Howell Mountain Tasting Notes, 2010: Ladera and Viader

Having spent a decent portion of 2009 tasting the wines of Spring Mountain and Mount Veeder, it had been quite a while since I had made a trip up Howell Mountain Road. I suppose that my own personal biases had played a key factor in most of my tasting excursions for last year. I’ve discovered that, for the moment at least, Spring Mountain and Mount Veeder are probably my two favorite Napa appellations. To that end, if I were to recommend just one current release from each appellation, it would probably be the 2006 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain Cab ($38) and the 2005 Rubissow Mount Veeder Merlot ($50). Both wines are not only terrific, but they each capture the essence of their locations.

Ironically, my preference for Mount Veeder wines was actually confirmed at Ladera: Although I did really enjoy the 2006 Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet, the wine that I took with me was the 2005 Ladera Lone Canyon Vineyard Cabernet ($65). Ladera’s Lone Canyon Vineyard is located on the southwestern flank of Mount Veeder, although not technically within the appellation itself. I have found that the best Mount Veeder Cabs remind me of super-ripe blueberries on the nose and palate, an association I first noticed with Lokoya’s Mount Veeder Cabernet. I felt that Ladera’s Lone Canyon Cab featured many of those same Mount Veeder markers. So much for reviving my interest in Howell Mountain.

At Viader, I revisited a winery that I had not reviewed since July 2008. Since I also hadn’t perused my tasting notes beforehand, it was practically like starting over, which can sometimes be interesting. The wines that really earned my attention last week were the 2006 Dare Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) and the 2003 Viader Proprietary Blend ($100). Dare is Viader’s second label, which features 100% varietal bottlings of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and (oddly enough) Tempranillo. Looking back on my tasting notes from 2008, I highlighted the 2004 Dare Cabernet Sauvignon as a great value wine, and I still feel the same way about the 2006 vintage. As for the 2003 Viader, I had first tasted it as the middle wine of a three-year vertical. At the time, I dismissed it (and the 2002 vintage, for that matter) as a runner-up to the 2004. Although I didn’t have the 2004 as a comparison last week, the 2003 Viader seems to have improved with age nonetheless. I thought it was elegant and complex.

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