Producer: Diamond Creek Vineyards
Winemaker: Graham Wehmeier
Region: Napa Valley, California
Everything about Diamond Creek can be considered pioneering. When Al Brounstein bought virgin land on the forested hills south of Calistoga, it was considered too cool to grow any wine grapes let alone Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact the idea of mountain Cabernet hadn’t crystallised yet and wouldn’t do so until Randy Dunn started releasing Howell Mountain wines in the late 70s, and during the 80s mountains Cabernets were the first cult Napa wines. When the land was cleared and they discovered the three distinctly different soil types on the property, they decided to follow a Burgundian approach and plant according to site and soil. This completely turned the Bordeaux-model (blending Cabernet from vineyards right across the valley) on its head but prefaced by several decades the release of not only single vineyard wines, but even wines from specific areas of Napa (like Rutherford and Oakville).
The wines of Diamond Creek were also some of the most expensive in Napa from their very first release. They remained at the top of Napa’s fame until the likes of Screaming Eagle and Harlan began to make waves with their more luscious and immediate styles in the mid 1990s. The firm mountain tannins, and moderate alcohol levels (rarely above 13%) fell out of favour and Diamond Creek went through a lean period from the late 1990s for at least a decade. The wines began to improve again and by the time the highly regarded 2013s were released it was clear the wines were back on top form. Recent vintages have continued to showcase the estates structural strengths whilst coming into the modern era with less severity of the tannins and a much more seductive appeal.
Meanwhile the old-school labels evoke genuine excitement on the table. And yet they have a clear, almost aloof personality reminiscent of the great Monte Bello reds from Ridge Vineyards – two estates that march to the beat of their own drums.