Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In 2012, Hourglass Cabernets are Kicking

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Napa producer Hourglass has been turning out some exciting Bordeaux reds for years now, but in 2012 they really nailed it.

I recently tasted through Hourglass’ 2012 Cabernets during a group video chat with Jeff Smith and winemaker Tony Biagi. 2012 was Tony’s first full vintage for Hourglass, although he finished up the 2010s and 2011s after taking over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. Tony arrived at a great time, as 2012 provided a consistent growing season and resulted in wines that show balance and depth. Biagi and Jeff Smith compare 2012’s tempered growing season to the much heralded 2001 vintage.

Hourglass reds are sourced from two vineyards, the Estate and Blueline. In the late 60s, Jeff’s father bought what would become the Estate vineyard, a six-acre site two miles north of St. Helena. A big fan of Zinfandel, he began growing his own, a lot of which went into Caymus’ wines. After his father passed away, Jeff replanted to this vineyard to Cabernet in the early 90s, and Hourglass pressed its first Cab in 1997. The project got off to a great start, as the wine garnered critical acclaim and Hourglass shoved its way into the crowded lineup of premium Napa Cabernets.

Hourglass acquired the Blueline Vineyard in 2006, and the vineyard team replanted many of the blocks in 2007. The 22-acre vineyard (south of the town of Calistoga) is planted to all five Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. (The Blueline Cab Franc, Merlot and Malbec from 2012 are also very well done.)

Jeff said he aims for “structural integration” in his reds. “The Holy Grail of Napa Cabernet,” he said, is harnessing that ripe fruit without giving up freshness, acidity and minerality. He wants ripe fruit without the wines “losing their tensional edge.” These 2012s have plenty of tension, not to mention fruit and staying power. I found all of these wines to be much more expressive on day two.

2012 Hourglass HG III - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50 
Nose of blackberry and black currant, a hint of red berries mixed in, rich but nuanced with notes of graphite, coffee beans, loam and tobacco leaf, underlying sweet cocoa and vanilla.  On the palate, the acid invites you in, the tannins provide structure and depth while the fruit is bright and juicy. Red and black cherries and currants, laced with cola, cedar and pencil shavings. Notes of loam, chestnut and cocoa powder. Lasting, cellar-worthy but approachable.  The inaugural vintage of this Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec blend. Essentially a second wine, Tony said the varietal make-up blend is going change every year. (90 points)

SRP $125
Complex nose of cool blackberry and red and black currants and plums, the core of fruit is so seductive and vibrant. Notes of vanilla coffee, sweet cocoa powder, crushed granite and pencil shavings along with some floral elements that need time to come out. Juicy currants offering depth and power, yet the acid offers refreshment. Chewy tannins, so delicious and inviting but clearly lasting. I love the accents of pencil shavings, chewing tobacco and graphite, black cherry and vanilla colas. Deeply mineral-driven, with floral accents, anise, sweet lavender and hints of black olive. 91% Cabernet and 9% Petite Verdot aged 21 months in new French oak. In the past, the wine was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but Petite Verdot is playing a larger role. It’s pure Napa with its depth and smoothness, but the tanginess is really attractive. Decant for a long time or bury for three to six years, will hold for much longer. (93 points)

2012 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP $165
Nose shows a deep core of black and red currants and plums, some fruit skins and jam as well. Granite, cocoa powder, milk chocolate, some sweet oregano, green olive and pipe tobacco, so complex and lovely stuff on the nose and it opens up a ton with air. Deep and complex with fine-grained but sturdy tannins and medium+ acid. Flavors of black cherries and black currants with notes of red fruits mixed in, it’s zesty and juicy but showing lots of depth. More graphite and pencil shavings here, along with granite and river rocks. I also get some dark roast coffee, cedar, hints of dark chocolate and root beer. Deep, complex but finishes clean and long. All Cabernet aged 22 months in new French oak. Takes a while to fully express itself, so decant now or cellar for a handful of years. (94 points)

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