Viader Vineyards & Winery
Viader (pronounced Vie-ya-DARE) is a single vineyard winery on the Eastern slopes of Howell Mountain in California’s Napa Valley. It was created by Delia Viader in 1986 and has risen to something of a cult status wine: limited production and highly sought after by the cognoscente.
Delia Viader is an Argentine who came to the US with a Doctorate in Philosophy and took advanced business studies at MIT, UC Berkley and UC Davis. Two of her four children are involved in the winery as well as her daughter-in-law. This family run business operates a steep vineyard just 25 feet from the Howell Mountain AVA border, and while technically not Howell Mountain, it shares that hallowed area’s ability to produce age-worthy wines. In this case, we drank the 1997 Proprietary Red Blend, now entering its 18th year.
This is a unique vineyard, with real differences that distinguish it from most other Napa Valley vineyards. First, being a mountain vineyard it sits at an elevation of 1,300 feet, among the higher elevations in the Valley. Second, it is very steep, with an average slope of 32 degrees. The steep slope, combined with the poor volcanic loam and minimal topsoil, creates a well drained soil that the vines struggle to grow in, resulting in less but more intensely flavoured fruit. The vineyard is planted in a relatively untraditional manner for a steep slope. Steep vineyards are often terraced which can allow for easier picking and greater stability. Viader does not use terraces and, in another break from convention, the vines are oriented up and down the slope as opposed to across it. This is done to maximize sun exposure and achieve maximum ripeness. The vineyard is planted to four varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petite Verdot.
Viader’s reputation was built and remains firmly rested upon the Proprietary Red Blend. It is a rather unique combination of roughly 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc. Delia’s fondness for the Cabernet Franc came from having drunk Cheval Blanc, arguably the greatest St. Emillion, back when she lived for a time in France. Cheval Blanc is somewhat unique in being half Cabernet Franc, though its blending partner is Merlot. With the exception of Dalla Valle’s Maya, few notable Napa Valley wines have such a high percentage of Cabernet Franc in their blend.
But as the following tasting note will show, this is a winning combination. Complex, smooth and age-worthy, this is what you want in a wine. It may be hard to find, but well worth the search.
Medium red, faded at the rim. Sensational nose that shows both red and black fruits combined with spice that absolutely intoxicates! Medium body, there is a refined elegance to this wine that lets you know you are dealing with class. Beneath the fruit there are herbal notes and a slight leafy-ness. The body is smooth and long and caresses the palate. The finish was long initially but towards the end of the meal it seemed to fall off a bit. This bottle had sat on its side at 56 degrees since purchase in 2000 and was absolutely stunning.