Howell Mountain lies well above the fog line along the northeastern side of Napa Valley. Since the 1880s, adventurous winemakers have been drawn to the mountain’s unique climate and soils, as well as the challenges of mountain winemaking, a consistent attraction that has resulted in a legacy of wines that have garnered high critical acclaim. On many summer mornings, a white blanket of coastal fog covers the Napa Valley. Howell Mountain, in stark contrast, rises gracefully above the fog line, giving it slightly warmer nighttime temperatures and cooler mid-day temperatures than the valley floor. While the differences in temperature between day and night on Howell Mountain are still pronounced enough to maintain balanced acidity in grapes, the steadier climate allows the berries to develop thicker skins that impart intense color, texture and structure to wines.
Furthermore, during the hours when the valley floor is covered in fog, the vineyards are bathed in sunlight. As a result, the grapes experience the rich advantages of warmth while the altitude—more than 1,700 feet—protects them from stressful heat spikes. Plus, the vines enjoy more rain high on Howell Mountain, and the wet winters give way to the sunny, dry growing seasons that develop the finest expression of the fruit.
Underneath Howell’s fog lays La Jota Howell Mountain 21st Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon 2002. Classic Howell Mountain tannins, powerful and focused, but ripely sweet, frame opulent cherry, cassis, plum sauce and new oak flavors, and for all that, there’s a crisp edge of acidity that makes everything clean and bright. Drink now through 2012. Classic Napa mountain Cab, intensely concentrated in fruit, richly tannic, and dry, and of course, such a wine needs and deserves the new oak they lavished on it. Flavors and structure perfectly balance, with massive cherry pie, cassis and mocha flavors meshing with sweetly ripe tannins and rich barrel notes of vanilla and char. This is a dramatic, complex young Cab that will hold for six years. It would be best paired with ribeye with blue cheese stuffed morel mushrooms.
An outstanding high mountain fruit-forward wine at a limited-time special deal at $38 per bottle online at wines.com.