmmaker father outfitted to accommodate his wife and children, along with a battery of cousins, friends, deck hands, tutors and film crew. And yet, for a woman who has traveled extensively—even to the stars—there is no better place than this patch of earth she and Gary tend as a loving legacy for their children.
About The Winemaker:
David DeSante, Winemaker – Gary and Pam Jaffe had never heard of David DeSante when they found themselves singling out his wine over and over again in a blind tasting. They didn’t know about the range of experience David brought with him to the table, or that he shares their zeal for family togetherness. They just knew he was making some exceptional wines.
The Jaffes have since learned that a life-altering decision put David on the course that led him to Jaffe Estate. Midway through medical school, he was emboldened to pursue what he had come to believe was his true calling. He left Virginia for California, enrolled in the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis and earned his master’s degree. Robert Mondavi Winery hired him to do grape variety clonal research. He traveled and worked the harvest in Australia’s Margaret River region. He returned to Napa Valley and became winemaker at S. Anderson Vineyards, where he spent three years honing his skills. He expanded the red wine program at the vineyard—known up to that point primarily for its sparkling wines—crafting textured, age-worthy Cabernets.
David now produces wine under his own label, as well as serving as winemaker for several small Napa brands. What he enjoys most about his work at Jaffe Estate is the opportunity to make elegant wines from grapes grown and vinified in the classic Napa Valley style. The vineyard structure and deft balance of the resulting wines would be immediately familiar to the great winemakers of the 1970s who brought the world’s attention—and respect—to Californian wines.
You’re not likely to come across children’s toys among the rows of most Napa Valley vineyards. But Jaffe Estate is different. A family lives and plays here, in a lush, garden-like setting where something is always growing, changing, unfolding. And where someone is always looking at the stars.
Situated in the St. Helena viticultural district and bounded by the Rutherford bench to the south, the Jaffe vineyard is ideally located to produce exceptional wine grapes. Its position in the middle of the St. Helena alluvial fan combined with its Bale Loam soil creates the classic conditions for producing reserve-quality red wines.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines that have been thriving in Napa since the 1970s are planted 8 feet apart, with 10-foot spacing between rows. They are pruned into quadrilateral cordons and maintained as a divided canopy—all to nurture the supple and nuanced fruit that flourishes in these elements.
If it sounds like Jaffe grapes are coddled, consider this: When your family home sits in the middle of a vineyard, you attend to the soil and the water, the budding and the leafing, the sun and the fog differently. Factor in the observatory standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the vines, and the powerful presence of light that has traveled inconceivable distances to reach this very spot. Suddenly, the gift of the present stands out in bright relief.
Jaffe Estate wines originate from that profound connection to the land, the hills, the story, the sky and the rich possibility of the Napa Valley.