Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PlumpJack Winery and its little brother CADE

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I sometimes think that I should put some serious limits on how I am treated by wineries, especially since I am now making some of the buying decisions for the wine store.

However, when a winery asks me to lunch at Del Frisco's Steakhouse it becomes somewhat impossible to turn them down. I wanted to tell you this up front so that you can decide for yourself if the food effected my experience of the wine. Let me tell you, you haven't had a Fillet Mignon until you have had a Del Frisco's Fillet on-the-bone. Delicious. I was there with several other wine writers from various publications, but wine specific and other lifestyle magazines.

At Del Frisco's I met Tony Biagi, winemaker at PlumpJack Winery and CADE Winery. One of my favorite parts of this business is meeting the different people and their different personalities. Tony was the type of guy you want to grab a beer with (or a glass of wine, I suppose). Down to earth, sports fan, easy to talk to, and knows his stuff when it comes to Napa Valley.

The main purpose of the lunch, besides tasting the wines, was to talk about how PlumpJack Winery and CADE Winery were converting to sustainable practices. During lunch the representatives from PlumpJack told us their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards had been certified Gold Sustainable, meaning that vineyard had achieved an almost completely harmonious balance as part of what could be a natural ecosystem. Of course this is not completely true, since vines would never have grown in such an organized way but the fact that fewer pesticides and chemicals were entering the system is definitely a positive thing.

The wineries, both owned under the PlumpJack Group by Gavin Newsom, are both well reviewed by the major wine reviewing publications. The PlumpJack brand has been around since 1992,  starting as a retail store and then growing to include an inn and two restaurants. The PlumpJack Winery did not exist until 1997, and the CADE Winery not until 2007. With the continual expansion in slightly less than two decades, I wonder if they are done growing. I would suspect not, especially if the group continues to produce quality products and experiences such as I had with their wines. Their biggest challenge will be to weather the current climate of value buying among consumers, until a time when the country is ready to buy wines above $100 again.

2008 CADE Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - The nose was crisp and soft, with nice grassy notes and a little lime citrus. A pleasant wine until I heard it cost over $20.

2008 PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley - As pure a Chardonnay as you will find from Napa, with the tiniest touch of Oak. This is definitely my kind of Chardonnay as tons of pear and apple flavors poured through a herbal wintergreen overtone.

2007 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville - A floral, smooth and light blueberry aroma, this wine was a pleasure to drink. The acidity was so well balanced that instead of feeling weighted by tannins and fruit the wine was fresh and vibrant. I would love to see if it ages as well, but it is too rich for my wallet.

2007 CADE Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - If the last wine was floral, this wine was all earth. White truffle and earthy rich aromas, lightly peppered with cassis and blackberries, this was a powerful wine.

2007 CADE Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain - This is a beautiful wine and obviously the star of the show. One of the things I crave when I am tasting Cabernet is a feeling of velvety smoothness while also enjoying an experience of fresh fruit and light earthy tones. I look for it wherever Cabernet is made, be it Bordeaux, Napa, or some other region of the new world. This wine is an experience, although an expensive one. Sometimes the price tag is well worth it.

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