A Day in Rutherford’s Dust


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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This past week we had the good fortune to participate in the Rutherford Dust Society’s annual wine tasting “A Day in the Dust” at the historic Rubicon Estate Winery in the Napa Valley. It was a wonderful tasting followed by a gourmet luncheon in the historic barrel room, complete with a surprise visit from the man himself, owner of Rubicon Estate Francis Ford Coppola. We tasted 22 wines in two flights of eleven each. The wines were all 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends from the Rutherford AVA.

The renowned winemaker André Tchelistcheff , who years ago branded the term “Dust,” said: “It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet.” Some people think that wines from this region have a unique soil characteristic that can be tasted in the wines. I have never been able to ascertain that taste, but what I do know about these wines is that they are wonderfully-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon wines to be enjoyed now, or to be aged in order to gain even further perfection.

In the first flight, we felt the wines to be somewhat restrained compared to normal Napa Cabernets, but they were delightful wines. The aroma in all but a few was slight, which we thought was unusual. But the wines tasted splendid and well balanced. In the second flight, perhaps because is was now around 11:15 and our senses were fully operating, we felt the wines were much fuller, more intense, and their aromas filled the air.

Interestingly, when the wines were unveiled we learned that the first flight of wines were all from vineyards on the eastside of the Rutherford AVA and presented from south to the north. The second flight represented wines made from vineyards on the westside from north to south.

The 2007 vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet is considered by many to be one of the finest vintages in the past decade. Many of us who were present at the tasting agreed that the 2008 vintage is perhaps even a finer vintage. There were certainly more climate challenges in 2008 and the yield was off by 30% in most areas of Rutherford and the Napa Valley. There was an early bud break followed by a frost, heat during bloom, a heat wave in August of several days over 100 degrees, and finally a cool off in September.

Janelle and I enjoyed all the wines immensely but we circled our favorites from each round.

Flight One

Round Pond – cassis, coffee, black fruit, and great finish
Honig Campbell Vineyard – beautiful long finish, great balance
Quintessa – good Cab aroma and characteristics, elegant.
Piña Firehouse Vineyards- great nose and best of the round, great finish

Flight Two

Meander – coffee notes, layered flavors in the mouth, lingering finish
Beaulieu George de Latour – very delicious and our favorite of the tasting
Rubicon Estate – aromas of black fruit, cassis. Also a favorite of the tasting
St. Clements – nice Cab aromas, velvety feel and great finish.
Staglin – the biggest wine of the day and with lunch even more delicious
Sojurn – lacking in intense aroma but lovely in the mouth, very delicious

Many of the wines at this Rutherford Dust Society’s annual tasting will not be released until later in the year and some not even until next year. For those who plan to visit the Napa Valley, you can find a listing of the Rutherford AVA members on the Rutherford Dust Society’s website. Have your own Cabernet day in this historic area of the Napa Valley. It’s great fun!

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

3 thoughts on “A Day in Rutherford’s Dust”

  1. I think the tasting intoxicated your critical faculties. This essay reads like a publicist’s press release.

  2. Thank you Joe for sharing the event with us. I was invited to attend this years Rutherford Dust tasting, but was out of the country that week. I’ll check out your favorites and get back to you.


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