1997 Calistoga Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon

The Montelena crew will tell the story of the Mighty ’97 into the next millenium. Harvest tonnage was up dramatically from the low of 1996. All growers had a great year, and in on the fun were our good old local Calistoga Cuvee growers with huge, high quality crops.

This wine is our "Village" or district wine. We have long term contracts with carefully selected growers whose properties are in close proximity to some of the finest vineyards in the world (Montelena, Three Palms, Araujo-Eiesle, and Diamond Creek to name just a few) right here in the north end of the Napa Valley: With grapes grown to our exacting specifications, we make the wine to express the essence of "Calistoga Cabernet"; mostly berry fruit and big, bold flavors. The Cuvee is produced to be soft and young drinking. So it is with this vintage.

Much hyped, the '97 vintage is one of those years that lives up to its advance billing. The weather during harvest was great. If we could have ordered it a la carte, it could not have been better - warm days with cool evenings. Perfect ripening weather.

The quality is remarkable for several reasons. The grapes ripened early with a heavy crop (usually big crops are slow to ripen) and the berry size was very small. In fact, the grapes were so small that we had trouble pumping the cabernet because it was mostly skins. This is normally associated with very low crop years like 1987 and 1996. In 1997 the bins and gondolas were heavy, as in a big berry year, because of the large quantity of small bunches and lower stem percentage than normal. Usually, intense flavor development is associated with low yields. This vintage, however, has the rare combination of high flavor intensity and, fortuitously, higher than normal tonnage.

vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Average rainfall, warm winter and spring, mild summer. Slow ripening and wonderful weather during harvest, warm days and cool mornings. Large crop, the wine is very dense and extremely flavorful.

tasting notes

In the glass it shows our typical deep garnet inky color. The nose is cassis and other black fruits layered with cedar, oak and spiciness like clove… lots going on. The palate is fat and round, a ball of berry fruit, which gives way to the layered tones that follow the nose. There is a big fresh berry cabernet fruit driving this wine on the palate. The sub tones are spicy black pepper with some earthiness. The tannin balance is quite supple with bright fruit layered into soft tannins. It is very user friendly and will become only more elegant down the road. I bought a new BBQ grill for this summer and this evening I'll break it in and try out the bottle I used for these notes. This is gonna be great! Enjoy!

Harvest Date September 1 to September 24
Sugar At Harvest 23.5° to 24.5° brix
Barrel Aging 14 to 18 months
Release Date September 1999
Alcohol 13.5%