Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley
Cost: $49-51
O ne of the great benefits of writing about wine is I get to try many different wines. In fact, I feel obligated to search out wines I haven’t had before.
But it also is nice to go back to the tried and true wines I know will be good. Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon fits nicely into that category. The winery is among the dozen or so that I can count on to produce wine in a style I like no matter what the grape.
We had the 2016 vintage cab with a weeknight dinner, and it turned into a spectacular evening. Then we pulled the 2014 vintage out of the cellar to see how it compared on another night, and it was at least as good or better.
The 2016 was slow to open, but when it did warm up, inviting aromas of dark fruit poured out of the glass. It is a rich, full wine, deep garnet, almost purple. With each sip I picked up different tastes, all very satisfying.
Blackberry predominated, with some cassis, vanilla bean and a hint of mocha. The wine is smooth, and you might think soft, but there is a good backbone, full of fresh acidity and relaxed tannins.
The grapes came from Flora Springs’ sustainably-farmed estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford and Oakville, the heart of Napa Valley. The grapes were harvested by hand and cold-soaked for several days to extract flavor and color.
After fermentation all lots of the wine were aged in a combination of French (79 percent) and American (21percent) oak barrels for 19 months prior to blending.
The blend is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon.
The 2014 vintage was 100 percent cabernet sauvignon and the wine was aged for 22 months in oak barrels. It was a spectacular vintage throughout Napa, so I suspect winemakers wanted a little extra time on oak to smooth out the powerful wine.
Even with two more years in the bottle it was more powerful than the 2016, but it also was a well-rounded wine. Everything was in balance.
Winery: Flora Springs is one of those wineries that kind of snuck into my consciousness. I didn’t know much about it when I tried one of their chardonnays five years ago. The 2012 vintage was only $20 and it was fabulous. The 2017 vintage now goes for $36, and it is still spectacular. In fact, Flora Springs has been winning medals for its chardonnay since its first vintage in 1978.
Since that first taste, every wine of theirs I have tried has been outstanding.
Even though the winery was founded in 1978, it traces its history back to the 19th Century. Many wineries founded in the 1800s went out of business when Prohibition hit. Of course, the buildings were still standing and usually the vines still produced grapes.
Because no one lived there or harvested the grapes, they became known as ghost wineries. Jerry and Flora Komes bought one of those ghost wineries, formerly owned by the Rennie brothers, with a plan to retire there.
Their son John had other ideas and thought it might be exciting to restore the ghost winery and make some wine.
There were grapevines on the property already, so the family made wine the first year. They made 200 cases with home winemaking equipment. Their 1979 chardonnay won a gold medal at the prestigious Los Angeles County Fair.
Eventually, the whole family got involved in running the winery, including Jerry and Flora Komes and their children, John and his wife Carrie, and Julie Garvey and her husband Pat.
The family restored the stone winery at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in the far northwest corner of the Rutherford appellation and expanded the caves dug into the hillside to 1,000 linear feet.
They named the winery after Flora and the natural springs that flow uninterrupted through the property, even during drought.
They now own 650 acres of organically-farmed, sustainable vineyards. About 90 percent of the winery’s red wine is sourced from those vineyards.
During the 1990s Flora Springs had a wine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 six times.
The estate blends history with state-of-the-art technology and environmentally conscious techniques. Specifically tailored stainless steel and concrete fermenters are sized to match the blocks of the nine estate vineyards. The family tries to craft each wine to reflect the place in which it was grown.
Furthering the family’s commitment to sustainability, the winery is run primarily by solar power.
Third-generation vintners and cousins Nat Komes and Sean Garvey, both of whom grew up at the winery washing barrels and sweeping floors, are now poised to take over the operations.
Flora Springs’ signature wine is a blockbuster Bordeaux varietal blend called Trilogy.
The winery makes a number of artisanal wines and several single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons.
The 2014 Flora Springs Cab was great with a mixed Tempura that included shrimp and vegetables.
Goes with: We drank this gorgeous wine with an old family favorite, bell pepper stew. We used to call it green pepper stew until we started adding red, yellow and orange peppers as well.
This is a rich, hearty dish that needs a powerful wine for pairing. The Flora Springs cab had power to spare and the rich, smooth fruit flavors were a great match for the tomato-based sauce in this dish.
It is essentially bell peppers stuffed with ground beef and rice, cooked in a tomato sauce. With all those big flavors, it takes a special wine to stand up to the stew. I loved the way the fruit of the cab played off the pepper and tomato flavors. Throughout the meal the fruit and acidity of the wine smoothed out the stew.
We had the 2014 vintage with a tempura mixed plate. We had chicken, bell peppers, onions and carrots all fried in tempura batter. I also made hash browns and Teri added a tossed salad.
It seemed counter-intuitive, but the power of the cab kept the vegetal flavors in check and did not overpower the shrimp. In fact, I think my favorite match of flavors was this cab with the shrimp.
This cabernet would make a wonderful companion for rare-cooked meats, classic cheese fondue, rosemary-braised lamb shanks, or beef carpaccio with wild arugula.
The 2014 Flora Springs cab paired well with bell pepper stew.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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