Today we’re sipping a delightful Cabernet Sauvignon blend that hails from Napa Valley’s Rutherford sub-AVA. We received this wine as a tasting sample and it provided us the opportunity to sip delicious wine and take a brief look at the region’s history.
I never know where a wine I taste is going to take me. In the case of Coeur de Vigne, it was a statement on the winery website that sent me in an unexpected direction. Sullivan Rutherford Estates traces its Napa Valley history, in their own words, back “to 1821 when ownership of the Napa Valley transitioned from Spain to Mexico.” The website goes on the note that the vineyard property sits on the historic boundary of two large land grants, Rancho Caymus to the south and Rancho Carne Humana to the north. That description led me to think about the Native Americans who lived in the Napa Valley when Spanish and Mexican explorers arrived and dispossessed them.
According to the Suscol Intertribal Council, a 501(c)(3) organization located in Napa, there are no longer any tribes tied to the land, though the fertile region was inhabited by numerous tribes for more than 10,000 years. Their map notes the Onasatis Indigenous People of Northern California included the: Mishewal, Mutistul, Mayakmah, Patwin, Sonoma Pomo, Coast Miwok, Catahoula Band and Lake County Pomo. The Sonoma and Napa Valley Indigenous people came to be called Wappo, an Americanized version of the Spanish guapo, for their brave fight against conquest. The Council goes on to note that the tribes called themselves the Onasatis, “the people who speak plainly or ‘Outspoken People.'”
Native American influence remains in many names around the Napa Valley. The Mayacamas Mountains gets their name from Maiya’kma, a Wappo village, Rancho Caymus was named for the Wappo village of Kaimus and Suskol, now spelled Suscol, was a Patwin village.
In 1916 Virgile Galleron purchased 402 acres in Rutherford for farming. About 60 years later James Sullivan purchased 26 acres from the Galleron family to realize his dream of making wine commercially, after beginning as a home winemaker. In 2017 the winery and vineyard were purchased by VITE USA Inc., a private investment firm. Jeff Cole, who joined Sullivan in 2013 remains the winemaker.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the winery’s specialties, but you will also find Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Rosé in addition to Coeur de Vigne.
2017 Sullivan Rutherford Estate Coeur de Vigne, Rutherford, Napa Valley — medium ruby with aromas of dark fruit, dried tobacco leaf and earth. Flavors combine ripe blackberries, earth, cedar and leather all supported by juicy acidity and firm, drying tannins in a full body. The finish is moderately long and warming. 14.8% abv. SRP $90
The blend, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 3% Malbec is sourced from the Sullivan Estate Vineyard. Aging took place in 47% new French oak.
This is a well-crafted Cabernet blend that will pair nicely with a grilled ribeye steak this time of year. It has plenty of flavor without being overly extracted and should be delicious for years to come.
Thanks to Jarvis Communications for organizing this tasting.