The Mascot is a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon made from distinct hillside vineyards; specifically, the younger vines of BOND, Harlan Estate, and Promontory. It started out as a small project shared among the family, winemaking team, and close friends. Drawing fruit from blocks of recently replanted vineyards, The Mascot shares a glimpse into the evolution of its parent estates: a youthful snapshot of their future.
Following a vintage full of changing conditions and demanding decision points, the steady and pleasant progress of the 2018 vintage left our team, at times, in limbo. Contradictory as it may seem, the dramas that sometimes punctuate the definitive months for the growing season help to frame the winegrowing team’s course of action; yet the tranquil succession of weeks that emerged between spring and fall in 2018 left almost entirely open the question of when to harvest. Healthy rainfall in March and April preceded a benevolent summer, whose mildness was interrupted only briefly by a few warming periods. The fruit of the young vines maintained a measured balance that gave the team little indication that harvest was imminent. Fog and temperate days followed in September, when—relying more on instinct than empirical cues—we began to pick. This judgment—as well as the gentle nature of the season—is confirmed in the subtle, ethereal power of the vintage, which reveals itself first in the deep, brooding aromas of dark fruit, black tea, and herbal notes. The texture expands around a lifted structure, as powdery tannins gently resolve. This diffused, enigmatic softness is anchored on the mid-palate by a gratifying density, which prepares the senses for a flourish of hidden energy and vivid detail that illuminates the finish.
Vintage 2017 proved to be one of those seasons that tests the mettle of both the winegrowing team and the vines. The exuberance of early spring was briefly disrupted by hailstorms, followed by heat waves that bracketed the summer months, elevating ripeness in the fruit. Despite these events, we took a calculated risk by waiting. Decades spent working these lands had encouraged us to exercise restraint, allowing the vines—even the young ones—to rely, wherever possible, on their own accumulated wisdom. Discipline rewarded us: as temperatures normalized, sugars rebalanced, acidity held, and harvest began not long thereafter. We are particularly fortunate to have produced The Mascot from fruit brought in before wildfires began in autumn. These adversities seem to have heightened the character of the wine, which emerged from the challenges with purity and poise—a testament to the pedigree of the sites themselves. The growing season’s relative warmth is absent in the glass, replaced by freshness and a piquant tension. The nose draws forward notes of red fruit and elements—earth, warm spice, leather—often deferred to the finish. Lithesome tannins and vibrant acidity attend a crystalline structure that is finely wrought and radiantly transparent.
Following several dry years, 2016 brought one of those welcome, benevolent growing seasons that instills an enthusiasm in the winegrowing team at the approach of harvest. The winter saw abundant rainfall, and the spring brought with it an even temperance. June and July delivered several waves of warmth, which are typical of the Napa Valley; however, regular fog layers dappled with sunlight kept the region cool throughout August, ushering in a moderate Indian summer that imbued the fruit with an invigorating vibrancy, and enabled us to pick at an unhurried pace. In the resulting wine, aromas suggest cool, fragrant mists, an intermingling of bright fruit with gentle florals, and traces of fresh, wild herbs. A sip reveals a polished core—a soft, inviting texture bonded by strength. These playful curves resolve towards an elevated finish, as well as light, colorful notes that dance on the palate—and entice the imagination.
The 2015 growing season began uncommonly cloudy and cool, particularly for a year with very low precipitation. These conditions during bloom resulted in significantly smaller yields of fruit from the younger vines of BOND, Harlan Estate, and Promontory. The summer months, in contrast, conjured stretches of intense warmth that lasted into autumn, spurring one of our earlier harvests to date. The profile of the vintage—much to our surprise—stayed true to the nature of its chilly beginnings, rather than the dry heat of its maturation environs. A deep, meditative core radiates an inner vibrancy through swells of stirringly fresh aromas. The glow of summer sunlight is felt in this otherwise cerebral wine through strength and rounded resonance on the palate. With five years of aging, the pedigree of this vintage begins to emerge with the friendly energy of a loyal companion.
An otherwise even growing season in 2014 was made memorable by an earthquake that struck the Napa Valley in the early-morning hours of August 24th. Dry conditions that normally prevail at that time of year were unexpectedly altered; the geologic event had shifted the water table to the extent that many seasonal streams began to flow once again. This unusual circumstance brought unaccustomed moisture from the depths and, with it, renewed energy to many of the soils throughout the valley. In the wake of this phenomenon, we noticed subtle changes to the younger vines of BOND, Harlan Estate, and Promontory, which grew more vibrant as harvest approached. The resulting wine reflects this vibrance in its lift and flow across the palate, with its quality ringing true to the pedigree of its parent sites. Red fruit and baking spice intermingle on the nose, while on entry, the wine is soft, gently accelerating as it reveals athletic structure and shape, culminating in transparency and poise.
Having endured two years of drought within the region, vines were no stranger to adversity by the time they saw the dry growing season of 2013. Adversity, however, often reveals strength; and in the case of The Mascot, pedigree. The younger vines of Harlan Estate, BOND, and Promontory bore well-formed clusters with small, dense berries. The juice was concentrated and finely balanced; skins thickened by wind yielded great structure and strength. Consequently, the final blend exhibits an athletic intensity that accelerates across the palate into a long-sustaining finish. Where the 2012 vintage is supple, plush, and expansive, 2013 is dense, deep, and complex—yet they share a vibrant core.
The growing season of 2012 was defined by ideal conditions—warm, gentle, and even—and the resulting wine reflects this benevolence. The nose is wrapped around a core of red fruit and subtle spice. Upon entry, a spherical density expands into lush, vibrant warmth. Continuing easily across the palate, finely textured tannins resolve into a lengthy finish. The 2012 is generous and welcoming in its youth, and for the patient it promises deeper layers as the years pass.
The 2011 growing season in the Napa Valley was one of cooler temperatures, contributing to a slow, deliberate ripening requiring both patience and faith. What emerged from the younger vines of Promontory, Harlan Estate, and BOND was a wine with great freshness, tension, and vibrance. Minerality resolves into wet slate, with elegant fruit defined by velvety tannins. Approachable and lively in its youth, the 2011 vintage will age far into the future.
2010 was one of the coolest years in recent memory, and one that provided a nurturing backdrop for these young rooted vines to express themselves. The growing season began late, with budbreak occurring in mid to late April. Extra diligence and care were required of the team at every stage during leafing, fruit thinning, and harvest. Nature was benevolent during the long, measured harvest, allowing our team to pick each lot as it ripened. Notes of graphite, cedar, and forest floor are ever-present on the nose. On entry the wine is brought into focus seamlessly through a fine lens of acidity, lending energy and freshness to power and structure. Soft yet supple tannins expand out horizontally on the palate, resolving into an extremely long finish.
2009 was a temperate year with spells of warmth but free of extremes. This lengthy growing season cooled as we approached to harvest, embracing morning fog and moderate temperature throughout the picking. The resulting wines have a higher degree of density and flesh than the previous year, with aromatics more in the vein of dark fruit, spice, and earth. With a more masculine tannin structure, the 2009 will age very well over the next twenty to twenty-five years.
In 2008 budbreak began very early. There were initial threats of frost but our vineyards, situated on hillsides above the floor of the valley, were fortunately unaffected. The growing season was quite temperate until August when a few stretches of warmer days accelerated ripening, resulting in one of the earliest harvests to date. The wine in its youth is charming: juicy, with soft tannins and hints of spice. The nose is enveloped by ripe black cherries with hints of graphite and baked clay. On the palate the wine is lavish: acidity takes on a background role, while fruit carries the day within a structure of precocious tannin. This vintage of The Mascot is not remembered for density per se, but more for its harmony, proportion, and long, generous finish.
A handful of cases of this vintage were produced for family and friends only. If you ever happen to find a bottle, Will labeled it himself.