Terroir.  Pure and simple.  Without it, wines would all be the same.  Sure, oak treatments differ, grape blends vary – but the great wines of the world come from great vineyards, great exposure, the combination of sun, soil, and weather that combine to form a unique climate; terroir. 

The Snowden vineyards have some of the best terroir in Napa Valley. For generations, the family sold fruit to the likes of Caymus, Mondavi, Stag’s Leap, and Montelena. Then, in 1993, they set out to bottle their own wine, and the quality of the fruit they’ve grown for decades now comes shining through under their own name.

1998 was a mixed growing season in Napa and many of the critics downplayed the vintage.  By California standards, it was “weak”.  Yet recently Diana Snowden mentioned to me that the family loves their 1998. In fact, they loved it so much that they served it recently at a family wedding!  It’s aged beautifully she told me, and I should try it soon.  And so I did….

The 1998 Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is unique. Like all the wines from the Snowden vineyard, it is terroir driven first and foremost. That doesn’t mean it’s not boasting of ripe Napa fruit – quite the contrary, but what it does mean is that the wine speaks more of place, than many other comparable Napa Cabs. 

In the decanter the wine was still a dark garnet, trending black.  A large sediment was removed. In the glass, you can see the beginnings of color changing to brick out toward the rim.  The nose of the wine is nothing short of spectacular.  The taster is greeting by a melange of warmed clay, cedar, piney minerals, coffee, and dark plum fruit.  In the mouth, the wine’s flavors mimic the nose, with ripe, elegant black fruits and a distinctive mint and mineral streak that is nothing short of delicious.  Snowden blends old world terroir with new world ripeness. They do it uniquely well.  There are fruitier Napa Cabs, and more earthy Napa Cabs, but this one – to borrow a phrase – is just right.  Bravo!    93 points, about $45 upon release. 

1998 Snowden: The Old Winemaker – The Old Label

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