For your red-wine loving father (or father to your children) there’s a Napa red that gives cause to celebrate any day. On Napa’s Howell Mountain, Viader is an organic vineyard planted at 1,300 feet. It was founded in 1986 by Delia Viader, whose doctorate degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris might qualify her as one more offbeat Californian opening a Napa winery were it not for the fact that she was born in Argentina and reared in Europe.
Viader started the winery with a loan from her father and night classes in enology at the University of California at Davis. Enamored with the wine from Bordeaux’s great Chateau Cheval Blanc, Viader mimicked the blend of Cheval Blanc by planting cabernet franc to blend with Napa Valley’s acclaimed cabernet sauvignon.
Last month, I met her daughter, 35-year-old Janet, who serves as the marketing director, at Manhattan’s Aureole restaurant. As she poured the 2014 Viader Proprietary Red Blend, she explained that of the estate’s 95 acres, only 29 were planted, thanks to the foundation of volcanic rock and a 32-degree incline. A few of those contained underground boulders that had to be dynamited.
Though California was still in the grips of a drought in 2014, late-winter and early-spring rains delivered enough water for Napa’s vines to flourish. Very warm temperatures, without many heat spikes, allowed the grapes to ripen evenly, delivering the valley’s third consecutive high-quality harvest.
Black-tea aroma and taste are cabernet franc markers for me. Although the 2014 Viader blend is 28 percent cabernet franc, that accent was not present as I inhaled and sipped the wine. In its place, was a very elegant blend of the two grapes; intertwined perfectly by winemaker Alan Viader, Delia’s 37-year-old son. The 2014 Viader offered a hint of bay leaf as it released black-olive and blackberry aromas and flavors, with an undertone of vanilla from the 20 months aging in French oak barrels.
If Chateau Cheval Blanc is the model, the 2014 Viader Proprietary Red Blend—reflecting its Napa heritage—has a bigger mouthfeel than its ideal, but is just as refined. 91 points. Expect to pay about $170 (the 2014 Cheval Blanc is about $450).
Viader’s love for cabernet franc extends to the 2015 Viader DARE®, a pure cabernet franc wine. Its name is a play on Viader (VEE-ah-dare), and Delia Viader’s audacity to make a pure Napa Valley cabernet franc wine in the land of cabernet sauvignon. The grapes are sourced from various vineyards in the valley.
Even in another drought year and less favorable growing conditions than 2014, the 2015 DARE® is fruit driven with its black-cherry and red-plum aromas and flavors. Plush tannins make this youthful wine instantly appealing and drinkable. 89 points. Currently available only at the winery at $70