Domestic Selection: Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989. Sunridge

When is a second label not a second label? This selection pro­vides the answer.

The exalted Mt. Veeder appella­tion, where this wine comes from, is home to a constellation of star-quality Napa wineries: The Hess Collection, Mayacamas, Mt. Veed­er and Chateau Potelle. Sunridge Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the product of the Chateau Potelle estate winery, situated 1,600 feet up from the Napa Valley floor.

Ideal growing conditions pre­vail. The elevation places the vine­yards above the morning fog bank, providing extra hours of sun expo­sure. Mountain slopes protect the vines from excessive afternoon heat and promote air drainage, eliminating frost. Nights are warmer than those in the valley. The result is a long moderate growing season where grapes ri­pen slowly to full maturity.

For their 1989 vintage, Jean-Noel and Marketta Fourmeaux du Sartel, proprietors of the prestig­ious estate, decided not to release any of their Cabernet Sauvignon as Chateau Potelle at $16.00 a bottle. Instead, the very same wine which would have been labeled Chateau Potelle 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon was packaged as Sunridge 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon.

In other words, the term “sec­ond label” doesn’t apply, since this is their sole label for Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989! Not knowing exactly why they did this (did the gods on this heighty Olympus inter­vene?), we say, “Why ask why?” Just enjoy this extraordinary value.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are noted for their intensity of flavor. In Bordeaux, wines made from them always include some of the other local grape varieties. To fol­low this tradition (and to make a better wine!) Sunridge contains an “assemblage” of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 8% Mer­lot, added for softness and early drinkability. A 5% portion of Ca­bernet Franc was also included to ­contribute elegance and finesse in the bouquet, as well as softer and smoother tannins in the mouth.

This wine has a majestic deep purple color and an intensely per­fumed nose of berries, plums, cas­sis, cedar and vanilla. It is medi­um-full in the mouth, ripe and smooth. Firm acidity complements rich, complex berry flavors. It fin­ishes dry and mellow. Medium tannins and berries linger.

Serve at room temperature with prime rib, fillet mignon, rack of lamb, or roast duck. Try an appetizer of stronger cheeses and french bread.

Cellaring notes: Delicious now, track development through 1995.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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