George Bravante and his team farm two parcels on Howell Mountain. They have seven acres of vines at Stone Ridge, surrounding the winery at 1,680 feet elevation, where they dug caves out of the volcanic rock. They also have another 2.5 acres at Black Oak, an old walnut orchard higher up the mountain where the soil is rich loam, 30 feet deep in some places, and rocky, red volcanic soil on the hillside. Duane Dappen makes the wine; he was working at Frank Family, where he custom-crushed grapes for Bravante in 1999; twenty years on, Dappen now works out of the winery Bravante built at Stone Ridge, in 2009, and just released his 2014, the best wine we’ve tasted from those two estate parcels.
Howell Mountain cabernets can be powerfully tannic. Bravante’s 2014 expresses those mountain tannins in a more elegant way: While there’s nothing overtly fruity about this cabernet, the tannins are not aggressive. Instead, the wine completely saturates the palate with its sophisticated, earthy flavors. What’s arresting is its energy, coming through in shades of light and shadow, in an explosion of volcanic intensity that feels monumental and coordinated, the power expressed as motion and dark flavor rather than heat. That liveliness and energy continues to determine the wine’s development over the course of several days, as it will if you keep it in bottle for five years or more.
Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.
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