This past Wednesday we were lucky to have hosted a fine tasting of Juslyn’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with Managing Partner and General Manager Stephanie DeMasi. With such a small business, production is hovering around 1300 cases total and the estate vineyard is a mere eight acres, it’s easy for a GM to know the ins and outs of the operation, and Stephanie certainly was able to add tons of background to the Juslyn story and answer the many question our audience came up with.

Stephanie has been with Juslyn for years, becoming a partner in 2007, sharing responsibilities with founders Perry and Carolyn Butler. The winery’s location on Spring Mountain, close to Spring Mountain Winery and Robert Keenan, delivers the classic Spring Mountain fruit profile, which is to say elegance, earth, black cherry fruit and fine balance. And the small scale of the operation allows for unusual control and flexibility vintage to vintage.

The first vintage of Juslyn’s Spring Mountain Estate Cabernet was 2000, when only 80 cases of wine were made from vine planted in 1997. The blend of the wine generally reflects the vineyard planting, with some 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, the remaining acreage being Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. While the wines generally mirror this, exceptions have been made, such as with the 2005, which contains just 75% Cabernet.

The wines are made in what might best be called a traditional style, though more California Traditional might be closer to the truth. There is no escaping the fact that Napa Valley, even these Spring Mountain vineyards, benefit from lots of sun and warmth in a typical vintage. Located as they are between Calistoga and St. Helena, on the west side of Napa Valley, Spring Mountain Vineyards enjoys a lot of degree days, but having the sun set somewhat earlier as it drifts below the Mayacamas range affords cooler evenings and longer nights, which help the grapes preserve freshness and acidity.

We were fortunate to taste through the entire commercial production of Juslyn’s Spring Mountain Estate, which might better be considered as a reserve wine. 2002 was the inaugural commercial release, while the 2007 was a pre-release sample since these wines spend two years in oak (100% new French oak) and then are allowed to mature in the bottle for an additional three years before release.

Tasting through the lineup one can definitely see a progression, with the latter wines showing the emerging house style and of course benefiting from the maturation of the vines. All the wines showed wonderful inconsistency as well, which is to say they were each true to and reflective of the fruit of that vintage! My favorites were the 2002 for current consumption, and both the 2005 and 2007 look to have excellent room for growth - though in distinctly different styles.

As an aperitif we were served the 2009 Jusyn Sauvignon Blanc which was not really a commercial release, but it has proven so successful that 2010 will see a somewhat great production, which will be made available to the public. Now on to the wines:

2009 Juslyn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

Subdued but fresh on the nose with notes of fig, flowers, cut grass and mineral. Fairly round at this stage in its life with orange tones on entry and bright melon fruit on the mid-palate that shows nice cut before finishing with some smoky tones. 87pts

2002 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet
Earthy on the nose with notes of black cherry, dried chili, and nuanced tobacco and cigarbox elements. Lean and crisp in the mouth, though fleshing out nicely with some air. This is crisp and focused with fine, ripe tannins supporting a core of black cherry fruit and nicely evolved flavors. Very clean on the finish, more Bordelaise than Napa! Should continue to drink well for another five years at least. 91pts

2003 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet

Musky and floral on the nose with plummy black fruit. Soft and supple in the mouth with rich plummy fruit covering tannins that are a bit austere. There's a nice layer of coffee over the dark fruit on the modest finish and an iron note on the finale. This is drinking well due to the fruit but I would opt to drink this sooner rather than later since the tannins seem a bit aggressive. 88pts

2004 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet
Lightly musky with black currant fruit, a touch of chile and some smoky oak tones, turning a bit porty with air. This is nicely balanced in the mouth and showing some age with plummy black fruit and spice notes. The tannins are very ripe and while this lends the wine a nice supple feel it also loses some focus in the mouth and on the black cherry finish. A seamless wine at peak today. 89pts

2005 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet
This is youthful and packed with fresh black cherry fruit, chipotle, some well-integrated wood spice, a fine faint grassy tone, a top not of vanilla and a vein of grilled steak with A1 sauce. Cool and crisp in the mouth with excellent focus and good depth. This is a big wine but it’s also quite elegant with spice and mineral notes offering fine cut on the palate and great persistence of fresh black fruit on the long finish. This is still tight and probably needs another three years to hit its stride. A great showing today. 94pts

2006 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet
Black currant, vanilla, tobacco and spicy, cedary oak on the nose. This opens with a sweet entry and follows through with a rather voluptuous feel. A rich wine, still a little youthfully chewy with rich black cherry fruit that yields to noticeable oak spice and vanilla on the moderately long finish with a hint of herb on the finale. 91pts

2007 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet
Reticent on the nose with some gentle black fruit covered with cedar. On the palate this is bright and fresh with big-boned black cherry fruit that is framed with fine spice notes. Mineral flecked in the mouth, this is really poised and shows real richness of flavor while remaining quite light on its feet. It’s a bit premature to judge but the raw material here is impressive. 92pts