Bennett Lane Winery
2005 Maximus Red Feasting Wine
California: Napa Valley
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Mission Codename: Spartacus!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Scour the Napa Valley, in search of a 90+ Point red blend fit for an Emperor
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Bennett Lane Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 Maximus – Red Feasting Wine
Winemaker: Rob Hunter
Backgrounder:The Napa Valley, best known for producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, also produces some of the finest red blends available. For today’s fantastic wine, Agent Red was dispatched to Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga at Napa Valley’s northern end. An homage to the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus, Bennett Lane’s 2005 Maximus is a wine fit for roman nobility – and for you
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A beautiful deep and darkest garnet, with deeply concentrated color right through its heart and all the way out to the edges of the wine. When swirled, this wine shows a tight surface that settles quickly, unevenly-spaced skinny legs that streak down the glass
Smell – A deep rush of dusky aromas, leading with dark blackberry, darkest dusty cocoa powder, dark plum, ripe cherry, soft spice, vanilla and soft oak
Feel – Soft and wet on the initial attack, then the wine settles in all around the mouth as lush tannins take hold at the edges of the tongue, coating the entire palate and drying the lips with a fine slate mineral feel
Taste – Bold and darkly delicious at first, the bright and juicy as flavors transform on the palate! Led by concentrated dark mixed berries, plum, dark cherry, soft vanilla, flint, soft cedar and softer oak, all complimented by soft raspberry and soft spices of cinnamon and clove with a hint of black licorice
Finish – Starts dark and very concentrated, then brighter and more juicy as dark transforms to bright fruit. Gradually, flavors fall off, leaving behind a fine minerality and flavors of spice, fresh herbs and soft oak
Conclusion – This is a big, bold, juicy and darkly delicious red wine! The wine carries its name well, delivering an experience that does not pussyfoot around your senses. Bennett Lane calls this wine a Red Feasting Wine. While this is an apt name, we contend that the wine itself is the feast. Rich and dark, this wine is perfect for solo-sipping, but it also has enough balance and acidity to make it an easy companion for a hearty meal. I would recommend this wine as a compliment to a great steak or a rich mushroom pasta. If you enjoy fantastic and deliciously robust red wines, this Napa Valley blend from Bennett Lane would please even the pickiest Roman Emperor!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Rob Hunter, Bennett Lane Winery
DATE OF BIRTH: Ahem, cough cough, January, 1960, but really, I look and act MUCH younger, Like 1970!!
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, CA
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis, BS, Winery & Vineyard Management (Three Majors of Enology, Viticulture & Agricultural Economics)
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Internships @ Woodbury Winery, Dom. Chandon & Schramsburg. Asst Winemaker @ Groth V & W (83-86). Winemaker @ Robert Keenan(86-90), Lyeth (90-92) & Markam93-97). VP & Dir. Of Winemaking @ Sterling Vineyards(97-04). Winemaker @ Bennett Lane (2004 – present
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To highlight varietal fruit flavor by picking at flavor maturity rather than numerical ripeness.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Bordeaux Red and Aromatic White Wines.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Helping make the Groth 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the first US Robert Parker 100 point Wine.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Being elected to be the President of the Napa Valley Wine Technical Society. I nearly flunked Biochemistry 101B, had a horrible time with Chemistry overall, and never thought or even still think of myself as a “technical” type of Winemaker!!
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “My wines show my passion for perfection! One can never achieve true perfection, but they can strive for it through excellence. But you must always remember to keep your sense of humor!! Humor is infectious. Humor and Passion are the keys to life!”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Rob. We are thrilled to be showing your Maximus today. We are already big fans of your wines, and the red Maximus is delicious. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ROB HUNTER: Thanks, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ROB: Yes, during my First internship working for Russ Woodbury.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
ROB: Probably working for Nils Venge at Groth. I learned about Winemaking at Davis, I learned how to make wine from Nils.
RED: Nils is a hero of ours, as is his son, Kirk. Nils is a great mentor to have! What is your personal winemaking style or philosophy?
ROB: To highlight the Varietal’s fruit flavor while taking a minimalistic approach in the cellar. Don’t over oak or over work the wines.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ROB: The wine was the 1980 Silver Oak Cab Sauv – Alexander Valley. The Winemaker was Nils Venge, and later on Greg Fowler.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
ROB: Since 1981, so that’s 29 years!!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ROB: Predominantly Bennett Lane. That’s my “real job”!! I have my my own brand, Hunter III Wines, I also run my family’s Winery, Robert Hunter Winery, in Sonoma Valley, and I consult for Charter Oak Winery and Y3 Winery.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
ROB: Napa Valley has such a vast array of soil types and micro-climates that make it a wonderful patchwork quilt of unique viticultural areas to chose from.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
ROB: Study up, and find a small Winery where you can intern at. Then watch and learn. Make sure not to ask too many questions!! (Winemakers can be moody souls when they get busy!)
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ROB: Getting ready for grapes to come in.
RED: Yes, harvest is upon us!
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
ROB: I was almost an opera singer.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
ROB: Chardonnay, Bennett Lane Reserve, of Course!!
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
ROB: With appropriate stemware. Poor stemware drives me crazy. You might as well drink it out of a coffee mug.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
ROB: What is your favorite type of cheese to go with wine? Morbier. It goes great with ANY wine, red, white, sauternes, even port!!
RED: 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!
ROB: Thank you, Agent Red. Looking forward to our next infiltration!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Bennett Lane Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
90 Points & Outstanding Value – Wine Spectator – “Firm, rich and intense, with ripe vivid blackberry and wild berry fruit and a mix of currant and raspberry. Keeps a tight focus on the finish.”
About This Wine:
The blend on the 2005 Maximus is 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 11% Syrah. The wine opens with aromas of dark cocoa, plum, ripe black cherry and subtle hints of vanilla. On the palate the wine displays flavors of black cherry, plum, blueberry and subtle layers of cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar. With elegant, velvety tannins that enhance the mouthfeel, the wine has a long fruit driven finish and pairs well with practically everything.
About The Winery:
Follow Napa Valley’s Route 29 north to Calistoga, and then keep going just 2 1/2 more miles. You’ll arrive at the pinnacle of the Napa Valley – the northernmost wedge where the Vaca mountain range meets the Mayacamas range. Here you will also find Bennett Lane Winery, sitting snugly at the edge of its own well-maintained Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.
Owners Randy and Lisa Lynch purchased the property only five and a half years ago, but Bennett Lane is already making a splash in wine country with its lush textured Cabernet Sauvignon and a no-nonsense red wine varietal blend called Maximus, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The winery has garnered an incredible thirteen 90+ Point Scores from Wine Spectator in four short years.
Maximus leads the way in Bennett Lane’s quest to produce high quality Napa Valley red wine. The 2002 Maximus was named the Top Value Napa Valley Cabernet for the 2002 vintage by Wine Spectator’s James Laube and the 2003 Maximus made a splash with a 90 Point rating from the Wine Spectator. Our newest vintage, 2005 Maximus, was also awarded 90 Points by Wine Spectator and was named an “Outstanding Vallue”.
The Cabernet Sauvignon program at Bennett Lane has two stars shining, the Napa Valley Cabernet and the Primus Reserve Cabernet. Our 2003 Vintages were both listed among the Top 50 Cabs in Napa for the year, with the Reserve scoring a stellar 93 Points. The 2004 releases followed suit, with a 91 Point Score for the Reserve and 92 Points for our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Our latest release is the 2006 Reserve Cabernet, scoring 92 Points in Wine Spectator.
About The Winemaker:
With more than 20 years of Napa winemaking under his belt, Rob Hunter joined Bennett Lane Winery as Winemaker in April 2005. Most recently Rob served as Vice President and Director of Winemaking for Sterling Vineyards, where he revolutionized Sterling’s wine style and defined the winery as a pioneer and leader in the Napa Valley. He also previously held posts as winemaker for Markham Vineyards, Vice President and Winemaker for Lyeth Winery and Winemaker and General Manager from Robert Keenan Winery. At Bennett Lane, Hunter will oversee production of the winery’s signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Maximus, a ‘red feasting wine’ a whimsical blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.
‘Working with Bennett Lane Owner Randy Lynch is an exciting prospect. Randy and I have similar palates; we are both very much attracted to intense black cherry fruit and a big jammy style,’ said Hunter. ‘In addition, working with Bennett Lane offers me the chance to help guide and shape the winemaking direction of a newer winery.’
Randy Lynch commented, ’I’m thrilled to be working with Rob, and I think it’s great to have him on board.’
Rob lives in St. Helena. An avid trail runner, woodworker and gardener, Rob also has a daughter, Haley.
Wine Type: Red Wine
Varietal: Maximus Red Feasting Wine
Appellation: Napa Valley
Harvest Date: October 2005
Aging: New and once used French and American Barrels for 15 months
Bottling Date: February 2007