Ashes & Diamonds 'Mountain Cuvée "Saffron Vineyard" comes from Lisa Chu's organically farmed Mt. Veeder site, located high above the fog inversion line at an altitude of 1,500 feet, where daytime temperatures are often 15 degrees cooler than on the valley floor. the deep-rooted Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapevines were planted in 2000 in thin soils comprised of uplifted marine sediment and fractured shale. Soils with naturally low fertility and no irrigation make for naturally balanced grapevines with low yields and small berries. Once at the winery, the grapes are cold-soaked until native fermentation begins. The resulting wine is bouncy and outgoing, with explosive red fruit aromas like biting into a ripe, juicy plum, and fine, focused tannins.
The 2016 Mountain Cuvée Saffron Vineyard No. 1, a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend, is powerful and austere, but, then again, we are talking about a young Howell Mountain wine. Savory herb, licorice and lavender notes open up, but only with great reluctance. Even within the context of Howell Mountain Cabernet, the 2016 is compact and not especially expressive.