Cathiard Vineyard New Releases

USA, California, Napa Valley

Cathiard Vineyard New Releases

In January 2020, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, owners of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, purchased the homestead and historic winery that was once the residence of Napa Valley winemaking forefather Louis M. Martini, renaming the property Cathiard Vineyard. Formerly owned by the Komes family of Flora Springs, the purchase included 220 acres of land extending from the valley floor and up into the Mayacamas Mountains. The first vintage off the estate was the 2020, which was a tough year to kickstart this venture due to the wildfires that year. Take Two—the 2021 vintage—is soon to be released, more clearly revealing the extraordinary potential of this estate.

- Justine Labbé

Take Two

Cathiard Vineyard is located in the Mayacamas Mountains, on the front side of Bald Mountain, with 58 acres currently planted to vines. The vineyard is mainly within the Rutherford AVA, although it’s on the St. Helena border, and one block is within the St. Helena AVA. This partly sloped vineyard extends to an altitude of 650 feet (200 meters) and has mature vines, including a couple of blocks of free-standing old-timers on St. George rootstock. 

Soon after their purchase in early 2020, the Cathiards tore down the eyesore of an outdoor tank farm and have recently converted the space into a stunning waterfall feature. The historic stone winery was refitted entirely with small, upright, and inverted conical vats. 

The team the Cathiards have put in charge of winemaking is impressive

Justine Labbé is the general manager and winemaker, aided by Fabien Teitgen (winemaker at Château Smith Haut Lafitte) and Michel Rolland (consultant winemaker).

Justine worked with the dedicated cooper at Smith Haut Lafitte to adjust the toasting levels of barrels, especially for aging the wines from the Cathiard Vineyard. There are plans now for Cathiard Vineyard to eventually have its own cooperage like its sibling winery in Bordeaux.

The Cathiards have established three labels. At the top level, the flagship “Cabernet Sauvignon” is made entirely from this variety, from a section of the oldest vines on the estate (35-45 years old) grown exclusively on the hillsides. It’s aged in oak barrels, 80% new. “Founding Brothers” is made from 25+ year old vines and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, aged in 50% new oak, 30% older oak, and 20% large foudres. The third label, “Hora,” is a blend of just over half Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being Merlot and Malbec. This comes from the youngest benchland vines and is aged in oak barrels, 40% new.

These 2021s reveal the intensity, energy, and perfume this vineyard wants to give in a great vintage. This second vintage of releases from this resurrected and sensitively rebuilt estate comes highly recommended. I have to hand it to the Cathiards and their talented team—they nailed it on Take Two!

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Christoffer Lomfors

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