February 28, 2023
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in Robb Report and can be found here.
“The 9 Best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons From the Storied Howell Mountain Appellation”
by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
Long before the 1976 Judgment of Paris put Napa Valley’s vinous treasure on the wine world map, bottles from Howell Mountain were taking home medals at international contests. In 1889, a wine made by Jean Adolph Brun and Jean V. Chaix, pioneers in what is now the high-altitude AVA in the northeast of the valley took home a bronze medal from the Paris World Competition. Ten years later, two other early hillside settlers, W.S. Keyes and Frederick Hess, were awarded gold and bronze medals, respectively, for their Howell Mountain wines. It took almost another hundred years for official government recognition; in 1983 Howell Mountain was named the first AVA within the greater confines of the Napa Valley AVA.
What sets this small American Viticultural Area near Saint Helena apart from many other wine regions is that its perimeter is delineated not just by geographic borders but by altitude: All vineyards must be a minimum of 1,400 feet above sea level. And while many wines from Napa and neighboring Sonoma benefit from cooling Pacific fog that rolls in each morning, Howell Mountain’s vines sit above the fog line, offering full sunlight throughout the day. Mountain conditions create berries with thick skin, offering a higher peel to juice ratio and stronger tannins. At the same time, cooler temperatures at higher altitudes aid in retaining acidity; this balanced tannin and acidity create wines that are made to last. That said, picking at perfect ripeness and a judicious use of oak means that while these will age beautifully for years, no one would fault you for opening a bottle now. Back in the day, Howell Mountain wine was likely to be Zinfandel, but today its vineyards are mainly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties for blending. Among the region’s 66 member vineyards and wineries you will find familiar faces with national distribution and small volume cult wines that take a little work to acquire. Here’s a selection of Cabs to get you started…
The name Dust & Glory is to honor founder Flora Komes who often used this phrase borrowed from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This delightful wine is purple ink colored when poured from the bottle with very concentrated aromas of blueberry, cassis and dark chocolate. It has flavors of black plum, blackberry and a touch of bramble. The tannins are plush yet firm and the lingering finish has notes of cedar, smoke and mocha. Enjoy now until 2029.
This is the second vintage of our Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain AVA, the first new Single Vineyard Cabernet to be added to our portfolio in over two decades. We always admired the wines of Howell Mountain, an appellation that sits to the east of St. Helena in the Vaca Mountain range. But we also learned that growing fruit on Howell Mountain comes with its challenges; the grapes are typically late-ripening and the tannins can be overwhelming. But as John and Nat Komes explored and experimented, they 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? Read more.
August 30, 2022
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in International Wine Review and can be found here.
Flora Springs is one of the Napa Valley’s storied wineries. Located at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range in Napa Valley, it became famous in the 1990s, especially for its Cabernet Sauvignon. We reviewed Flora Springs wines earlier this year and were so impressed with their Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon blend that we asked to taste their portfolio of single vineyard Cabernets, which are the wines we review in this article. These are exceptionally elegant and flavorful wines. Beginning in 2019, Enrico Bertoz is responsible for the winemaking, having replaced long time winemaker Paul Steinauer, who has retired. Read our earlier article for more about what’s happening at Flora Springs including a review of their unique Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc blend.
The 2020 Napa wildfires means Flora Springs had very limited production in that year. In short, if you want to buy Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, do so now.
Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Holy Smoke Vineyard Oakville Napa Valley
Dark red. Shows an expansive nose of black currant with deeper notes of loam soil and chocolate shavings that are mirrored on a deeply flavored, mouth filling palate. The texture is silky with a firm structure, juicy acidity, and an overall sense of refinement. The oak is seamlessly integrated with just a hint of toast. And the finish is persistent with moderate tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a single block planted to Clone 4 and matured 18 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.
Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Wild Boar Vineyard Napa Valley
The Wild Boar Cab is a supple wine with good intensity of fruit. It begins with savory, earthy aromas married to cassis fruit. The attack is soft and refined, leading to a palate of dark fruit with hints of chocolate and loam. Surprisingly accessible with round tannins and a long flavorful finish. Of all the Flora Springs single vineyard Cabernets, this is the one we would choose to drink now. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 30% French and 70% American oak.
Flora Springs 2018 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Napa Valley
Dark red. On the nose, gorgeous up front aromas of blackberry, cassis, and tobacco leaf. Silky smooth attack followed by a beautifully refined mouth feel and concentrated, layered flavors of dark cherry, dark berries and savory dried herbs. A youthful wine, it has a distinct stoney, chalky mineral character. Finishes with a long flavorful finish with soft round tannins. Surprisingly evolved for a mountain wine, but then 2018 was an exceptional vintage. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from one of the highest vineyard sites on the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain; matured 22 months in 94% French and 6% American oak.
Flora Springs 2019 Rutherford Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley
On the nose, the Rutherford Hillside shows earthy, dark fruit complemented by smoky oak and cooking spice. It’s soft and silky on entry with a beautifully balanced and pure, refined character. Black currant and black raspberry show on the firmly structured and densely flavored palate, but despite its youth this wine is accessible now. Finishes long with dark fruit, cocoa dust, and earthy notes. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a small block of vines on the northwestern edge of the Rutherford appellation aged 18 months in 90% French and 10% American oak. The Rutherford Hillside Cab has been produced as a single vineyard wine since 1994.
Flora Springs Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons
Truly elegant and powerful wines, that reflect the place from which they originate. Shop our current releases or contact us at (800) 913-1118 to inquire about other vintages.
December 30, 2021
If you haven’t gotten in on the debut release of our 2017 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain AVA, now is the time.
The first new Single Vineyard Cabernet to be added to our portfolio in over two decades, the wine is from one of the highest elevation sites in the AVA, and as a beautifully expressive mountain Cabernet that needs time to mellow, it’s drinking beautifully right now.
Awarded 94 and 93 points respectively by respected wine critics James Suckling and Jeb Dunnuck, the 2017 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, layered and saturated red with aromas and flavors of black currants, black raspberries, tobacco, cedarwood and chocolate. There’s a spiciness to the wine along with hints of violets and buttery toffee.
We encourage you to order a few bottles both to enjoy now and cellar, as this wine has the potential to age at least 15 years.
94 points, James Suckling
“A rich, layered red with aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, spices, chocolate and salted toffee. Full-bodied, creamy and chewy. Delicious already, but this needs time to resolve the tannins. Well done for the vintage.”
93+ points, Jeb Dunnuck
“The flagship release is the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Dust & Glory, which is all from Howell Mountain fruit. It reveals a saturated purple color to go with notes of blackcurrants, leafy herbs/tobacco, cedarwood, and violets. With medium to full body, a solid sense of freshness and purity, plenty of ripe mountain tannins, and a great finish, it’s going to come together with 4-5 years of bottle age and drink well over the following 10-15+.”