If you’re a collector of some of California’s most prized cabernet wines, Schrader Cellars is likely a name brand you’ve either been lucky enough to get a hold of, or you’re still on a very long waiting list for a chance at acquiring some of these collectible wines.
In fact, more than 4,000 people patiently wait multiple years for the opportunity to purchase a handful of bottles of Schrader Cellars cabernet sauvignon, vintage after vintage, and why not. These wines have earned an unprecedented record of twenty-seven 100-point scores from the world’s most respected critics. But let’s face it, most of us wine enthusiasts won’t get our hands on one of those wines. And most of us don’t want to pay its asking price even if we could (some fetch for more than $600 CDN per bottle).
So, with that in mind, in 2001, Fred Schrader decided to create Double Diamond – not just as part of his continuing quest to make the best cabernet sauvignon that Napa Valley can offer, but also to make a brand that would be more widely available for those who wanted quality cabernet and could actually get their hands on it. This unique expression of the region carries on the tradition of earning critical acclaim and drawing passionate fans. And now it’s available in Ontario. Finally.
Recently released as an exclusive online offering via the LCBO, Double Diamond’s 2017 vintage of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is a wine priced for buyers who want quality California cabernet but don’t want to pay the ridiculously high price tags that are commonly associated with the region’s most sought after and collectible bottles. (Look for the 2018 vintage to be released later this year.)
Acclaimed winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and his stellar team craft Double Diamond in the tradition of the benchmark Schrader Cellars cabernets using the finest techniques and natural resources available. The fruit is sourced exclusively from a complement of prime vineyard Napa Valley estates within the Oakville AVA – a hallowed and historic place for American winemaking.
A centre of fine winemaking since the 1860s, Oakville remains a favourite among connoisseurs around the world. A small district, it’s an area that covers a mere two-mile-wide swath of Napa and is perhaps where one will find the greatest concentration of Napa Valley’s preeminent producers of cabernet sauvignon (Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Silver Oak to name a few). The AVA’s excellent and world-class wines can be attributed to the unique quality of its soils and enviable climate.
Those who make wine there, know it’s a special place. As Rivers Brown puts it, “Oakville provides the greatest combination of power and quality in the Napa Valley area.”
Oakville is also the home of one of the world’s most prestigious and legendary vineyard sites: To Kalon – a place that Robert Mondavi himself made famous and where Rivers Brown sources much of his fruit from for both the Schrader and Double Diamond wines.
“It’s the pinnacle of cabernet in Napa Valley, California and the world,” says Rivers Brown. “The wines here are known for their silky, sensual textures, structured tannins, dark and brooding fruit and lovely aromatics.”
A recent tasting of two Double Diamond wines (the 2017 and 2018 vintages), guided virtually by Rivers Brown, exhibited all the above virtues, giving validation to the fact that cabernet from this particular area within Napa is special and indeed collectible. The reviews below were previously documented in another feature, written in November, titled ‘Kings of California’ – which can be read by clicking here. Below are those isolated tasting notes on Double Diamond’s 2017 and 2018 editions:
Double Diamond 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This 2017 vintage of Double Diamond is sourced exclusively from a complement of prime vineyard estates in Napa Valley’s world-renowned Oakville AVA, including the famed To Kalon Vineyard – a site that’s highly regarded as the pinnacle for cabernet, not just in Napa, but the entire world. It contains 90 percent cabernet sauvignon, with added splashes of cabernet franc and petit verdot. Aged in French oak barrels for 14 months, its alc/vol sits at a tolerable 14.7 percent. Full bodied, lively and savoury, with beautiful acidity serving as its backbone, this is a bold wine that presents a luscious black fruit and underbrush character with fine-grained tannins. There’s wonderful notes of toasted vanilla, spice and cedar on the long finish. Should play out even better with some added time in bottle. Very reasonably priced considering the pedigree. ($119.95)
Double Diamond 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
It’s not often that one gets to compare back-to-back vintages of an ultra-premium wine side-by-side from such an esteemed producer. Like its previous vintage, this cab uses about 85 percent of To Kalon Vineyard fruit and about 50 percent new French oak. The 2018 spent two months longer in barrel though and is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. As winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown indicated during a virtual tasting: “We let the vineyard dictate the style. The ’18 vintage was a very friendly vintage in terms of what nature gave and how the wines play out in the glass.” Extremely aromatic, this wine is a shapeshifter, with varying aromas of chocolate, nutmeg and black fruits. Wait and you’ll further discover notes of menthol and violets. The palate is duly rich and complex, boasting an exuberance of dark fruit and inviting flavours of spice and leather. There’s a stony mineral presence on the mid-palate that coaxes a refreshing and slightly minty finish. Supple, abundant and luscious in its youth, this is a stunning wine that commands your attention. And as great as this is now, it’s sure to reward those who are patient enough to wait a few more years for it to reach peak performance. ($119.95)