Rutherford is one of best-known Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon AVAs, thanks in part to two of its wineries, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards, which have reputations for high-quality dating back more than 100 years. The famed Rutherford bench, tucked against the base of the Mayacamas mountains, features gravelly, well-draining alluvial soil that fosters rich flavors and complexity. And the term “Rutherford dust,” coined by legendary BV winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, gives the AVA a strong and unique identity.
Rutherford is located near the midpoint of Napa Valley’s north-south axis and touches both the eastern and western hillsides. It’s less likely to be underripe in cool years than the southern AVAs, and less likely to be cooked in hot years than the north. Nevertheless, vintage does matter—the length of the growing season, heat spikes or absence thereof, how much rain falls and when, etc.
The 2013 Vintage
“Ideal” is the single word I’ve heard the most with respect to the 2013 vintage in Rutherford. Vines got a head start on the growing season, made possible by warm, dry spring weather, which continued through the summer. And, with just one bump of very hot weather, ripening proceeded at a consistent, healthy pace. In the end, winemakers were able to make harvest decisions based on preference rather than necessity.
One winemaker said “the wines could be extracted without worry due to long hang times and moderate temperature. The result for him was concentrated fruit with refined structure.” For most producers, harvest came about two weeks earlier than in 2012 with slightly lower yields.
Sommelier Chris Sawyer, who moderated a Rutherford Dust tasting, said 2013 is “a vintage to stockpile and age, but which is drinking well now. I love the balance of these wines. They’re very food friendly.”
Rutherford is varietally unified, with 67% of all vineyard acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. But there is divergence in style. Terroir and producer preference there create some wines which are medium-bodied and supple with a full spectrum of Cabernet Sauvignon flavors, including herbal notes. Others are full-bodied with concentrated fruit and structure. Most fall somewhere in the middle of that range.
But, while there is substantial diversity, 2013 allowed wineries to make wines in their preferred style. You can buy 2013 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon from your favorite producers and feel confident they will be consistent with their wines from excellent vintages of the past.
As always, be sure to check in with your JJ Buckley Fine Wine Specialist or online at jjbuckley.com for your Rutherford and other Napa Valley Cab favorites!
Here are highlights from among the wines I sampled so far:
Aiken Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.5% alcohol
A superb wine, elegant, balanced and juicy with fine, soft tannins. Black cherry, black currant and cocoa. Best now through 2030.
Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.1% alcohol
Aromas and flavors of crushed black currant, spice and smoke. Juicy palate with medium+ body and matching fine and light tannins that are just beginning to soften. Excellent wine, best now through 2027.
Chaix Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Chaix Family Vineyards Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.9% alcohol
Red cherries, grilled blackberry, spice, cassis, dark chocolate and fresh herb. Medium+ body with fine- and light-grained tannins. Very nice—elegant and savory.
Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Estate Napa Valley 2013 14.5% alcohol
Approachable and delicious. Black currant jam, spice and milk chocolate with medium+ body and semi-soft, fine- and light-grained tannins. Best now through 2022.
Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon Ruttherford Napa Valley 2013 15.3% alcohol
Long flavors of ripe black cherry, dark berries, spice and eucalyptus. Medium+ body and fine-grained, chalky texture. Best now through 2023.
Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.5% alcohol
Nicely ripe blackberries, black currants and black cherries with spice and tangy herb. Medium+ body with fine, grippy texture. Long finish. Best now through 2022.
John Nathaniel Windfall Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2013
Black currant, dark flowers, spice, oak and coconut. Medium+ body and light-grained, chalky texture. Showing a little tart, red cherry on the palate too. Best now through 2023.
Piña Cabernet Sauvignon Firehouse Vineyard Rutherford Napa Valley 2013
Elegant but intensely flavorful: black fruit and spice. Medium+ body and fresh with very refined tannins.
Quintessa Red Wine Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.5% alcohol
Fresh with medium+ body and fine-grained texture. Long flavors of cocoa, spice, tangy black fruit jam and black truffle. Best now through 2026.
St. Supery Rutherford Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2013 14.5% alcohol
Long and intense with rich dark fruit, mocha, cinnamon, charred oak and dry leaves. Medium+ body with grippy, fine-grained tannins.
Wm. Harrison Vineyards & Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley 2013
Full-bodied with plenty of fine-grained, chalky texture. Flavors maraschino cherry, sweet spice, tobacco and dark chocolate. Very long, juicy finish. Best now through 2028.
JJ Buckley guest blogger Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator, and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing has appeared in The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal, where he is a contributing editor. Online, he writes for his own site, FredSwan.Wine (formerly NorCalWine), PlanetGrape, and the San Francisco Wine School where he also teaches. Fred’s certifications include the WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator and Level 3 WSET Educator. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. In that same year, he was inducted into the Eschansonnerie des Papes, the honorary society of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.
Photo provided by Napa Valley Vintners