Liparita is a top-shelf brand. It’s probably also one of those mystery labels that takes a good wine detective to sniff out.
It has all the markers for quality. Limited production. Site-specific fruit. Tannins like threads of silk. Intense, complex flavors. A celebration of Napa’s prime AVAs for Cabernet Sauvignon — I tasted the Oakville and Yountville wines.
Liparita Cabernet Sauvignons ring in at about $55 to $65 — which in NapaLand is pricey but not staggering.
Today’s Liparita Cabs are dressed in a label similar to the one they wore in the early years of the 20th century when the words on the bottom of the label said “Pure Napa Valley Wine.”
Maybe it should have said “Pure Cabernet Sauvignon Wine.” No other varieties are added.
Long story made short: The winery was established in Napa in the late 1800s; vines were planted on Howell Mountain where soils reminded the founder of the volcanic soils on the island of Lipari off the coast of Sicily, hence the name. The wines started winning awards in 1900 and then Prohibition turned it into a ghost winery. The 80-acre vineyard was sold and the brand was resurrected in 1987. In 1996, Kendall-Jackson bought the vineyard; in 2006 Spencer Hoopes bought the brand, bringing back the old label and making wines off his own vineyard in Oakville and a site in Yountville. According to local wine rep Michelle De Hayes at A.H.D. Vintners in Warren, there is a Stags Leap Cab as well.
The wines are made at Napa Wine Co., which has a large custom crush business in Oakville and makes wines for many wineries. Liparita is sold at the tasting room there, across from the Oakville Grocery, and is in available in Michigan. See stores below.
Spencer Hoopes, with roots in the automotive business, is the principal owner; John Healy is part-owner; Jason Fisher is winemaker and part-owner.
Hoopes also makes a luxury boutique Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon to honor his dog Dante under the Hoopes Vineyard label — it shows his pet jumping through a hoop “because we jump through hoops for you,” he says.
Liparita Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010, $55-$65
This intenses dark beauty is a siren of cassis, blackberry, cherry, dark chocolate, cola and vanilla. Smoke and spicy oak ripple through the aromas. In the mouth, tannins are smooth, the fruit is intense; it’s a tightly knit package of fruit, acid, tannins, alcohol, wood. It’s got so much aging potential. Layers of flavor, complexity. Like an essence of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lipirata Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010, $55-$65
This big guy is more restrained. It’s a brooding wine that is still zipped up pretty tight but gives glimpses of its future: ripe blueberry, blackberry, dark plum, bittersweet chocolate. The color is so dark it’s black. Tannins are more dusty. The vineyard in Yountville is influened by the Yountville “Mounts,” a hillside covered in forest that traps morning fog from San Pablo Bay over the vineyards. The cool mist mixes with the heat of the valley floor to create a special place to grow grapes.
Hoopes Vineyard Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $65-$75
This is the bomb: big cassis, big silken tannins, weight on the palate, balance. Like an essence. Intense, dense, concentrated — got the picture? How could it be any better? Drinkable now with potential to age for decades. It’s so perfect with beautiful intergration of expensive oak. It’s the Cab dedicated to Spencer Hoopes’ dog Dante. This “pooch” is aged for 32 months before it is set free in the marketplace.
AVAILABILITY: The Lipirata and Hoopes Vineyard Cabs are sold locally at stores such as Plum Market at Maple and Orchard Lake, Westborn Market in Berkley, Papa Joe’s in Birmingham, Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Tippin’s Market in Ann Arbor and G.B. Russo & Son in Grand Rapids. The wholesale distributor is A.H.D. Vintners in Warren, so any Michigan wine shop can get these wines for you.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at email@example.com.