A question I get often is “What does it mean when the label says Reserve? Is it really worth it or is it just an excuse to jack up the price?” My answer is “Maybe, sometimes.” Some winemakers may overuse the term for marketing purposes, but traditionally speaking, wines that were ‘held in reserve’ in the barrel to age more, or those that were handled with a more artful hand are rightfully granted Reserve status.
Recently, I was sent three wines from the Napa Cellars Reserve Label to review. Winemaker Joe Shirley has selected the specific appellation and vineyards that the grapes were harvested, that and his guiding hand make these wines his artful expression of a true Napa Valley wine.
2010 Napa Cellars Mount Veeder Chardonnay Grapes harvested from this small region in Napa Valley are picked by hand and aged a total of nine months in 100% French oak barrels. Aromas of apple and pear lead to a multidimensional mouth-feel of crisp fruit with a lingering essence of clove on the finish. This is a dry, earthy Chardonnay with no heavy buttery flavors. This wine sips great on its own, but it will be equally welcome paired with Risotto with truffle oil. | Alcohol 14.2% | Retails $29 | 525 cases produced
2009 Dyer Vineyard Carneros Syrah Dyer Vineyard is located in the southern part of Napa Valley, the climate is cool which allows the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly. The grapes for this Syrah were handpicked and aged in 100% French oak for 18 months. Aromas of boysenberry draw you into the glass and lead you to spicy flavors and gripping acidity. Syrah is a great food wine, and this wine in particular is a welcome addition at the dinner table. Pair it with rib-eye steak and try to save a glass or two for the next day. This wine gains more depth on day two, suggesting to me that we should tuck a bottle or two in the cellar for another year. | Alcohol 13.8% | Retails $22 | 400 cases produced
2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard stretches from Eastern Oakville to Atlas Peak and soars 1,700 feet above the valley floor. Cool nights and long warm days extend time on the vines and allow the grapes to develop more concentrated flavors. These grapes were hand sorted and aged in 100% French oak for 21 months. Aromas of dark fruit and luscious flavors of red fruits; rhubarb and cherry give way to a very sexy finish. This is a great sipping wine, it doesn’t need food to bring out its best, however it is more than welcome to pair with a prime rib dinner. | Alcohol 13.8% | Retails $45 | 460 cases produced
To answer the question “Is Reserve really worth it?” With these wines, I can say yes. I’ve tasted the Napa Cellars ‘Traditional Label’ wines, and found them to be great varietal examples. Great, sturdy wines, that are available at an everyday price. But when you want more complexity, and a greater wine experience go for the reserve label, and here is why:
- The Chardonnay deserves the Reserve status because it isn’t overly done, cookie-cutter, ‘butter & oak in a glass‘ kind of wine.
- The Syrah deserves the Reserve status because its acidity is perfect for a juicy steak and the fact that this wine got better on day two, tells me it’s a ‘cellar selection’.
- The Cabernet Sauvignon deserves Reserve status because it was a luscious, sexy wine. If you want to buy a wine to impress someone, get this one. I wouldn’t know how it drank on day two, because it didn’t last.