I recently had the opportunity to taste several wines from the renowned Heitz Cellars of Napa Valley. Joe Heitz founded the winery in 1961, and helped to pioneer fine winemaking in Napa. Today, Heitz' estate vineyards rest in some of the most prime areas of Oakville and Rutherford. These wines represent a remarkable pedigree in American enology, and though they are priced at ultra-luxury levels (the 2002 Martha's comes in at about $150), they demonstrate the ability of Napa Valley to shine. The wines are now made under the watchful eye of David Heitz; having worked on them since the 70's, he is one of the most experienced hands in Napa Valley.
2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14% alcohol.
There's no malo on this wine, but there is a richness that must come from lees stirring. It's pale lemon in color, and has an exuberant nose of green apples, pears, and the slightest hint of vanilla. The palate is refreshingly tart but surprisingly fleshy. I find this wine to be elegantly styled and a welcome relief from other over-the-top Chardonnays. 7/10
2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alcohol.
Bright ruby color. This nose is expressive as well, displaying notes of black currant, pencil lead, and a detectible level of alcohol. The palate reveals slight herbaceous notes, but combined with very ripe fruit. It is mouth-filling and juicy, with supple tannins, which help to balance the slightly hot alcohol level. 6.5/10
2002 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alcohol
The color is ruby and heading toward garnet. The nose comes across as slightly overripe, with stewed prunes and baked fruit being dominant. These characteristics overlay a subtle layer of baking spices. The fruit of the palate is much brighter, combining the richness of blackberries with the acidity of black cherries. Still, the alcohol is a little obnoxious. This wine is too ripe for me. 6/10
2002 Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alcohol.
The ruby color of this wine is much darker than the last two. The nose exhibits blackberries, pain grille, and sweet wood. Again very ripe, but not quite to the level of preserves. The ripeness is doubly evident on the palate, but the wine is better integrated than the Bella Oaks. Tannins are supple but smooth. It is powerful and concentrated, though again alcohol is an issue. 7/10
2002 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alcohol.
Dark ruby color. This wine has a slightly more herbaceous nose, but combined with black currants and baking spices. I found the palate to be surprisingly intense, after the nose. The tannin is ultra-silky, and the fruit is pure and exuberant. Impressively balanced. 7.5/10
1998 Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2% alcohol.
Ruby/garnet color. Distinct bell peppers, blackberries, and mintiness on the nose. It's intriguing and seductive. The palate is incredibly smooth and bright. This is an elegant, lean-styled wine with a 1 minute finish. My favorite of the flight. 8/10
1998 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2% alcohol.
Pretty garnet color, with some youth still hanging on. The nose is lean and spicy, with brighter cherry and tart plum fruits. A little dill. The palate is silky and integrated, but not as powerful or elegant as the last two. 7/10