Tasting notes: Pedemonte Cellars, Rutherford

With everything in the Napa Valley finally slowing down to a winter’s pace, I caught up with Chris Pedemonte this morning to taste a couple upcoming releases of Pedemonte Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. A relative newcomer compared to many of its neighbors in Rutherford, Pedemonte Cellars was founded with the 2004 vintage, and has already produced a string of noteworthy Rutherford Cabs. With an annual production that averages only about 300 cases, Pedemonte offers truly hand-crafted wines at an artisanal, almost Old-World scale.  Although the wines from Pedemonte Cellars may a bit difficult to locate in most markets, they can be found at several of the Bay Area’s top restaurants, and they are also available online.

In general, Pedemonte Cabernet represents a terrific expression of the Rutherford AVA, exhibiting the appellation’s trademark “dust” alongside plush, ripe fruit on the palate. Pedemonte cherry-picks his Cabernet grapes from Round Pond’s 350-acre Rutherford estate, where he has managed the vineyard for nearly two decades now. This unique relationship has allowed Pedemonte to harvest grapes from his favorite parcels each year, typically selecting the areas that feature the most favorable alluvial soil compositions.

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As a few December showers passed through the upper valley, I began my visit with a barrel sample of the 2008 Pedemonte Cellars Rutherford Cab, which exhibited surprising drinkability for a wine that remains several months from bottling. For his barrel regimen, Pedemonte uses all French Oak, employing brand new barrels for slightly more than half of his production each year. Before that, Pedemonte ferments the Cabernet in modest 1-ton macrobins, opting for moderate extraction in an era that has grown rife with super-extracted Cabernets.

From the barrel we progressed to the bottle, beginning with the 2008 Pedemonte Adagio, a proprietary blend of 60% Sangiovese, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the prevalence of Sangiovese in the blend, the Adagio actually bore more resemblance to a cool-climate Syrah, both in the glass and on the palate. The wine featured a pleasant balance between the two varietals, with the acidity of the Sangiovese lending some structure to the dark, opulent nature of the Syrah.

The final wine was the 2007 Pedemonte Rutherford Cabernet, which will await its official release sometime next year. Among my first impressions, minerality dominated the early nose of this wine, although the palate offered a vibrant burst of fruit. As the wine had an opportunity to develop in the glass, however, the aromas became more expansive, and I suspect that by the time this wine is officially released next year, the nose will have intensified to match the palate.

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