St. Clement Vineyards
2005 Armstrong Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Armstrong Ranch
California: Napa Valley: Diamond Mountain
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Mission Codename: Stretch Armstrong
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure a library vintage Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley’s St. Clement Vineyards
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: St. Clement Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon, Armstrong Ranch, Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Danielle Cyrot
Backgrounder: Today, The Wine Spies return to our old friends, St. Clement Vineyards. We are very fortunate to be able to show their extraordinary wines and today we bring you a particularly great one. The Diamond District AVA (American Viticultural Area) sits at the northern most tip of the Napa Valley, in the Mayacamas Mountains. The higher elevation of the region sees more direct sunlight and less cooling that the rest of the valley, leading to the production of some of the most concentrated and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon in the entire Napa Valley.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby red with clear and slightly darker heart and concentrated color, right out to the rim of the glass, where fine pink-ruby hued edges dance in the light. On giving the wine a swirl, the surface of the wine shows as softly springy look. It settles quickly, leaving behind tightly-spaced clusters of tears that start off chubby and then go thin as the make their way down the glass
Smell – Lush and bright, led by ripe blackberry, boysenberry and dark cherry. These aromas are quickly joined by soft dried meats, fresh bramble, plum, cassis and black pepper. Just below the surface, a hint of freshly picked Serrano pepper peeks through
Feel – Velvet smooth, lush and soft, this wine starts off tender and round, and then fine-grained tannins make a gradual appearance that eventually leads to a soft, around the mouth dryness
Taste – Delicious and complex with balanced flavors of blackberry, blueberry compote, dusty dried rose petals, sweet red plum, black pepper and soft cinnamon
Finish – Long and bright, with softly tart flavors that linger. After a few long moments, a gentle dryness is introduced, making your mouth water – and reminding you to take another sip of this great wine
Conclusion – The 2005 Armstrong Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Clement is another remarkable treat from a winery that we have come to expect the greatest wines from. Winemaker Danielle Cyrot continues to impress us with her remarkable skills. Today’s wine is a somewhat more light-hearted interpretation of a Howell Mountain Cab than we have become accustom to. While there is great depth and plenty of character present in this wine, you’ll find it to be quite palate friendly, and more food friendly than other examples from the region. In other words, your mouth will not be blasted by the wine. Instead, this wine is a delightful compliment. We enjoyed our review bottle with a wide array of foods, including a Thai papaya salad, grilled flank steak, curry potato croquettes and clay-pot roasted blackened chicken. These were unusual choices, to be sure, but the wine complimented each with ease. This wine gets our very big Wine Spies recommendation!
The following is an extract from our first-encounter mission report, in which Agent White first becomes acquainted with our now-good friends at St. Clement:
It was perhaps the strangest of locations to start a wine mission. I entered the church and as the instructions indicated, I was to go to the second pew and show penance. As I knelt, in the pew, I noticed a book with a bookmark in it. Looking more closely, it was a history of the Papacy and the page that was bookmarked was about Pope Clement I (Clemens Romanus), who is also known as St. Clement. No being sure if this was the clue, I stayed for another hour and beyond the woman practicing on the organ, nobody came or went from the church.
Back at HQ, I entered in our research computer the search term ‘Clement’ and found that indeed, the bookmark was a clue. All signs pointed in the direction of St. Clement Vineyards in Napa Valley. We had an asset who could get us some additional intel so I PIN messaged Agent Malbec and within a few hours a courier had delivered a bottle of the St. Clement to our front company.
The bottle was immediately taken to the lab for analysis. The results were clear; It was an almost perfect wine, with fruit from one of the best vineyards in Napa. St. Clement had been on our radar for a couple months. Their winemaker Danielle Cyrot, with a long lineage of European winemakers was making quite a name for herself.
But as we always say, the proof is in the juice… Lab results, research, walks through the vineyards are all nice, but its in the glass that matters… Well, there’s no knelling for St. Clement wines. After tasting it, we were jumping for joy.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of St. Clement Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
89 Points – Wine Advocate – Softer as well as distinctively earthy is the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Armstrong Ranch. Smelling of scorched earth, charcoal embers, and black currants, it possesses a distinctive terroir-laden nose, medium to full body, silky tannins, attractive ripeness, and a long finish. It should keep for 10-15 years.
Voted Best Boutique Winery Two Years In A Row By Napa and Sonoma Valleys magazine.
Voted Best Local Winemaker – Winemaker Danielle Cyrot -
About This Wine:
The wine starts off with some red cherry, raspberry, coffee, and smoky oak. There are underlying layers of green bean, cherry cola, and dried cranberries. It is full bodied with significant tannin and structure. It finishes with some cranberry, black currant and coco powder flavors. The wine was aged in 50% new French oak for 19 months.
About The Vineyard:
Armstrong Ranch sits high atop Diamond Mountain, just west of Calistoga. The vineyard blocks are planted on an extreme hillside with an elevation range of 850 to 1,200 feet. The thin, volcanic soils are laden with obsidian (volcanic glass) and very limiting; each vine produces only 2 tons per acre. Due to the varying elevations and row orientations, this vineyard is typically harvested three or four different times; sometimes a quarter of a row is left behind to ripen further. All of these factors make it a difficult place for a grapevine, and the resulting wines are incredibly rich in flavor with a complex tannin structure. In 2006, Diamond Mountain experienced a late bud break due to cool spring temperatures. Warm daytime temperatures during the summer and fall allowed the grapes to achieve ripeness of flavors and tannins, and harvest was completed by the first week of October.
About The Winery:
The philosophical approach to winemaking at St Clement is all about the land of Napa Valley. Much has been written about the idyllic nature and diversity of this 50-mile long valley. It is this diversity that forms the foundation for our approach to winemaking.
As an artist holds many colors on the palette to create subtle hues, we hold a collection of vineyards from the north in Calistoga to the south in Carneros and from the alluvial benches of the valley floor at Rutherford to the cloud clinging heights of Mt Veeder.
We take the fruit from this collection of small, independent growers to balance, blend and build our wines into totalities that mirror the complexity and beauty of the Napa valley itself.
About The Winemaker:
Danielle Cyrot – Winemaker, St. Clement Vineyards – As the third decade of her life begins, Danielle Cyrot brings a broad scope of international winemaking expertise that extends well beyond her age. And as the descendant of French vignerons whose history goes back for centuries, she is also renewing an enological tradition that had been dormant for three generations.
Varietal Content: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Diamond Mountain
Harvest Dates: 09/26/05-10/01/05
Bottling Completed: 09/05/07
Case Production: 333