December 2010

Tight Genes

By: Meridith May

The pedigreed Tuscan masterpiece Tignanello sits side-by-side with Antinori’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Antica.
 The steep and windy climb up Soda Canyon Road in Napa is scenic enough, but surprisingly rustic. We pass the Atlas Peak AVA sign, skirting vineyards, horse pastures and one-story farm houses. Finally, we’ve reached the top and arrived at Antica Napa Valley, Piero Antinori’s first California wine property.

Although Marchese Piero Antinori first laid eyes on this magnificent mountain summit property 25 years ago, it went through several hands before the Italian nobleman took full ownership in 2008. “It takes time to develop a property,” says Glenn Salva, 56, Antinori California Estate Manager, who was there from the start, a decade before in 1993, when Antinori leased the majority of the estate’s vineyard to Allied Domecq.

“But we also don’t want to grow too quickly,” Salva adds. “We want to understand what the property is capable of. Patience is in the Antinori DNA.”

The Antinori DNA factor also includes passion, perseverance and persistence, according to Salva. “Making great land investments has been the history of what the Antinori portfolio has evolved to today—not just in Italy, but in Washington State, too, with Col Solare and now in Napa Valley.”

Hidden Away in Napa Valley

The name Antica comes from Antinori California, but it also translates as collectible in Italian. “The vineyards planted on the Antica estate are shaped in an amphitheatre-like setting. We are located in an elevated valley with steep slopes rising on all sides. The estate’s unique terroir allows us to produce not only great hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, but also unique Chardonnay only yards away. The Foss Valley,” he points below, “allows us a cool valley floor for this varietal. You don’t find many estates that can grow Cabernet and Chardonnay practically side-by-side.”

Antinori California Estate Manager Glenn Salva overlooks the 1200-acre Antica estate, with man-made Lake Atlas in the background. Six hundred acres are planted to vines, but the estate is still young and not yet utilizing all its resources.

Almost 2,000 feet above sea level, Antica is indeed hidden away. With a man-made lake, two watersheds that flow down steep canyons out to the Napa River and cool breezes from the Pacific, Antica is not land-locked like some of the other elevated valleys in the region.

While 50 percent of production is groomed for Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% for Chardonnay, complementary vines Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot and even some Sangiovese are planted. “Over time, we’ll figure out the possibilities,” states Salva. “But the good news is, Piero says that he believes we’re heading in the right direction.”

The Wines of Antica

After 26 generation of winemaking, the Antinori name is firmly associated with quality family wine estates. Piero Antinori personally decides whether any wine goes into a bottle with his name on it; authenticity and drinkability are key components.

Antica 2009 Chardonnay
(3500 cases, SRP $35), is 100% estate grown and produced. Just released last month, this Chardonnay is a showstopper that boasts vibrant lemon chiffon, banana and coconut against a mineral base. A subtle but defined backdrop of oak (notably less than the former vintage), cereal, hazelnut and natural acidity add to its complex nature.

Antica 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (3,000 cases, SRP $55) comes off the estate’s 24-acre Townsend Vineyard. The 2008 will be released next summer, but in 2009 the winemaking team had access to another 300 acres of developed Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards on the property.

We found an abundance of fruit on the nose—intensely ripe plums, for instance—along with espresso and earthy tonality. This red has great lines, and we’re not just talking about the Marchesi Antinori pedigree, but a mouthfeel that is dramatically opulent, finishing up in a swash of red summer cherries.  
Antica is marketed through Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.    

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