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I must confess to occasional feelings of ambivalence and ennui when it comes to the state of Napa Valley wine these days. Many of the standard-bearers from 50 years ago have been sold to large companies or are gone altogether, and those beautiful, transcendent bottles from the golden era are now almost impossible to find—and prohibitively expensive when you do.
Napa, I love you, but you’re breaking my heart. But then, out of the ether a few bottles labeled simply CONVEXITY hit the SommSelect tasting table and boom! All the beauty, complexity, and profundity comes rushing back and I see the light again. Napa, I’m a believer!
So, what is Convexity? Once the story began to unfold, I felt a bit sheepish having never crossed paths with these wines, but new discoveries are a part of the joy of wine, and this one was exceptionally joyful. The first “aha, of course” moment was learning that the man behind these lovely bottles was none other than Steve Matthiasson. For three decades, Steve and his wife, Jill, have been orchestrating a quiet revolution in the Valley. They have no interest in high-octane, over-oaked wines that seek 100 points and a cult following so they can charge four figures. Indeed, since they started, they’ve been moving in almost the exact opposite direction from many of their neighbors. Their devotion to the Napa of old and to the sustainable Napa of the future has garnered a different type of cult following among those who seek out balanced, structured and complex wines with aging potential. Convexity is a perfect embodiment of this philosophy, and yet I would have no problem putting it in front of more modern-minded Napa drinkers, I’m quite certain they will love it too.
The second lightbulb went off upon realizing that Steve was sourcing the vast majority of fruit for Convexity from the Red Hen vineyard. This relatively small, creekside parcel in the Oak Knoll AVA has a viticultural history that goes back to the first wave of the Napa wine industry in the late 1800s. Its ideal combination of sandy, alluvial soils over loam and river stones allows for enough ground water to “dry farm” the whole plot. That is exactly what the Christian brothers did in 1969 when they replanted the vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon, sans irrigation. The wines they produced were squarely in that golden age of Napa in the 1970s and ‘80s, but unfortunately, the vineyard was infested with phylloxera and by the mid-‘90s had fallen into disrepair. Enter Matthiasson: He convinced the new owners to let him nurse the vines back to health using organic farming with some biodynamic principles.
Red Hen is now the source of some of the Matthiassons’ most complex and age-worthy wines, and you can definitely add the Convexity to that list. We tasted three vintages next to each other recently, and all were excellent in their own right. But 2015 was the clear winner. This Cabernet dominant blend was already deliciously enticing when first opened, but with an hour or two to breathe it really exploded, both aromatically and texturally. Classic aromas of black and red currant, lavender, cedar, and cigar box all mingled with hints of savory earth. The palette was full of black cherries, plums, crushed violets, and baking spices that culminated with a saline, meaty finish that had excellent length. The tannins soften nicely with air, but true to the Matthiasson style the structure is substantial and there is even a nice little kick of acidity thanks to the special nature of the Red Hen vineyard. This is wine that will age gracefully for another decade or more.
If you open a bottle now I would decant for 1-2 hours and serve it at cellar temperature in a Bordeaux stem. Almost any classic Cabernet pairing will work, but it’s summer, so go to town and throw a big t-bone steak on the grill. Only 600 cases were produced of this beauty, and there’s much less available now. Given the crazy good price I can’t believe we secured enough to offer it, but I’m sure it won’t last long!
Alluvial Sand, Loam and River Stone
Practicing Organic w/ Biodynamic Treatments
Cabernet Sauvignon 80% , Merlot 9% , Petit Verdot4% ,Sangiovese 4%, Cabernet Franc 3%
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