[WINE REVIEW] 2008 FOURTEEN Appellations, Napa Valley Meritage

[review] A new wine is both an invention and a discovery.” – Hugh Johnson

Wines have an extraordinary capacity to reflect the environment in which they’re grown. A great bottle tells a story, takes you back to the literal roots it came from and transports you to a place of warmth and happiness. It all starts with a great appellation, big or small, and the current crop of American vintners seem to be chomping at the bit to show the world what their plots of land have to say. What if you could taste all those appellations, the best of the very best, all in one glass of bottled sunshine?

The current phenomenon seems to be focused on vineyard-designated wines—but against the current trend comes THIRTEEN, a wine made not from a single vineyard but from a baker’s dozen, each one more esteemed than the next. It is the crème de la crème and best of the best in the land.

What distinguishes these vineyards is that they have been chosen as the best representatives of their respective sub-appellations: Howell Mountain, Rutherford, etc. Napa Valley had 13 of these sub-appellations when the winery picked the fruit. The idea behind THIRTEEN was to blend one ton of grapes from each of these 13 vineyards to create a wine that is conspicuously connected to Napa Valley. A wine that is the truest expression of what the Valley has to offer. It’s a limited production wine, with only 900-odd cases are produced each year.  That’s because, by decree, they take only one ton of fruit from each AVA.

From THIRTEEN was born FOURTEEN. It’s the sum of the parts: the parts are great, but the sum is even better. The resulting blend is one of the most decadent and compelling wines you can own. We caught up with famed winemaker Steve Reynolds of the Reynolds Family Winery and partner at THIRTEEN APPELLATIONS.

Steve is something of a mad scientist when it comes to winemaking. He told us “As far as we know, no one has ever tried to capture Napa in its totality. Our guess is, no one’s even thought of it. It is, after all, a daunting task to collect grapes from every soil type, every microclimate, every terroir. But the question remains: is this invention of ours a good idea? We’ll leave that for you to discover.” We’ll give you a little hint—it’s an AMAZING IDEA. We tasted it and can confirm from our Tried & True point of view…

We asked Steve about his approach to the 2008 Fourteen Appellations, the LAST vintage of FOURTEEN that we could not get enough of.

“My approach to making this wine was complexity through integration, balance through restraint. Protect the grapes, respect their differences, and get out of the way. It worked. Even in its infancy, FOURTEEN is already showing the balance of a world-class wine. On the front end, you’ll find cassis, rhubarb and strawberry, which gives way to a rich, textured mid palate that is just now beginning to express the hillside characteristics I wanted the wine to have. The finish is long. So long, you’ll have plenty of time to rethink what a cult wine is all about.” Noticeable are the fine grain, well integrated tannins, nice acidity and great balance from an almost jammy start to a softer lingering finish. The wine is well structured, layered and age worthy.

It’s a bold idea, a wacky idea, a technological tour de force.  So how does it taste? WOW. Try it for yourself—this wine will knock you off your feet. One of the most decadent and compelling red blends we’ve encountered in recent memory…a runaway hit with anyone lucky enough to have tasted it.

We can’t wait for FIFTEEN.