We’re often asked which of our Single Vineyard Cabernets is our favorite, and the answer is always the same: we love them all! But our Rutherford Hillside Reserve does hold a special place in our hearts, as it was the first Single Vineyard Cabernet we produced.
It was 1994, and in Napa Valley, wines bottled exclusively from one vineyard were still somewhat rare. But John Komes recognized there was something special about a group of vines located on the slope leading up to the northwestern edge of our estate in the Rutherford appellation. He kept the wine from this block separate, and bottled less than 50 cases on its own, dubbing it the Rutherford Hillside Reserve. John’s instinct proved prescient: when our first Rutherford Hillside Reserve Cabernet was released in 1997 the Wine Spectator awarded it 96 points.
Five Years Earlier
1994 wasn’t the first time this block was bottled on its own. Beginning in 1989, Flora Springs produced a Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the same vines. In fact, the 1991 Flora Springs Rutherford Reserve Cabernet earned 97 points and the #3 spot on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list in 1994.
Flora Springs’ Rutherford Reserve was the predecessor to our Rutherford Hillside Reserve. In 1994 John added “Hillside” to the name, creating the first vineyard-designated wine from Flora Springs.
The label has changed over the years, but our Rutherford Hillside Reserve is still grown on our estate vineyard in Rutherford.
The Rutherford AVA is arguably one of the finest places to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley, and the location of our Rutherford Hillside Reserve vineyard, on the western slopes of the AVA on what is often called the Rutherford Bench, is one of the most coveted in the appellation. Our vineyard lies on a gentle incline leading up toward the Mayacamas Mountains. Here the soils rest on a gravelly bed deposited by an old stream, providing excellent drainage. The climate, moderately warm with occasional morning fog and frequent afternoon breezes, is ideally suited to Cabernet. The combination of soil and climate results in a unique flavor profile referred to as “Rutherford Dust,” often described as powdery-soft dusty tannins with notes of fine cocoa powder.
2018: A Vintage for the Ages
2018 brought a long, steady and near-ideal growing season to Napa Valley, yielding wines of intensity, concentration and balance. Our 2018 Hillside Reserve, aged in French and American oak for 18 months, offers pure Cabernet fruit centered on currant, blackberry and black cherry, with ancillary notes of brown spice, dark chocolate and espresso. It is a complex, full-bodied wine that finishes with ripe, chewy tannins. This is the Cabernet you bring out when you want to impress. It will age beautifully for at least another 15 years.
Your Cellar Will Thank You
The Rutherford Hillside Reserve is one of Flora Springs’ most age worthy Cabernets, a wine that will provide enjoyment for ten, fifteen or even twenty years when properly cellared. Each year we make a certain amount of the previous and/or older vintages available on a limited basis. Be sure to check the store on our website for these periodic library releases.
It takes a special Cabernet Sauvignon to be designated a Flora Springs “Single Vineyard.” Along with Trilogy and Flora’s Legacy Cabernet, these are the crown jewels in our portfolio. We asked General Manager Nat Komes how he and the winemaking team decides what makes the cut.
How do you determine when a vineyard is good enough to be bottled on its own?
To become a Single Vineyard a wine must convey a unique sense of place and individuality; in its aromas and flavors it must clearly express the characteristics of a particular site. Of course, the wine must be of extremely high quality. It’s gotta taste good!
How do you get complexity in a Single Vineyard wine?
The complexity comes from the site itself and in the way we blend different blocks together. Our viticultural practices are tailored to each block, allowing us to tease out the differences and distinctive characteristics of each one. That, coupled with the singularities each vintage brings, gives each of our Single Vineyard wines dimension and layers of complexity.
What winemaking techniques do you employ with the Single Vineyard Cabernets?
Our vinification is aimed at obtaining purity of fruit and the structure that makes for extended aging. We carefully hand sort the grapes upon receipt, give them a three- to four-day period of cold soaking prior to fermentation, and carefully manage the extraction of tannins during and after fermentation. Then we age the wines for about 18 months on average in French and/or American oak, depending on the wine.
What makes the Wild Boar Cabernet Sauvignon stands out as a Single Vineyard wine? Wild Boar has always been a revelation to me in the sense that I consider it to be an “all-American” wine. By that I mean it has a bit of a wild west character to it, yet it can also be polished and refined. Kind of like a well-dressed cowboy. We age Wild Boar in 70-75% American oak, which frames it in sweet, vanilla-like tannins. Although big, Wild Boar is never clumsy, but rather manages to walk the fine line between rich, ripe fruit and structural elegance.
Single Vineyard Cabernets
Truly elegant and powerful wines, that reflect the place from which they originate, learn more.
Flora Springs’ love affair with the Chardonnay varietal began when the winery was founded in 1978. In fact, you could say that it’s Chardonnay that put our winery on the map so many years ago! It has always been one of John Komes’ favorite wines, and since that first vintage, he’s made a Chardonnay every year we’ve been in business. We’d like to think we’ve gotten pretty good at it, always using the best fruit from our Napa Valley vineyards. To celebrate #ChardonnayDay on May 27, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of our favorite Chardonnay milestones.
Our Napa Valley Chardonnay Gets the Gold!
Back in the 1970s and 80s, the highest accolade a winery could earn was a Gold Medal from a wine competition. Our 1979 Napa Valley Chardonnay won a Gold at the prestigious Los Angeles County Fair in 1980. The recognition put Flora Springs on the map, and made everyone, including ourselves, take our winemaking a little more seriously
Full Steam Ahead
“With that surprising win, what had begun as a hobby was becoming a business, and Flora Springs went full steam ahead with producing the very best wines possible.”
“9 Places to Taste Excellent Napa Valley Chardonnay” by NapaValley.com
“While officially founded in 1978, grapes were first planted on this St. Helena property, located at the foot of the Mayacamas, in the late 1800s, which marked the start of Flora Springs’ fascinating history. The winery produces several different chardonnays, each with a unique flavor profile, from the juicy and tropical Family Select Chardonnay to the limited-production Flora’s Legacy Chardonnay, made from a barrel selection of the finest chardonnay of the vintage, in honor of Flora Komes, the inspiration for the winery.
Insider Tip: Flora Springs feels so strongly about the quality of their chardonnay and other white wines that the winery has been a leading proponent of the movement to introduce the #whitewineemoji.” Read the full article.
The 2018 Trilogy is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and if you’ve been keeping track, you’ll note these are the same three varieties that have comprised Trilogy since 2013, although in different percentages. The blend is not a given; each year we start from scratch, evaluating the wine lots and determining what will make the finest wine.
Of course Trilogy is always centered around a strong core of Cabernet Sauvignon…that much we do know. Cabernet gives the wine its strongest, most concentrated fruit component, as well as its full body and fine tannin structure. Cabernet endows the wine with aging power. Malbec, on the other hand, gives the wine an opening, with rich, dark fruit that makes you sit up and take notice right away. Petit Verdot, in contrast, stretches the wine, leaving you with a long, satisfying finish. It adds color too, but it’s the lingering quality of Petit Verdot that I really love.
So you see, at least in 2018, and in the previous five vintages, Malbec and Petit Verdot provide the framework for Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s like a painting you’d find in a museum, where the gilded frame is the platform and the finishing touch on an otherwise beautiful portrait. Next year may bring a different blend, with other varieties. We never know until we start to taste the new lots. What we do know is that our mission with Trilogy, since the beginning, is to create the best wine possible from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley. In that we will never waver.
One of the many reasons Napa Valley is such a superb region for growing wine grapes is its incredible diversity. Although a mere 30 miles long and several miles wide, the valley is home to a wide range of microclimates and a vast array of soil types. Over the years, this diversity has led vintners and growers to create defined grape growing areas within Napa Valley. These areas, which reflect their regional designations, are called American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs.
The Napa Valley is itself an AVA having received its own designation in 1981. It is California’s first recognized AVA and the second in the United States. Over time, sixteen “nested” AVAs have been designated within the Napa Valley AVA. Flora Springs owns and farms vineyards in five of these, including the St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Oak Knoll and Los Carneros AVAs.
“Kairos is just south of the Stags Leap District, kind of wedged between the Stags Leap, Oak Knoll and Coombsville AVAs,” says General Manager Nat Komes. “So when we bottle the Out of Sight Cabernet, we use the Napa Valley appellation on the label. But that doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of the vineyard or wine.”
In fact, there are plenty of properties renowned for high quality grapes and wines that do not lie within a nested AVA. Examples include sites that are between the St. Helena and Howell Mountain AVAs as well as vineyards found east of Oakville in the mountainous area known as Pritchard Hill.
For now, says Nat, “The Kairos Vineyard is a perfect example of the quality that can come from areas outside the nested AVA system.” For proof, look no further than Flora Springs Out of Sight Cabernet Sauvignon.
We are so pleased to introduce our first new Single Vineyard Cabernet in over two decades. John and Nat have been working on this project for years, tasting wines from all over the appellation to find just the right flavor and tannin profile. As they explored and experimented, they finally identified a wine from one of the highest elevation sites in the AVA that met their criteria, a beautifully expressive mountain Cabernet, distinct from our other Single Vineyards but no less prized. Why Dust & Glory?
Soliloquy is named for Flora Springs’ proprietary Sauvignon Blanc clone, a singular clone entirely unique to us.
It nearly went extinct when the vines became diseased a couple decades ago, but through various heroic measures we were able to preserve the clone in our Crossroads Vineyard. Recently I decided to re-create Soliloquy, relying on my early memory of the wine to produce what I think could be the finest white wine we’ve ever made.
It was a long process, three years of countless blending trials, but today I’m proud to say that the 2019 Soliloquy has earned its place as Flora Springs’ flagship white wine, a fitting companion to our flagship red, Trilogy. I could not be more excited to introduce this singular white wine. Watch our newest video and learn more about its fascinating history.
In Napa Valley this time of year, you’re likely to see vineyard crews scattered amongst the vines. “What are they doing,” you ask? They are Shoot Thinning and Leaf Pulling.
Shoot thinning and leaf pulling are part of overall vineyard canopy management, as seen here in Sauvignon Blanc vines at our Soliloquy Vineyard. Learn how our Soliloquy Vineyard is entirely unique to Flora Springs and distinct from more common Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Napa Valley.
Shoot thinning is a process in which any unnecessary shoots are removed—typically those in the lower regions of the vine. Removing select shoots allows the vines’ energy to be directed towards the primary shoots, which will ultimately bear fruit.
Leaf thinning is conducted for a variety of reasons, particularly in wet years like this one when the canopy tends to be vigorous. Too much vigor can lead to vegetative characteristics—which we don’t want! Removing the leaves curtails this issue. Leaf thinning also opens up the canopy, allowing increased air flow and quicker drying in the event of morning dew or rain, and to prevent mildew in humid conditions. This opening of the canopy also increases light penetration—which is needed for photosynthesis. Sunlight exposure improves grape quality, protects the berry, and also elevates the phenols and polyphenols that are responsible for the color, taste, and flavor of the wine.
While this work is being done, the crews are also positioning the shoots. The shoots may be 24”–36” at this point. If we are working in a vineyard that has a vertical trellis system, there will be a series of horizontal wires running from one end of the row to the other. As the vine grows, the shoots will be tucked into the wire trellis to allow for what is commonly referred to as VSP, or vertical shoot positioning. This allows further opening of the canopy. There are other types of trellises, but VSP is the primary system implemented in most Flora Springs vineyard blocks.
After the initial thinning pass, each block will be monitored in the weeks to come to determine when/if additional passes are to be made.
Ever wonder how a wine cork is made? Winemaker Paul Steinauer recently traveled to Portugal for a behind-the-scenes look into the cork-making process and the operations of Flora Springs’ cork supplier. Here’s a peek into how corks are made.
First, a cork harvester carefully strips the cork bark from the tree.
Then the cork bark dries out on pallets for several months.
After drying, the cork goes into stainless steel tanks where it is submerged in water to be rinsed, cleaned and re-hydrated.
Then, the tops and bottoms of the outer bark is removed by a stripping machine.
And the bark is cut to the proper width.
After each cork is individually punched out of the bark, it is run through a machine that measures its density, and therefore its ability to contain liquid. If it does not meet a specific density, it is discarded.
Our supplier selects cork lots from only the top-quality manufacturers, and then hauls the lots to their facility to undergo additional quality control. They test for appearance and perform a sensory analysis. The corks are warmed to enhance any odor compounds that may be present. They are looking for Trichloroanisole (TCA), which is better known as cork taint and can damage the wine—as well as any other negative odor compounds. If any negative compounds are detected, the entire lot is returned to the manufacturer.
Random samples from various lots are then placed in these small bottles to undergo a soak test. This test will detect any TCA that may not have been found during smell testing.
Once the lots have passed all quality control requirements, samples from each lot are archived at the supplier’s headquarters. If we ever discover a problem with a number of corks, the supplier can reference the problem corks with samples from the same lot to determine what issues may be present.
A great deal of work goes into the cork-making process, every cork is handled approximately ten times by the time it is approved for use. The “simple” wine cork is an expensive part of the overall wine packaging costs, but necessary to ensure the quality we expect to protect our wines.
Five Fun Facts:
Cork trees are oak trees.
Cork bark is harvested from 35 – 200 year old trees.
For most 750mL closures, the bark is harvested every seven years.
Most premium corks are harvested in Portugal; Spain is the only other significant producer.
All of the corks Flora Springs uses are harvested in Portugal.
In Europe it is not uncommon to find winemaking dynasties that go back dozens of generations. We can’t say the same for Napa Valley; after all, wine grapes weren’t even planted here until the 19th century. But we like to think that Flora Springs, now in its third generation, is a dynasty in the making. That’s why the term Grand Estates Tradition appears on the back label of each of our Single Vineyard Cabernets. These wines are produced from estate vineyards in Napa Valley that our family has farmed for decades. They represent some of the finest micro-sites in Napa Valley, blocks that are so distinct and outstanding they deserve to be bottled on their own. With less than five hundred cases produced each year, and consistently among our highest scoring wines, our Single Vineyard Cabernets are in high demand.
Regarding the 2016 vintage, Winemaker Paul Steinauer says, “An early bud break followed by warm weather and spring rains brought a rapid start to an ideal 2016 growing season, one with beautiful weather from bloom, to berry set, to veraison and harvest in our Napa Valley estate vineyards.”
Our Preferred Palates Wine Club Members have a guaranteed allocation of these very limited wines. Learn more about the benefits of membership.
“Captivating from top to bottom…The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignons are gorgeous wines endowed with striking aromatic intensity, nuance and depth…2016 is second only to 2013 among the top vintages of this decade so far.” – Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018