Club Crush Red and Cabernet 3.20 and Club Crush Premier 2.20
June is always one of my favorite months for Club Crush because we get to unleash a real barrage of big, robust reds all at once. Between Club Crush Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Premier, club members are met with great reds that are a welcome sight in the midst of June gloom, but also are great partners with backyard barbecues and grilled meats. Although we do not look to create a theme for our shipments (as the quality of each wine will always be the priority – not a theme), half of the wines released this month are brought to us by women (Celia Welch, Robin Lail, and Pam Starr) who are somewhat legendary in the Napa wine world and beyond. So without any further ado, let’s get into the wines themselves, starting off with Club Crush Red.
2020's third release of our original red wine brings back some of our old favorites that we haven't had on the shelf for some time. Over the years we have featured a number of wines from ONX, and this is the second time Maldonado's Proprietary Red has made the cut (the first being back in 2014).
A winery we have been carrying since their first release in 2012, ONX strives to create balanced wines that reflect a sense of place as well as the vintage in which they were grown. ONX wines are incredibly unique as they create independent cuvée blends that do not follow traditional varietal blending (i.e. Rhone-style or Bordeaux-style). This “unconventional” method to blending produces some of the most interesting and expressive wines year in and year out.
Mike and I tasted through the lineup of current vintage releases from ONX about a month ago, and although we thoroughly enjoyed every single one, Praetorian was the one that stood out to us the most. The unique blend of Tempranillo, Malbec, and Grenache was intriguing and the intense aromas and flavors had us hooked. The Tempranillo used for the majority of this blend received a 20% Saignee to create ONX Rosé. That means about 20% of the juice from those grapes was bled off and bottled on its own. The resulting 80% is still in contact with the same amount of grape skin, which results in more structure, grippier tannins, and a darker color. This wine is big and bold, and dances playfully between the lines of juicy, ripe fruit and fragrant dried herbs and peppery spice. Praetorian deserves a few slabs of a simple Santa Maria style tri-tip.
Acclaim: 93 points Jeb Dunnuck, 92 points Wine Enthusiast
Technicals: 65% Tempranillo, 18% Malbec, 17% Grenache. Aged 20 Months in 500L and 225L French Oak (40% new). ABV 15.5%. 192 cases produced.
When searching out new wines/wineries, you can you do yourself a huge favor and pay close attention to wines that are produced by farming families. Lupe Maldonado arrived in Napa Valley from Mexico in 1962 at the age of 19. Only 9 wineries were producing wine commercially. Lupe spent 32 years as vineyard manager for the famed Newton Winery. His son, Hugo Maldonado, came on and succeeded him in 1999, Lupe formally retired a year later. Shortly after retiring, Lupe fulfilled a lifelong dream and purchased a 10-acre parcel in the coolest southern reaches of Napa Valley called Jamieson Canyon, south-east of city of Napa. In 2007, Hugo and wife Lydia purchased a 12-acre property in very northern part of Calistoga that came with an existing winery permit, but it was really just a rugged hillside. This would be the site of what is now Maldonado Winery. Today, Maldonado Vineyards is a culmination of over four decades of viticulture wisdom which you can most certainly taste in the wines they produce.
Maldonado Proprietary Red is a blend style that is becoming more and more popular in Napa Valley, and with good reason. Cabernet Sauvignon provides structure, grip, and black fruit while Merlot adds a plush mouthfeel and a softness to the wine. Finally, Syrah brings fleshy fruit to the table and makes it approachable from day one. This vintage is richly textured, with silky tannins and a plush mouthfeel. You’ll get flavors of blackberries, plum, mocha, vanilla, and hints of baking spice. This goes great with wine braised short ribs, just make sure you have enough left over to drink.
Technicals: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Syrah. ABV. 14.4%. 600 cases produced.
This months Premier Club features two Cabernet Sauvignons from two of the most well known women in the wine world: Celia Welch and Robin Daniel Lail.
The majority of our wine club selections are small, family-owned operations. So it is no surprise that Keever Vineyards falls into this category. However, at Keever Vineyards, nearly the entire operation is family members (as they assume four of the six winery roles listed on their website). One role they have “outsourced” is winemaker. Obviously one of the most important roles in any winery operation, a winemaker can dictate the success of your winery. Keever swung for the fences and hit a home run with the ultra-talented and prolific Celia Welch. Named winemaker of the year in 2008, Celia Welch can be found on any list of Napa Valley’s top winemakers. Her resumé includes some of the most iconic Napa Valley wineries including Scarecrow, Staglin, Barbour, and Kelly Fleming just to name a few. She also has her own label, Corra.
The Keever Cabernet Sauvignon will give you all the markers of what great Napa Valley Cabernet is all about. This vintage is a masterclass in balance and elegance. Aromas of ripe purple fruit and red berries are complemented with notes of fresh herbs, purple flowers, roasted coffee, and vanilla. The palate is structured with soft and enveloping tannins are balanced out with surprisingly fresh acidity for the warm vintage. A classic Cabernet like this calls for a classic, simple ribeye with herbed roasted potatoes.
Acclaim: 93 points Vinous
Technicals: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 20 months in French Oak (50% new). ABV. 14.9%. 836 cases produced.
The history of both owner Robin Daniel Lail and Lail Vineyards can be traced back to the beginning of Napa Valley. Her great granduncle Gustave Niebaum established the historic Inglenook Vineyards way back in 1879. Lail Vineyards was started in 1995 with the vision and intent to bring her family’s legacy into the 21st century. With such great history, it is no surprise that Lail Vineyards has had the deft touch of winemaker Phillipe Melka since its inception in 1995. An iconic winemaker (much like Celia Welch), Melka has served as winemaker for some of Napa’s most highly regarded wineries.
In 2019, Robin was appointed the U.S. Representative to the Porto Protocol, a global organization that tasks companies to demonstrate their leadership on climate action and promote the sharing of best practices. Lail’s Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are inspired by the pioneers who prioritize our planet’s health over the bottom line and 10% of sales go to organizations fighting climate change. The Blueprint will be a little more plush and juicy than the Keever. Look for notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, olive, and dark chocolate. The mouthcoating tannins and flavor profile will be an excellent pairing with a grilled New York strip steak, possibly with a little coffee based marinade to bring out some of the wines espresso notes.
Acclaim: 93 points Jeb Dunnuck, 92 points James Suckling, 90 points Vinous
Technicals: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot. Aged 18 months in French Oak (45% new). ABV. 14.9%. 2265 cases produced.
Club Crush Cabernet Sauvignon this month features a new wine from a familiar winery (Crocker & Starr is the winery behind the now defunct Bridesmaid Wines) and customer favorite that we were surprised we hadn't done in the club yet.
Crocker & Starr continues our unintentional theme of “influential women in wine”. Pam Starr has been the co-owner, manager and winemaker of Crocker & Starr since its inception in 1997 when she helped resurrect the Crocker Estate (located in St. Helena). She is known for creating world-class wines with a deep sense of place. The history of the Crocker Estate is quite impressive as well. The estate is some of the oldest continually farmed vineyards in Napa Valley. The estate dates back to the 1870’s when it was known as Dowdell & Sons Winery.
The 2015 vintage is the 2nd release (and 3rd estate Cabernet Sauvignon) of the ‘RLC’ Cabernet Sauvignon. RLC represents the soil types – Rock, Loam, and Clay – that are present throughout the estate vineyard. Each block of fruit associated with a different soil composition is fermented separately and blended before bottling to create a perfect balance of elements. RLC really represents the winery as a whole, capturing and bringing to life terroir block by block. The resulting wine is ripe, juicy, and structured with notes that remind me of cherry pie, marzipan, pepper, and mint. Don’t be afraid to drink this one right away, preferably with a nice rack of lamb with mint sauce.
Acclaim: 93 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 93 points Jeb Dunnuck.
Technicals: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged over 20 months in French Oak (60% new). ABV. 14.4%. 400 cases produced.
COHO is one of the more recognizable wines at The Wine Crush. Having previously featured both Pinot Noir and the “Headwaters” Bordeaux-Style Blend in their respective clubs. COHO is a small winery that sources fruit from select cool-climate vineyards. The name COHO is a tribute to a species of salmon. This salmon theme is used on their labels and originates from a Celtic legend regarding the first person to catch and eat salmon. It is also a reference to the difficult journey spawning salmon endure. The winery implores the same steadfast will to keep going no matter how difficult the journey. Coho brought on Philip Corallo-Titus as winemaker in 2014, who has also held the same position with Chappellet (another well-known brand at The Wine Crush) since 1990.
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is from a single vineyard southeast of downtown Napa called Sugarloaf East and there is a small portion of Petit Verdot blended in from Chinn Vineyard in Coombsville. These sites are located in cooler parts of Napa Valley and bring out some of the spicy elements you can find in Cabernet, particularly anise and black pepper. All that spice is balanced out with fresh, ripe cherry and cassis and soft vanilla notes. Fine-grained tannins and a long finish bring everything together to create a complex and elegant Cab that would go great with a bison steak au poivre.
Acclaim: 92 points James Suckling
Technicals: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot. Aged 21 months in French oak (50% new). ABV. 15.3%. 208 cases produced.
So that’s it for June; the sixth month of the year brings us six truly outstanding wines. While all of these are delicious on their own, I can think of nothing better than pouring a glass of any one of them while cooking up something nice on the grill and then, enjoying a second glass with my meal, noticing the subtle change in nuances a proper food pairing can provide.
Written By Adam Crawshaw and Michael Fuller