Hundred Acre Ark Vineyard Proprietary Red Napa Valley 2019
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The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Ark Vineyard features beguiling scents of Montreal-style smoked meat backed by waves of black cherries and cassis. It's full-bodied, rich, plush and expansive on the palate, captivating for its mix of savory and fruity flavors. Offering tons of fun in the glass, this finishes long and tannic but also smoothly silky. It's a complete wine by any measure.
One of the highlights of my last trip to Napa was having the opportunity to renew acquaintances with Jayson Woodbridge. I had previously met him when Hundred Acre was producing a Barossa Valley Shiraz, but it had been a number of years since our paths had crossed. We met at his office in downtown St. Helena to taste through two dozen bottled wines under the Summer Dreams, Fortunate Son and Hundred Acre labels. Summer Dreams and Fortunate Son have their own separate write-ups; this producer note focuses on Hundred Acre. The heart of Hundred Acre is the three estate vineyards Woodbridge bottles separately. Kayli Morgan (known as Morgan's Way from the 2019 vintage) is located toward the base of Howell Mountain, at too low an elevation to be included in that AVA. According to Woodbridge, it's a dome of clay, volcanic gravel and obsidian. "It's the most elegant of the wines because the clay keeps the vines cool," he said. Because of the clay content, he considers the site largely immune to Napa's troublesome heat spikes. Ark is higher on Howell Mountain. Woodbridge describes it as an upthrown block with some beachfront and volcanic sediments, a 100-million-year sequence turned on its side. Planted in nine blocks, with two different rootstocks, each of those 18 parcels is picked separately, fermented separately and barreled separately. Few and Far Between is located in Calistoga, at Woodbridge's Napa Valley home. It consists of highly volcanic soils, really just fragments of blast rock from Mount St. Helena, he says. Located upslope from the Eisele Vineyard, it faces the Chalk Hill gap, so it gets the cooling wind, creating a huge diurnal difference, according to Woodbridge. At just under five acres, it's the smallest of his vineyards and the only one to include something other than Cabernet Sauvignon (approximately 10% Cabernet Franc). The other wines under the Hundred Acre moniker all derive from these three holdings. Dark Ark is a selection of the darkest, densest lots from Ark; Deep Time is a selection chosen for extended barrel maturation; Wraith is a blend of the three sites, a wine that's meant to provide a picture of the vintage more than a particular vineyard or portion of the valley. Recent vintages have had their share of ups and downs for Woodbridge. "I think 2018 was a legendary vintage," he says. "In 2017 we had a little fire—2018 then was so easy, so natural, the fruit just matured slowly and beautifully. The problem was that 2019 was even more wonderful. The most bucolic kind of vintage. It was almost like it was too good. I felt this great sense of trepidation. I went to the most remote part of New Zealand after harvest. I was stuck in New Zealand for 20 months." While Woodbridge was away on that COVID-19-enforced break, the 2020 fires cost him "both my forests, 15% of my vineyards and the whole vintage." The outspoken Woodbridge has strong opinions on winemaking—and on how his own wines measure up. When I asked him what other Napa wines he admired, he hesitated a bit. "It's hard because I don't really view it that way, " Woodbridge said. "I don't compare Hundred Acre on the local field. I think it is one of the greatest wines in the world. If I was going to have a single wine in California that I thought was worthy, it would be Abreu. Because I think Brad is a very good winemaker. But truthfully, I don't drink a lot of California Cabs. "In the right vintages, I like Haut Brion, and I like Ausone, Bussola Amarone, there are a few great wines from Italy that I like. In certain years, even the most unlikely wines in California can be great. But the test is in the other years. Not everyone can make a great wine in an average year. The wine takes absolute priority over everything. You can never take into account finances when you're deciding your picks. "When I'm making it, it has to be absolutely right. It's not a business, it's a holy quest. It's a business for a lot of other people, but not for me."
|Product Name||Hundred Acre Ark Vineyard Proprietary Red Napa Valley 2019|
|Wine Type||Red Wine|
|New World Region||Napa Valley|