Cabernet SauvignonCabernet Sauvignon from unique vineyards from within one of the world's premier growing regions.
From a single Napa appellation bottling in 2002, the Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon program has grown into a single-vineyard program that includes Panek Vineyard (St. Helena, 2009), Lore Vineyard (Oakville, 2013) & Larkmead / Calistoga (Calistoga, 2012).
2018 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volumeI can't think of a better way to create our Napa blend than by combining lots from Herb Lamb, Lore and Panek. This is the first time we have had enough of certain sites to declassify significant portions into our appellation bottling. Not only does this help this bottling but it has made Herb Lamb and Panek much stronger wines when compared to their 2016 editions. The 2018 Napa bottling feels very complete at this young age and breaking down this attribute is very simple when looking across the components: Panek provides the fruit, Lore provides the structure and Herb Lamb contributes some varietal savory-ness. It’s hard to say if any particular vineyard component dominates the blend because you can sense shared characteristics from all the sites across the entire spectrum of the wine. Black fruits dominate the aromatic and the palate. There’s a blue fruited acidity that punches in late showcasing the coolness of the vintage. Savory elements weave through the whole experience creating a classic Napa mouthfeel, something more akin to the wines from the early 90s than the early 00s. Tannins here are medium/medium plus which makes this very drinkable upon release. As with all appellation wines, we hope this gives you good insight into the quality and character of the vintage. We think you will be very pleased with what you see.
2018 Rivers-Marie Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon
14.3% alcohol per volume
Keeping with the theme of expansion, we added another block
of older vines from Larkmead in 2018.
Neighboring our original block of Olmo clone is a tiny block of Jenkins
clone Cabernet resting in the same Cortina soil. We have always loved this clone of Cabernet
having worked with it at Outpost’s True Vineyard and Gemstone Estate. There’s nothing else quite like it in the
world of Cabernet. It manages to be both
exotic and wildly singular while still coming across as very complete. It has proven to be a very nice complement to
what we’ve been working with from Larkmead since 2012. The color here is a bit
darker than normal with mostly fruit tones first present on the nose. That familiar muscular walnut husk, roasted
nut quality of Larkmead pokes through quickly though placing this wine stylistically
in more of a classic era of California wine.
Where in the past this wine could be considered the “lightest” of the
lineup, the 2018 shows the power of the vintage and a marked improvement from
the addition of the new block. The fruit
is still purple leaning and the ethereal notes of the past still pop out on
palate entry but a weightier middle kicks in almost immediately with notes of
sage, graphite, cassis, lavender and a brambly spice note. The tannin starts earlier too adding texture
and a dusty, baker’s chocolate note. In
the past, I felt this bottling would always need a few years in the cellar to
present a complete palate expression.
Not so here with the addition of our little Jenkins block. All these additional blending options from
all these great sites prove in 2018 that sometimes more is more.
2018 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volume
Our first ten vintages at Panek we worked with the same five
blocks, one acre parcels of clones 4, 6, 7, 169 and 337. These five front blocks at Panek were all
planted in 2006 and have been cane pruned since their inception. We always felt fortunate to have this much high-quality
fruit to select from when finalizing the Panek blend every year. In 2018, the Panek family offered us the
whole ranch, turning over the three older vine, cordon trained blocks in the
back of the property. Not knowing quite
what to expect, we vinified and barreled these separately. These naturally lower yielding parcels
produced wines of enormous concentration and color. As we sat down to blend, we realized all of these
wines were of single vineyard quality, some were even better than most of the
blocks we had been working with the last ten years. Eventually we singled out a small block of
clone 191 as the most logical addition to the 2018 Panek blend. This block added a tremendous amount of
structure to the wine, something that is occasionally lacking from this
site. It also darkened the fruit profile
pushing the wine from a red/black profile to the a more purple/black
expression. The vineyard signature is
still there of course but feels fuller and more impactful. Purple flowers, graphite, cassis and smoke
jump out of the glass at first inspection.
The texture is more layered this year, due in part to both the vintage
and the inclusion of a new block from the vineyard. The palate turns very stony early and then
veers to blueberries, dark chocolate and some meaty, iron notes as the finish
kicks in. I thought we had taken this
about as far as we could with the 2016 but the 2018 is at another level.
2018 Rivers-Marie Lore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.6% alcohol per volume
You can really see the structure of the vintage in this
wine. If any wine in the lineup was
going to show what maximum extraction levels in 2018 look like, it was going to
be the Lore bottling. The color is a different
level of dark compared to everything else this vintage. The initial aromatic notes are very brooding
and backward: espresso roast, scorched
earth, graphite and blackcurrants. There
is some give to the palate with higher toned notes of violets, milk chocolate
and cassis fighting their way in. If
there is one thing I keep coming back to when tasting this wine, it’s the
texture. The many layers that unfold as you move from entry to mid-palate to
finish help define this vineyard’s greatness.
You see that in all six vintages of the Lore bottling. The eastern
Oakville hills location provides this wine with ample tannin, but it is very
ripe helping to frame and lengthen the finish.
Tannin maturity is what we use to determine our pick date. Color, aroma, flavor and acidity are always
abundant in this wine but unlocking the true greatness of the site comes down
to the quality of its tannin. Our goal
is to produce wines that speak of their place first and this wine and the Herb
Lamb that follows couldn’t be greater evidence of the achievement of that in
2018 Rivers-Marie Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volume
We couldn't ask for a better vintage to begin our 10-year
lease agreement with the venerable Herb Lamb Vineyard. 2018 allowed us the opportunity to wrap our
arms around the entire property and get a sense of what blocks were of single
vineyard quality and what would be blended into the Napa appellation wine. In the past, Herb and Jennifer had always
been generous enough to allow grape buyers a center cut of the best block in
the vineyard. This established core
became known as HL1 and was easily the best vineyard block we harvested across
all Rivers-Marie Cabernet picks in 2018.
HL2 came next with some slightly more vigorous vines at the top of the
property and some shade effected vines at both ends of the center block. We finished harvest here with HL3, a bottom
block that has more vigor than any other spot in the vineyard plus the three
bottom rows of the center block which see a lot of run off during the
winter. We evaluated these three
separate lots after 14 months in barrel.
The initial tasting showed HL1 clearly belonged in the single vineyard
wine while HL3 was destined for the Napa blend.
HL2 showed a lot of promise, question was how much could make the single
vineyard cut. Layering in that lot one
barrel at a time showed a tremendous amount of improvement to the blend with
one barrel added, less so with two barrels and then another marked improvement
with three barrels. Blending is rarely
linear so continuing to that 3-barrel mark proved very beneficial as we had
found the blend we were looking for. HL1
provided the power and pure black fruited elegance we love from this site while
HL2 layered in varietally true notes of creosote, grilled meats, camphor, sweet
tobacco and olive. We feel fortunate to
have the flexibility to blend across these blocks, not only for what it does
for the Herb Lamb bottling but also its contribution to making the 2018 Napa
the best appellation wine we have ever bottled.
2017 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volumeThe composition of our 2017 Napa appellation wine is a skinnier version of the 2016: clone 4 from Panek, a small upper block of Lore and two blocks from Kennedy Vineyard on Franz Valley School Road in Calistoga. Kennedy was good enough to bottle on its own but with our future there lacking certainty, it made sense to drop it into the Napa. Once again, this bottling gives good insight into how the upvalley fared in 2017. By combining Oakville, St. Helena and Calistoga, we also were able to feature earlier ripening AVAs that are more accustomed to handling the intense heat of Napa’s summer. These two attributes proved to be the perfect combo in this vintage. The wine comes across as more savory than sweet showing notes of gravel, graphite, crushed rock, sage and black fruits. There’s good extract to the wine which gives it a bone dry quality. The barrel program is nicely integrated and sweet oak tannin helps give the wine some generosity.
2017 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volumePanek Vineyard’s early ripening nature was a blessing in 2017. All 5 blocks we work with achieved full ripeness giving us quite a bit to choose from in this vintage. That coupled with continually improving farming gave us more quantity than we hoped for pre-harvest. We harvest clones 169, 7, 337, 4 and 6 from Panek and in the past there were a few blocks that never were considered for the finished blend. In 2017, we could have put it all in and been extremely happy with the result. Knowing the vintage’s reputation, we choose to be a little more selective and used parts of the 169, 7 and for the first time ever 337. That block continues to make incredible leaps forward producing what looks to be our best block of Panek in 2018. This edition comes across as a mix of everything that preceded it. There’s good red/black/blue fruit sweetness, a nice caramelized brown sugar component, wet stones, violets and smoke. This like the Napa, has a little bit of an old school feel with some savory notes of sage, liquid minerals and roasted meats. It is a difficult vintage to name check but we like the completeness and drinkability of this wine just as we did with the 2011 version, another challenging year where this site shined.
2017 Rivers-Marie Lore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.6% alcohol per volumeComing in at 2.25 tons off of two acres, there isn’t much of this to go around. That fact plus the recent track record of this bottling leads us to expect the 2017 Lore to sell out faster than any Cabernet we have ever relesased. Of all the wines across all the projects, this might be the closest thing to its 2016 edition. Its brooding black-fruited minerality belies the vintage. There’s a density and power here that could be confused with 2013. The yield without question contributed to this. The quality of farming here too has improved with healthier canopies allowing this vineyard to survive the afternoon sun it is routinely subjected to. Grab this while it lasts and know if you miss out, more is coming in 2018.
2016 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volumeThe composition of our 2016 Napa appellation wine is very similar to the 2015 version: clones 4 and 6 from Panek, the lower block of Lore, Pellet Vineyard in St Helena and two blocks from Kennedy Vineyard on Franz Valley School Road in Calistoga. Even with no Herb Lamb or Larkmead in the blend, the wine still provides an early drinking insight into the character of the four vineyard designated bottlings from 2016. If 2015 was defined by fruit sweetness, this vintage is framed by ripe tannin. The fruit is a bit darker as well, leaning toward black fruits and thus a more serious seeming offering. The various defining attributes of the vineyard sources pop up throughout while experiencing the wine. The abundant fruit and acid cut of Panek’s valley floor location, the all black fruit, crushed rock minerality of Lore’s east Oakville range, the loamy purple fruit of Pellet’s west St. Helena corridor and the blue fruited cool climate savory-ness of Kennedy’s western Calistoga siting. Completeness best describes the overall experience. Fruit, tannin and acidity all come in waves of equal proportion while the tasting experience follows seamlessly from start to finish.
2016 Rivers-Marie Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon
14.3% alcohol per volumeI love the old school Napa feel at the core of this wine. It smells and tastes like some of the great California wines from the 60s and 70s only with better farming and oak treatment. The first thing that greets you here is the savory character of the varietal. Due in equal parts to the greatness of the Larkmead site and the uniqueness of the Olmo clone, the modernness of the framing of this wine is meant only as a complement to its traditional center. Damp soil, bay leaves, black walnut and tobacco leaf begin the aromatic profile. Tasting it from tank a week before bottling, it reminded me of the mid-90s Araujo Eisele Vineyard wines. The palate takes on a dusty, minty character featuring plum, cedar and cassis. There’s a stuffing to this wine that has been lacking in years past. The vintage gets a lot of the credit for that. This is the new benchmark for our Calistoga bottling.
2016 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volumeBetter informed farming continues to elevate not just the blocks in this bottling but also all the blocks we harvest at Panek. It makes our blending decisions more difficult each year but that extra work is certainly worth the extra quality in a wine like this 2016. The vineyard does best in muscular years so this version reminds me more of the 2013 as opposed to the 2014 or 2015. There’s more apparent fruit than in the 2013 to stand up to the structure of the vintage. This wine has calmed considerably during its last 6 or so months in barrel. It was a bit brooding for the first year of its life (odd for Panek) but that character only hinted at the concentration contained within. Now that it has unwound a bit, the trademark brown sugar note has emerged but here joined by a blackberry/cassis note. Loamy black soil, dried herbs and sweet tobacco complete the experience by adding a strong sense of varietal character to the mix, another hallmark of the vintage. This is a structured Panek for sure but with all other great 2016s, there is a sense of balance across all components of the wine that provides good early drinkability.
2016 Rivers-Marie Lore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.6% alcohol per volumeIf you were to buy only one bottling from the offering, this would be the wine. We started with this eastern Oakville site in 2013 and the wine has gotten better every year. So far we haven’t touched on the color of the vintage. 2016 is one of the darkest years we have ever seen, right there with 2007 and 2013. The 2016 Lore is at another level even in a dense vintage. The wine has a saturated black hue that extends all the way to the rim where it begrudgingly turns to dark garnet. The nose doesn't wait for you to lift the glass, it fills the room as the wine is poured. All the structure of the site is present even in the aromatic. Abundant fruit buffers the structure which is a bit of an anomaly in the vintage. We feel this fruit has always been possible and now with a better handle on the farming, we have unlocked its potential. This vintage at Lore was plentiful so we had the ability to ferment several blocks separately giving us more to blend with and the ability to declassify barrels into the Napa bottling. All palate descriptors center on the black-fruited nature of the wine, licorice, creosote, blackberries and crushed rock fill out the middle and the finish. We’ve said it before, we feel very fortunate to be leasing this site. If this wine is an indicator of future potential, we hope to be here for a long time.
2016 Rivers-Marie Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volumeNew to our lineup but certainly not new to the legacy of Napa, we are excited to be starting this relationship in such a great vintage. This is one of those wines we knew was destined for greatness when we pressed it. It was intensely aromatic in fermenter and colored up quickly. The palate held quite a bit in reserve while first in barrel taking on more of a linear profile. The last six months in barrel, the wine grew broader, opening up to grilled meats, garrigue, underbrush and blueberries. There is an exotic floral note on the nose that hints at the vineyard’s base of Howell Mountain location. Framing acidity keeps the wine from ever growing tiresome despite its density. There’s nothing that tastes quite like this storied site and we hope to continue to preserve and further the legacy of what Herb and Jennifer Lamb have created here.
2015 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volume
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
14.5% alcohol per volumeThis 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.
2014 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volume
This wine got so much darker in barrel. Every time we came back to these Panek blocks in the cellar, everything had intensified. The color isn’t much off the 2013 and the wine is just as generous. Tannin here is cut by the acidity of the 2014 so structure is not the first thing you notice in this Panek. The fruit on the palate is predominately black (probably a sign of vine age) which gives it a seriousness some of the first vintages didn’t have. There’s a savory note to this wine too that gives it added complexity. This note used to take some time in bottle to come out (09 and 10 showing it nicely right now) but it’s been present in the 2014 since our first barrel tasting. It’s more of a creosote/charcoal quality than anything herbal. The Panek once again will be the most accessible of all the single vineyard designates but if history is any indication, it will get considerably more complex with time.
2014 Rivers-Marie Corona Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol per volume
This will be the last vintage of Corona for us and I have to admit the 2014 makes me very sad to see it go. There’s always something so exotic about the nose on this wine. Oddly enough I’d describe it as grapefruit rind and in the 2014 it is evident just enough to give the wine a fresh sensation. The tannins aren’t quite as intense as in 2013 so there’s more of an immediate fruit impact to go with the structure of the Oakville hillside. Again the balance is what you notice. The palate features cloves, dark black fruits, iron ore and tobacco. The fruit sweetness of the vintage makes this approachable now but the site definitely suggests it will age for a long time; something to drink while the 2013 slowly unfolds.
2013 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volume
Not surprisingly this has recovered the quickest from bottling. The generosity of the site is always there but we think the Panek wines are more complete in structured vintages like 2009 and this edition certainly bears that out. With 2010-2012 we saw a wine balanced solely by acidity but with the addition of some firm tannin, the wine feels more substantial and certainly offers a larger drinking window. There’s a small herbal note that contributes more complexity and a little pomegranate to add a higher-toned fruit quality. The tannins are a little dusty which adds texture and density. This is the most complex Panek out of the gate and also potentially the most long-lived. Cool blue fruits and a little mint/wintergreen help round out the finish.
2013 Rivers-Marie Corona Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.3% alcohol per volume
once again is the most structured wine in the lineup. If there was a concern about the vintage as
wines went to barrel in the fall of 2013, it was how well did we manage tannin
in our hillside sites. We knew it was a
structured vintage from the beginning so quantity of tannin wasn’t the question
it was more a question of quality. The
heat of the year further complicated the issue of determining true ripeness. Knowing if the right pick decision had been
made fleshes out over time. Tasting this
wine now, the one characteristic of it that speaks to the quality of the tannin
is whether the grip interrupts the finish.
In this case it doesn’t hopefully due to us knowing what we are doing
but also due to the generosity of fruit in 2013. This is an effusive version of Corona with an
almost jammy black fruit profile that is complemented by the usual savory
elements of smoke, iron, creosote and black olives. Generosity here certainly doesn’t equal
approachable and I would recommend sitting on this wine for a few years before
cracking the first one
2013 Rivers-Marie Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon
14.3% alcohol per volume
Though 2012 and 2013 aren’t that far apart in quality, we
feel this is a big step up from its previous edition. Part of it is having an additional year of
experience with the vineyard and part of it is just how well this site
performed in this vintage. This is our
one wine with a potential perfect Parker score hanging in the balance and I can
see why now tasting it two months removed from bottling. It’s the most exotic of the lineup with a
very lifted aromatic and an ethereal feel to the palate that has both a firm
density and a lightness from the super fine grained tannin. This is like a more accessible version of
Corona with a nice blend of fruit and savory but a lot more generosity owing to
its location. The aromatic is almost
more Bordeaux like with an emphasis on walnut skins, creosote and graphite but
the fruit profile is very Californian with a black-fruited profile that comes
as much from the vintage as the site.
2012 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volume
The texture is what I like most about this wine. 2012 marks the first vintage where I’ve
gotten an incredibly broad, layered mid-palate out of Panek so early. Like the other offerings, it’s a bit more
serious then in years past. Shooting for
the 250 case mark, we had plenty of raw material to work with so we were able
to thoughtfully take our time in putting this together. We laid out every
barrel and tasted through multiple times looking for only the best and most
complimentary. It’s the most complete
showing for a Panek upon release with a fullness from front to back that
highlights the greatness of the vintage.
2012 Rivers-Marie Roberto Corona Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.3% alcohol per volume
There hasn’t been much talk about the differentiating factors in the vintage. Without a lot of consumer/professional experience with finished 2012’s, most of the talk lumps all of Napa together into one tightly packed band. We would proffer that the hills were a touch better overall then the valley floor. The potential for concentration was higher from the beginning given smaller berry size and thicker skins. There’s also a nice savory feature to the Corona that balances all of the abundant fruit of the ’12 vintage. The hallmark minerality is once again front and center, but also smoke, creosote and crushed rock add to the blackberry/blueberry fruit profile of the wine. A hint of anise creeps in on the finish to further balance the abundant juiciness of the vintage. This as always will be the one to age from the lineup. We are seeing the ’09 just now begin to shed some of its youthful tannin and it looks like this wine has the potential to be even bigger.
2010 Rivers-Marie Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
14.4% alcohol per volume
We saw a more uniform goodness across all clones in Panek
for 2010. All four selections we
harvested are represented in the blend.
Part of it we chalk up to vine maturity but I also think we have a
better understanding of how to farm this site.
This is a naturally low tannin site so the 2009 and 2010 wines are
pretty similar. The acidity of the
vintage cuts through some of the brown sugar/maple syrup quality of the
previous year and gives a cleaner, less cloying wine. There’s a nice baker’s chocolate opening to
the wine surrounded by more soil driven characteristics of wet stones and white
flowers. The finish is a bit more
structured than last year due mainly to the power and concentration of the
clone 6 addition.