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There’s only one downside to the logic-defying 2015 Cambridge Meritage Napa Valley - the winery produced only 800 cases! With hush-hush Pritchard Hill & Atlas Peak vineyard sources, and a hall of fame worthy winemaker, it blows away wines that cost 2-3 times more. It’s a classic Bordeaux meets Napa Valley blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc that delivers big time flavor, depth, and pitch-perfect 2015 vintage character. Cambridge is an up-and-coming winery that’s well-connected and represents seriously good value. If only there made more wine to go around! The ultimate Napa Valley “house wine” from the epic 2015 vintage.
About the wine
With a nose that reveals ripe plum, tobacco, cedar, and loam scents, Cambridge flirts with Bordeaux in more ways than one. It does so with Napa Valley generosity that’s tempered with an elegance and accessibility that Merlot and Cabernet Franc add to the blend, softening the chewier nature of Cabernet Sauvignon. French-trained winemaker Douglas Danielak has 20 years of Napa Valley winemaking experience (and relationships) that put the shine of this true Meritage. This is a small production wine from high-end Napa Valley vineyards in Pritchard Hill and Atlas Peak made by a master. While it has the stuffing to drink well for 5-6 years, it’s very accessible now for a steak dinner.
Winemaker: Douglas Danielak
Appellation: Napa Valley
94 pts: Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
97 pts: Vintage Rating (Wine Advocate)
4.5/5.0: Vivino Users (3 ratings)
Grapes: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec
Vineyards: Pritchard Hill & Atlas Peak
Cooperage: 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels
About the winery
Cambridge focuses on making limited releases of Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, and Carneros wines under the steady hand of one of California’s great winemakers, Douglas Danielak. Founder Bruce Cunningham helped to establish a prestigious Australian wine import business in California that nearly single-handedly built the US market for high-end, estate-driven Aussie’ wines in the 1990’s through early 2000. He has unparalleled relationships around the country with wine buyers, a contagious spirit, and knack for always having cool wines. Together with Danielak’s serious winemaking chops, Cambridge is an emerging star for California wines that seriously over-deliver for the money.
About the vineyard
Though the vineyard names must be kept under wraps per grape contracts, winemaker Douglas Danielak sourced this fruit entirely from “up Valley” vineyards in Pritchard Hill and Atlas Peak. According to Danielak, the obviously very high quality grapes came from his golfing buddies who own the vineyards. Needless to say, deals that happen on the golf course aren’t open to the public! How can a Napa Valley Cabernet blend at this shockingly reasonable price resemble a much higher priced Napa Valley wine? If a winemaker is pals with the right winery owner and / or grape grower, that’s how. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
About the winemaker, Douglas Danielak
For the past twenty years, winemaker Douglas Danielak has made wine for some of the Napa Valley's most respected wineries. Influenced by all things French, Douglas started his winemaking career completing the Professional Winemaking Program at the Lycée Agricole et Viticole de Beaune in Burgundy. At that time he worked with Wine Exporter Rebecca Wasserman at Le Serbet where he gained in-depth knowledge of Burgundian wines and barrels while escorting top winemakers to Francois Fréres and Taransaud cooperages. While studying in France, Douglas worked his first harvest at Chateau de Chambolle-Musigny with his friend and classmate Frederic Mugnier as well as studying and making life-long friends with the sons and daughters of many prized domaines of the Cote d'Or.
Upon returning to California Douglas was able to continue his pursuit of perfection in Pinot and Chardonnay. As few vintners at the time were interested in Pinot and Chardonnay, Douglas formed part of a tasting group of early believers in 1989 including Helen Turley, Mark Aubert, David Ramey and Ted Lemon.
In addition to his studies in Burgundy and tasting with his peers in California, Douglas completed his degree in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis and began a successful wine consulting business in Napa Valley. As one of the first Rhone Rangers, Douglas founded the Jade Mountain label with Jim Paras and was recognized as one of the top innovators of Rhone wine in America. Since then he has expanded his repertoire, crafting fine Bordeaux based wines, Rhones, and naturally Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for his list of clients. With a background and philosophy common to small vintners on either side of the Atlantic, all the wines are made to speak clearly of their origin.
94 pts - Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
”Hitting all the right notes, this classic Bordeaux blend combines aromatics of black plum, cedar box, cassis, tobacco, blackberry and black cherry harmoniously. The fruit is ripe, verging on baked with luscious, velvety texture and a smooth, fruit forward finish. The savory, earthy notes of tobacco, cedar box, and turned earth are subtle and nuanced providing a sense of balance and composure to the emphatic dark fruit profile. Enjoy this delicious standard as it evolves over the course of an evening to display notes of dark chocolate, leather, and bramble.”