You'll Think Differently About Napa Cabs After Tasting These Brion Cabs
To make sure that his four vineyards are able to bring out the most of their terroirs, Brion Wise has employed not one but three winemakers.
As a chemical engineer and an experienced entrepreneur who has founded numerous companies and developed systems for the environment, Brion Wise came to California looking for vineyards in 2002. In contrast to many others who have been in that position, Wise did not purchase existing vines on an already prestigious site. Instead, he purchased raw land, a former cattle ranch in what would become Sonoma's Moon Mountain District, which has lately gained the reputation of being one of the most exciting new wine appellations in the county. Despite the fact that he and his wife, Ronda, had to drill a well and run everything on generators, Wise and Ronda were able to establish B. Wise Vineyards on a ridge overlooking Sonoma Valley despite these challenges.
The task of fulfilling his ultimate ambition turned out to be a long one--and it took him several vineyard sources from the other side of the Mayacamas Range, in Napa Valley--before he was able to do so. His ultimate ambition was, as Wise describes it, "to make something that could hold its own against the best wines I've had in my travels.". In my case, Brion became our flagship wine, as a result of the vision to create a wine of the world. In addition to this collection, which is composed of four Cabernet Sauvignons, there is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Moon Mountain itself, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Caldwell (Coombsville), a Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville Ranch, and one from Sleeping Lady (Yountville).
A wide range of elevations, aspects, microclimates, and soils vary across these vineyard sites, so there's no cookie-cutter approach to all of these wines under one brand, ranging from red volcanic to alluvial with gravel to "more rock than soil." In addition to the varying terroirs his Cabernets reveal, Wise has added one more layer of human touch by having three different winemakers oversee these single-vineyard Cabernets. Massimo Monticelli came to B after he had a successful career in winery. As wise as he is, he was a natural choice to oversee the Moon Mountain production since he came from Silver Oak in 2002. With his experience at Joseph Phelps and with his own Merus label, Mark Herold oversees the Caldwell Vineyard and Oakville Ranch wines. Julien Fayard, an experienced consulting winemaker, is in charge of Brion's Sleeping Lady wines.
Having worked with the properties for a number of years, each winemaker has a good understanding of the vineyard and how to make the best out of it, according to Wise.
It is no surprise to see the deft hands at work in these vineyards, creating a snapshot of the diversity that is evident in the Brion 2016 lineup that is often missed by Napa critics.
The winemakers behind Brion.
Brion 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County
Winemaker: Massimo Monticelli
There are hints of crushed rock and espresso underneath high-toned floral notes, with briary berry aromas mixed with spice (anise and mint with a hint of pepper) and florals. With luscious red berry fruit and pronounced earthy notes and hints of savory herbs, the palate delivers an elegant and juicy wine. Elegance belies its power.
Brion 2016 Sleeping Lady Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Julien Fayard
This wine is deeply colored, fragrant, yet earthy with dry loam under cedar, mint, and blackberry notes on the nose. There is a substantial tannin structure here for the long haul, but it isn't off-putting at the moment, as the fruit from black raspberry to blueberry is delivered with minerality and arresting texture and length. It's got a lot of minerality and is in fact very good for the long haul.
Brion 2016 Caldwell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Mark Herold
The rich, intense flavors of plum, cassis, and berries, with elegant tannins, set this Cab apart from others. This wine is fresh, bright, and generous at the same time. The aromas of earth, floral, mocha, and savory herbs lead to an intense palate that is filled with plum, cassis, berries, and savory herbs.
Brion 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Mark Herold
It is a big, bold, bold wine, with a sense of power, with a complex nose of vanilla, mocha, ripe cherry, and a lingering mouthful of rich, red and dark fruit. A bold, yet supple structure lingers in the mouth, with a long finish that is fruit-driven and full of complexity.