2015 'Vaso' Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Napa Valley
Va so so SO good
It was an overcast day in Rutherford’s hillsides up against the Mayacamas range. The unmarked gate took a while to open and the road that leads to one of the most stunning wineries you’ll ever see was long and windy. Dana Estates is not easy to find even if you’re able to get an appointment. Neither are their wines that have attained perfection since their third release back in 2007 earning a first 100-point review by Robert Parker. They have not skipped a beat since. To assure their pristine estate vineyards make the best wines possible, they have created a true ‘second wine’ program. The production for Vaso is TINY because what they painstakingly separate as worthy of the single-vineyard program is all outstanding but there are enough young vines to put this blend together to further concentrate the top end. In a flight with its monster siblings - it’s cut from the same cloth - and even more approachable. An unfathomable feat for $75 vs. the $500+ price tags in the lineup, the 2015 Vaso truly stood out as an astonishing value during this recent visit.
The saturated plum / purple color fades to a much gentler garnet circumference glowing with grace. The pedigreed perfume gathers around lead pencil, liqueur-like notes intermixed with sweet red and black currants, plums, cedar, and spice. A single whiff is all you need to know that you’re amongst the very elite of Napa Valley. Extremely elegant on the palate, a pleasant surprise given the nose, medium-bodied, with cherries, intense concentration, richness, and silky tannins. On the complex finish, hints of tobacco leaf, cedar, and nutmeg resonate long alongside extraordinary precision and purity. While this wine is hefty enough to accompany lavishly grilled steaks, it also bears the elegance to enhance lighter dishes too. A perfect marriage of the new school and the old schools that define this classic, timeless place.
Don’t look for any reviews for Vaso as there are none. It’s that untraceable, an enigmatic rarity that will elevate your Napa Valley cherry pile to new heights. Vaso has been around for merely three vintages now and we doubt that as these younger vines come to maturity the program will stay around. Seize the day! And if you can afford to, this is best as a by the case buy. It’ll give Maidens, Matriarchs, hell, even Second Flights a run for the money, guaranteed as this is by far the best price amongst the select few establishments that get allocated some. Let’s just say it. This MUST be the best value touched by Melka out there. Given his track record at some of the very top wine estates in the world (Pétrus, Haut-Brion, Dominus, Bryant Family, Hundred Acre, Dalla Valle, to name a few) you just can’t go wrong.
Here’s what the press has to say on Dana:
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocates - “A very impressive revival of this historical estate in Rutherford, under the diligent consultancy of Philippe Melka, Dana Estates is producing polished and expressive superstar wines from three wonderfully diverse vineyards. Helms Vineyard consists of five acres on gravelly loam, right on the northern edge of the Rutherford bench, planted in 1997 and 1998. Hershey Vineyard on Howell Mountain is 26 acres in total, 18 of which were planted in 2008. It is planted to just about all aspects imaginable, so it’s quite a varied site, although the Dana Hershey label comes mainly from just four blocks. Lotus Vineyard is just below Howell Mountain, not high enough to make that AVA. A very steep vineyard, 100% hand farmed, Lotus is by far the warmest site for this estate. Onda is a blend of all the vineyards, including their fourth Crystal Springs vineyard, which does not produce a single vineyard wine. As with most of Northern California, 2015 was a very small vintage for Dana Estates, producing very small berries with little or no seeds, which is likely a contributing factor to the firm yet beautifully ripe, sensuous tannins this vintage lends… I was offered a tasting of a few older vintages of these remarkable wines, which are aging gracefully and revealing the potential of these incredible vineyards.”
Antonio Galloni’s Vinous - “My most recent tasting at Dana provided a good look at the last three vintages. The 2015s are opulent, flamboyant wines, and that is on top of a house style that seeks richness and intensity. Macerations were the longest ever, but winemakers Chris Cooney and Philippe Melka kept the temperatures low in order to avoid extracting harsh tannins. It will be interesting to see how those wines develop over the next few years… Cooney and Melka continue to refine the approach at Dana, where no expense is spared. The most recent development is an increased move towards dry farming where possible. These are some of the most unique and compelling wines in Napa Valley. Sadly, quantities remain tiny.”
Wine Spectator, James Laube - “South Korean businessman Hi Sang Lee’s fascination with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—and the difficulty of buying it and other great wines in his home country—led him to start a wine-import firm. He focused on high-end wines from California, Europe and beyond, with a particular appetite for Napa’s cult Cabernets, such as Colgin, Harlan and Shafer. The more time he spent tasting Napa Valley wine, the more wines he collected to import and at some point, he says, his friends suggested that if he loved Napa Cabernet that much, why not become a vintner? Lee, CEO of Nara Food in Seoul, acquired the former Livingston winery and vineyard at the base of the mountains in Rutherford in 2005. This is extraordinary Cabernet turf, with such famed properties as Staglin, Scarecrow and Rubicon Estate nearby. In Korea, Lee does most of his retail business at Podo Plaza, an elaborate five-story food and wine building that has a wine bar in the basement, a wine shop on the first floor, a wine museum above. The third floor houses the Wine Stewardship education trust, for wine classes, and above that is a Japanese culinary academy. You might not get that much out of Lee without pushing, since he’s private and quiet. But he spent some time with me recently and talked about his passion for wine. Once you step on his property, though, you can see his vision and precision. His winery is an amazing architectural achievement, the work of a famed architect-to-the-star-vintners, Howard Backen. The winery incorporates the old stone winery renovated by John and Diane Livingston and then extends that into a modern masterpiece, including three fermentation rooms, one each for the three single vineyard wines made under the Dana (pronounced Dah-Nah and Korean for spirit of generosity) Estates label. Lee, 64, hired Philippe Melka as winemaker.”*
The saturated plum / purple color fades to a much gentler garnet circumference glowing with grace.
Lead pencil, liqueur-like notes intermixed with sweet red and black currants, plums, cedar, and spice.
Extremely elegant, medium-bodied, with cherries, intense concentration, richness, and silky tannins.
Hints of tobacco leaf, cedar, and nutmeg resonate long alongside extraordinary precision and purity.
Hefty enough to accompany lavishly grilled steaks, while with elegance to enhance lighter dishes too.
What the Winery Says
- Consulting winemaker
- Philippe Melka
- Chris Cooney
- 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc
- Howell Mountain & Rutherford, Napa Valley
- 100% Estate Grown, Hershey, Lotus, Helms & Crystal Vineyards
- Total acidity
- 5.4 g/L
- 3.90 g/L
- Bottling date
- June 28, 2017
- 20 months in French oak
- Ermitage, Taransaud, Baron, Demptos, Sylvain, Artisan