Next year will mark 50 years that the Chappellet family has been producing wines on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley. These days, the second generation has joined the efforts at Chappellet. Their work involves a firm belief in sustainable practices, which they have become vanguards of in Napa Valley. A mere 16% of their 640 acre estate is under vine. The areas that are planted have been certified organic since 2012. Phillip Corallo-Titus joined Chappellet as assistant winemaker in 1981. In 1990, he took over the reins as head winemaker and has been driving the winemaking team ever since.
While their portfolio includes Napa Valley standard bearers such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, they also feature Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec and more. In short, it’s a diverse offering loaded with wines produced from their Estate, as well as select vineyards that meet their standards. Here’s a look at four current standout releases.
Chappellet 2014 Chenin Blanc ($32)
This wine is comprised entirely of Chenin Blanc from Estate Vineyards on Pritchard Hill, which were replanted in 2004. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, neutral French oak and concrete egg. Not many producers in Napa Valley make a Chenin Blanc, and even fewer do it well, but this offering from Chappellet hits all the right notes for me. This starts with the lovely and somewhat boisterous nose, which features lychee fruit, apricot and bits of citrus zest. Additionally, the even-keeled palate is loaded with stone fruits, minerals and a dollop of spices. All of these characteristics come together on the clean, crisp finish, which has good length and depth.
Chappellet 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35)
The fruit for this Chardonnay was sourced in a handful of diverse areas in Napa Valley, the common thread being that they are all cool-growing regions, which is ideal for Chardonnay. It sat on the lees for eight months and was aged in one third new French oak. From the first whiff to the last sip, this remarkably delicious Chardonnay is simply loaded with a ton of pure and delicious fruit flavors. Orchard fruit and lemon curd aromas leap from the nose. The deeply layered palate is filled with apple, pear, bits of mango, toasty oak and more. Vanilla bean, crème fraiche and continuing pure fruit flavors are all evident on the long, lush finish.
Chappellet 2013 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
The fruit for Chappellet’s signature wine comes from their Estate on Pritchard Hill. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), small amounts of Malbec (12%), Merlot (5%) and Petit Verdot (4%) were blended in. Cabernet is king in Napa Valley, and as such, there are myriad of excellent examples of this grape. However, there is something different about the Cabs produced from Mountain fruit. This offering from Chappellet has all the hallmarks of great Mountain Cabernet. Dark fruit aromas such as cherry and raspberry lead the nose along with hints of spice. The palate is deeply layered, intense and always proportionate. Black cherry, plum, raspberry and more fruit are joined by cinnamon, clove and black pepper. The long finish is studded with dark, dusty cocoa, chicory, toast and continuing spice notes. In addition to always remaining proportionate, what most impresses here is the pure burst of mountain fruit that shines throughout.
Chappellet 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc ($70)
In addition to Cabernet Franc (76%), smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Merlot (7%), Petit Verdot (6%) and Malbec (4%) were blended in. Aging took place over 22 months in 60% new French oak. The fruit is from their Pritchard Hill Estate. Red and black cherry aromas are joined by wisps of leather on the nose. The gorgeous palate is stuffed with dark fruit flavors, earth, minerals and bits of sweet, dark chocolate. The long, prodigious finish features roasted espresso, savory herbs, red plum and more. This is an exceptional example of Cabernet Franc, a grape I wish there was more of in Napa Valley.