Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley 2017

Deep ruby color; black cherry, blackcurrant, plum, tobacco, oak on the nose; black cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant, black olive, chocolate, oak on the palate.

Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley 2017

Dry; this is your prototypical massive fruit, tectonic oak, blowsy alcohol—except the makers dialed it all back a click. Very well played. There is a nice breeze of licorice and tobacco as the liquid entertains the back of your tongue. Rutherford dust—earthy minerality—of course. Blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 22% merlot, 3% malbec. Matured 19 months in French oak, 47% new.

Higher-end Napa wines are higher-end because they consistently deliver the Robert Paker imprimatur and are seriously delicious serious wine. This checks the boxes. Big, dense body. Medium acidity. Oh, yes, oak—but not an immoderate amount wood. Layers of darker fruit flavors escort you to an extended finish. 14.8% ABV

The Sullivan Rutherford Estate dates back two centuries to 1821 when ownership of the Napa Valley transitioned from Spain to Mexico. Twenty years later, Napa Valley was divided into two parcels through a land grant—Rancho Caymus to the South, and Rancho Carne Humana to the North. Sullivan’s property lies on this historic division.

Sullivan Vineyards winery and vineyard

In 1918, Virgile Galleron acquired 402 acres in Rutherford with the purpose of farming the land. Nearly 60 years later the Galleron family sold the 26-acre Rutherford property to James O’Neil Sullivan. With the encouragement of friend and legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, Sullivan planted merlot and cabernet sauvignon in the vineyards gravelly-sandy loam.

Sullivan Vineyards founder James O’Neil Sullivan

Jim Sullivan’s interest in wine began in the 1950s when a simple grape arbor was given to him and his new bride as a wedding gift. A graphic artist by trade, Sullivan was known for his work with 60s icons such as The Monkees and Dick Clark Productions. An artist at heart, he began to make wine at home and a new passion began. As his winemaking skills grew, so did his passion for the vine. For the next two decades, he explored California to find the finest area to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1972, the winery was established and Jim moved his family permanently to the Rutherford Estate.

Sullivan Vineyards winery

According to the website: “Today the Estate continues to build on its legacy of growing and crafting world class Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Under new family ownership in 2018, the team is deeply investing in its vineyard programs and plans are underway to build a state-of-the-art winery and hospitality facilities. Led by entrepreneur Juan Pablo Torres-Padilla, who has gradually gathered one of the top teams of wine professionals in the country to lead the Estate, recognizes great potential for crafting exquisite wines and one of the top visitor experiences.”

Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley 2017 is a luxurious sojourn into the world of higher-end Napa cabs, at a somewhat affordable price portal. This checks the boxes: ripe fruit, oak, alcohol, a merry-go-round of dark fruit flavors. You can pay a lot more to pour something like this, but—for most of us—the difference is gossamer thin and not worth dipping into the children’s college funds. $99-110

Sullivan Vineyards website

Sullivan Vineyards winery
Sullivan Vineyards managing partner Juan Pablo Torres Padilla
Sullivan Vineyards general manager Joshua Lowell