2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 750 ml
The wine is ravishing! The clean, fresh, perfectly defined bouquet offers spiced and macerated black currants, mulberries and blueberries wreathed with smoke, cedar and tobacco and an edge of dusty, flinty minerality.
Legendary Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame just Twittered his admiration for the 2001 Cab Reserve:
"2001 Renaissance Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba. Great treasure hiding in plain sight"
94 points - Ed McCarthy - www.winereviewsonline.com - 11.03.2009
2001 Renaissance Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba ($50)
If you yearn for the days when most California Cabernet Sauvignons were made in a balanced style--powerful, yet not too extracted, too ripe or fruity, nor too high in alcohol--I have the wine for you. Renaissance Vineyard, a small, very traditional winery in the northern part of the Sierra Foothills, is making wines that remind me of the best that were being made in the 1970s. The winemaker, with the old-fashioned, almost Biblical name of Gideon Bienstock, has been at Renaissance for more than two decades, and I think his wines are now better than ever. Renaissance produces many different wines, but I believe its Cabernet Sauvignon is its best. The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is its current release (!), because the winery holds its wines until it believes they're ready to drink. This is my kind of Cabernet Sauvignon; it's gorgeous now, but it should age well for decades. It has concentrated aromas and flavors of cedar and black currants, somewhat like a California version of a good Left Bank Bordeaux, such as a Pauillac. It has great depth, and is driven by its excellent acidity--unusual for California. Its alcohol content is 13.6°, low by today's standards, although a bit high for Renaissance, which regularly produces wines with about 12.5° alcohol (unheard of nowadays). The best way to order this wine or any of Renaissance's wines is to call the winery directly (800) 655-3277, as you won't find them in many retail outlets. A great buy at $50. I love this wine!
Score 9 - 9.5 (out of 10) - Alder Yarrow - Vinography - 01.12.2010
2001 Renaissance Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba
Every time I review a wine from some little producer whose wines I adore, I experience a pang of regret, because I know that by writing about these wineries and their wines, I only make them more expensive and harder to acquire for myself (and others). I do occasionally get e-mails from ticked off wine lovers bemoaning the fact that I've divulged one of their secret sources for great wine.
But that's just an occupational hazard for me, and doesn't outweigh the joy of being able to say things like this: Listen up people. There is some seriously amazing wine being made in a little out-of-the-way place in the northernmost part of California's Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area). At the hands of soft-spoken resident winemaker Gideon Beinstock, Renaissance Vineyards is making small lots of Bordeaux and Northern Rhone style wines that are pretty much unlike any other wines being made in California -- in a really good way.
Renaissance Vineyards is not some upstart young winery that is pioneering new things in a new region. Rather, they are more like a wild-eyed hermit, that disappeared into the mountains years ago to live in the valley that he believed was the promised land, showing up in town every once in a while for supplies. Some people have known about them for years, but for others, the idea of a winery out in the middle of nowhere, CA elicits the scratching of heads.
German winemaker Dr. Karl Werner discovered the vineyard potential of the steep hillsides of the North Yuba river valley in the upper reaches of what was not even yet the Sierra Foothills AVA. It was not until 1987 that the appellation of the Sierra Foothills came into existence, and by then Renaissance Vineyards had been making wine for 8 years.
Today the organization continues to own the vineyard, but is perhaps less involved than it was in the past. Dr. Werner passed away in 1989, just after the winery's first commercial release, and after being run for a time by Dr. Werner's wife Diana, winemaking operations were turned over in 1994 to Gideon Beinstock who has spent the last 13 years transforming Renaissance Winery from a broad, almost experimental winery, to a more focused winery with a clearer vision of what it wants to accomplish.
Dr. Werner's vision was originally for a winery that combined the best of the Bordeaux and the German traditions, which meant that a lot of Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling were planted to start. Over time, Beinstock discovered that Rhone varietals performed particularly well, and now the winery focuses primarily on Bordeaux and Northern Rhone varietals. In addition to "learning the terroir" as he puts it, Beinstock has gradually increased the focus of the winery, reducing yields, reducing production, phasing out the use of commercial yeasts, pump-overs, fining, filtration, sulfur use, and cold stabilization. In addition he has moved the winery to 100% organic viticulture, and has introduced some Biodynamic farming techniques in the most recent vintages.
If you ask him, even after 13 years of winemaking, and nearly 20 years of experience in the Sierra Foothills, Beinstock will tell you that he is still figuring out the terroir of the area, which he believes to be quite possibly the most remarkable of any in California. But as someone who has been tasting the wines pretty regularly for the past few years, I can tell you he's had it dialed in now for some time.
"Some time" means at least since 1995, only a year after he took over as full-time winemaker, and the year of one of the winery's current releases. Not content to be the sole winery in what is now its own North Yuba AVA, under Beinstock's leadership Renaissance is defying all the common sense of traditional winery marketing and release schedules. To wit: this 2001 wine is their current release, and several other of their current releases date back into the 1990s.
The only other winery in California that I know of which approaches this sort of delayed release program is Kalin Cellars, whose current releases are typically aged about 10 to 12 years. To any normal winery, such delayed release dates would be financial suicide, but Renaissance vineyards has never operated like a normal commercial business.
Leaving aside the financial and operational considerations, such a move takes guts, and a particular vision for what your wines can be and ought to be. From Beinstock's perspective, it's a simple question -- he lets the wines tell him when they're ready. "We originally scheduled the release of our '95 Cab to be around 2004 or 2005 but the wine was still completely "dormant" and did not cooperate with that idea, so we had to postpone it until 2008," he says.
This sort of intuition and old world thinking pervades Beinstock's winemaking, resulting in wines that are strikingly unique in character and personality, not to mention long-lived. The winery currently has two sets of releases, those older wines that it has chosen this year to release, and more current vintages that follow a more traditional release schedule. Both are exceptional in quality, and worth the time and effort required to seek them out.
Most wines undergo very long fermentations, the reds in open-top oak fermenters with frequent hand punchdowns, the whites in stainless steel. Oak aging, which some of the late harvest wines receive as well, is done primarily in a combination of French and American oak between 1 and 5 years old. Some of the top reds are aged for up to 30 months in barrel before bottling.
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of cherries, lilacs, and cedar aromas. In the mouth it is incredibly aromatic, with soaring flavors of cherry, cedar, floral notes and hints of darker deeper earth and leather. Muscled, suede-soft tannins hug the palate and linger as the wine finishes in a resonant way. Excellent.
Relatively low in alcohol with wonderful acidity this wine will pair well with lots of things. I'd be utterly content drinking it with slow braised beef short ribs over polenta.
Overall Score: between 9 and 9.5
How Much?: $50
Excellent - Frederic Koeppel - 20.25.2010
Released in May 2009 in a quantity of 830 cases — you understand that’s a huge production for this winery — the Renaissance Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills, is a blend of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 22 percent merlot and 3 percent cabernet franc and syrah. Aging was up to 18 months in used French, German and American oak barrels; the alcohol level is 13.6 percent. The wine is ravishing. The clean, fresh, perfectly defined bouquet offers spiced and macerated black currants, mulberries and blueberries wreathed with smoke, cedar and tobacco and an edge of dusty, flinty minerality. In the mouth, this cabernet is smooth and mellow but no wimp; as usual with the red wines of Renaissance, the dimensionality of dense, dusty tannins dominates but does not overwhelm the rich warmth of wonderfully proportioned red and black fruit flavors that seem slightly fleshy and feral, with a fillip of wild berry. Best from 2012 or ‘14 through 2018 or ‘20. Excellent. $50.