Cardinale was established in 1982 in Oakville with a vision to make the best Cabernet Sauvignon possible from the highest quality vineyards in the Napa Valley. All subregions in the Valley were to be considered and sources could vary each vintage to create a wine of distinction each year.
In practice, however, the focus has increasingly been on grapes grown in the higher elevations of Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain, and grapes sourced from other high-altitude sites in the Spring and Diamond Mountain districts and Stags Leap, though grapes from lower benchland plots are also considered, especially as a source for Merlot. Cardinale therefore reflects the view that at these altitudes the vines struggle and the result is intense fruit, layered complexity and tannins that give long life to the wine. The lower elevation fruit adds florality and roundness to the palate.
Christopher Carpenter has been the winemaker since 2001. His intent each year is to make a wine that reflects the vintage and the view that the whole is always more than the sum of its parts. It is not unusual for a bottling of Cardinale to be sourced from more than 30 different plots. These are chosen and selected barrels are blended only after each wine has rested for two years in barrel. He seeks consistent weight and long length to the wine, but otherwise each vintage of Cardinale is different.
A resounding success for the year the 2017 Cardinale is truly impressive. It is also one of the most refined young wines I have tasted here. In most vintages Cardinale is predominantly made from mountain sites but the 2017 is roughly equal parts mountain and valley floor fruit. Inky blue/purplish fruit white flowers lavender and mint all build in the glass. Lifted and beautifully perfumed the 2017 is exceptionally polished.
There was no Wallis vineyard fruit used this vintage. Very deep purple-black colored the 2017 Cardinale charges out of the glass with notes of fresh blackcurrants blackberries and Black Forest cake plus hints of menthol cardamom baking spices and lilacs plus a waft of cigar box. Medium to full-bodied the palate is built like a brick house with firm grainy ripe tannins and fantastic freshness supporting the taut muscular black fruits finishing long and mineral laced. 1440 cases produced.