Photo: Chappellet garden view © MOLLY CHAPPELLET
FIFTY YEARS AGO, Molly and Donn Chappellet left their life in swanky Beverly Hills and moved their family to a rugged, 320-acre mountainside in Napa Valley called Pritchard Hill. Donn’s goal: to make fine wine that would echo some of the world’s top growths.
Throughout the years while the Chappellets produced a number of other excellent varietal wines, the highest-quality wine has always been Pritchard Hill Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, made from mountainside-grown grapes. And throughout those years, it has proven to be outstanding and long-lived, one of Napa’s and, possibly, one of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.
To celebrate its 50th, Chappellet held a tasting that featured 10 vintages of its Pritchard Hill Cabernets.
We began with the 2016, deep, dark-shaded and with an aroma of rich, ripe berry followed by a taste that is toasty with spicy notes and a long, delicious finish.
Next came 2012, also deep and dark in color. Four years older and more evolved, it features a smooth, silky taste and an overall lovely melding of berry flavors.
We moved to 2007: deep-shaded, lightly toasty, smooth, mouth-filling, with aromas and tastes suggesting a mix of berries; well-structured and rich.
The 2004 was especially focused, concentrated and big, a mouth-filling wine of depth.
We moved to 1997: big, complex and full-bodied with a depth of flavors, and then to 1992, which I found complex and spicy although slightly less rich than later Pritchard Hills.
The color of the 1987 is still deep and dark. The taste still shows richness and spice, with an interesting complexity in the flavors and balance. On to the 1980: firm, complex, with depth of flavors; delicious and fascinating.
The 1975 still displays a sturdy acidity along with a ripeness and just a hint of age; and finally, the 1969, which at 50 years of age still shows remarkable vigor and depth.
Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon sells for about $250.
Donn Chappellet died in 2016 at age 84. His son Cyril now heads the winery, with the promise of many more vintages of Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon to come.