When In Roam

Carl Chu's Food & Travel Blog

Friday, September 21, 2007

Meritage: 2003 St. Supéry Élu

On my visit to Napa Valley last summer, I stopped by St. Supéry Winery in Rutherford for the first time. The place immediately impressed me for its graceful and slightly irreverent aura—the apotheosis of the California spirit, in my opinion. The wines, no less, were memorable.

Even though St. Supéry has quite a reputation with their white wines, I took an immense liking for the Élu, the winery's proprietary red wine. It is a so-called “Meritage” wine—a word (from "merit" and "heritage") coined by Napa Valley wineries to mean wines made from Bordeaux type grapes grown in the valley. For reds, they are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec. For whites, sauvignon blanc and semillon.

Like Bordeaux, the proportions of grapes used in a Meritage may vary from year to year, from winery to winery. In some years, some grapes are left out as well. As a result, Meritage wines are as varied as the wineries themselves, and through them you can learn a lot about the winemaker's philosophy—more so than from a varietal wine like merlot or cabernet sauvignon.

The 2001 Élu that I bought last year (67% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot) is a balanced and intense wine with a ripe bouquet and fruity palate. Neither spicy nor effervescent, it is eminently smooth with soft tannins. Even though I would recommend drinking it now, I plan to keep a couple of bottles for five years and see how it will have matured at that time.

I came back to St. Supéry this year to sample the newly released 2003 Élu (75% cabernet sauvignon, 18% merlot, 4% petit verdot, 2% cabernet franc, 1% malbec). I liked this one even more than the 2001. To start, the 2003 has a soft, elegant bouquet that suggests this is something special. Then, in the palate, the wine starts with a nice combination of fruits and nuts, with a little spice piqued by moderate tannins. The hint of oak is neither contrived nor overpowering, and minutes after the initial sip, the palate still bursts with spring fruits of berries and cherries. The 2003 Élu is something to be enjoyed on special occasions. Yet, I wouldn’t rule out just sitting back with it on its own as a self-indulgent splurge. I am saving some bottles of this for ten years.

St. Supéry Winery is on Route 29 in Rutherford, California.

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