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Last week we learned about Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate, and the one white wine produced there, Blancaneaux. Today we’ll review the flagship wine of the estate, and the wine that gives the estate its name: Rubicon.
The 2004 vintage was one of the ripest ever seen in Napa, which means the wines of that year should be “huge”, or have a high concentration of fruit. It was the earliest harvest since 1994 due to the warmth of the season — which was a fortunate anomaly since there have been more cooler vintages than warm in the last fifteen years.
However, that warmth and ripeness did not equal abundance. In fact, 2004 was a fairly light crop, with not much fruit — it yielded 25% less cases compared to 2003. In contrast, the 2005 vintage was the largest harvest in history, but didn’t have quite the same ripeness (but it was still pretty damn ripe!).
Because of the extreme ripeness and concentration of 2004, winemaker Scott McLeod chose to age the wine in 100% French oak barrels (small ones, called “barriques”). When you have a lot of fruit, you can give it some oak to add vanilla and spice components without worrying about the wine tasting like a tree. McLeod chose French oak because it leaves less of a “stamp” on the wine; American oak barrels tend to impart more “woodiness” to a wine.
Rubicon 2004 Tasting Notes
The nose is full of violets, with blackberry and other black fruits, as well as some vanilla spice.
In the mouth you get ripe black fruit right away: black raspberry, plum, black cherry. There are equally ripe tannins and good acidity holding things together, and an incredibly silky texture. There is lots of complexity, with flavors of rum raisin, sour cherries, vanilla and other spices. Additionally, it has great length (meaning, flavors hang around in the mouth for well over a minute after swallowing), finishing with black fruit and licorice. It’s OK alone, but it’s very big and most valuable with food — I’d drink it with a braise or a stew or a hunk of cheese.
a-10 t-10 b-10 fc-9 v-7 ~ 96 Points
In addition to the 2004, I was able to get a sneak preview of the 2005 out of barrel. It’s huge, with a wide open nose of red and black berry fruits — licorice, violets, boysenberry, earth. Flavors are similar, but this wine was way too young and nowhere near ready to judge. I can tell you it’s going to be a monster. Meantime, there is the 2004 to drink (or cellar).
Winery: Rubicon Estate