Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery2001 "Emily Kestrel" Cabernet Sauvignon
(Howell Mountain ~ Napa Valley)
Summit Lake may have staked its reputation on Zinfandel, but I was more enamored of its Cabernet Sauvignon produced from a two-acre plot at more than 2,200 feet on top of Howell Mountain. I became even more partial to the wine after I learned that its winemaker and owner Bob Brakesman held the wine for three years in mostly used oak and in the bottle fore another 12 months. While many of Napa Valley’s producers are releasing their 2003s, Summit Lake’s M.O. is to hold its wine back.
That’s good because the wine exhibits lots of tar, minerality and earthiness – signs of the Howell Mountain origin of its grapes. On the palate, this Cab is brawny and still in need of time. But already one can detect many layers of complexity with very nice, ripe blackberry flavors. In the end, the wine is nicely balanced. But hold onto it for another two years and then drink it over the next eight or so.
The Cab comes from only two acres of Summit Lake’s 21-acre vineyard. This parcel is established over red Aiken clay, three feet deep throughout the whole property. This is in contrast to the southeast side of Howell Mountain where whiter, tufa-based volcanic soil is found.
The listed alcohol is 14.5 percent. The wine spent its time fermenting in mostly French, but some American barrels, 15-to-20 percent of which were new. There were only 200 cases produced. The name on the label – “Emily Kestral” – refers to the Brakesman’s first granddaughter.
Reviewed August 22, 2006 by 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.