Life is a Cabernet! – Hesperian Wines Napa Valley

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InstagramTwo college friends on the phone being silly and excited about a new wine: “Life is a Cabernet old chum, life is a Cabernet“.  So began the story behind this review. A play on song lyrics from days before our time. But we won’t go there.

Celebration was in the air. Friends overdue for a wine-tasting and the news that Whine and Cheers for Wine had cracked the TOP 100 WINE BLOGS by Feedspot:  Best 100 Wine Blogs, Websites And Newsletters To Follow in 2019. Wine Transparent_1000x1000px

The stage set; wine glasses, note pads, decanters, Coravin, glass identifiers etc. We were even ready for possible pairings; cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, and chocolates along with water crackers for palate cleansing. I say “possible” pairings because as I told the parties involved: “this is all about the wine”.  We may pair, we may not. Eventually we did, but not before spending a long time getting to know the wines individually and comparatively. Hesperian pairing

 

 

Note Taking

Hesperian Wines come with quite the pedigree thanks to winemaker Philippe Langner and his hands-on experiences from Bordeaux to South Africa and now California with a Rothschild influence here or there.

From Hesperian Wines:

California’s  persistent  call  is  an  inspiration  for  the  name  for  his  domaine.  Hesperian,  or  “One  of  The  West,”  is  a  name  that  invokes  the  mythical  garden  of  Hesperides,  a  blissful  twilight  orchard  in  the  west  where  Hercules  once  tricked  Atlas  into  helping  him  complete  his  eleventh  labor.Today  Philippe  has  chosen  to  make  his  home  and  his  life’s  work  in  one  place:  a  steep,  rocky,  14-acre  vineyard  named  “Kitoko”,  the  Congolese  Lingala  word  for  “beautiful.”  This  is  the  place  he  has  chosen  to  fulfill  his  vision,  combining  his  exacting  knowledge  of  viticulture  and  his  constant  quest  for  precision—indeed  perfection—in  winemaking. 

Hesperian layout

As some of my Whine and Cheers followers may know, I prefer to know as little as possible about a wine prior to a private tasting. In a way I enjoy the discovery aspect of the relationship we are about to build.  With the history or backstory hopefully  sealing the deal.  Leaving me wanting more and looking forward to a second date.

Hearing myself as I write about my passion and the romance behind it I have come to realize that there are wines you date and wines you marry. I have now learned:  Hesperian Wines are the marrying kind.

Two wines. Both from Hesperian and wine-maker Philippe Lagner, both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and both from the 2015 vintage. Available through their web-site and via Club Membership.  How do the wines differ? The Hesperian Napa Valley ($100) was created by combining wines (50/50)  from Coombsville and Kitoko Vineyard on Atlas Peak. The Hesperian Kitoko Vineyard ($150) is sourced entirely from the fourteen acre Kitoko Vineyard. Only 300 cases of each were produced.

-Hesperian Napa Valley notes;

Bold nose with new wood [oak] at forefront and a dark fruit background. In addition on the palate our descriptors included; spices (black pepper),  leather (even more so on the second pour),  forest floor mossiness.  This smooth,  balanced, structured, elegant wine was all old-world style and the farthest from a fruit bomb a California wine could be.

Vintner notes: 2015 Hesperian Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Napa Valley

With a toasty, Pauillac-like profile, this has plummy and sweet fruit, with aromas that are the essence of ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, a distinctive leathery-fruity smell of its own. The Wine Advocate noted its notes of “licorice, tar, black soil and sautéed herbs over a core of cassis, plum preserves and espresso with a hint of bouquet garni.” Rated 93 points James Suckling

 

-Our Hesperian Kitoko Vineyard notes:

A softer/demure nose when compared to the Napa Valley above. New wood (oak) at the forefront with red fruit compote in background. In addition on the palate; chocolate, lilac, a peaty earthiness, concentrated dry fruit (fig), anise. This single vineyard wine came across as smoother, more delicate yet wilder. It was incredible to see it develop and  come to life in a 20 minute time-span.

Vintner notes: 2015 Hesperian Cabernet Sauvignon Kitoko Vineyard ~ Napa Valley

This wine has it all. Made from 10 tons of fruit from 14 acres, low yields caused by “shatter from hell,” according to Philippe -this flaunts notes of tiramisu, black cherry liqueur, spicy oak, and money ink. The Wine Advocate loved its “cassis, crushed blackberries, cigar box and Marmite toast nose with hints of Chinese five spice and dried mint.” Gorgeous red and black fruit aromas interplay effortlessly. Rated 94 points THE WINE ADVOCATE. Rated 93 points James Suckling.

 

As you can probably tell by my accolades thus far, these wines were both big hits. Each had its own character and yet some similarities and both can easily age for ten plus years for the collectors out there. The 100% Kitoko Vineyard wine seemed more focused and wilder while the Hesperian Napa Valley came across as bold, rounder with more nuances. Probably due to the blend of the two vineyards; Kitoko and Coombsville. We found both to be inspiring in their own way and considered ourselves lucky to not have to choose between them. Each of these old-world style wines took you on a journey that you did not want to end.

As per Hesperian Wines web-site: Philippe  lives  and  works  at  Kitoko  Vineyard  on  Atlas  Peak,  and  continues  to  consult  on  viticulture  and  winemaking  matters  for  select  Napa  Valley  wineriesI find myself now looking forward to trying other vintages, previous and future, from Hesperian Wines and other wines produced by Philippe Langner.

How refreshing it is to have this kind of wine coming out of  Napa Valley.  How lucky are we to have someone of this caliber focused on celebrating the worthiness of individual varietals the way they were meant to be experienced. In this case, Life IS a Cabernet!

¡SALUD! 

Additional notes from Hesperian Wines:

Vintage 2017 Outlook

March 31st, 2019

The 2017s were blended in February and put back to barrel. It takes a while for the various lots that went intothe three blends to really integrate well. The wines are coming along nicely. Get ready for very big wines with the ‘17s. This was the vintage of the fire, and I’m very happy and relieved to report that there is no smoke taint in the wines. (I’ve had others smell and taste Hesperian’s ‘17s, and they tell me the same. Relief!)

The 2018s are fantastic, perhaps the best wines I’ve made so far. We are almost done with the first racking; some wines were starting to reduce a bit and they needed some air. Alas, we have to be patient. We won’t see these wines coming available until 2021.

 

Disclosure: media sample; all thoughts & opinions included in this post/ review are my own.

 

 

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