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How extreme is Knighton Family Vineyard? Well, it’s so steep that it would be illegal to plant by today’s Napa laws! This wicked site is grandfathered in and it yields a forcefully flavored Napa Cabernet that is nearing cult status. This amazing vineyard has been used to add raw power to wines from Vineyard 29 (100RP) and Ramey (96RP). A flamboyant purple-black RESERVE Cabernet that comes from Napa’s most unique site!
About the wine
All the stars are aligned for a major breakthrough from Knighton Family. Harvesting fruit from their ultra-steep mountain vineyard is practically death-defying – and totally worth it. Winemaker Keith Emerson has celestial gifts and just notched his first Parker 100 – and Knighton is his most exciting vineyard project. Culled from the more richly fruited and ageworthy parcels of Knighton’s mountain plot, this Cabernet is nevertheless some serious juice. It’s farmed with extreme detail on the vertigo-inducing slopes of Jericho Canyon and is shepherded from vine to bottle by the meteoric talent of Keith Emerson (Vineyard 29, Robert Craig). His winemaking is adored by Robert Parker who described his Cabernet as "absolutely sublime.” Knighton is a small family winery that Keith works with that hasn’t yet been hit by the extreme inflation that has come to his top-scoring wines.
Winemaker: Keith Emerson
Appellation: Napa Valley
- 94-96 pts: Walter Moore, WSET Diploma, CSW
- 4.8/5.0: Vivino Users, All Vintages (13 Ratings)
Grapes: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
Vineyard: Knighton Family Vineyard
Cooperage: 17 months in French Oak, 50% new (Taransaud, Demptos, Saury, Ermitage)
About the winery
Knighton Family Vineyards was this close to being the cult winery that never was. The Knightons were set on finding a home in the sticks, far from vineyards. Yet fate strangely drew them to this old vineyard; overgrown, unwelcoming and disused. And now here they are, with one of Napa’s top vineyards on their home property. Their first vintage was a meager two barrels, and production has ballooned to an enormous 200 cases in 2012! Just kidding. The yields here will forever be small due to the extreme difficulty of farming here, so what little is made, is gobbled up by Cabernet collectors in search of Cabernet from Napa’s frontier.
About the vineyard
This exceptional vineyard is quite literally “in the clouds!” Situated at 1500ft elevation, this site breaks the cloud cover on Mt. St. Helena and is accessible only by a treacherous 3-mile switchback route northeast of Calistoga. A dramatic 500ft incline makes this one of the most striking vineyards in earth – and it’s become highly coveted for it’s super-intense structure and inky concentration. This area, defined by Jericho Creek on the west and Old Toll Road on the east has attracted Napa’s top producers – including Ramey Wine Cellars, Vineyard 29 and even Rudd! With very special volcanic soils and mountainside exposure, Knighton’s young vineyard is already mentioned in the same breath as Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain’s best vineyards.
About the winemaker, Keith Emerson
All of the Knighton wines are made under the watchful eye of Keith Emerson at the state-of-the-art winery at Vineyard 29, which is Emerson’s day job. He’s also the man appointed to steer the ship at Robert Craig and his own labels Emerson Brown and Sonria. His career trajectory thus far has been downright vertiginous, starting out at Cakebread Cellars and Gundlach Bundschu. Then his personal winemaking career took off, first with a passel of appreciate and optimistic reviews and now operating almost exclusively in the 97-100 point range. His swift rise to the top is thanks to mentoring from winemaking legends Zelma Long and Philippe Melka and Emerson’s own unrelenting work ethic.
94-96 pts - Walter Moore, WSET Diploma, CSW
"Full of rich fruit and vigor this spicy Napa Cabernet packs tons of character with a big dollop of earthy old world charm. The inky black core reveals a dense oily viscosity when swirled, with hints of its maturity from the lightly brick-colored rim . The nose is still very youthful showing juicy dark peppery blackberry fruit and enticing mountain herbs layered with more aged notes of beef jerky and freshly ground coffee. Chocolate dipped black currants, roasted red peppers and spiced grilled meat dominant the palate with hints of pencil lead minerality, soy-like umami and exotic ginger and juniper on the long finish. The mouthfeel is dense and viscous yet silky, demonstrating flawless integration of the oak treatment. This unusually dynamic Cabernet possesses the charm of a Barbaresco, the power of a Super Tuscan and the dense super ripe fruit you expect from Napa. Enjoy this wine with a quality aged hard cheese, herb roasted Lamb chops, or asian spiced pepper steak.”