If we seemed a tad hesitant to give our highest recommendation to the 2014s, no such reservation exists for the 2015s. It feels odd to be writing a mailer for only 4 wines but the quality contained within more than makes up for that unease. Unbridled enthusiasm best describes our feeling about this small vintage, probably best describes the character of the wines as well. The reason for the smallness is most commonly attributed to a third consecutive year of dry, hot conditions but in truth, it had more to do with a cool, windy spell of weather around the time of flowering. It had been so hot for so long, it was difficult to remember a time when it wasn’t. That time, as we mentioned previously in the Pinot/Chardonnay mailer, was late May of 2015. The cloudy conditions of those couple weeks allowed already stressed vines the opportunity to relieve themselves of a little fruit right at the beginning of set. The newly established small crop and warm conditions that followed produced wines with enormous fruit concentration and color. The wines will drink well early given their generosity but there is structure lurking underneath plus ample balancing acidity due to the compressed growing season. The concentration levels to me are on par with 2013 but in this case the wines lead with fruit not tannin. A term that will appear more and more as the vintage rolls out is sucrosity. It’s a sensation of sweetness without residual sugar or in this case a fresh, primary fruit character that seems to be the defining characteristic of the vintage. That quality here is balanced by acidity and the natural, savory varietal character of Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit component in these wines will also lead people to compare this vintage to 2012 but I think there’s more weight and seriousness to the 2015s. Our first tasting of these wines in March 2016 was with Antonio Galloni of Vinous and I think he said it best, “2015 is what everyone wanted 2012 to be.”
2015 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
400 cases, 14.2% alcohol, 50% new oak
This is made up of clones 4 and 337 from Panek, our small portion of Pellet Vineyard in St. Helena, one small block from Lore, a couple barrels of Larkmead and two blocks from Kennedy Vineyard in Calistoga. Once again, this will give everyone a good sense of the character of the 2015 vintage. I don’t think there has ever been a year where pieces of every single vineyard bottling were present in the Napa blend. Fruit and color concentration are the first two things that jump out. The balancing element here is the savory note on the nose. Walnut husks, smoke and creosote sit on top of the fruit cutting into any potential jamminess that might be present in a warm year. The palate is mostly darker fruits with a nice underlying acidity provided I’m guessing by the Panek and Larkmead components in the wine. A slight herbal touch comes up in the finish with little bits of sweet tobacco, sage and menthol. This drinks way above its price point and may end up being the best QPR Cabernet we have ever released.
2015 Rivers-Marie Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon
204 cases, 14.3% alcohol, 67% new oak
Three spectacular 2015 offerings from Rivers-Marie, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga is 100% of the Olmo (or Eisele) clone from the single block of the Larkmead Vineyard in Calistoga. Inky purple, with graphite notes intermixed with crème de cassis, cedar wood, unsmoked cigar tobacco and forest floor, the wine is dense, full-bodied, multi-layered and a thoroughly compelling example of valley floor Cabernet Sauvignon from the one of the great vineyards in Napa. Drink it over the next 25 or so years. (96 - 99) -- Robert M. Parker, Jr., 227, The Wine Advocate
Once again this holds the most in reserve across all the bottlings. There’s a floral note that gives the wine an initial prettiness that transcends the vintage. The gloves come off after that initial note though as the wine veers toward densely packed black fruit. Crème de cassis, grilled bread, graphite and river rock spring from the glass to balance the fruit. For all the talk about fruit concentration in this vintage, it is nice to see more earthy, varietally driven traits driving the balance on this wine. This is to be expected given its source. It almost has an old world quality to the aromatic given all the savory-ness. The lifted aromatic accompanied by the fruit density gives the wine a refreshing feel that provides both satisfying density and the desire to take another sip. As Calistogans ourselves, it has always given us great pleasure to offer such a solid wine from our hometown AVA.
2015 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena
300 cases, 14.4% alcohol, 70% new oak
Equally impressive is the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Panek Vineyard, which is located a little further south of Larkmead on the Napa Valley floor. Blue fruits, truffle, asphalt and lead pencil shavings are interwoven with white flowers and a touch of barrique in a full-bodied wine that offers extraordinary blackberry, cassis and blueberry fruit. It has an amazing mouthfeel building up by increments to a splendid finish of close to minute. This is great stuff. Look to it to drink well for 25-30 years. (96 - 100) -- Robert M. Parker, Jr., 227, The Wine Advocate
Once we get into the single vineyard category, everything amplifies. The farming at Panek continues to improve every year as we become more and more familiar with the individual blocks. This is predominately clones 169 and 7 from the rockiest section of the vineyard. The fruit profile here is purple/black with some sweet notes of brown sugar, blackberries and caramelized brown sugar. The structure in this bottling has gotten a little more intense every year as the vineyard matures. The acidity has always been the balancing element in this wine but now there’s ample tannin to provide backbone and grip to the finish. There’s also now a wet stone/crushed rock component to complement the generous, valley floor fruit profile. Savory notes of camphor, licorice and charcoal help complete the finish making this the most complete Panek we’ve made to date.
2015 Rivers-Marie Lore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
232 cases, 14.3% alcohol, 80% new oak
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Lore Vineyard emerges from the Vaca eastern hills above the Rudd Winery in Oakville. This rocky site has a produced a wine of great intensity with an opaque purple color and a gorgeous nose of creosote, camphor, truffle, blackberry and cassis as well as cedar and loamy soil undertones. Deep, multi-dimensional and full-bodied, with sweet tannins in the finish, it should drink well for 20-25 years. (96 - 100) -- Robert M. Parker, Jr., 227, The Wine Advocate
This is always the hardest wine to describe because I can never figure out what not to say about it. At first sniff, it covers the entire fruit spectrum veering from red to purple to black. There is a dried herb/crushed rock combo that screams Oakville Cabernet on the nose. Because of the structure, this too has a lightness to the front of the palate that belies the density of the finish. The palate feels almost ethereal until the densely packed purple fruits come in on the finish to remind you of the origin of the wine.
Where to start? Pinot Noir will be offered as usual the third Tuesday of January. We are gearing up to bottle the 2016s in a month or so and the lineup looks like this: Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Summa, Summa Old, Occidental Ridge, Silver Eagle and Bearwallow. All the usual players plus one small addition of another appellation wine. Quantities recovered a bit in 2016 so the allocation process should be a bit more sane this go round. New for next year will be a Chardonnay only mailer. We are about 95% confident this will happen. The goal is to move to three varietally specific mailers a year to allow for more focused buying and also to keep from inundating people with 10 bottlings a mailer. There looks to be a couple new Chardonnay single vineyard designates coming in 2016 including our first white from Bearwallow. Thieriot, Joy Road and Sonoma Coast will definitely be present. Final line up will be determined by some barrel tastings in early November. With Cabernet, the big news is the addition of Herb Lamb in 2016. This is a vineyard I’ve followed since early Colgin days. Our first edition looks promising. The other sources remain Panek, Larkmead, Lore and Kennedy. The big, big news is Geneveive and I closed on a piece of property in Calistoga on which we hope to build a Rivers-Marie winery. We are in the early design, permitting stages now. We would like to have the facility open by harvest of 2019. Even better, there will be a tasting room so we will finally have the ability to host everyone who has supported us through the years.
OFFER AND SHIPPING DETAILS
This offer will remain open through August 8th quantities permitting. The allocations are not guaranteed but we hope all bottlings last at least a week. Everyone for this release receives the same allocation and we try to spread our wine out to as many people as possible. Ground shipping is included for this offer. If you have any questions, concerns or magnum requests please contact Will Segui at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 707-341-3127.
Thanks again for all the support,
Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh