[WINE REVIEW] Oakville East 2009 Core Stone

[review] The story begins thousands of years ago, when a single mountain within the Vaca Range split in two and collapsed, resulting in a rubble field of volcanic core stones that face the setting sun. This event created what is now the eastern border of the Oakville AVA, and is a site that is exposed to constant and intense daily sunshine. This results in grapes that possess extremely ripe tannins, contributing to the unique elegance and approachability of our wines. Because of the ‘magic’ of this place and to ensure Oakville produces wines reflective of the site, every step in the winemakng and viticulture process is first class.

The exceptional team here is made up of two accomplished winemakers: Sara Gott, internationally acclaimed for her success at Joseph Phelps and her brilliant stint at Quintessa, is the head winemaker. In 2009 Marie-Laure Ammons joined Oakville East to assist Sara. After working in France at Domaine Lejeune in Pommard, Chateau de Pressac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Dulong Negociant in Bordeaux, Marie-Laure arrived in California in 1998. She also works with Philippe Melka and brings a remarkable French point of view to the winemaking and blending.

The vines that create the delicious wines at Oakville East in Napa Valley
The vines that create the delicious wines at Oakville East in Napa Valley

“It’s a fabulous project,” Sara told us. “This beautifully shaped area with excellent soils of decomposed core stones from the collapsed Vaca Mountain is perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. What makes the project so unique is the handful of micro-vineyards producing the excellent fruit for this wine. Each parcel features a single, relatively homogeneous profile that gives the grapes their distinct flavor and balance. We harvest each vineyard individually and perform multiple pickings at each site to guarantee only ripe, mature grapes. It’s exciting to work with individual growers who lavish resources and attention on their small vineyard blocks. It allows farming practices that guarantee spectacular fruit.”

Oakville East’s multi-vineyard Oakville locations surround some of California’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines, including Joseph Phelps Backus, Dalle Valle and Sir Peter Michael vines, and are perched above Rudd, Gargiulo and Screaming Eagle.

The 2009 vintage began with a mild spring, good fruit set, followed by ideal growing conditions with mild weather through veraison that continued throughout the summer months. September was the warmest month of the vintage and pushed ripening along at a steady and even pace. The grapes accumulated good ripeness and flavor development because of the heat and resultant extended hang time. The harvest did not begin until September 22nd, and we were fortunate to have picked all but a micro-vineyard of Petit Verdot before the October rains. We had one pick after the rains, completing harvest on October 24th. The wines in general are very strong with intense color, flavor and good balance of acid and ripe tannins.

Oakville East's 2009 Core Stone
Oakville East’s 2009 Core Stone

We sat down to taste the 2009 Oakville East Core Stone Red Wine blend…there are some other incredible vintages from these guys that are worth aging for another few decades that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to open just yet (and happen to be completely sold out!).

The Core Stone nose is very youthful and has surprising but exciting tropical notes. The Cabernet Franc brings a level of purity, focus and density and the combination of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc exhibit some youthful rusticity in combination with the soft, elegant, ripe and full tannin structure.

The wine has an almost sweet entry, a velvety mid palate that is enveloped by beautiful fruit impressions of sweet cola cherry, violet, blueberries, blackberries, and licorice integrated with spicy oak notes…each glass is really well balanced with acid and tannins and a long fruit finish.

Oakville East’s 2009 Core Stone needs time to develop and will age beautifully…while ours did well with decanting, it mostly excited us to see what could happen with a few good years in the cellar and inches of dust on this bottle!