Lokoya VS Cardinale - A battle of Napa Valley Elite Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday, July 8, 2023 - 07:30 PM

This Event has been read: 629 times.

“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.”
Ernest Hemingway


I am trying to drink as much wine as I can before I leave this earth!  We never know when that is and that’s why I say “Drink the Good Stuff First”!

So, when we recently acquired some older vintages of two of my favorite Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon producer’s wines, I immediately put a date on the calendar to drink them!  Both Cardinale and Lokoya are made by Chris Carpenter and we have had a few chances to break bread with Chris here at the Wine Bar.

We don’t have a lot of wine to sell here but as I always say; “We are doing scientific work with wine here at Wine Watch” and I would rather drink the world’s greatest wines than sell them! 

Cardinale was established with the 1985 vintage and was originally a blend of the best vineyards that the Jackson family owned in Lake County, Sonoma County and Napa Valley.  It has always been a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine with other Bordeaux varietals also included in certain vintages, this iconic wine is not made entirely from Napa Valley vineyards owned by the Jackson Family.

Lokoya was established in 1995 and has always been about expressing various high elevation vineyard sites in Napa Valley.  The wines have been among the best wines produced in Napa Valley since their inception and are completely different in style from Cardinale even though they are made by the same winemaker.

Join us as we experience some amazing vintage wines from one of the master winemakers of Napa Valley.   The fee for this tasting which includes dinner is $395 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.

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Cardinale VS Lokoya
A battle of Napa Valley’s Elite Cabernet
Saturday, July 8th
7:30 PM


Cheese and Charcuterie
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Harpke Farms Micro Greens and Balsamic Drizzle
Mushroom Ravioli with Cabernet Natural Sauce and Parmesan Reggiano
Sous Vide Pork Belly with Blackberry Balsamic Glaze and Blue Cheese Flan
Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownie

The price of this tasting which includes dinner is $395 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.


A bit about Lokoya Winery:

Lokoya was established in 1995, Lokoya is a collection of four distinct Cabernet Sauvignons from four of Napa Valley’s most celebrated mountain appellations. These limited-production, single-vineyard wines are 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon as lens, site as conveyor—The grape variety and winemaking for the four wines remain constant, allowing the vineyard sites to shine with the climate, soils, sunlight and drainage all fully expressed in the glass.

Given the lofty provenance of the sites, the vineyards demand constant engagement—leaving no room for error. The deep understanding of the vineyard trajectory in each vintage comes from the long collaboration between Winemaker Chris Carpenter and Vineyard Manager Mariano Navarro.

At elevations ranging from 1,100 to 2,500 feet, these Napa mountain sites are uncommon in the world of Cabernet Sauvignon—outside of California, the world’s great Cabernets reside primarily on benches and foothills.

Lokoya’s rarified mountain Cabernet bottlings express something altogether different in the king of red grapes; there’s a tension to the wines, an immense structural expression balanced by layer upon layer of aromatic intensity and textural hedonism. Highly sought after by collectors, the wines of Lokoya can be enjoyed for decades to come.

At the eastern side of Napa Valley’s Vaca Range, Howell Mountain peaks at 2,500 feet. Our estate vineyard sits on the high mountain plateau at 1,900 feet, surrounded by towering redwoods and pines. The vineyard’s soils of sandstone rocks, volcanic ash, red clay, and conifer biomatter, provide density and texture to the wine along with dark fruit flavors, sweet herbs, and minerality.

This appellation lies above the town of St. Helena on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, which separate Napa Valley from Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain. The vineyard is located at 1,600 feet and has sedimentary soils. The wine it produces opens with a signature floral perfume that leads to red and black fruit flavors. Satiny tannins yield on the palate, yet will fully reward cellaring.

Diamond Mountain overlooks the town of Calistoga in the northern reaches of Napa Valley and is part of the Mayacamas Mountains which frame the western edge of the valley. At elevations ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 feet, the vineyard soils are composed of fine volcanic dust and loam, providing rich flavors of dark cherry and bittersweet chocolate with relatively soft tannins and a layered mouthfeel.

Bathed in sunlight on the western ridges of the Mayacamas Mountains and at the northern end of the Mount Veeder appellation, this vineyard sits at 1,800 feet and struggles in rugged volcanic terrain. Shallow soils low in minerals and nutrients challenge the vitality of the vines and produce small berries with intensely concentrated fruit. The wine is full-bodied and structured, with layers of blue and black fruit and wet stone minerality. It’s a superb candidate for cellaring.

A bit about Cardinale Winery:

Cardinale is a relatively new winery, yet its flagship wine, Cardinale, has one of the last two decade's top track records for Cabernets.  Cardinale was first conceived in 1983 as the primary red wine for the tiny Kendall-Jackson winery.  In the space of a decade Kendall-Jackson grew from a modest 25,000 case production to over 1,500,000 cases. During that same time Cardinale's stature grew in the same proportion.

Cardinale could best be described as the flagship wine of the entire Kendall-Jackson organization.  And what an impressive organization!! Not only is Kendall-Jackson one of the fastest growing California wineries, it is also a key player in California's vintner hierarchy.  In 1988, not content with the success of one operation, Jackson launched a new venture, Cambria Vineyards, which relied on fruit from Santa Barbara's famous Tepusquet Vineyard.  When that vineyard went on the block, Jackson dueled with two Napa mega-wineries, Beringer and Robert Mondavi. Jackson made the best offer and wrestled the Tepusquet Vineyard from them.  In the space of the last half dozen years, Cambria wines have made a big splash.  We have tasted several exciting Pinot Noirs from this new winery, and we have adored the winery's lush reserve Chardonnays.  One of the most exciting developments was the formation in 1990 of yet another winery called Stonestreet - officially established as J. Stonestreet & Sons.  The winery, named after Jackson's father, Jess Stonestreet Jackson, occupies the site of the former Stephen Zellerbach estate in southern Alexander Valley, several miles east of Healdsburg.  Then Jackson purchased the old Edmeades Winery in Mendocino, revitalized it, and renamed it Edmeades Estate.  The first wines (a 1991 Chardonnay and a 1990 Zinfandel) were released in August of 1992.  In early 1993 Jackson purchased the ailing La Crema Winery and later moved La Crema into the impressive new facility that had been built for the failed Laurier Winery in Sonoma.  La Crema's new releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have been turning heads since then.  In 1994 Jackson launched a new venture called Camelot.  Led by the former winemaker of Sonoma's De Loach Vineyards, the talented Randy Ullom, Camelot has released several terrific Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  The 1994 Camelot "Central Coast" Chardonnay was our pick for "Best Chardonnay Value of 1995" in The Wine News.  Jackson, who long held aspirations to produce great bubbly, hired Harold Osbourne (formerly of Schramsberg) back in 1988 to begin development of sparkling wines at the Cambria facility.  The first wines (the most expensive we have yet seen from California at $60/bottle) debuted seven years later in the fall of 1995 to great critical acclaim.  In the fall of 1994, Jackson also purchased Napa's Robert Pepi Winery.  Finally...in a move to become a player on the international wine front, Jess Jackson has acquired and is retrofitting a substantial vineyard in Italy's famed Tuscany district. Almost simultaneously on the other side of the hemisphere, he has also kicked off an ultra-premium brand from Chile called Vina Calina. With Camelot's Randy Ullom as the winemaker, the Vina Calina wines were released in late 1995 at an ambitious $20 a bottle.  It seems like everything that Jess touches turns to gold, especially his new projects; Lokoya, Hartford Court, Atalon and Verite.  These last four are his crown jewels.

Originally the grapes for Cardinale came from the "Cardinale" section of the Kendall-Jackson Lakeport winery.  The first vintage won immediate acclaim, garnering the Sweepstakes Award (Best of Show) at the California State Fair in 1986 and Best of Class Award at the Los Angeles Fair in 1985.  The first Cardinale to make a major impact was the 1985.  It scored a lofty (97) in The Wine Spectator, and we selected it as one of the ten best American reds of the year for 1989 in The Wine News. In a grand tasteoff of the top Cabernets of the great 1985 vintage conducted by The Wine News in May of 1990, the 1985 Cardinale scored a (98) first place finish!  Although the 1986 Cardinale was a disappointment (as were all of Kendall-Jackson's 1986 Cabernet-based reds) the 1987 was again a huge success.  The grapes for the 1985 Cardinale came entirely from the Stephen Zellerbach vineyards (which were purchased by Jess Jackson from William Baccala in 1989) in the southern tip of the Alexander Valley.  Later vintages have been drawn from several different viticultural areas.  The outstanding 1987 was 78% Sonoma (Balverne & Vina Vista Vineyards), 12% Napa (Viader Vineyard), and 10% Mendocino (Greenwood Ridge Vineyard). 

In 1990 John Hawley became the winemaker for Cardinale; at this time the decision was made to source vineyards exclusively in Napa and Sonoma.  In 1991 Royale, a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend, was made for the first time from Lakeport grapes.  By 1994 Kendall-Jackson decided that Cardinale deserved the time and attention of a dedicated winemaking team as well as its own facility.  Cardinale the wine would now become Cardinale the winery; it would be a world-class producer of Bordeaux style blends.  The white counterpart, Royale, would be sourced from fruit in the Kelsey Highlands of the Clear Lake area of Lakeport in Lake County.  Cardinale, the winery, was completed in 1995 and is located in Oakville, California.  The new winemaker was Charles Thomas and he is still their today.  Charles was formerly the winemaker at Robert Mondavi for sixteen years and has proven to be one of the top men in his field.  The philosophy behind Cardinale is to make a wine of both power and elegance from the finest mountain vineyards in both Sonoma and Napa’s Mayacamas mountain range.  On average ¾ of the grapes come from mountain fruit and ¼ of the grapes come from the valley floor.  Cardinale has always been expensive...and worth it.

A bit about Chris Carpenter:

A University of Illinois football defensive lineman, president and chairman of the Napa Valley Youth Symphony, food lover, soccer dad, and holder of master’s degrees in horticulture and business, Cardinale winemaker Christopher Carpenter is as multi-layered as the wines he makes. After graduating from UC Davis’ Viticulture & Enology program in 1998, he joined Cardinale, becoming winemaker in 2001. Equally an expert at grape growing as he is at making wine, Christopher vinifies grapes from more than a dozen vineyards throughout Napa Valley, and through arduous blending, creates a wine that demonstrates the personality of each vintage, and whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Every winemaker has a different philosophy on blending. I blend Cardinale just before bottling, when the 30-40 wine lots we start with have had time to evolve. The lots change so much during the two years in barrel if I blended earlier the wine would not be as complex. I taste each barrel every quarter. When it’s time to blend, three or four barrels typically stand out, and those wines become the base. In this moment, it typically shows depth of character, but still has gaps to fill. Layering small amounts of individual lots, allows me to achieve consistent weight and length, even though each vintage of Cardinale is different.”

Cardinale winemaker and music lover Christopher Carpenter views vineyards in Napa Valley as his orchestra, and the grapes grown in its various sub-appellations are the individual instruments he conducts. When blended together the fruit becomes the symphony that is Cardinale. The myriad soils, climate, elevation and exposure of each sub-region and specific vineyard – covering mountains, hillsides, benches and valley floor – represent the string sections, the woodwinds, the brass and the percussion of a concert.

“Once blending is complete,” says Carpenter, “Cardinale expresses the character of a vintage rather than the character of a single vineyard or sub-appellation. Napa Valley is one of those geographies, in which consistent, high-quality vintages can move you emotionally, just like music.”



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