Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three From V Sattui: Honest and Well Executed

Wines of Origin

Tom Davies, President of Napa's V. Sattui Winery, recently shared some insights on the state of the industry.  He also dropped a few of V. Sattui's 45 (whoa!) different bottlings in the mail.  Originally founded in 1885, V Sattui is a long-lived institution in Napa Valley... 

Tom is a very approachable guy.  Generous with his time and eager to engage, we put a simple question to him: Is V. Sattui immune from the price pressures being put on high-end wineries today?  After all, most of their wines fall below the $45 mark - the average for all wines produced in Napa Valley.  For the most part, yes.  Since the winery only sells direct-to-consumer, Tom says they've had the benefit of forging personal, rewarding relationships with their customers.  This loyalty has helped them sell out - even during these lean years.

But Tom's a practical man and has no illusions about the challenges facing the industry today.  Weathering the rough waters ahead is going to require leaning on their bedrock of fiscal conservatism and the flexibility the direct-to-consumer model affords.  But enough are the wines?

Tom sent a Riesling, a Zin, and a Cab. The commonality of these wines is not in that they all share the same thumbprint - or winemaker's style - but that they equally and faithfully express their place. None are outrageous, but all are honest, well-executed wines of origin.  And get this: they sent the samples with recommended cheese pairings - great idea!

2008 White Riesling Anderson Valley $24
Bracing acids on the nose and follow through on the palate are offset by the sweet fruit.  Fans of sweeter wines will like this, while acid freaks will also appreciate the structure.  Quality execution, but not for everyone.

2007 Zinfandel Russian River Valley Crow Ridge Vineyard $33
The nose on this Zin takes you back to the 90's when California Zins had real distinct character, structure, and balls.  Though lighter bodied than expected, this one delivers.  Layers of flavors and a minute long finish - yum.  Bordering on serious.

2006 Cabernet Napa Valley Preston Vineyard $48
Text book Rutherford Cab in every way. Dark, balanced, big, nuanced, and dusty. Lots to love here. Better for having aired.


  1. Okay, so they're honest and well-executed. But are they worth the money?

  2. Great question, Brad. Great question indeed.

    We could go into a lengthy philosophical examination of what "worth" is, but that's another topic for a different forum. Here's my take:

    With almost all their bottles priced below the $43/bottle average of Napa bottlings, V Sattui is definitely considered a value producer relative to its neighbors. But we as consumers are not locked in to buying wines from one region, nor do we price-adjust our expectations based on a wine's origin.

    Competing on the global stage offered by most retailers today, the competition is stiff. On a qualitative basis alone, these wines rate at-or-above 4 stars, but their relative value is what bucked them down to 3.5.

    Bottom line: Next time I'm in Napa I'll be stopping in to see what Tom's pouring, but I don't expect to be placing a mail order any time soon.



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