Deep ruby color; raspberry, cherry, coffee, leather on the nose; black cherry, plum, vanilla, cacao, spice on the palate.
Dry; tannins smooth out nicely with decanting. In fact, the entire wine experience gets rounder and comes together with exposure to air. Supple with vivid red and black fruit flavors. Moderate acidity. California Bordeaux-style blend of 31% cabernet sauvignon, 31% cabernet fanc, 30% merlot, 8% petit verdot. Juice spent 20 months in French oak barrels, 44% new, so there is oak, but it is well behaved and frames the fruit rather than competing with it. Still, you get vanilla and oak spice, and that is why decanting—or letting this age a couple more years—should be an option for a wine of this quality and cost; 14.2% ABV.
Well structured and built for laying down for years. Although this features Bordeaux blend grapes, unlike Bordeaux where there is a lead grape—cabernet sauvignon on left bank, merlot on right bank—with the Gamble Family effort they balance the grapes depending on the quality of grapes. This effort is almost perfectly balanced, but in previous vintages there could be more of one of the grapes, typically cabernet sauvignon, but not as pronounced as you typically find in France. The Gamble goal is finesse and elegance over power and boldness. Get the best red Napa grapes and then blend as the vintage dictates. The Gambles say each vintage they create a “symphony” of the best vineyards.
Third-generation farmer Tom Gamble founded the winery. Gamble Family Vineyards farms around 175 acres of prime blocks in several of Napa Valley’s most honored AVAs—Oakville, Yountville, Mr. Veeder, and Rutherford. The winery is hidden away in a nook off Highway 29 in Oakville. The website notes: “Tom Gamble’s mission is to carry on the heritage of quality farming that his ancestors sowed when they came to Napa as farmers and ranchers in 1916.”
The 1916 operation focused on cattle ranching as much as farming. Launcelot Gamble—the founding father—obtained land in Oakville in 1955. The acquisition later became the Family Home Vineyard and began the family’s adventure in the wine business, although they produced no wine. Launcelot’s two sons, Launce and George (Tom’s father) began taking over operations.
The website notes: “In the early 1970s, the family entered into a long-term lease with Beringer Vineyards, which planted the land surrounding Family Home to grapes. Having already turned his focus to grape growing with the purchase of several vineyard sites in the 1980s and 1990s, Tom took over the task of farming Family Home, which was originally planted by his mother and stepfather in 1997.”
In 1981, at age 20, Tom purchased his first vineyard with aid of some partners. The Gambles were now into the wine business rather than grape farming business. In 2003, Jim Close joined the Gamble team as winemaker; he has made every bottle of Gamble Family Vineyards since 2005. Gamble expanded to land in Oakville in 2008, and began building today’s winery there in 2012. Designed by Tom’s brother-in-law, Morgan Conolly, the winery opened in 2013.
With roots deeper than a century, the Gambles respect the land. Winery and vineyards are certified Napa Green and certified Fish Friendly Farming. Tom advocates sustainable farming because he believes that delivers the best return on his investment in the land. He also thinks it makes for better wine, and this effort is a nice bullet point in that argument.
Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Red Blend, Napa Valley 2016 is serious quality wine. Balanced, excellent fruit, a pleasure to enjoy. Decant if you are drinking now, or lay this down for several more years for it to mature and show its depth and nuanced complexity. Pair with grilled, broiled, braised; sautéed-and-baked red meats; simple meatballs with red sauces; slow-cooked brisket; roast or grilled lamb; barbecue lamb ribs; veal; roast duck with pecan purée; wild game; portabello mushrooms. $85-95