Our wine of the week for the week of March 9th, 2020 is Santo Stefano Rutherford Cabernet 2014 from the Riboli Family/San Antonio Winery in Downtown Los Angeles. While downtown LA was the mecca for California wine growing in the 1880s, LA has given way to big buildings and crowded freeways. There is still one winery that recently celebrated its 103rd year in business. San Antonio still makes wine today, there vineyards have moved up north to Paso Robles, Monterey and Rutherford but the hub for the winery has remained in the same spot since 1917 on Lamar street in Downtown Los Angeles.
Santo Stefano comes from their Rutherford vineyards which they’ve owned since 1986. They quietly purchased a 16-acre lot on the Silverado Trail and produce this wonderful Cabernet loaded with Rutherford taste and feel for an absolute steal. The story behind this wine and family is second to none in California but it’s the quality in the bottle that truly blew us away.
Notes from the region:
Rutherford ranks among the very finest Napa Valley AVAs. It is located south of St Helena and immediately north of Oakville, at the heart of the Napa Valley winegrowing area. It is named after Thomas Lewis Rutherford, who married Elizabeth Yount, granddaughter of Napa’s pioneering vigneron George C. Yount (see Yountville).
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape here. The long, warm summer days encourage the organic, earthy flavors for which Napa Cab has become known, complemented by opulent fruit richness. Fully ripe tannins are another luxury that the warm climate grants Rutherford winegrowers – with time in bottle, these contribute structurally to some of America’s most highly acclaimed red wines. Cabernet’s Bordeaux stablemates Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are also present in Rutherford vineyards, used both as Bordeaux-blend components and to make varietal red wines.
Napa Valley’s AVAs can be divided into two, in terms of terroir: those that cover the hills, like Howell Mountain or Mount Veeder, or those that lie on the valley floor. Rutherford is firmly in the second category, with its vineyards reaching from the base of the Mayacama mountains to the Silverado Trail at the bottom of the Vaca mountains. The land between is home to famous names like Caymus, Inglenook, Grgich Hills and Scarecrow.
Abundant sunshine and warm temperatures allow Rutherford’s grapes to reach optimal maturity over the course of the growing season, producing deep, richly flavored wines. Located 12 miles (20km) north of Napa town, and half that distance again from San Pablo Bay, Rutherford summer days are also blessed with damp, cooling fog rising northwards up the valley from the Bay Area. The fog is sufficient to moderate the hot Californian sunshine, which might otherwise overcook the grapes, depriving the wines of aromatic complexity and the acid structure essential in all cellar-worthy wines.
Instead, Rutherford’s grapes make wines that often display a sought-after balance of flavor and acidity, due to their long, even ripening period. This influence is particularly noticeable in Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which bear the same hints of eucalyptus and mint as their Oakville neighbors. Deep, well-drained, sandy loam soils are relatively consistent throughout the AVA, although a greater clay component is noticeable closer to the banks of the Napa river and Conn Creek.
Notes from Santo Stefano:
In 1986, Stefano and Maddalena Riboli began farming a small, 16-acre vineyard in the heart of Napa Valley’s Rutherford appellation. Located along the Silverado Trail, the site was chosen for its rich, clay-loam soils and gentle slope. A temperate climate of warm days and cool nights provides the long growing season necessary for full maturation of flavors and aromas. In 2001, a comprehensive replanting focused on new French clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The vineyard is ideal for the production of structured, full-bodied wines.
Rae’s Place Tasting Notes:
Santo Stefano Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Rutherford, California
Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
Santo Stefano Cabernet Sauvignon is a mouth-filling wine with smooth texture and soft tannins. Enticing aromas of vanilla and spice are followed by ripe flavors of blackberry, currant, and black cherry. The finish shows hints of bittersweet chocolate.
Pair with grilled red meats, slow cooked roasts or vegetarian ragu with pappardelle.