Plumpjack’s Alum’s “Perfect” Craft
Robert Parker’s affection for Hourglass winemaker Tony Biagi — “one of my favorite personalities in the valley” — is etched on the Wine Advocate scoreboard. After working at Duckhorn under famed enologist Tom Rinaldi, Biagi engineered an astonishing run of 99- and 98-point wines during his nearly decade-long tenure at PlumpJack and Cade, most of which now retail for $300 to $800 per bottle. Parker called his efforts “virtually perfect.” Hired away by cult winery Hourglass in 2012, Biagi initially created the “HG III” blend as a special cuvee from the winery’s Blueline Estate, which sits directly across the street from legendary Three Palms Vineyard. The 2015 — a “spectacular, high-quality vintage” says Parker — yielded the biggest, boldest, most opulent expression of this wine yet. “This is the golden era in Napa,” Biagi told us. When you can snag a fabulously rich and supple Napa Red Blend like this one for $50, it’s hard to disagree.
Bolstered by structured blue-chip Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Blueline, Biagi packed this Red Blend with fruit from one of Napa’s greatest growers on the west side of the Oak Knoll District along with Petite Sirah from select head-trained, old-vine parcels. The result, in the gorgeously ripe 2015 vintage is a blockbuster “HG III” release, dripping with black-fruit richness. You’ll find it on the wine lists of the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay, the Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe, PRESS in St. Helena, and Boulevard, Quince and Gary Danko in San Francisco — but for the price you’ll pay, may as well have two or three bottles all your own, right at home.
Named for the two “blue-line” streams that run along its edges, The Blueline Estate in Calistoga lies within a stone’s throw of both Switchback Ridge and Three Palms — two sources of California’s most famous Merlots since the 1980s. Hourglass owner Jeff Smith realized the site’s incredible potential when he looked up and saw the two canyons rising 2,000 feet above the vineyard. As afternoon temperatures climb, warm air rises inside the canyons, allowing cooler air to blanket the vines, creating a perfect microclimate for Bordeaux varieties to ripen evenly and slowly. Thousand-year-old riverbeds supply volcanic cobblestones and mineral-rich soils that stress vines, leading to tiny berries with thick skins, which deliver immense concentration and rare, vibrant structure to HGIII and all wines from the Blueline Estate.