Fasten your seat belt; I am going to tell you about one of the best Cabernets in Napa Valley and the only way to get it is to join the winery’s mailing list. It’s not available in any retail store.
The view when you taste ADV wines at the home of the producers
Forget those $350 bottles of Cabernet with enough gold filigree on the label to make the winery owner another gold pinky ring.
Forget the over-extracted, over-alcoholized, over-oaked, fruit bombs, which have come to define “Napa Valley Cabernet.”
Forget over-priced wines, of which there are many in this valley.
This is a story about a wine with finesse and elegance; about a wine, which actually complements food; about a wine which is ethereally balanced. And which doesn’t cost a fortune relative to what’s in the marketplace.
Here’s the skinny:
This is the story about a three-lettered label, ADV, which is an acronym for the owners, Robert Adler (the A) and his wife, Alexis Deutsch (the D), while the V stands for Vineyard.
I have been acquiring Adler Deutsch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon since the first vintage, in 2008, and it just keeps getting better both stylistically, and as the vines mature.
It also has grown in stature because of the production team, which Rob and Alexis have nurtured.
Winemaker Aaron Pott
Aaron Pott, the extremely skilled Mt. Veeder winemaker, is ADV’s wine guru. At age 26, Aaron solidified his reputation when he was hand-picked to make the wines for one of Bordeaux’ top houses, Chateau Troplong-Mondot, a Premier Grand Cru Classe wine in St.-Emilion.
Aaron then went on to become wine director/winemaker at another legendary property, Chateau La Tour Figeac. Let me tell you, this guy dreams in phenolic colors.
And as smart as Aaron is, and as skilled as Aaron is, that’s how nice he is.
Helping Rob and Alexis put ADV into a select few of the nation’s top restaurants required Desmond Echavarrie’s skill, palate and contact list. Des, as he is known to friends, surrounds himself exclusively with premium, small-production wines.
As a certified Master Sommelier, Des is building a small business to place Napa Valley’s top wines (personally selected by him) in strategically important venues across the country. ADV is one of only 20 wines, which Des has committed to place.
I took an instant liking to Des and was bowled over by his phenomenally accurate, and sensitive, sense of smell and taste.
Rob and Alexis, pictured above, are committed to grow the best grapes their soil will produce.
Rob, a former doctor in LA, and Alexis, a creative fiction writer and talented artist, donate 100 percent of ALL profits of their wine activity to charities, which support families needing food and safe shelter. As well, they fund inner-city arts programs. They keep nothing for themselves.
Much as they are not in this for profit, so too are they not in it for ego-driven needs; if anything, Rob and Alexis are self-contained, soft-spoken, and lead very private lives.
But wait, there’s more....
The reason you haven’t heard about ADV wines until now is because only 225 cases are produced annually and they are quickly purchased by a small band of sophisticated, dedicated, wine consumers.
I put ADV wine in the same class as Spottswoode, whose wine I also buy annually in a six-pack format. If you asked me which Napa Valley wines I would take to a desert island, they would be, plain and simple, ADV and Spottswoode. Napa Valley Cabs don’t get any more supple, rich, elegant, or delicious.
Sure, I have favorite vintages of many wines; I love the 2007 Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet, I love the 1991 Philip Togni Cabernet, I love early vintages of Ridge Montebello Cabernet, and yes, I have enough of these to sink a desert island.
But for sheer brilliance in winemaking, the ten-year run of vintages, which ADV has produced, is exhilarating – because the wine is so sexy, so soft, so approachable, so delicious! And that is not a word you often see used to describe Napa Valley Cabernet.
In 2006, Rob and Alexis bought a worn down farmhouse on a 3.2-acre parcel on the southern edge of the St. Helena Appellation, thinking they would try to make the kind of wine they themselves like to drink, something which complements food, not which bonks it on the head with overbearing fruit, alcohol, or oak.
They tore down the farmhouse and built a gorgeous home, which has been featured in Veranda magazine.
You can read the article about their home here:
They planted, then partially re-cloned, 2.2 acres with three varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon; as well, they planted Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.
Aaron Pott, who makes his own fabulous wines and who consults to nine other wineries in the valley, says that ADV has a particularly rich vineyard site.
“I am credited for making good wine at ADV, but the real credit needs to go to the soil here. It is some of the very best gravel in all of Napa Valley,” says Aaron.
“ADV vines sit on the St. Helena bench, which has a perfect gravel/clay balance which produces intensely flavored wines with profound depth. This is, in winemaking terms, ‘a Perfect Site.’”
The first-ever retrospective of ADV wines! Des, Aaron, Alexis and Rob taste through 10 years of vintages
It was napaman who suggested to Rob that he conduct a 10-year retrospective of his wines so that his team – and napaman, who begged to be present! -- might learn how the wine was maturing, influenced by vineyard changes, which Aaron has introduced over successive years.
The group assembled last week and, for the first time ever, the team -- and napaman -- tasted all 10 vintages of ADV, from 2008 through to barrel samples of the 2016 and 2017 vintages.
Let me be clear about one thing:
Over a decade, napaman has become a personal friend of Rob and Alexis and for the longest time, I have avoided writing about them, or their wine, because of a potentially imputed conflict of interest – writing about, and promoting, my friends’ wines in this column.
But it strikes me as inane to avoid writing about one of my favorite wines in the valley and penalizing the winemakers because they are friends.
Hell, I have written about so many hundreds of Napa Valley wines over the last 20 years, many made by narcissistic, ego-driven, people. I figure it’s time to write about a wine I really like, which is made by people I really like. So there you have my admission of self-interest in this wine profile.
We tasted 10 vintages of ADV wines
I will not provide individual tasting notes on the 10 vintages of ADV Cabernet we tasted, as readers will not have a chance to find, cellar, or try the older, library wines. I will, however, offer a few tasting note highlights:
While there were NO duds, NO imperfections, and NO blemishes, my favorite vintages of the lineup were 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Aaron and Des agreed.
2011 was a cooler, wetter, vintage, one which most critics rated incorrectly. They largely said that the weather had conspired to produce a lousy vintage, which immediately killed sales of every winemaker’s 2011 Cabernets across Napa Valley.
Napaman was a contrarian and said so in print. I claimed early on that this was an impressive, balanced vintage, which was going to produce gorgeous wines. And to put my money where my mouth would follow, I bought many cases of many Napa Valley 2011 Cabernets. They are still gorgeous and in many cases, silken and alluring.
ADV’s 2011 Cabernet is ethereal. There are amaro-like bitters and hints of espresso on the nose, as well as pretty aromas of fresh fruit. This wine has elegance and finesse and would make many Bordeaux producers envious for its purity, complexity and smart grooming. 95 points.
ADV’s 2012 Cabernet has more of the same compelling espresso nose, oodles of ripe red fruit and a whiff of freshly cut flowers (iris and violets particularly evident).
On the palate, the coffee notes rise to the top, followed by fresh red fruits and purple tones, likely nuanced from the Cabernet Franc. I love the texture of this wine as much as the flavor. Sexy stuff. 95 points.
ADV’s 2014 Cabernet was Aaron’s first farm-to-table vintage for ADV and his efforts produced a wine of extreme depth, rich flavor, silken texture and outright sex appeal. There’s lots of stuffing in the wine, though it remains a complex, pretty, alluring beverage. 98 points.
ADV’s 2015 Cabernet is as close to perfection as you can get without going into triple digit ecstasy. I hesitate to score this wine 100 points only because readers will think it hyperbole, so I will resist such temptation and score this wine 99 points. But trust me, there is virtually nothing missing here. This wine has not yet been released.
On a typical visit to ADV, guests assemble on Rob and Alexis’ back patio, which overlooks their vineyard. In the distance, one is impressed by the view of Mount St. Helena.
Ella, the winery mascot, makes sure patio tastings are complemented with enough crackers and sufficient crumbly fare to ensure that crumbs fall to the patio...
The 2.2-acre ADV vineyard
The only way to obtain bottles of the 2015 ADV Cabernet (released next spring) is to join the winery mailing list.
To do that, go to adlerdeutsch.com and add your contact information.
The 2015 ADV Cabernet will be $135 upon release – a bargain compared to many over-priced Napa Valley Cabernets in the $250-$800 range, which aren’t, quite frankly, anywhere near as pleasing as ADV.
For the record: ADV wines are only sold in multiples of three bottles. You must order 3, 6, 9, or 12 bottles.
Once you are a mailing list buyer, you may request to visit Rob and Alexis as they do not have a public tasting room. To request a visit, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 707-880-7227.
Telling Rob or Alexis that napaman sent you won’t enable you to jump the queue, or enable you to buy more than your allocation, but at least you’ll have something else to talk about other than the perfect wine, which Rob is going to pour for you.