JD94 Winemaker Chris Phelps made a stunning 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Sleeping Lady Vineyard. It’s all Cabernet Sauvignon that was harvested on October 5 (pre-fire) and spent 18 months in 70% new French oak. It has a beautiful blue fruit quality as well as hints of wild strawberries, violets, and Asian spices, with a slightly lifted, exotic edge. As with the 2016, it’s beautifully balanced, elegant, and nicely concerted. Give bottles 3-4 years and it should evolve for 15-20 years or more.
VIN94 The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Sleeping Lady Vineyard captures all of the natural richness of the year. Succulent red cherry, plum, mocha, spice and licorice all develop in the glass, but the 2017 is, more than anything else, a wine of volume, textural intensity and darkness. The tannins are a bit coarse, but that is a signature of a year in which severe heat caused some blocking of phenolic maturation.
Ad Vivum Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in two small blocks at Sleeping Lady Vineyard, in Yountville, Napa Valley. Sleeping Lady, the southernmost vineyard in the Yountville AVA, is in a location that enjoys ample cooling from nearby San Pablo Bay, which promotes gradual ripening. These blocks are found at the vineyard’s uppermost western perimeter along the Mayacamas Mountains, with rows oriented southwest-northeast. The vineyard is sustainably and meticulously farmed by the Bettinelli family.
Winemaker Chris Phelps studied at UC Davis and spent a lot of timeline Bordeaux working and studying under the mentorship of Cristian Moueix and the brilliant Jean-Claude Berrouet who serve as winemaker for Chateau Petrus for 44 years. Chris still credits much of his inspiration as a winemaker and his solid understanding of the technical challenges of the winemaking craft to Berrouet’s tutelage. Upon returning to Napa Valley, Chris spent twelve years as winemaker at Dominus, as part of the Berrouet-Moueix team. After that, he spent seven years at Caymus Vineyards, managing all red winemaking from 1999 through 2002. Swanson Vineyards then persuaded him to join them as winemaker for 12 years, setting the stage for that winery’s current renaissance. Chris, who lives with his family in St. Helena, continues to shape wines of great balance, refined texture and singular aromatic and flavor profiles that evoke their place of origin.
Estate Notes: The berries were gently de-stemmed, and then sorted both optically and by hand. The must was cold-soaked for 5 days, and then fermented in 75% stainless and 25% new French oak barrels. Total maceration time was 20 days. Drained warm into 70% new French oak barrels for aging, the wine was bottled after 17 months.
After many years of searching, Chris was introduced to Sleeping Lady Vineyard just south of Yountville by owner/farmer Larry Bettinelli, a fifth-generation farmer with a mission to do whatever it takes to grow Cabernet Sauvignon at the highest level. Chris & Larry had already collaborated on many small-lot experimental wines, starting in 1990, as Larry researched trellis design, clones, rootstocks and other key vineyard design features.
After several years of collaboration and experimentation with Sleeping Lady Cabernet, Chris knew for sure that this vineyard was not just one more Napa Cabernet vineyard – rather, it was simply some of the most exceptional vineyard ground in Napa Valley. Based on this knowledge, he made the commitment in 2007 to begin his own winemaking project.
The immaculate Sleeping Lady Vineyard in Yountville, is just down the hill from Keever and neighbor to Dominus, Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper, and Blankiet Vineyards – an area of remarkable fruit sourcing!