Considering the current dystopian weather timeline the fine state of California is experiencing in 2023, you’d be forgiven if you failed to recall the horrible fires that ravaged Napa Valley in 2020. Most of the region, including an area our Editor-in-Chief then called home, was engulfed in smoke or fire for weeks before seeing some semblance of relief. Add the uncertainty of the twin menaces of a global pandemic and recession, and things got a bit challenging for even the most hardened of spirits.
Larkmead was no exception. The 2020 vintage produced 80 days of temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and like everyone else on this planet, the operation had to readjust and adapt to find new ways of making wine. Thankfully, Larkmead is positioned on a special site that traditionally fosters an earlier harvest period, so they were able to generate a large enough yield for the year’s vintage. Enough reminders of the bad stuff. Let’s get to the good stuff.
This bottle is constructed with 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc which sat for 16 months in new French oak.
Right from the start, there are immense notes of dark cherry and vanilla which require an exercise in discipline, not wanting to drink this immediately without any time to settle. And with a bit of patience, there are rewards of spice and plum which show themselves, but never showing anything truly out of balance. The palate stays the course and enhances the experience, weaving through cocoa powder and mint before landing on a touch of tobacco leaf on the finish. Even with bright acidity and a decent amount of tannin, it is relentless and indulgent without ever morphing into something too forward or brutal.
This is ready to be enjoyed now or stashed out of sight and memory for a few years. Either way, I’m quite certain both will yield delightful results: A bottle that endured against onerous odds, made with grapes that thrived under nature’s most challenging conditions. The little bottle that could, and most certainly does the job better than most.
A / $125