Robert Parker 100P
The perfect 2012 Madrona Ranch displays notes of roasted coffee, forest floor, incense, Christmas fruitcake, blackcurrants and blackberry fruit in an incredibly fragrant, full-bodied, opulent style. Far more dramatic and open-knit Capella, the 2012 Madrona is super-intense, with incredibly velvety tannins. This is a sublime wine of the highest order, a fabulous example of the vintage, and a tribute to the craftsmanship of David Abreu and Brad Grimes. It should drink well for 30+ years.
One of the many highlights in this tasting, the 2012 Madrona Ranch is a real stunner. Bright, nuanced and lively, the 2012 exudes freshness. Blood orange, sweet red berries, mint, cinnamon and a host of bright notes grace the palate. Exquisite, subtle and beautifully nuanced, the 2012 has everything going on. Best of all, the 2012 won't require much cellaring. In 2012, the Madrona Ranch is 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot.
The four vineyards that David Abreu owns include one of the oldest in St. Helena, the Cappella, which is a six-acre site alongside a Catholic cemetery on the west side of town. The Madrona Ranch, which is his first, his homestead, and the core of the Abreu philosophy, is planted on volcanic white tufa and red aiken soils. It represents the lower hillsides of Spring Mountain, tucked behind and northwest of St. Helena. This is a fabulous site. The Howell Mountain vineyard, of course, sits on that AVA, overlooking Napa Valley. It is at a 2,000-foot elevation, well above the fog line in Napa, and sits on classic red aiken soils interspersed with the volcanic white tufa. The Thorevilos Vineyard, which seems to produce some of the most singular wines anywhere in the world, doesn’t even have its own AVA, but is sandwiched between those of St. Helena and Howell Mountain. David Abreu co-owns this hillside vineyard with Ric Forman. The wines that emerge from here are extraordinary, and the vineyard itself would look like a clos in Burgundy if it had walls around it rather than evergreens.
Abreu’s wines reflect his belief in the future of Cabernet Franc and have moved to basically proprietary blends. Cabernet Sauvignon still dominates all of his vineyard wines, but the percentage of Cabernet Franc can be as high as 33 to 35-plus percent, with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon as well as some Petit Verdot. (Very little Merlot is used in any of the Abreu wines.) For the most part, the wines spend a good 24-plus months in 100% new oak and are bottled without fining or filtration. Abreu has long worked with his assistant, Brad Grimes, a former chef who has a Midas touch not only with cuisine, but with viticulture and winemaking as well. What I still find fascinating about David Abreu is that he only makes between 250 and 350 cases of each of his four separate vineyard-designated wines, as he still sells fruit to other high-quality wineries, most notably Colgin for their Cariad.
I have tasted 15 vintages of Abreu’s Thorevilos, and five of them deserve a perfect score. In short, they are that amazing. (And that for a vineyard sandwiched between St. Helena and Howell Mountain that is not entitled to any specific AVA.) The Thorevilos includes considerable Cabernet Franc, probably 25-30% or more, with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and possibly a touch of Petit Verdot. It is one of the most singular wines from Northern California, with an incredible nose of violets and acacia flowers, blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries. A minerality also runs through this wine that I find stronger and more intense than the other cuvées from Abreu. It is sensationally concentrated, vibrant, super-complex, and really unlike any other wine I have tasted in the world. It’s hard to compare it with any Bordeaux or with any other Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine, even any of the other three single-vineyard wines from Abreu.