Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hourglass' New Releases are Unsurprisingly Awesome

Hourglass' 2014 Blueline Vineyard Malbec & Merlot are killing it.
Ive been raving about Hourglass wines for a few years now, and this Napa producers new releases have kept up with my high expectations.

Hourglass reds are sourced from two vineyards, the Hourglass Estate and Blueline Estate. Proprietor Jeff Smiths family brought him to St. Helena in the mid-60s, when he was a baby. In the mid-1970s, the family bought a piece of property north of town, and planted it to Zinfandel, which was sourced for Caymus. Phylloxera obliterated the vineyard in 1990. The Dean of Viticulture at UC Davis, Dr. Mark Kleiwer, told Jeff this site (which would come to be known as the Hourglass Estate) was prime for Cabernet Sauvignon. Hourglass pressed its first Cab in 1997.

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. 

Winemaker Tony Biagi has an impressive resume (Duckhorn, PlumpJack, Cade), and he and Jeff have hit a serious stride with three solid vintages in a row (2012, 2013, 2014).

“It really was a convergence of two people with two like minds,” Tony said of his partnership with Jeff during a recent online video discussion. “I wanted to work for a singular owner who had a vision. I wanted to work for someone who had their own vineyards, their own winery, and, you know, craft wines that we both wanted to drink every day.”

Jeff lauded the recent vintages of 2012-2014 as “three amazing vintages, back to back to back.” Having tasted the wines from all three vintages, I have to admit, he speaks truth.

Below are my notes on the four new Hourglass releases I tasted.

2015 Hourglass Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $40
Pale straw color. Generous aromatic display of tropical fruits (guava, mango) with brighter elements of lime and nectarine, and a heaping of flowers and minerals to boot. Creamy texture, this wine has a bold presence on the palate but the acidity keeps it so vibrant. I love the mix of richer fruits (orange marmalade, guava, pineapple) with these brisk elements of lime and orange zest, white flowers and clover. There’s also this interesting contrast between oyster shells and chalk with honey and raw almond. Exquisite Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Sourced from Larkmead Lane vineyard (close to Blueline) and Varozza in St. Helena. Fermented 50% in stainless steel, 25% in used oak and 25% in new French oak barrels. No maloactic fermentation. (92 points)

2014 Hourglass Merlot Blueline - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Gorgeous aromatics here: rich currant, plums, brighter elements of raspberry and blueberry, and a host of complex non-fruit elements (smoke, clay soil, tobacco, barbecue sauce, roses) this wine really pops and opens with air. Big and bold but wonderfully structured with grippy, dusty tannins. Moderate acidity keeps this wine vibrant. A mix of dark (blackberry, cassis) and red (raspberry jam, plums) fruit, which is rich, moderately extracted but still tastes bright. Sweet flavors of coffee, clove and vanilla mix with savory elements of scorched earth, soy and mushroom. So complex but so easy to sip. This has its best years ahead for sure. 81% Merlot, 9% Cab, 5% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot. 18 months in 66% new French oak. 15.2% alcohol. (94 points)

2014 Hourglass Malbec Blueline - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Smoky and dark on the nose, dark plums, black currant and blueberry blend with loamy soil, charcoal and campfire, but there are some brighter floral elements that lift the wine up and keep it vibrant. Bold and chewy on the palate, the tannins are structured and quite grippy, but the medium acidity keeps the wine from being heavy. The black cherry, currant and blueberry fruit is tart and crunchy despite its fully ripe and juicy character. Notes of violets, scorched earth, cedar, vanilla. Rich and full but long and seamless. What I love about this wine (and all Blueline wines, for that matter) is the combination of density with freshness. This wine is never heavy, despite its massive concentration of flavors. Stays elegant (despite its youth), which is quite a thing. Includes 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spends 18 months in 40% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. (93 points)

2013 Hourglass HG III - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Deep violet color. It smells of rich black cherries, red and black currants, blueberries, the fruit is dark but bright at the same time, and I also get complex elements of dark chocolate, violets, loamy soil, cedar and ginger. This is full-bodied and rich but the acidity is superb and precise, holding this wine together against the firm tannins and bold texture. Flavors of black cherries, dark currants, plum skins, the fruit is fleshy but maintains a tart edge. A host of non-fruit flavors glide across the palate: loamy soil, charcoal, tobacco, cedar, vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted chestnut, vanilla – the flavors unwind with time in the glass (which this needs, or cellar time). For a “second” wine, are you kidding me? This is superb. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah 20 months in new and seasoned French oak. (92 points)

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