Rutherford’s heritage goes back further than many imagine. While wine lovers beyond those strictly in the industry know about George Yount and Yountville, some people may not be aware that one of Yount’s granddaughters, Elizabeth, married Thomas Rutherford, and it was Thomas who dug his heels into serious winemaking with the goal of making premium wines.
Sure, it helped that his grandfather-in-law bequeathed more than 1,000 acres to the newlyweds in 1864, but Thomas Rutherford did not let that gift go fallow.
Innovation in Rutherford continues today. While the local Rutherford Dust Society celebrates its 25th anniversary, the greatest feat is the group’s ability to become the first appellation association in Napa Valley to have 100% participation in the Napa Green Land Sustainable Winegrowing Certification. More than 60 members are in the Society.
You can review and argue size or any other potential disproportion you want, but if you know group associations at all, it is not easy to get everyone to concentrate on one particular initiative — it is a feat of great proportion.
The Rutherford Dust Society collectively showcased their 2020 Premiere Napa Valley lots and other special wines at a Friday event that took place at host winery St. Supéry Estate. Winery CEO Emma Swain greeted visitors and discussed the energy and excitement surrounding Premiere. Wineries from Alpha Omega to William Harrison Vineyard & Winery – all Napa Green – poured wines while greeting old and new friends alike. Winery owners and winemakers were on hand, walking the rooms and talking with guests, adding an extra level of engagement to the festive event.
The buzz of the tasting was the 2018 vintage in general – having lush fruits with bright acidity. Particular highlights include:
—Alpha Omega Premiere Lot 112, a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from two Rutherford vineyards — the estate Thomas vineyard and Beckstoffer Georges III — shows a nose of deep, concentrated red and black plum fruits with a firm backbone of tannins on the dark-fruited palate; a big wine for drinking now, or one to enjoy with aging.
—Davis Estates Premiere Lot 111 is called “Loving Life” and this 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon creates just the right atmosphere for that, blending in a touch of Petite Sirah that produces an aromatically intense wine with dark fruits lifted by mineral-wet stones and a touch of dark earth.
—Honig Vineyard & Winery poured their premiere estate Cabernet Sauvignon, with a juicy entry and mouth-coating richness of red and black fruits. Smoky, dusty, and delicious best sums up their 2018 lot from Rutherford.
—Inglenook poured their Rhone-inspired white blend, Blancaneaux from the 2013 vintage which showed off fresh vibrant pear and red apple fruit, with a touch of toasty nut complexity. Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier each brought their talents to the blend.
—Scattered Peaks brought a new star to the table — a wine from iconic vintner Joel Aiken, who produced this firmly structured yet oh-so-silky textured Cabernet with owner Derek Benham. The fruit, from the Morisoli Vineyard on the Rutherford Bench, is 100% cab and ages for 20 months in new French oak barrels.
—St. Supery Vineyards & Winery poured their Premiere lot, a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, titled Louis XIV, and shared the intriguing story about its maturation barrel being milled from a forest planted by the man himself, Louis XIV. Bright, juicy red and black fruits provide an intensely flavored palate layered with cinnamon and toast; a wine both powerful and smooth in its delivery.
—Julie Johnston added Zinfandel to the Premiere conversation with her rare Tres Sabores estate Zinfandel grown on the western Rutherford Bench. From dry-farmed vineyards tended carefully, Julie has created a vibrant, lively Zinfandel full of red raspberry and red cherry fruit which is perfectly in balance with the wine’s bright acidity and structure. If you are a Zin fan, this is a must-taste wine, and if you have previously avoided the grape, this will change your outlook on Zin completely.
Catherine Bugue, the St. Helena Star’s tasting panel writer, loves writing about — and drinking — wine. She is also the co-founder of the Napa Valley Wine Academy in Napa. You can contact Catherine at email@example.com.