95 points – Jeb Dunnuck
Appellation: St. Helena, Napa Valley
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Clones: 6, 7, 169, and 337
Aging: 20 months in 100% French oak (80% new barrels)
Barrel Coopers: Darnajou, Ermitage, and Taransaud
Alcohol: 14.7% by vol.
2017 in the Napa Valley was a year none here will soon forget. Intensive winter rains brought widespread flooding that signaled, in no uncertain terms, the end of Northern California’s drought. Summer began with a pair of heat spikes in June and culminated in a brutal Labor Day heat wave, during which daytime temperatures soared as high as 120 degrees. But the most dramatic events of 2017 began overnight on October 8, quickly raging into a complex of wildfires that burned thousands of acres and hundreds of homes, including the Pulido-Walker Estate residence.
As devastating as these fires were, they had no impact on the 2017 Pulido-Walker Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest and crush were completed before the blaze ignited, and we are thankful that our production and storage facilities were untouched. It was the extreme September heat that posed a greater challenge, with fruit still on the vine.
The growing season in the Panek Vineyard was uneventful, with the fruit setting up beautifully. As the September heat wave set in, it was crucial to water the vines deeply and let the moister canopy protect the clusters. The afternoon shade at this site provided further protection when temperatures soared. Soon after the heat spell broke, brix began dropping to normal levels. We let the fruit hang to further ripen, and picked a week later than normal.
Winemaking & Tasting Notes
Yield was smaller than average in 2017 throughout the Valley, and the Panek Vineyard was no exception. While quantity was down, quality of all five clones planted to this site continues to impress. We saw superb maturation across the board, with clone 337 coming into its own and clone 6 putting on its best showing ever. The 2017 Pulido-Walker Panek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is blended from the three clones we have traditionally used, along with clone 337, to bring you a wine of excellent quality from a vineyard where quality has become consistently high.
This vintage is balanced and light on its feet, with fresh fruit characteristics. Somewhat more red fruited than is typical even for this site, the wine is a refreshing one to drink now. We have seen fleshier vintages certainly, and much as we anticipate the ways those wines will develop with age, we greatly appreciate the 2017 Panek Cabernet Sauvignon for giving us something delicious to uncork right away.
Although yield declined by about a third, the shatter we saw during spring bloom paved the way for a big bump in quality and flavor concentration as the remaining fruit matured. “A naturally small crop has a huge effect on quality,” winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown explains. “We can’t duplicate that by dropping fruit.” Berries in the Melanson Vineyard hung longer and in looser clusters for the remainder of the 2015 season, ultimately making the Pulido~Walker Cabernet Sauvignon from this site a better wine.
Winemaking & Tasting Notes
The concentration of this vintage means the wine comes across as more fruit driven than in past years, although the savory notes and dried-herb quality we associate particularly with Clone 7 are still readily apparent. The wine is a pure expression of black fruits, minus the tsunami of tannin one might expect from a vintage this inky dark. The finish is seemingly endless.