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Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Meticulous and complex, sumptuous and elegant, the age-worthy “SLD” Cabernet Sauvignon is one of RSV’s most exclusive wines. Primary aromas and flavors of currant, blackberry and plum are layered amongst more complex notes of anise, mineral, cocoa powder and herbs. The quiet power of its structure balances on bright, mouth-watering acidity and super fine tannin for incredible depth and length. It has an appropriate youthful enthusiasm that will benefit from either a swirl in a glass or a splash in a decanter and will reward those with the patience to let this wine age for a few years. As with all RSV wines, serve with food!
It is pure color, an honest expression of Cabernet grown in an ideal environment.
The Rothko Chapel...
Cold, dark void yet simple and intriguing!
My almost teenage daughter walked into the living room singing:
“Your heart is like the Rothko Chapel,
cold dark void, yet simple and intriguing,
got me believing almost anything.
There was this line by Charlie Parker,
probably worth remembering:
‘if you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn,
chances are you'll never be reborn’”
Man, was I relieved she wasn’t singing a Justin Bieber or Lady GaGa song; but wow, where did that come from? “The Rothko Chapel” by David Dondero was one of my favorite obscure indie songs from several years back. Seems she was perusing my hard drive and, even though she had no idea who Mark Rothko was, it spoke to her.
I studied Rothko in art school. At that time his work didn’t speak to me. I thought it too simple to be real art. I mean really, a few rectangular swaths of color on a canvas... anybody can do that, right? At the time, I was flexing my technical muscles, intrigued by the hyper-realistic works of Chuck Close or the explicit portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe. I wanted something visceral, dramatic and perhaps a little repulsive or shocking, but I was young and I had little life experience from which to draw. Subtlety was lost on me.
I felt the same way about Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought the bigger the better and was attracted to massive, ripe and unctuous wines with big, hard tannins and sweet, tropical vanilla from 200% new American oak barrels. Cab, to me, was about masochistic tannin or hedonistic excess. It was a drink for macho men (and women) served up alongside a shot of whiskey. Subtlety was lost on me.
Simple, in art as it is in wine, is hard to do well. It requires a certain self confidence to let go and allow your work to speak for you. When Rothko was a young artist, his work was inspired by the masters that came before, figurative imitations, borrowed voices on an insecure journey to seek acceptance. Then life happened. He gained the experience and self confidence to let go of preconceived notions of art and pursue pure emotion through the use of color. “I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions - tragedy, ecstasy, doom...” He had to live it before it could “come out of his horn.”
Rothko speaks to me now and I no longer like the Cabs I liked in my youth. I want subtlety, I want something that transcends technique to sing in a pure, unadulterated voice. The SLD Estate is our Rothko Chapel, a “cold dark void yet simple and intriguing.” It is pure color, an honest expression of Cabernet grown in an ideal environment. Does it strike an emotion? It is not for me to decide. As Rothko said of his work, “A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer” and so goes the fate of wine. It is based on relationships... us and the land, you and the wine, your guests and the food on the table. The emotion we hope to elicit is happiness, but we will settle for intrigue.
An Elegant Repast
You’ve got to love any meal that can be made ahead and popped in the oven. This is particularly true during the holidays when you can't squeeze one more minute out of the day. Oftentimes, in preparation for the mad season, I will make a series of braised meat dishes and freeze them to have on hand. This dish is warm, rich, satisfying and elegant - a perfect companion to the rich, yet elegant, SLD Cabernet Sauvignon. While you gather with a few close friends, conversing around a crackling fire, the puff pastry capped braise will be transforming in the oven, becoming a golden crusted, all-in-one dish that will satisfy everyone. So take your seat at the table, relax and enjoy your time with family and friends.
Until the next wine…
RSV’s SLD Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is our “Left Bank” of Napa wine. Tucked up behind the winery in the northern corner of the Stags Leap District lies our amphitheater - the organic and Biodynamic SLD Estate vineyard, where purity is the name of the game. The four and a half acre, steeply terraced vineyard, produces little fruit and thus little wine, but the wine that is produced from this vineyard is intensely focused, elegantly balanced and beautifully nuanced.
The 2008 vintage produced a stunning wine. A long, cool growing season allowed optimally ripened fruit to arrive at the cellar door in beautiful shape, perfect for a minimalist’s hand. The grapes were destemmed, fermented naturally in stainless steel, then barrel aged in a selection of French oak barrels, of which about 30% were new, for almost two years in the RSV caves.