Ever since that day in La Morra many years ago, when we were introduced to wine and what it could be, we’ve known what we like and what we prefer. For us who are not professionals, it’s hard to put words to it, but it’s a bit the same like why Parma ham taste better than cooked ham, fresh veggies better than frozen: You cannot always say it out load, but you know when you’re in vicinity of greatness, and when you’re not.
For us, that often means Italian or French wines – 90 Hermitage by Guigal, 90 1er Cru Beaune by Jean Boillot, 96 Pomorosso by Coppo, 96 Barolo by Altare, 00 Clerc Milon are some of our great wine experiences – and it often means natural wines – with the meaning of natural wines being not altering the laws of nature but rather expressing what nature has offered.
A significant moment then, when we were given an American bottle by a friend with the greatest of accolades, and the promise that this would fit perfectly with the criteria of what we think (yes, to a certain extent taste is also individual and personal!) constitutes a great wine. To ease the “transition” so to speak, the winery’s name was Italian (Far Niente), as was the name of the winemaker (Nicole Marchesi). Could it really be?
The Far Niente winery dates back to the 19th Century. Located in Oakville, Napa Valley, it was shut down during prohibition, and did not open again as a winery until some 60 years after. 1982 marks the re-emergence with the first Cabernet Sauvignon vintage.
Grapes from vines in Martin Stelling vineyard, located behind the winery itself, some fruit from Halter Valley, together with a dash of grapes from the Sullenger vineyard , makes up the Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 2005 Far Niente is all dark fruits and berries on the nose, with a touch of wet ground and a hint of chocolate. Our pre-conception of oaky American type wine, was only partly confirmed. The vanilla and smoky flavors are subdued, and does not ruin the wine (that is, for us who thinks wine should not have added flavors from oak or other additives).
It is silky textured, balanced, and much more precise than we would have expected. And it develops very nicely in the glass, with secondary aromas of spice and licorice, and surprises (again) with a long and lingering finish.
All in all, yes, a tad more oak than we would like, but pound for pound a good example of what a Cab could and should be. And it’s very close to the quality normally produced only by the well-known Chateaus on the West Bank in Bordeaux.
And, the first American wine with Wine of the Week honors.