To borrow a phrase from Paul Draper, “We have had several requests for information on the 1971 Ridge Eisele Vineyard Cabernet.” Some strange zeitgeist afoot, to say the least! This has come up recently in e-mails, on the blog, and in the tasting room as well. Anyhow, as with many of these requests about rare back vintages, I like to go directly to the source for some “inside” insight, and again, Paul has very kindly offered some information:
“We have had several requests for information on the 1971 Ridge Eisele Vineyard Cabernet. This was the first commercial bottling of the Eisele, a vineyard now owned by the Araujo family and so named.
By 1970, we had replanted all the vineyard parcels, abandoned during prohibition, on the Monte Bello land we owned at that time. As the vines we planted were not yet mature, the Monte Bello was made entirely from the vines on the land that had been replanted in the 1940’s and the quantities were limited.
We felt that our use of traditional methods (naturally occurring yeast, no processing, no chemical additions except minimal S02) had historically made the finest wines. We wanted to make a wine from the Napa Valley where more technical winemaking was typical in order to see what level of quality we could achieve with our traditional techniques. We looked around and in 1971 Milt Eisele offered us the grapes from his small parcel of vines near Calistoga. At 25° Brix the grapes were riper than anything we had yet harvested in our cool region. I fermented them in small, one ton fermentors with the cap held submerged by a grid. To make sure the wine would be full and intense, I did not press until the biblical “40 days and 40 nights” had passed and the caps had fallen to the bottom of the fermentors. The wine was very structured but with time it integrated fully and has shown beautifully over the years. We will open a bottle this next week to see how it is doing.
And that’s the scoop on the 71! And by the way, regarding the conversations around whether there was a ’73 Eisele, I’m wondering if the confusion might have to do with bottling dates and tasting notes? Although the ’71 was the only vintage made, the wine was in fact bottled in 1973, and this is also when Paul wrote the first tasting notes, which are featured on the original label (see below).
(click on the graphic above to see the full-size image)