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Proper Napa class & a potential 100/100: Spottswoode 2020

Spottswoode belongs to an elite group of historic California producers including Ridge Vineyards, Dunn and Philip Togni. These estates craft wines inspired by the great Californian vintages of the 1960s and 70s, true to their roots and with any semblance of ‘flash’ set aside in favour of ‘classy’. The resulting wines are rarely flattering or seductive in their youth and are more intended for the cellar or dinner table than for beauty contests – they are structured, savoury, serious and long-lived.


2020 was a troubled vintage in Napa Valley and will more likely be remembered for wild fires, smoke taint, and the wines that were not made, than for the few that have been bottled. For example, Opus One recently re-issued their 2018 and 2019 vintages because they have elected not to offer their 2020; similarly there is no Screaming Eagle 2020.


Spottswoode are relatively early pickers and have never been fans of the super-charged blockbusters produced when grapes are afforded long hang times to accumulate every last degree of ripeness and sugar. As such, their 2020 harvest concluded on 26th September. The so-called Glass Fire that devastated so much property and so many vineyards began, on Glass Mountain Road, a day later on the 27th.


Tasted blind, in a lineup that included vintages back to 2010, a barrel sample of Spottswoode’s 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon stood out as being one of the most exciting efforts. Full-bodied, ripe and rich without being overbearing, it delivers concentrated black cherry and cassis fruit framed by supple, velvety-textured tannins. It’s long on the finish, with an attractively soft, dusty-loamy texture and no overt signs of a fire-troubled Napa vintage.
98-100pts – Joe Czerwinski /

The 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted as a barrel sample, has 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot in the blend. Deep garnet-purple in color, it springs with notes of cedar chest, cinnamon toast, and black cherry preserves, leading to a core of blackcurrant pastilles, potpourri, and mocha. Medium-bodied, and big on flavors, the palate delivers mouth-coating black fruits with a rock-solid structure of firm tannins and lively acidity, finishing long. Approximately 3,500 cases are to be bottled. Spottswoode finished picking just the day before the Glass Fire broke out. Winemaker Aron Weinkauf says that there was not a lot smoke here from that year’s LNU fires.
96-98+pts – Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW / 


With only 3,500 cases produced, Spottswoode 2020 is relatively small-production compared to many of its Napa peers – not to mention the mammoth chateaux of Bordeaux. The warm, dry conditions of 2020 that later gave rise to the terrible wild fires, naturally reduced and concentrated the vines’ production. This is a rare star from the vintage that will need keeping a good 7-8 years but will more than reward patience.


This is a Test 2