Massive and structured to the core, the 2013 Solari is another totally captivating wine from Larkmead. Lavender, blackberry jam, cassis, mint, new leather and smoke saturate the palate as this dramatic, full-bodied wine shows off its captivating personality and huge sense of structure. Today the tannins are searing an intense, but there is more than enough fruit to go the distance. I sincerely hope readers will have the discipline to forget about the 2013s for a good 7-10 years, and even that may not be enough. This is a stunning set of wines from Larkmead. The 2012s are big, powerful Cabernets that will require quite a bit of patience. They are among the most structured wines of the year I tasted. The 2013s are even more intense. After a little bit of a hiccup with 2011, the winemaker transition from Andy Smith to Dan Petroski seems to have occurred pretty smoothly. Petroski has a decidedly Old World-leaning palate, which seems very well suited to the kinds of wines that seem to emerge pretty naturally from this historic Calistoga site. Longtime Larkmead fans will note a few changes in the wines, such as a move to make Cabernet Franc an important component in the LMV Salon and the evolution of the flagship Lark to a single-parcel wine, rather than a field or cellar selection. Personally, I very much like what is coming out of Larkmead these days, and that is no way a critique of prior vintages, but rather an observation of what looks like a very bright future here. (AG)
So much blueberry, black currant and licorice aromas follow through to a full body, plus focused and chewy tannins that are polished and beautiful. A super wine with a future. Drink in 2020.
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Solari, which is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot (945 cases), is a huge, massive wine of great intensity, coiled tightly at present, but with high tannins, formidable extract and unlimited upside potential. This is a real connoisseur’s choice, since it needs a good 5-8 years of bottle age. This is a monster effort from the valley floor and should be respected appropriately. Forget it for now. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2035+. This famous, historic estate, highly renowned in the late 1800s, sits to the north of St. Helena and to the south of Calistoga. It is a valley-floor vineyard of 110 acres that has been divided into a hierarchy of quality. The lineup of wines for now remains the same. They have had an incredible run of great successes at Larkmead, with the 2013s easily the match for the impressive 2012s. The red wines include six cuvées from the estate vineyards, with three of them designated by white labels, while their most expensive and limited cuvées are designated with a black label. The three Black Label wines are about as good as Cabernet Sauvignon can be... Cam Baker, the proprietor of Larkmead, told me that the 2013s were off the analytical charts in terms of extract, tannin levels and color density, whereas the 2014s were about 25% less on all the indices of power, strength, color and extract, but they’re still very concentrated wines. (RP)
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