Hughes Wellman 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Opulent, full-bodied with good underlying acidity, this wine is fresh and light on its feet for a wine with such intensity and richness.
The 2005 Hughes Wellman Cabernet is classically styled, with a riveting nose: sweet crème de cassis interlaced with mocha-tobacco-graphite and blueberry. Incredibly young, it offers a mere glimpse of its potential on the palate, with penetrating red-berry fruit flavors punctuated with molten licorice, roasted espresso, bay, and toast. Opulent, full-bodied with good underlying acidity, this wine is fresh and light on its feet for a wine with such intensity and richness. This wine will continue to drink well over the next 10 to 15 years.
Style: Full, Bold
A couple of years ago my friend—and great winemaker—Sam Spencer came to me with a potential project. He was sourcing Syrah from a family-owned vineyard and had been given first dibs on the best blocks of Cabernet in the vineyard. Having a portfolio focused on Syrah and Tempranillo, Sam asked me if he could make the wine for our program. As tempted as I was, we simply were not in the financial position to do so (buying grapes and holding wine for three years just doesn't fit into our business model). Knowing my father was about to retire from his employer of 33 years, I asked him if he would be interested in launching his own wine. He approached his best friend and former fraternity brother, Sandy Wellman, about doing it together—and Hughes Wellman Wine was born.
In 2004, Sam made two barrels in different styles to see how the vineyard responded. The only way we were going to do the project was if it made a first-class wine. We were thrilled with the results, especially when paired with the Radoux cooperage, and we decided to move forward with the project for the 2005 vintage. Sam made us 14 barrels for 2005, and the 10 best went into the first vintage of 2005 Hughes Wellman St. Helena Cabernet.
This unbelievably lush, monster Cab comes from the Nell-MacVeagh Vineyard. The site is located on the lower slopes of Howell Mountain to the east of Saint Helena. The property comprises several large alluvial deposits and an array of weathered soils that have eroded from atop Howell Mountain.
The blocks that contributed to this wine are planted with Clone 377 and Clone 7 on rootstocks of 101-14 and 4453, respectively. Located upslope of Conn Creek, the soils are mostly gravels that provide excellent drainage and exposure. The vines naturally yield 5 – 6 pounds per vine, roughly 2½ – 3 tons per acre, offering fruit with concentration and excellent structure.
The 2005 vintage was long and temperate, with a near perfect drift into late October. The last weeks of October were warm and clear, giving the last push needed to get to harvest. We harvested ripe and balanced fruit that possessed tremendous purity and depth.
The grapes were gently de-stemmed and sorted into open-top fermenters. They were cold-soaked for 4 days and punched down thrice daily during fermentation. At dryness the must was pressed directly into barrel, where it rested for 22 months. The wine was aged in a balance of 70% new and 30% neutral French oak, from Tonnelleries Remond and Ermitage.
We bottled the wine last July and have been patiently waiting for this baby to settle into the bottle. My Dad and I recently asked Sam to put together a blind panel tasting of other 2005 St. Helena and Howell Mountain Cabernets priced in the $50 to $100 range to see where we stood. The clear winner and top-ranked wine for all five tasters was the Hughes Wellman Cabernet.
So, here's the deal. After fierce negotiations, I have arranged exclusive access for our customers to the entire production of this wine—only 199 cases were made. (Please Note: As it's not a Cameron Hughes Lot it will not be a Wine Club selection.)
The price is $50 a bottle. Yeah, I know its not cheap, but this is an extremely small-lot, hand-crafted wine. Relative to other Napa Valley Cabernets in the same league it's a great value—compare at $75 – $125.