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Capturing the Spirit of the Mayacamas Mountain Vineyards with Capture Wines

IMG_2035Mountains have a way of keeping pieces of themselves remote, tucked away from everyday life.  In these places the days go by as they always have, sun and rain, hot and cold, soil and rock.  The higher places on earth like to look down in solitude.

When it comes to wine, vineyards worldwide have reached higher and higher, seeking different growing conditions, large diurnal temperature ranges and poor soil that make vines struggle to reach the rock and tap into precious trapped water.  It is not an easy way to grow grapes.  Still it has its advantages, and thus people continue to reach.  Here we’ll look at some wines from the Mayacamas Mountains in the North Coast AVA of California, where the mountains touch parts of Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties.

Part of the Spire Collection, Capture Wines is making Sauvignon Blanc and a Bordeaux styled Capture Imagered from mountain fruit.  Another part of the project involves a new vineyard on the upper slopes of Pine Mountain in the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA, just recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 2011.  The elevations here range from 1600 to 3000 feet, making it the highest AVA in the Mayacamas.

Capture Wines itself was started by a husband and wife team, the husband (Denis Malbec) was Cellar Master of Chateau Latour and the wife (May-Britt Malbec) was an international sommelier who joined him at Latour. Together they crafted the wines of Chateau Latour between 1994 and 1999.  Talk about pedigree.  Even better was that their last name was Malbec.  Seriously, how much more perfect can it get?  Eventually, however, they sought new challenges, headed west and started Capture Wines.

capture harvestIn late 2014 Barbara Banke purchased Capture.  Now winemaking operations are overseen by Graham Weerts, with over a decade of winemaking experience in Northern California.  Working with Graham is Sam Teakle, who spent nine years in South Australia and France.  They source fruit from estate and grower vineyards all along the Mayacamas.  They’re also developing the recently planted estate vineyard on Pine Mountain, with a first harvest expected in 2018.

We have three wines from Capture to review.  Based on their history we are expecting good things.  The wines are supplied by the good people at the Spire Collection, and you can read more about their portfolio, and Capture wines, on their website at http://www.spirecollection.com/.

capture logo

2014 Capture Tradition Sauvignon Blanc – sourced from 65% Lake County grapes and 35% Sonoma fruit, the wine was fermented in IMG_2032both stainless (87%) and neutral oak (13%).  Grapes came in later in the season, on September 30th and October 13th, owing to the higher elevations.  Juice was aged four months on the lees.  What did we think?

Light straw in color, the wine packs a big nose of grapefruit and melon.  A little touch of sur lie creaminess rounds off the nose and provides a little complexity.  On the palate the wine is very bright, and grapefruit dominates.  The fruit is beautifully pure.  Exceptionally crisp, the wine finishes clean, with the sur lie showing up again at the finish.  This takes just a touch off the citrus edge and really caps off the wine well.  Very good juice here.  $30

2014 Capture Les Pionniers Sauvignon Blanc – also from both Lake County (54%) and Sonoma County (46%) fruit, harvested at theIMG_2033 same time as the Tradition above. Here more neutral oak was used (46%).  Four months aging was done on the lees.  Our impressions:

The wine is quite different than the Tradition Sauvignon Blanc.  In color they are identical, but the nose here is peach and pear, with a little blood orange and touches of lemon.  In the mouth the wine is more luxurious, with some good texture.  Minerality lurks underneath the bright fruit and perfectly balanced acid.  This is very clean and more elegant.  A long and pure finish caps off an almost perfect Sauvignon Blanc.  In case you haven’t noticed yet I really liked this wine.  It is outstanding.  $45  We don’t put many $45 Sauvignons on our Value List, but this one belongs.

2012 Capture Alliance Red Wine – all the fruit here comes from the Spring Mountain District, and is crafted in the “muscular” spirit of IMG_2034left-bank Bordeaux.  To me, that means Cabernet Sauvignon dominated and stiff tannins that promise very long life, but also require patience.  This wine is indeed 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 11% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  It was harvested late, almost going into November.  Alcohol comes in at 14.5%.  Aging was done in 100% French oak for 18 months (60% new barrels). What we found:

The color is a very dark purple red.  On the nose there are rich berry aromas of currant  and blackberry. Some herbal notes, a little menthol and a touch of vanilla and coffee round out a complex nose.  On the palate the wine is full bodied, with the fruit apparent but the tannins here are very stiff.  This fits perfectly the “muscular” descriptive with regard to the winemaking approach.  It reminds me a bit of a 2002 Chateau Pontet Canet I opened a while back when it had about 4 years of bottle age.  It was not ready. This is not yet near its peak, and will get so much better in 4-5 years.  You can drink it now, and Cheri liked it quite a lot.  I personally would let it sit for at least three years to let the tannins soften and integrate a bit more.  This is the kind of wine you buy three bottles of, open one, and then bring the other two out in 2-3 year intervals.  It is a great way to experience the evolution of a great wine.  This wine is big, lives up to its Left Bank inspiration, and it going to get truly great in a few years.  Patience here is suggested.  $60

Three things leap out at you with regard to the wines from Capture.  The fruit is top notch, the winemakers know what they are doing and the wines are extremely high quality.  This is a producer to follow, although they are not inexpensive.  The Alliance will be great.  The Les Pionniers Sauvignon Blanc already is.

A votre santé!

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