A Smooth Cabernet

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in: Drinking

Bernard Portet, co-founder of famous Napa Valley pioneer winery Clos du Val, has always championed balanced, elegant reds, even bucking the steady trend toward high-scoring high-alcohol, oaky wines. So, no surprise that his first wine after his retirement a year ago is this deliciously smooth, complex and balanced 2008 Heritance cabernet sauvignon, which sells for a very reasonable price. My advice is to snap it up.

Cabernet blends are in Portet’s blood. He grew up in a wine-growing family in Bordeaux, where his father was the régisseur at today’s auction darling, Château Lafite-Rothschild. In 1971, along with entrepreneur John Goelet, he co-founded Clos du Val in the then-unknown Stags Leap wine district, planning to make a Bordeaux-style wine. When the winery’s first cabernet, 1972, was chosen to be one of six California cabs competing in the now-famous Judgment of Paris Tasting against Bordeaux’s best, the wine quickly jumped into American consciousness. Consistently wines of grace, Portet’s cabernets age extremely well.

So when Portet and industry veteran Don Chance announced their new global wine company, Polaris Wines, last month on Bastille Day (July 14 for non-Francophiles), I had high expectations. The team launched two wines, a sauvignon blanc and a cab, but the cabernet, which is blended with 8 percent merlot, is the most distinctive. It’s full and round and classic, with plenty of spice, mineral notes and a soft structure and texture that makes it good to drink right now, especially with not-too-charred grilled butterflied leg of lamb.

The label says the grapes come from “some of Napa Valley’s finest vineyards,” though it doesn’t name them. With no vineyards of its own, the company will act like a negociant, blending wines from different grape varieties and terroirs in an appellation. Portet calls them “assemblage wines.”

I’m an instant fan of this cabernet. I hope future releases from Portet will be as good.


Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”

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