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Fine Powder on Mount Veeder

There’s fine powder everywhere you look on Mount Veeder. But don’t grab your skis. There are plenty of slopes there but no ski runs. And there’s no snow.

The fine powder I’m talking about is tannin. A silky texture on the palate unites diverse red wines in the Mount Veeder AVA. I tasted dozens of Mount Veeder reds yesterday. There were Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese, Malbec and Pinot Noir. Vintages ranged from 1988 to 2010. The wines varied in style, ripeness, acidity and aromatic profile. However, in almost every wine, fine, powdery tannins provided the structure.

Though the mountain named Veeder is the highest peak, it’s not the only one in the Mount Veeder AVA. The appellation is a range of ridges, massive wrinkles of sea bed pushed up more than 100 million years ago by scrunching tectonic plates. There are a jumble of sedimentary soils and vineyards face every which way. A wealth of microclimates result, but generally you get fog-free mornings, sunny days, cool afternoon breezes and warm summer evenings that are hospitable to most types of wine grapes.

This vine-friendly complexity means there’s a place somewhere in the AVA where most any variety can be grown with some success. The region’s individualistic winegrowers took advantage of that. At least 25 different varieties are planted, an unusually broad assortment for a Napa Valley AVA.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety in Mount Veeder. That grape covers nearly seven times more acreage than either Chardonnay or Malbec, the next most planted grapes. Yet the twists and turns of terroir, exposed by relatively transparent winemaking, yield a multiplicity of Cabernet personalities.

Somehow though—and no scientist can tell you how—the more or less common elements of sedimentary soil, pure and accessible ground water, happy climate and high altitude forge a chain of fine, powdery tannins that links all the otherwise divergent red wines. Why does this matter to the wine drinker?

  • The fine, powdery tannins make the wines elegant and approachable upon release.
  • Mount Veeder wines are long-lived with complexity that continues to unfold years after wines from some other regions have called it quits. This is due, in part, to the tannins.
  • More than just a preservative, the silky structure also works well with older wines on the palate, not dominating the subtle fruit components.
  • Fine, powdery tannins are more flexible with food. You don’t need a rib-eye steak to balance them. The tannins add textural interest, but with a sensual mouthfeel.

Some red wines I highly recommend from the Mount Veeder AVA

2009 Anthem Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder, $95
Proud aromas of black currant, spice and chocolate. A full-bodied palate with fine, powdery tannins and flavors of black currant, spice, chocolate, coconut and oak.

2009 Fields Family Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Konrad’s Vineyard Mount Veeder, $59
Briary black fruit and leather on the nose and palate. Full-bodied with fine, powdery tannins.

2009 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder, $55
Briary black currant, chocolate, oak and spice. Medium-plus body with tannins of fine powder and chalk. Lengthy finish.

2008 Hess Collection Malbec Mount Veeder, $50
The savory side of Malbec. Opaque ruby-black with aromas of earth, chocolate, dark fruit and spice. Medium-plus body and powdery tannins with some chalk. Try it with braised short ribs.

2010LagierMeredithSyrah2011 Lagier-Meredith “Tribidrag” Mount Veeder, $45
A unique and appealing Zinfandel. Highly aromatic with notes of black pepper, ripe fruit (red, black and blue) and some red rope. Nearly full-bodied with very fine, silky tannins and flavors that see the nose and raise it five spice and resin. Just 70 cases.

2010 Lagier Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder, $48
Decant this wine for a good hour to release wonderful aromas of violets, lavender, black pepper, spice and black fruit. Medium-plus body with tannins of chalk and fine powder. Flavors include black pepper, blackberry and spice.

2010 Lampyridae Vineyards Communication Block Red Wine Mount Veeder, $50
A tasty 100% Syrah offering black fruit, licorice and black olives. Nearly full-bodied with fine, powdery tannins and appetizing juiciness.

2010 Lampyridae Vineyards Communication Block Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder, $100
Black currant, spice and chocolate aromas lead into almost full body on the palate with ripe but refined flavors and tannins of fine powder and chalk.

2008 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Franc Mount Veeder, $50
A lovely Cabernet Franc, perfectly ripe but elegant. Black currant, dusty cherries, dry leaves, tobacco and licorice on the nose and palate. Nearly full-bodied with tannins of fine powder and very light grain.

2009 Paratus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder, $75
Black currant, spice and drying leaves on the nose. Nearly full-bodied in the mouth with fine powder and chalk. An integrated and powerful wine that will reward at least three years in the cellar.

2007 Progeny Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection Reserve Mount Veeder, $150
A refined, spice-driven Cabernet Sauvignon with dark fruit and tannins of fine powder and chalk.

2009 Sky Vineyards Zinfandel Estate Grown Mount Veeder, $38
A delicious bowl of mixed berries, crushed and sprinkled with spice. Medium-plus body, smooth and long.

I also highly recommend the Mount Veeder wines from Y Rousseau that I reviewed in this article for Snooth.

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