Tasting Notes: Realm Cellars and Chateau Boswell

I began taking blogging a little more seriously about a year ago, when I finally upgraded the Thirsty Reader from a static HTML page to a more fully functional website. Since then, I’ve attempted to keep pace with my own taste for the good life by sharing as many positive experiences as possible, whether it’s wine, restaurants, recipes, or books. The tricky thing about covering wine, in particular, is that new vintages can roll around in no time, and thus, there is an inherent pressure to not only discover new labels, but to also keep up with the old favorites.

Although this website has become more poplar than I had ever imagined, the wine still does not arrive at my doorstep. I’m not sure if everyone realizes that fact, since there are bloggers who do receive free wines for review. I’ve never received any free bottles of wine for this blog, and I’ve never received any compensation for any advertisements, either. In all honesty, I’m out there visiting the wineries like everyone else, but since I happen to live in the Napa Valley, I’m doing it on a weekly basis. Look, someone who doesn’t have a professional agenda has to be out there, seeing what’s worthwhile, and reporting back.

The Thirsty Reader does offer me a few personal benefits, however. Mostly, it helps me to remember what I’ve tasted, but it also reminds me to revisit some of the wineries that I’ve covered in the past. When I was browsing through my entries for August 2008, I realized that it had been over a year since I had tasted at Realm Cellars, and that I could not afford to lose pace with one of the best new wine labels in the Napa Valley (by “new” I mean less than 10 years old — Realm produced its first wine in 2002). I got in touch with Realm proprietor Juan Mercado, who was gracious enough to pour some wines and offer some barrel samples.

• • •

We began the day with the 2006 Realm Farella Vineyard Cabernet, which may have the least amount of name recognition among the winery’s three single-vineyard Cabs (the other two Cabs being sourced from Beckstoffer To-Kalon in Oakville and Beckstoffer Dr. Crane in St. Helena). The Farella Vineyard is located in Coombsville, which you almost never hear about, and which is not yet an official Napa Valley appellation. But I have found that Coombsville often delivers Cabernets with surprising complexity that easily matches the efforts of areas like Oakville and Rutherford. The 2006 Realm Farella is probably as good as any 2006 Cabernet that I have tasted, with great fruit, a full body, and seamless French oak.

Aside from Realm’s three single-vineyard Cabernets, the winery also produces three proprietary blends, each one being based upon either Cabernet, Merlot or Cabernet Franc. The 2007 Realm “The Bard,” which is the winery’s proprietary Cabernet blend (and which will be officially released in early 2010), was the second wine of the flight. I was told that at this early stage, “The Bard” is currently the most approachable of Realm’s 2007 proprietary wines, which also include “The Tempest” (which is Merlot-based) and “The Falstaff” (Cab Franc-based). “The Bard” was indeed very drinkable, featuring a lush profile of ripe red fruit, rounded out by a good dose of Merlot.

From there, we delved into the barrels themselves, tasting samples from two very different blocks of the 2008 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard, as well as a sample from the 2008 Farella Vineyard. I also tasted a barrel sample of Realm’s 2008 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet, which may become the fourth single-vineyard wine in the Realm portfolio (as long as this particular wine continues to develop at its current pace). I learned that Realm is always on the lookout for new sources of fruit, and so there may be even more single-vineyard Cabernets in the future.

• • •

Realm actually leases its cellar space from Chateau Boswell, which has occupied the facility since the late 1970s. Fortunately, I was able to taste the 2006 Chateau Boswell Estate Cabernet, which is a co-fermented field blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon with elements of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The estate hillside vineyard only yielded 210 cases of wine in 2006, making this release impossibly scarce. That said, it’s a terrific wine, and one of the few field blends that you’ll encounter in the Napa Valley (in fact, I can’t really name any others, although I’m sure they may be out there).

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