What a treat to virtually revisit Napa Valley’s Scattered Peaks (virtually, in this case—which is fitting, given that tasting their wares was one of the last things I got to do in a public wine-media-type setting before Covid hell broke lose). This tiny outfit’s cellar is helmed by living winemaking-legend-type Joel Aiken, who, when asked about what makes this label special, replied “The dirt doesn’t hurt.”
You can fill yourself in on the Scattered Peaks backstory from our pre-Covid tasting. The TLDR version is that it involves some excellent Napa terroir, Joel’s extensive experience, and the resources of Purple Wine Company’s Derek Benham.
When you’re done, let’s dive right into the juice…
An interesting choice to go with given their pedal-to-the-medal Cabernet debuts, this white is 100% Usibelli Vineyard (Pope Valley) sourced, and was made by Joe Tapparo with Joel consulting. The aim, according to Joel, was “trying to make a wine with good acidity in it and real complexity.” You can hardly tell that this one sees any oak, it’s so vibrant and lively. Starfruit, melons, grapefruit, lemongrass, citrus, all of which are doing just fine, thanks. This one delivers a lot of tastiness, and heck of a lot of value.
Almost entirely Cabernet (a smattering of 4% Merlot made its way in), this red is also made by Joe Tapparo with Joel in a consulting role. Aiken practically beamed when talking about this one. “It’s a baby. Lots of power, lots of color. That part of Pope Valley makes killer wine. It’s got a lot of life ahead of it and a lot of intensity. I’m pretty happy with this.” He ought to be—There’s SERIOUS bang for the buck here. This can easily give Napa Cabs in the $60-$75 range a run for their money. Plums, ripe blackcurrants, dried herbs, mint, and a sultry deliciousness that’s basically irresistible… No way I would have pegged this for under $70 in a blind tasting. At this price, we are in case-buy territory.
Sage Ridge Vineyard is in the eastern hills of Napa, not too far from Pritchard Hill and south of Howell Mountain. Joel describes the fruit form this loocation as “lush.” Soils are of fractured shale with red clay, which he claims reduces vigor (so, very small, concentrated berries). He favors the Cabernet clone 169 plantings there, which still retain pyrazines but “only well-behaved pyrazines” according to Aiken. “It tends to have this lush, creamy [nose]. Even though it’s mountain fruit, with tiny berries. I love this ranch.”
The operative word here is DEEEEEEEP! This is so young, the panoply of oak flavors and aromas have yet to integrate fully. BUT… Blackberry, blackcurrant, graphite, warm baking spices… it all just keeps coming and coming in waves on a smooth-as-silk palate. The tannin chains are Alaskan-pipeline long. It’ll keep you coming back for (a lot) more. For mountain fruit, this is as sexy and accessible as they come.