Consulting winemaker extraordinaire Bob Egelhoff (left, photo courtesy of bobegelhoff.com) was in the neighborhood for several days during late March, promoting three of his clients’ wines, and his own eponymous label as well, with an almost non-stop series of tastings, luncheons and dinners. (“I’m getting tired of eating steak,” he admitted, with a bemused smirk.) While here, he and Veritas Distributors, Inc. sales rep Pete Boschian stopped by to visit, so that I could meet the man who crafts highly sought after, rarified atmosphere wines for such producers as David Arthur, Amizetta, Richard Partridge and Axios, and get a taste of four of them to boot. I’d only tried one of his wines before, a very nice 2001 Phelan Vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, so this was one opportunity I was only too happy to take advantage of.
Egelhoff’s résumé includes stints with the likes of Merryvale, Chappellet, Pahlmeyer and Staglin (as we perused through the cellar of the wine department, he pointed out one Staglin Cab, telling me, “I made that wine”), but now, he limits himself to the six producers noted above. Because of time limitations, I didn’t get the kind of in-depth tasting notes that I would have preferred, but still, these “snapshots” will hopefully give some impression of what the wines are all about. After some initial conversation, we adjourned to a back room, where the following samples were opened and poured:
2002 Amizetta Napa Complexity: Find this wine Bob called this dark garnet Meritage (75 – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remainder Merlot) the lightest of the four wines, referring to it as “an easy drinker;” it offers subtle toasty oak over silky smooth black currant and cassis flavors and aromas, showing good structure, balance and a long finish. There’s nothing in anyway overblown, over oaked or overripe about this wine, and for the asking price of around $34 – 35, it’s worth every penny.
2003 David Arthur Napa Meritaggio: Find this wine Weighing in at 15% alcohol (but showing no heat to speak of), this dark garnet blends about 55% Cabernet with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and only about 2% Sangiovese, according to Egelhoff. Ultra-smooth and so balanced; rich, but not overblown in any way, giving a little more toasty oak than the Complexity, along with lovely black currant, blackberry and hints of leather. Well structured, with a long finish, this usually sells for around $45 – 50 around the US, and all things considered, is well worth the price tag.
2002 Axios Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Find this wine I asked Bob before we tasted if I was correct in my understanding that the Worthy Julia’s Cuvee Red Wines were made from grapes that didn’t make the cut for this deep dark garnet luxury liner, and that in fact, he was NOT the Worthy winemaker, as was reported by the Wine Spectator’s James Laube. He confirmed both points, telling me that Axios is Greek for “worthy,” and that the cast-off grapes weren’t worthy of inclusion. “I like this wine (Axios),” he told me,” this is what WAS worthy!” You’ll get no argument from me on that account; once again, the wine is ultra-smooth, with impeccable balance. When I commented on the latter aspect, he nodded his head, saying, “It’s all about extraction without excess tannin.” That’s a great way to describe this; it offers beautiful, sexy dark Cabernet fruit, accented with subtle hints of dark chocolate and an understated sweet quality to the otherwise dry character of the wine. It has all the structure to age well over the next several years, and while it’s not cheap (selling for between $107.99 and $149.99 around the US, according to wine-searcher.com), it has all the goods to back up that kind of high priced strut.
2002 Egelhoff Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Find this wine This one is very much in the same style as the others tasted; ultra-smooth, ultra-balanced and all about finesse, with deep, dark, almost Bordeaux – like black currant and cassis flavors and aromas, no rough edges of any kind and a long, long finish. And at around $75 a bottle, it’s a bargain when compared to the Axios!
Because we all had some extra time, Pete felt it was important for me to taste through all the wines a second time, since they’d gotten some air, and who was I to argue? I found it interesting that the Complexity and Meritaggio held their own and showed well against the more prestigious Axios and Egelhoff Cabs, even though the latter two were the undisputed stars of this brief show. I also found it interesting that Egelhoff mentioned spending some time working with Michel Rolland some years ago, saying he’d learned a lot from him. “I wanted to be like him,” he admitted, and he certainly has gone a long way towards mastering his craft, though he does seem content with far fewer clients than his one-time mentor.
This was a rare opportunity to taste and talk with one of the finest winemakers on the planet today. Bob Egelhoff is friendly and quite candid about his work. Too many sales reps, managers and yes, even some winemakers, make the rounds and give the same old tired, by-rote pitch; you can tell they’ve given it dozens, if not hundreds of times before, and even they seem bored with it. Not so with Egelhoff; he cuts out the bullshit and tells you what the wines are all about without it all sounding rehearsed, and that’s rather refreshing these days.Because of my work situation, I had to spit throughout, but even so, by the time I bid Bob and Pete adieu, I had a rosy glow going, and it wasn’t only because of the alcohol I’d absorbed. It had as much to do with the sheer sensory pleasure derived from the wines themselves, not to mention meeting their maker.
Reporting from Day-twah,
Other Recent Wine Explorations
Some New World Clarets and a Single Sauvignon