Wine Recommendation
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Wine Recommendation

Sullivan Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate (Rutherford)

Sullivan Vineyards

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
(Rutherford ~ Napa Valley)

Although the Sullivan winery has been making wines for 25 years, it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and more’s the pity. Sandwiched between Franciscan and Beckstoffer’s Georges III on Galleron Road, it gets lost among the big boys.

This 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon might be winemaker Philippe Langner’s second vintage, but instead of turning out a big, jammy wine that über-consultant Michel Rolland – one of his mentors – might have made, the Bordelais winemaker Langner has produced a wine that is more likely in line with owner Jim Sullivan’s preference. Another of Langner’s teachers, Jacques Boissenot, would have been proud, too. Boissenot, a partner with the late, great oenologist Emile Peynaud, consulted on some of the greatest Bordeaux ever made.

Jim Sullivan too, has the palate of the old masters. He, however, was apparently was inspired by the wines of Beaulieu and Inglenook from the 1950s and ‘60s – the classic age of Napa Valley wines – so he has to like this wine. As do I.

It’s a well-made classic. Although it has very evident tannins which give the wine its structure, one can attest to the fact that it’s going to be refined when this infant settles down. Hold onto it for about three years and it will continue to improve for the next 10 and will age for at least 20.

Langner waited until October 25 to start bringing in the fruit, which manifests in a structure that is big and smooth at the same time because he picked at a very unusual (for the Napa Valley) 23.2 Brix (percentage of sugar). The wine was aged for 1½ years in 80 percent French oak and 20 percent American. Less than 35 percent was new wood, with the balance being 60 percent one-vintage barrels and 5.6 percent 2-year-old oak. The listed alcohol is 13.5 percent, which again for a Napa Valley cab, is very uncommon. Good for Langner and Sullivan.

Reviewed July 23, 2006 by Alan Goldfarb.

The Wine

Winery: Sullivan Vineyards
Vineyard: Estate
Vintage: 2003
Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Rutherford ~ Napa Valley
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Merlot (25%)
Price: 750ml $55.00

Review Date: 7/23/2006

The Reviewer

Alan Goldfarb

Alan Goldfarb has been writing about and reviewing wine for 17 years. His reviews have been published in the St. Helena Star, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Examiner, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast, among others. Not once has he used a point system, star system, or an iconic symbol to quantify a wine. What counts in Mr. Goldfarb’s criteria when judging a wine is: how it tastes in the glass; is it well-constructed; its food compatibility; and presence of redeeming regional attributes.