2016 Sterling Vineyards Winemaker Select Red Blend, Napa Valley
Sterling Vineyards creates these small lot offerings each vintage where we can highlight both the varietal and the terroir of the region. These limited release wines are available only to guests of the winery and our wine club members, and often result in just a few barrels each vintage.
The Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Red Blend wine is a beautiful, crushed velvet red color in the glass. The pronounced nose gives bright aromas of fresh blackberry, raspberry jam and dark violet. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine is juicy, plush and soft. The wine offers complex layers of flavor with ripe currants, baked black cherry pie alongside spiced tea and sweet vanillin notes. The wine is beautifully structured with a lush texture, good body and well-integrated tannins.
Vintage & Vineyard Notes
The relatively even 2016 growing season followed welcome winter rains that eased California’s ongoing drought and gave vines plenty of moisture to pull from throughout the season. With no frost during bloom nor heat spikes during the summer, harvest was received with relative ease. The ripening season enjoyed cooler than average daytime highs with plenty of sunshine so fruit had lengthy hang time and developed very good color and flavor concentration. The region’s typical area cold nights enabled the fruit to maintain excellent acidity.
The fruit for this wine comes from several vineyards in the Napa Valley including the BV Ranch #12 vineyard in Calistoga, the Gamble Ranch Vineyard in Oakville, and the Meigs Vineyard situated in rugged Wooden Valley. These three vineyards showcase the unique terroir of the Napa Valley and bring distinctive, flavorful, high-quality fruit to this beautiful red blend.
The grapes were hand harvested in the cool of early morning and transported to the winery, followed by a pre-fermentation cold soak for gentle extraction of the delicate varietal nuances. The grapes were fermented in a combination of stainless-steel, concrete and oak vessels. We chose to age the wine in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels (65% new) 20 months to soften the tannins and showcase the pure fruit character.
Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon 77%, Malbec 14%, Petite Sirah 9%
Vinification: Aged 20 months in French, American & Hungarian oak
Total Acidity: 5.8 gms/100ml
Included in the Box
2x 2016 Sterling Vineyards Winemaker Select Red Blend, Napa Valley
12x 2016 Sterling Vineyards Winemaker Select Red Blend, Napa Valley
Internationally known, Sterling Vineyards is one of the most visited wineries in Napa Valley. The winery sits 300 feet above the valley floor where visitors take an aerial tram to access the top quality Bordeaux varietals and majestic 360 degree views of Napa Valley.
Sterling Vineyards was founded in 1964 by Sir Peter Newton, a British Knight and Oxford scholar. With a fondness for Bordeaux varietals, Sir Newton realized the potential in Calistoga, Napa Valley for growing excellent Merlot and bottled the first single varietal Merlot in 1969. Sterling Vineyards quickly put Napa on the map for creating top quality wines.
The winery itself is an architectural icon in Napa Valley. Modeled after a Greek monastery, Sterling Vineyards was the first winery ever built with the visitor in mind and the only winery in the world with an aerial tram. Today, Sterling is one of the most visited wineries in Napa Valley and one of the largest landowners in Napa, which provides immense opportunity for crafting world-class wines.
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Well, I was lucky enough to receive one of these. Wife and I didn’t do any research prior to opening the wine, so we didn’t know what we were getting into. I am familiar with Sterling Vineyards and have had a couple of their lower-mid level cabs over the years but never sought them out as a go-to wine.
Quick initial PnP:
The wine is deep purple in color with lighter reddish edge towards the glass. Very clear.
Nose: Very fruity right away. Black and red fruits, what I often call boysenberry or black raspberry. There’s also a hint of smokiness, my wife gets some vanilla as well. This initially smells like a bigger wine.
Taste: Very balanced on the palate. The fruit, acid and tannins are in harmony. I’m quite surprised at how balanced it tastes from just the PnP. It’s quite delicious. Long to very-long finish.
I’m quickly aware that this wine is casemates treat.
I will decant for couple hours and come back to this with dinner.
Dinner was salmon cakes with a remoulade sauce and roasted acorn squash. I wasn’t pleased with the pairing but dinner had already been locked down. Prior to eating anything we tasted the wine again.
Nose: Definitely still getting the black and red fruits, but now there’s more depth and the fruit has noticeably subsided. Definite cassis up front now; you can tell this is Cabernet based. Spices, orange zest, cedar and the previously mentioned vanilla are also present.
Taste: Not much different than before other than the less fruity nose helps the flavors harmonize more completely. The wine is not as “big” as I had previously thought, it’s very well balanced and while the fruit is definitely out front, it’s not at all overdone. Very well made wine. The finish is long to very-long and I was enjoying the length of each taste as it hung on my palate for what seemed like a minute.
We knew this was going to be an expensive wine relative to regular casemates prices and were hoping David could somehow get it under $30, thinking that would be a screaming good deal. Seeing the prices today, I’m still extremely impressed. I haven’t had a wine of this quality for under $50.
Nice snag, WD! Looks like a nice wine, though looking at the pH, I suspect it won’t be a 20+ year wine. Want a rich, full red to drink pretty soon? This might well be worth it. Sterling has made a lot of lower end wines, but at the beginning, and from time to time over the years, they have put out some very fine Cabernet and Cabernet-based wines, sometimes in small quantities. Those who know me know I prefer a different profile in Cab/Cab-based wines, and at least a decade from vintage to mature, but I have a number of friends I would recommend this to as up their stylistic alley.
@rpm it is to my eternal regret that this style is so common, and the exceptions are amazing but so pricey. All my cab / Bordeaux grapes buying of late has been snatching up 20+ year old cases of Raymond and York Creek when they show up at Grocery Outlet for this reason.
@novium Would love to be able to find those 20+ year old Raymond and York Creek (presume you mean Ridge York Creek - which used to be their ‘bargain’ Cab, well below the Montebello). I probably went through 4 cases 1978 Ridge York Creek Cab, and at least 2 cases of the 1978 Raymond Cab. Lovely wines in the late ‘90s. I don’t know how we did it, but when I was buying for an NYC liquor store owner, we managed to snag a good bit of New York’s allocation of the ‘78 Ridge York Creek on a 15% post-off - and we didn’t even have to buy dozens of cases of crap wine. Back in the day, many of the better, smaller, California wines were represented in NY by [name redacted], a gonef who insisted you take 5-10 cases of crap that wouldn’t otherwise sell for every case of ‘allocated’ high demand wines. I don’t remember how we got away with it, but it was a fun coup!
@novium@rpm The GO deals (and K&L for a while, too) were for York Creek Vineyard. That’s the source for Ridge York Creek Cabs, Zins, and Petite Sirahs, but it’s their own label. Owner is Fritz Maytag, and a “little known” winemaker helped make their early vintages in the mid- and late-90’s. Her name was Cathy something-or-other…
Fritz took over the winemaking himself in the 1997 or 1998 vintage, it seems. But these age well and I haven’t had a clunker yet.
@klezman@rpm those are the ones! I think I read she was the consulting winemaker until 99? The ones I got were mostly '96 and '97. Wish I’d bought a case or two instead of just 6 bottles. I did buy 3 cases of the Raymond '02 when it was going for $13/bottle. Those ones are funny- apparently they were stored upside down (or rightside up, depending on your perspective.) The corks were completely untouched by the wine, which is how they ended up at GO I assumed. But quality corks, presumably stored in ideal conditions, and while there’s been bottle variation, there have been no bad bottles.
@klezman@novium Ah, Fritz Maytag! He was a friend of some friends of ours. I remember him first as the revivor of Anchor Steam Beer back in the late 1960s… and, as the owner of some great vineyards in Napa later on. Anchor Steam was quite a novelty back in the day! Coming East from that to the swill of pre-microbrewing America was a shock …
@klezman@novium@rjquillan - as klezman and rjquillan can attest, you should have done an rpm Magical History Tour - you’d have met Cathy on the 2008, 2010, 2012 (1) and (2) or 2014 rpm Tours… 2018, not so much since we were in Lodi and Amador. Plans for a 2020 or 2021 Tour were placed very much on hold when Covid hit! rpm had a 2020 reconnaissance trip to Willamette booked, but the world changed last March…
@calvinko805 A little better deal than 20% off winery price. A case (2015 vintage)at winery price of $65 plus tax and a reasonable $36 shipping is $873 all in to me. 12 bottles here plus tax and shipping is $415 all in to me. So better than 50% although not quite apples to apples
This sounds like one I would really like. First, I had no room yesterday, and the case of Peterson Tollini got here today. Second, my wife would kill me if she was the bill. Going to have to pass on this one.
Have to add a quick note from the phone as we watch the Dodgers try to extend the NLCS against the Braves. We were lucky enough to get tagged as Lab Rats on this one. We’ve had a chance to taste some higher end Sterling wines in the past and loved them but have never purchased.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect on this one although both us thought it might be a big Napa wine of the Parker variety. Boy were we wrong. This was immediately soft and approachable from the get go. Didn’t get much on the nose but that could be the light colds we’ve been fighting (no COVID!). Very light subtle notes probably from the Malbec (yeah, checked thw blend). We don’t think this will improve much with age but a year or two won’t hurt. Went well with our marinated skirt steak dinner to end another brutal work week.
The case is too rich for our blood right now but worth the price of admission on the 2 bottle offering. We’re in!