Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hourglass Napa Reds Shine in Special 2013 Vintage

Hourglass winemaker Tony Biagi says 2013 is the best vintage he’s seen in Napa since he started in 1993.

“This is truly a special, one of a kind vintage,” he said. “Tannin and color levels were high and at proper proportions, leading to wines with great structural integrity. The cool nights also preserved acidity and fruit freshness, despite deep extraction of rich flavors. It’s sort of a best of both worlds scenario.” 

“Suffice it to say we believe this to be one of the greatest vintages we have witness in our 17 years making Hourglass wines,” says Proprietor Jeff Smith.

You get the idea. They’re stoked about 2013. 

And, after tasting three of their wines from this vintage, so am I. (Here’s a one-page statistical summary of 2013 from the Napa Valley Vintners.)

Earlier this month, I took part in a virtual tasting and chat with Jeff and Tony, and had a great time discussing the wines and the vintage. I really respect the Hourglass team for taking time to discuss wine on social media, given that their wines have something of a cult status, high price points, and lots of credit from big-time critics. (For full background on this producer, the history and the vineyards, check out this longer post from a tasting of the 2010 vintage.) I've been thrilled about these wines since that tasting, but the 2013s are the best I’ve tasted yet from this consistently stunning producer.

Below are my notes on the three wines tasted. 

2013 Hourglass HG III - California, Napa Valley
SRP $50
Gorgeous violet color. Nose of bright black cherries, black currants, some jammy raspberry notes as well, a complex combination of violets, cocoa powder, dark chocolate shavings, vanilla but also some earthy and tobacco notes. Needs a lot of air to fully express itself, but a lot of nuance in here that will evolve and gain traction over time. Full-bodied with structured tannins that maintain some velvety feel, the acid is moderate enough to keep this friendly and relatively fresh on the palate. Juicy black cherries, black currants mix with notes of raspberry jam. A ton of forward, rich elements of cocoa, ginger snap, vanilla, coffee but I also get tobacco, graphite, loamy soil, pepper and roasted chestnut. Complex and age-worthy but surprisingly accessible young. Just a beautiful wine. $50 ain’t cheap but this over-delivers for that price point. Merlot, Cabernet, Malbec and Petite Sirah. (92 points)

SRP $125
Dark purple color. Wow, aromatically, this is stunning. Chilled black and blue berries, the fruit gushes but smells fresh and vibrant as well, matched with complex notes of sweet cola, coffee, graphite, pencil shavings, sweet pipe tobacco, paved road. So complex, you can sniff this and pull out nuances all night long. Full-boded, velvety-silky tannins provide a gorgeous mouthfeel when combined with the vibrant acid. The black cherry, blueberry, fleshy currant fruit, it glides over the palate with precision. Complex non-fruit elements of crushed rocks, iron, pencil shavings and loamy soil, lovely vanilla, coffee and cedar woven in well. Bold and slugging but punches with elegance and precision. Wow. I’d love to retaste this in another three to five years. Includes 9% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec, aged 21 months in new French oak. The best wine I've tasted from Hourglass. (95 points)

2013 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon Estate - California, Napa Valley
SRP $165

Dark and saucy purple color. Deeper and more concentrated aromatics than the Blueline. Still a ton of stuff going on: blackberry compote, tart blueberries, tangy black cherries, mixed in with sweet vanilla, espresso, violets, cigar box and rich loam. Concentrated and compact with firm tannic structure, a bit hotter than the Blueline and a bit less fresh, this is a burlier puncher with some serious power. Gorgeous fruit though: chewy blueberries and blackberries, rich black cherries. Tons of cola, violets, vanilla, cedar shavings, milk and dark chocolate and baked brownie notes, but also an intriguing sense of rocks, soil and minerality. Really needs time to open up or a really long decant, but a gorgeous wine. If you like a bit more elegance, the 2013 Blueline provides it. If you like a more full-throttle style, this is it. 100% Cabernet from the 4-acre Estate Vineyard, aged 22 months in new French oak. (93 points)

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