Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
A vertical tasting of Ray Signorello Jr.'s Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Thsi article originally appeared in the April/May 2008 issue of Wine Access magazine.
Ray Signorello Jr. has more than 20 Napa Valley vintages to his credit and that makes him more establishment than newcomer in his beloved Napa. Signorello's experience and observation with great wines from around the globe have shaped his thinking, as well as the steady rise of quality at Signorello Vineyards.
It's cabernet that stirs the soul of Napa Valley, and Ray Jr. and his father designed the winery around Napa's signature varietal wine. With a total of 18 acres in the ground since 1990, cabernet is the largest single grape variety planted on the Signorello hillsides. The goal is to make complex reds that age gracefully á la the great bottles of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and more. It's not that they want to make French or Italian wine in California, but quality has its benchmarks and it is difficult to establish a personal high-water mark without understanding some of the world's best examples.
Anthony Gismondi visited Ray Signorello Jr. at his winery, where he graciously opened every cabernet sauvignon bottled since the winery opened. The tasting of 16 different vintages tells the history of this signature California estate.
Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California
Modern Signorello, with its dusty aromas of pepper, tobacco and mocha coffee over a core of blueberry/blackberry fruit. Lean by Napa standards, but with balance, finesse and supple tannins. It's a terrific cabernet with Euro sensibilities. Only 50 per cent new French oak is used today.
Signorello's low-yielding cabernet grapes - less than two tons to the acre - were the key to transforming this harvest. Cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla mix with supple fine-grained tannins - some of the softest we've seen - and chocolate, cassis jam, mocha flavours.
The '02 is all about big colour, weight and density contained in an elegant package. Finesse-over-form frees its cedar, spice and cherry-chocolate flavours to really capture your palate. One of the best versions we've tasted.
Dry peppery, saddle leather, black berry jam, cardamom notes mix with dusty chocolate. Supple but grainy tannins with black berry jam, mocha vanilla flavours. Needs time to fully integrate.
It's not a monster red, but it has reasonable depth given the vintage. Look for black fruit and coffee, mocha flavours, with fine-grained tannins and smoky oak in the aftertaste.
Perhaps the most Euro of all the vintages. Lean textures mix with ripe-ish fruit and a dry finish. Better with food now.
Winemaker Pierre Birebent's first vintage was de-juiced to beef up the flavours after a severe thinning in the vineyard. A subtle shift in tannin management can be detected in its fine-grained textures and earthy, plum, herbal flavours. One of the best from a difficult year.
The flavours are of chunky cassis, almost blueberry, fruit. This is the winery's signature wine and, in this generous year, its dense, powerful, fruity style soars. Well-structured and balanced, it will keep for years yet.
Impressive effort, with more sheen and gloss than any previous year. Ripe, but with fine acidity and balance, and just a hint of that Napa ripe fruit and vanilla. Drink now.
The bottle at tasting was corked.
The first "estate" offering gets more French oak, and it was good timing given the big vintage. Delicious styling here, with finesse and fruit triumphing over alcohol and weight.
Another look into the Signorello mantra of finesse of brute fruit. Bright acidity, ripe fruit and medium-weight dry-ish tannins. Solid, ready-to-drink Napa Valley cabernet.
Much tighter, acidic style here. Awkward entry and mid-palate. A bit out of synch with the rest of the vertical.
More aromatic and lively, with delicious black fruit and cassis flavours. Delicious, full-bodied California cabernet of terrific quality.
The first year of bigger, richer, tannins, but without the alcohol and weight of some of its contemporaries. The finish reveals more spice and licorice and that Euro/Signorello dryness.
Much darker colour and more intense version of the '88, but still shows the early footprints of attention to detail and the push toward a European sensibility.
The first unrefined and unfiltered Signorello cab was labelled Founder's Reserve, a label used through 1996. Now lean, with ripe black fruit flavours. Still in amazing shape. Ripe Napa fruit gracefully near its end.
Price range from CAD $60-$70