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.
2019: A Stellar Vintage
The early part of the 2019 growing season was defined by heavy rainfall which replenished reservoirs and gave the soils plenty of moisture. A long, warm summer featured few extreme heat events, and the typically foggy mornings set the stage for vibrant and expressive wines. Harvest was long and relatively mild, helping to preserve freshness and finesse in the fruit with extended hang time teasing out great color, structure and soft tannins. Crop volume was average to a little less than average. In the end, it was another amazing vintage yielding exceptional fruit with bright acidity and ample flavor and texture. The 2019 Rutherford Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine you can drink now or cellar, it will continue to age through 2037.
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 Rutherford Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 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.
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.
The Komes-Garvey family has spent thirty years nurturing our Crossroads Vineyard in Oakville where our proprietary Soliloquy clone of Sauvignon Blanc is planted.
The Soliloquy clone is unique to Flora Springs, certified by UC Davis as distinctive and unlike more common Sauvignon Blanc clones in Napa Valley.
Flora Springs admires the clone for its purity of flavor, and has preserved it in a block that is easily the finest in the Crossroads Vineyard.
Our 2017 Soliloquy is an evolution of this wine, the upshot of vineyard experience and winemaking innovation.
The wine is the result of five years of winemaking trials as we experimented with a variety of blending, fermentation and aging techniques to create the best possible Soliloquy.
The 2017 is unlike anything we have made before: a wine with our Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc at its core, blended with portions of Chardonnay and Malvasia for an intriguing and thoroughly modern white wine.
With a nod to our history of innovation, Soliloquy is a wine worthy of its portfolio companion, our flagship red wine blend, Trilogy.
In 2017, we used two kinds of yeast, fermenting and aging the Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc in large wood oval casks to minimize exposure to oak and preserve the wine’s fresh fruit flavors and bright acidity.
The Chardonnay comes to us from a new vineyard in the south Napa Oak Knoll district. We fermented these small lots in French oak barrels, stirring the lees every two weeks to lend a creamy texture to the wine.
We sourced Malvasia – an aromatic varietal rarely grown in California – from a small vineyard in Russian River Valley. We fermented this lot in stainless steel and aged it in seasoned French oak.
Only 300 cases were made
Our 2017 Soliloquy is a complex, multi-layered white wine blend offering bright flavors of grapefruit, lime, fresh apricot, and yellow peach along with distinctive floral notes of jasmine, honeysuckle and white gardenia. The Chardonnay anchors the wine with a soft, round mouthfeel, but this richness is balanced with the crisp acidity, bright flavors and minerality of the Sauvignon Blanc and the uplifting, aromatic tones of the Malvasia. A worthy companion to Trilogy, this is a mouthfilling, rich and layered wine with vivid, forward fruit, a pleasant creamy mid-palate and a long, smooth floral/spicy finish. Learn more about this unique wine.
Note: The infamous wildfires that swept through Napa Valley started on October 8, 2017, just one day after Flora Springs had completed its harvest. Grapes for our 2017 Soliloquy had already been picked and fermented by this date. Read more about the 2017 harvest and fires.
One of the interesting facets of Trilogy is that at any one time we are working with two to three vintages…sometimes more. For instance, our 2015 Trilogy is the current release. While the winemaking for that vintage is complete, we are still shipping that wine out to customers on a daily basis.
Meanwhile the 2016 Trilogy is just about to be bottled. We’ve moved it out of our caves where it’s been resting for the past 12 months, and while our winemaking team puts the final tweaks on the blend, our cellar crew is moving the wine from barrel to tank to ready it for bottling. After that the cases will move to our warehouse where they’ll wait for the February 2019 release.
That leaves our 2017, the Trilogy that is still making its way through the winemaking process. It’s had a busy few months! We picked the grapes for that wine in late September and early October. After primary fermentation in our tank room, the wine was moved to another building where it underwent malolactic fermentation, a process that every red wine (and some white wines) undergo. From there, the 2017 wines were racked (moved) into barrels and placed in our barrel warehouse. Most recently, now that the 2016 vintage has been moved from the caves, the 2017 was given one more racking and then took its place as the current Trilogy in our aging caves. It will rest there until we blend and bottle it next summer.
One thing to note is that during all this time all the varietals and vineyard lots for Trilogy are kept separate, so the 2017 “Trilogy” is now simply a series of components in barrel: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We still don’t know which varietals or vineyard components will make it into the final blend, although our winemaking team is starting to form some ideas. One thing we do know is that Winemaker Paul Steinauer is really excited about the 2017 vintage. “All of the red components are showing beautifully right now, with deep color, great aroma and rich, concentrated flavour. We have a lot to work with here.” The team will get serious about blending decisions for the 2017 vintage later this year, after they’ve finished the 2018 harvest and brought in the grapes for our 2018 Trilogy!
Join us for our new release and be the first to taste our new Trilogy.
“To ensure we are obtaining only the most premium fruit, we have had to make the difficult decision to replant vineyards when the quality starts to deteriorate due to various forms of vine disease. Two of our Cabernet blocks in our Oakville Crossroads vineyards have recently been pulled out. This vineyard site in Oakville at our Crossroads vineyard had previously been planted to Chardonnay, and has now been re-developed and will be planted to Cabernet very soon.
This is a newly-planted vineyard, also at our Oakville Crossroads vineyards. This was formerly Pinot Grigio, and has also now been planted to Cabernet.
Crews are currently going through all of our vineyard blocks and suckering. Buds, or nodes at the base of the leaves, produce shoots called laterals or suckers. By doing this, more energy is focused on the vine – which increases grape quality. It also keeps the vine off the ground, and helps prevent unwanted molds and various insects.
The area between the nodes, the internodes, are supported with adjustable ties which are attached to guide wires. As the vines mature during the growing season, the guide wires – and thereby the vines – will be raised on the trellis system. The vines will be trained in such a way as to evenly distribute the clusters of fruit, and the canopy of leaves will protect the fruit from direct sunlight in order to prevent burn. The canopy will be open just enough to allow filtered light, as well as sufficient airflow throughout the vineyard.
Finally, we have the start of bloom in our Hillside Reserve Cabernet Vineyard.”
We started the harvest on Aug 16th picking Pinot Grigio in the Oak Knoll appellation, and we just finished on Tuesday, Oct 11th with Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville appellation – so just about a 2 month harvest.
All in all, it was a terrific harvest! We experienced a very light amount of rain that did not affect the grapes at all. We only had a few days with any unusual heat spikes. We are however, very glad to be finished, in that there is a significant amount of rain in the forecast from Friday through Monday. There are many wineries that are forced to leave their fruit out through the rains, and again, a relief to not be one of them.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer