WINE REVIEW: Ehlers Estate 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($72)
by Andrew Chalk
Appearance: Opaque ruby with a weight in the glass that suggests one is looking at a wine of substance;
Nose: Smoky, cedar and oaky notes. Appears to be aged in barrels with considerable toast. Fruity notes of boysenberry are soft and seductive. Hard herbs, rosemary and thyme accompany dill enhancing complexity. These comments could be as accurately applied five days after opening as when the cork was pulled.
Palate: Plentiful acid ensures this wine is alive in the mouth, even when paired with challenging foods like bitter melon stuffed with pork in a broth. Full-bodied with miles of depth in the boysenberry fruit but evolved enough to wrap the tongue and roof of the mouth in chewy tannins. Long finish of the secondary flavors of herbs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Will age for at least a decade.
Summary: How is Ehlers Estate so inconspicuous? The world’s first ‘stealth winery’? They are very under-the-radar for a producer of such fine Napa cabernet, especially given that, in the rarefied air that is Napa Valley cabernet pricing, this can be legitimately described as a bargain.
The winery reports “2018 was a perfect vintage from a weather standpoint. Cooler nights and mild daytime temperatures in August helped to retain the beautiful natural acidity and delicate flavors and aromas of the fruit. The excellent weather conditions allowed for less irrigation and longer hang time for the grapes. This helped gain more concentration of fruit character in the wine during fermentation. We were able to pick at the perfect time in sugar, flavor, color, and tannin ripeness without losing acidity.”
Although this is not an estate wine vine growing at Ehlers is a central part of how the winery defines itself. Sustainability, expressed through organic agriculture, is a core value.
THE WINE IN STATS
Varietal: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon (18% non Estate) and 14% Cabernet Franc
Harvest: September and October 2018
Wine Analysis: 14.5 % alcohol ● 3.69 pH
Oak Aging: 61% New French Oak, 39% used French oak for 22 months
Appellation: St. Helena, Napa Valley
Bottling Date: August 20, 2020
Cases Produced: 2541 cases