Pine Ridge Vineyards, in the Stags Leap District, lies tucked beneath a ridge of pines, with a full view of the rugged palisades that speak to the dramatic geologic origins of our home and its world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon soils.
Our new Single Vineyard Cabernets from the Stags Leap District are among the finest wines we produce. Crafted in small amounts and therefore available only to club members and to those who visit the winery, these four Cabernets represent forty years of growing and making wine in the Stags Leap District. While we continue to produce appellation wines such as our Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville Cabernets, etc., the Single Vineyard Cabernets are our way of painting a more complete and fascinating portrait of the four Stags Leap District vineyards we own, farm and cherish.
The 2019 Circle Hill Cabernet in your shipment, the second Single Vineyard we’ve released, is a spectacular wine. In his update this month Viticulture Director Gustavo Aviña describes the complexity of the site, with a variability in soils and clones that contributes to the intricacy and completeness of the wine. The amazing Block 2, planted to Clone 33, provides richness and viscosity, breadth and depth. Lots from Block 2, which often form the foundation of FORTIS, are weighty and mouth filling, endowing this Cabernet with a velvety texture. Blocks 1a and 1b, planted to Clone 7, give Circle Hill its sinew and girth, similar to a tannin corset. Finally, Blocks 3-6, up on the terraces, deliver more savory flavors; I compare these lots to salt and pepper, a little spice goes a long way.
As a club member you also have access to FORTIS and Epitome Cabernet Sauvignons, which we meticulously craft to be the finest wines of the vintage. As we’ve evolved the programs for these singular wines, we’ve decided to designate each vintage either a FORTIS year, or an Epitome year. FORTIS will be made in exceptional vintages when we are able to craft a big, powerful, complex wine that can be laid down for aging. FORTIS Cabernets are meant to be cellared; they have the power, structure and intensity to see them through decades. Epitome Cabernets will be made in vintages that dictate a softer wine, a wine purposefully crafted to enjoy while young. Still the finest wine of the vintage, Epitome brings the immediate pleasures of richness, concentration and voluptuousness. We think you’ll appreciate both wines and the distinct profiles revealed by each vintage.
In the coming months, we’ll release two additional Single Vineyard Cabernets, also available exclusively to you, our club members. We hope you enjoy these new offerings from our forever home in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.
Josh Widaman Estate Winemaker
The 2019 Circle Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in your shipment this month is the second wine to be released under our new Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon program at Pine Ridge and is quickly becoming one of my favorites. We acquired the site, which sits about a mile north of the winery in the Stags Leap District AVA, in 1993, and planted vines there in 1994. Ever since, Circle Hill has provided essential components to FORTIS as well as our Stags Leap District Cabernet. And now, as a vineyard designate, Circle Hill is getting its own wine.
Circle Hill can accurately be described as two vineyards in one. Situated on the west side of the Silverado Trail, the property is essentially a hill that slopes down into flatlands. It gets its name from the view that can be seen from above: a hill with amphitheater-like terraces spiraling 360° to its crest. The vineyard is divided into six blocks, and it’s not too hard to see how the blocks on the hill differ from those on the flats. The terraces comprise volcanic soils with well-draining sand, rocks and clay. Soils on the flats are mostly bale clay loam studded with round river rocks. Because these blocks retain little water, we irrigate more frequently but with less volume.
As Estate Winemaker Josh Widaman describes in his piece this month, the Circle Hill Cabernet draws from all blocks in the vineyard, including Block 2, which is a piece of land worth pausing on. The farthest block from the Silverado Trail, Block 2 has both soil types found at Circle Hill. Years ago we grafted these vines from Malbec to Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 33, and I’ll never forget the first harvest of the new vines, when I just couldn’t stop tasting grapes from Circle Hill Block 2. No wonder lots from this block have been some of the foundational wines for FORTIS.
I remember when we first considered making four Single Vineyard Cabernets from our four Stags Leap District vineyards, I was a little skeptical. I wondered if the wines would be different enough. But when I started tasting with the team, and as I continue to taste, I’ve been amazed at the distinction between the wines. They really do have their own individual personalities, and I’m excited to be able to share them with you.
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