Our Dancing Bear Ranch on Howell Mountain in eastern Napa Valley, perched at an elevation between 1800 and 2200 feet, is named for the omnivorous black bear who likes to feast on our mountain grapes as they approach ripeness. Fortunately, as the bear dances down the vine rows munching grape clusters, he leaves enough behind for us to craft this classic Napa Valley mountain red, a Bordeaux-style blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.
In 2004, an unusually balmy late winter, consistently warm spring and summer temperatures, and several late-summer heat spells resulted in the earliest Cabernet Sauvignon harvest in Napa Valley since 1981. The early budbreak, combined with light crop loads, produced grape clusters with small berries and intense, concentrated flavors, resulting in wines of great depth, concentration and structure. Our Dancing Bear grapes were harvested between September 6th and 16th with an ideal balance of sugar and acidity.
Our Howell Mountain grapes possess deeper color, higher acidity and more tannin than our valley-grown fruit. As a result, our winemaking approach with Dancing Bear is to capture the distinctive, intense character of the fruit without extracting overly aggressive tannins. To do so, we carefully monitor fermentation temperatures and the ‘cap’ of skins at the top of the fermenting tank, whose contact with the juice determines the degree of tannin extraction. Winemaker Julianne Laks carefully manages these processes during fermentation and maceration (the period after fermentation when the wine remains in contact with the grape skins), tasting the wine daily to assess tannin levels and ‘mouth-feel’. When Julianne senses the wine has achieved an optimal balance of fruit intensity and ripe tannins, we drain the free run wine from the skins (no ‘press wine’ is used) and transfer it to French oak barrels for aging. The 2004 Dancing Bear was aged 22 months in French oak barrels, 45% new, prior to bottling in August, 2006.
True to its mountain provenance, our 2004 Dancing Bear Cabernet Sauvignon boasts intense, complex, high-toned aromas of Bing cherry, brambleberry and spicy dark plum fruit mingled with enticing floral, sage, tobacco, chocolate, earth and mineral scents. Incredibly pure and focused on the palate, its beautifully structured wild cherry, ripe fig, spicy black fruit and dark chocolate flavors reveal a pronounced minerality in the wine’s long, persistent finish. Delicious now with grilled steaks, venison, and hearty stews, this wonderfully rich, complex, chiseled mountain Cabernet Sauvignon will handsomely repay long-term cellaring.
80% Cabernet Sauvignon
10% Cabernet Franc
100%Dancing Bear Ranch, Estate Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
22 months in French oak
September 6-16, 2004