2017 Beatty Ranch Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Beatty Ranch
California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain
A thing of Beatty
Red Alert from The Wine Spies Headquarters - Listen up Operatives!
This is our 4th feature from Playground Cellars, and it’s about time we look beyond that fun name and start taking them seriously. Like super seriously. They just handed over the one and only barrel of this, their TOP CAB to The Wine Spies exclusively, which is, by far, their best yet. The original price was a fair $85, which reflects about HALF of what it tastes like, but your restless Spies were somehow able to massage it down, all the way down to $45. If you venture out to seek another single-vineyard Howell Cab anywhere nearby, don’t expect us to save you some, this barrel will be gone FAST!
Black as ink, with barely any letting of light through even at the borders of the glass. A formidable bouquet of blackcurrants, tobacco, graphite, and lead pencil minerality greet on the nose. Full-bodied notes of chocolate laced ripe red and black fruit, violet, and savory herbs define the caressing mouthfeel. Lively and long quintessential Howell Mountain Cab with well-polished round tannins enveloping the seamlessly integrated finish. This stunner calls for a superior grilled cut of aged beef, or slow-cooked mushrooms and veggies.
Beatty Ranch is owned by Mike Beatty who has farmed this vineyard and added to its plantings since the early 1970s. 1,800 feet above the Napa Valley in the Howell Mountain Appellation, this vineyard was originally planted in the 1900s. For decades it provided top-notch fruit to Ridge, Cakebread, and Dunn. Situated on the outskirts of the town of Angwin it has built a following for outstanding Zinfandel and Cabernet for over a century boasting the oldest vines on Howell Mountain.
Playground Cellars is a true “garagiste” style operation, literally born from a garage as Joe White and his wife began making wine for their personal consumption. Joe also serves as assistant winemaker at the illustrious Brown Estate so he knows a thing or two about crafting serious wine.
If you have read this far, there’s a good chance you missed out, we hope that you secured some first!
Here’s what the press has to say on Howell & Beatty:
Growlin’ Good Grapes – San Francisco Chronicle - *“Howell Mountain’s intense fruit attracts winemakers and bears alike. Grower Mike Beatty, whose Black Sears Vineyard sits near the highest point on the mountain in northern Napa Valley, tells of a particular female black bear, easily identifiable because she was minus a claw on one paw, that frequently dined on his premium Zinfandel grapes… Howell Mountain is the source of exceptionally bold, full-bodied and rich Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels and Merlots. The distinctive character of the grapes, different from those from the Napa Valley floor, led to the region being recognized in 1983 as Napa Valley’s first sub-appellation – shortly after Napa Valley itself became an American Viticultural Area (AVA).
The reasons for the distinctive flavors are mostly climatic. During the day, Howell Mountain is cooler than most of Napa Valley, but it’s warmer at night. And it’s above the fog line – in fact, that’s where the AVA officially starts. These conditions are perfect 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… The fruit is not cheap, and neither are the wines made from it. But the grapes are sought after because of Howell Mountain’s growing conditions.
Like majestic Mount St. Helena, Howell Mountain is the result of volcanic activity, although it was not a volcano itself. Rather, the mountain was formed by tectonic activity that pushed it up from below. It is, however, covered by vast quantities of pale tuff, which is white volcanic ash that has been compressed over time. Red and brown volcanic loam and iron-rich red clay complete the soil profile. “These soils are nutrient-poor, thus stressing the vines to produce intense wine from small clusters of berries,” Beatty says. “Our soils are completely different from the rich, alluvial soils of the Napa Valley (floor), where crop thinning and canopy management are necessary to control vigorous growth. With our thin, rocky, well-drained topsoils, vigor is naturally limited up here.”
One of the first to focus on quality Cabernet Sauvignon was Randy Dunn who, with his wife Lori, bought and revived a 5-acre Cabernet vineyard on Howell Mountain in 1978, with financial assistance from the owners of Caymus Vineyards in Rutherford, for which he was then making wine. His inaugural 1979 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon garnered much critical acclaim and attracted consumers’ attention to Howell Mountain as a source of outstanding Cabernet… Dunn’s massively proportioned, complex and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignons – one designated Howell Mountain, the other Napa Valley – are widely considered to be among Napa’s greatest wines.
“Growing grapes on Howell Mountain can be a logistical nightmare,” says Duckhorn’s winemaker, Mark Beringer. “Water is scarce, cultivation is challenging, and yields are low. Yet working with the grapes from this mountain is a winemaker’s dream.” His sentiments are echoed by every winemaker on Howell Mountain and those elsewhere lucky enough to obtain some of its precious fruit.”*
Black as ink, with barely any letting of light through even at the borders of the glass.
A formidable bouquet of blackcurrants, tobacco, graphite, and lead pencil minerality.
Full-bodied notes of chocolate laced ripe red and black fruit, violet, and savory herbs.
Lively and long quintessential Howell Mountain Cab with well-polished round tannins.
Calls for a superior grilled cut of aged beef, or slow-cooked mushrooms and veggies.
What the Winery Says
- Joe White
- 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
- Beatty Ranch
- Total acidity
- 6.08 g/L
- 24 months
- 1-year-old French oak
- 1 barrel