[review] Napa Valley’s Oakville District is a word-renowned California wine region known for its diverse, well-drained soils, sun-drenched summers and the family-owned vineyards tended by meticulous growers, visionary wine marketers and some of the world’s foremost winemakers, all working together to craft unique, spectacular wines.

It’s also a superior place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon—when it comes to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville isn’t too hot; it isn’t too cold. It’s just right. It’s the Goldilocks of the wine world. That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville so perfectly expresses the essential qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon in deep, complex wines with the structural integrity of acid and tannin that preserves the best wines for decades.

Cardinale Estate

The Cardinale Estate in the esteemed Oakville subregion of Napa Valley

Cardinale Winery is a small-production operation located in the heart of Napa Valley’s world-renowned Oakville District. Each year they craft a single Cabernet Sauvignon from each vintage. The wine is a limited-production blend from Napa Valley’s most recognized mountain appellations including Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain. Every bottle reveals the artistic sensibility of Winemaker Christopher Carpenter….sophisticated, powerful, and a true expression of Napa.

We had a chance to taste some of the elusive elixir with esteemed winemaker Christopher Carpenter on the philosophy at the vineyard, his favorite way to enjoy a glass of wine and what goes into creating a great bottle.

Christopher told us, “Everything starts in the vineyard, and everything is about balance and a deep understanding of place that allows for an individual expression of character.  I spend a great majority of my time there as it is much easier to make the wine in the vineyard by our oversight then it is to affect the grapes once they are in the winery. I approach winemaking by being in the vineyard and a minimalist in the winery. I believe most things in life are about reducing complexity.  The more complex a process is, or a piece of equipment or a philosophy the more things can breakdown, and the less of the purity of the base product or idea will be carried over.”

Renowned Cardinale winemaker Christopher Carpenter in the vineyard

Renowned Cardinale winemaker Christopher Carpenter in the vineyard

We started discussing our favorites ways to have a glass of wine—at dinner, on the porch after a long day, part of your daily work schedule, etc. For Christopher, “Typically I like to drink a glass of wine to enjoy it, but every once in a while (especially during harvest) I may bathe in it.” That sounds indulgently delicious.

We had the pleasure of tasting the 2009 Cardinale, a blend that really resonated with the entire tasting team. Deep ruby-red, musky with a complex nose and a wonderfully intense overpowering flavor. The ripe tannins are in perfect balance with the wine’s fruit. We asked Christopher about achieving perfection for this vintage. “Cardinale works to layer all facets of the Napa Valley into a composition that is not unlike a beautiful score of music. The 2009 Cardinale shows serious layering in its rose petal, mineral, and cassis-driven nose, and its blackberry, dragon fruit, dark chocolate, and silky and mouth-filling texture-driven palate.”

We asked Christopher what it takes to create a great bottle as wine such as this Cab blend. “In the production phase a great bottle of wine is created from a great vineyard, from microorganisms that cooperate and from a physical style of winemaking that you as the wine drinker prefer, from an emotional standpoint it’s a combination of the memory that bottle is associated with, the place you might be in your wine drinking life and that wines ability to elevate your experience of wine and the moment in general, and of course the people or person you are sharing it with.”

The 2009 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2009 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon

He also told us, “I draw inspiration from so many facets of my life that anyone is hard to point to.  From my mentors in winemaking including those professors at UCDavis who I still draw from, my time in the restaurant industry, my spiritual connection with the outdoors, music and its ability to move us emotionally, literature and its ability to move us emotionally and my family for whom all of my efforts and who I am and who I will be once I am gone are defined by.”

The mark of a truly great wine—and a remarkable winemaker. Each vintage is pretty elusive so sign up for the mailing list while you can. You won’t be disappointed.