Lunch with great wine is always an uplifting start for a day. This time, was a lunch with a few close media friends at China club for the launch of California’s Napa Valley, Newton Vineyard’s 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.
Newton Winery, not a wine that has been most talked about as much as those popular names such as Colgin, Harlan nor Sine Qua Non etc., but definitely a new talked-about after LVMH head Jean-Guillaume Prats (Ex Château Cos-d’Estournel CEO, a trustworthy gentleman whom I met 10 years ago back at his own estate) had taken up one of his new projects here in Napa along with Robert Mann. Panning over a rich, vegetation-filled 560-acres, Newton Winery established themselves in 1977. The now terraced mountain estate boasts 3 appellations sitting between 500 and 1600 feet above sea level with vineyards cover less than 20% of the estate’s total acreage. Of those 3 appellations, in the Mayacamas Mountains on the western edge of the Napa Valley, at steep south-facing altitudes of 750 feet, Mt. Veeder is the most rugged comprising of 20 blocks spread over 50 acres (around 20 hectares). The land allows for the longest growing season of all the Napa Valley sub-regions.
Here, the Cabernet Sauvignon grows at its best. The cooler climate with deep sedimentary soil from seabed produces structured red and black fruits with classic plush velvety style cab.
Newton Unfiltered Cab 2014 (~@USD66) & Newton Mt Veedeer 2014 (~@USD190)The 2014 juice is from some 35-year-old vines, 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. Each grape were individually plucked and hand sorted. With only 500 cases produced, this wine aged in 60% new French oak for 14 months, aiming not to have oak overpowering the wine where most of us agreed during lunch (I certainly detest those over-Oaked napa cab and Chardonnay that we used to find in the “old days”, am sure not many likes those style anymore).
Estate Director and senior wine maker Robert Mann says the well-drained, sedimentary soil captures “the minerality and vibrancy of Cabernet Sauvignon, producing wines characterised by an intense blackcurrant fruit and firm, sinewy graphite structures”.
2014 Newton Unflitered Cab & Mt Veeder
When tasting the 2014 Cab which is a blend of Cab from the 3 vineyard, it was fabulous with juicy dark fruits fused with cinnamon, cloves and cedar (92) while this 2014 Mt Veeder is just 500% or more excellent I felt. Its refined graphite like tannins (which definitely needs more time to show its best) with those deep, dark cassis notes; charcoal, mint, mushroom and wet forest floor; plush, intense and polish with good depth; together with that long elegant yet powerful finish was something what a cab lover would love and dive for another glass. (96)
Winery and winemaker Info
Englishman Peter Newton and his Chinese wife Su Hua purchased one square mile of tumbling slopes high up on Spring Mountain overlooking St. Helena in 1977. The Estate was planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Merlot thrives in a land which is rocky mixed with clay beneath the surface, while Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot like an impoverished soil, and Cabernet Sauvignon is happy in stony loam. The mountainous slopes of the vineyards not only have these soils, but also a full range of exposures. Spring Mountain provides the vines get all the sunlight they need without any baking heat stress.
Chardonnay needs chalky or loamy soil in a cooler region. Newton owns an old vineyard in Carneros and also has long-term grape contracts for several hillside vineyards verging on that region. Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, introduced in 1990, is said to be the first unfiltered wine produced and sold in California, and is now regarded as an industry benchmark.
Su Hua insists on picking only ripe grapes from the vine. Her method of quality control is to be involved in every aspect of the harvest, during which time she can be found every day among the pickers. To ensure that only ripe grapes are harvested, there can be up to four separate pickings in a single vineyard – very difficult to do but, she believes, there is no other way to produce a great wine.
Newton currently comprises 120 acres of vineyard with some plantings on Mount Veeder, Yountville and Carneros, but the kernel of the estate at Spring Mountain is very promisingly located between the super-lauded Abreu and my beloved Spottswoode.
Winemaker Robert Mann is from a famous winemaking dynasty and grandson of one of Australia’s most respected winemakers ever. His grandfather Jack Mann not only created the best-selling Houghton’s White Burgundy but, perhaps more significantly, made so many great Cabernet-based reds in Western Australia during his 50-vintage career that Hardys’ top bottling is named after him. Rob was senior winemaker at Hardys’ historic Tintara winery in South Australia before being recruited by LVMH in 2005 to take the tiller at Cape Mentelle, their flagship Margaret River winery. During Mann’s 10 years at Cape Mentelle, the winery was twice awarded Producer of the Year and Rob Mann Winemaker of the Year.