T H E C O N C E P T
WHAT THIS WINE IS ABOUT
Against this trend of vineyard-designated wines comes THIRTEEN — a wine made not from a single vineyard but from a baker’s dozen, each one more esteemed than the next. What distinguishes these vineyards is that they have been chosen as the best representatives of their respective sub-appellations: Howell Mountain, Rutherford, etc. Napa Valley has 13 of these sub-appellations, or did, when we picked the fruit. (More on this in a moment.) The idea behind THIRTEEN was to blend one ton of grapes from each of these 13 vineyards to create a wine that is conspicuously connected to
Napa Valley. A wine that is the truest expression of what the Valley has to offer. As far as we know, no one has ever tried to capture Napa in its totality. Our guess is, no one’s even thought of it. It is, after all, a daunting task to collect grapes from every soil type, every microclimate, every terroir. But the question remains: is this invention of ours a good idea? We’ll leave that for you to discover.
FROM "WHAT IF" TO "WOW"
The idea behind THIRTEEN is that, while the parts are great, their sum is greater. If you think of Napa Valley as a series of neighborhoods (Howell Mountain, Rutherford, etc.), each one struggling to promote its own identity, then THIRTEEN is the town they all belong to. It is the one wine with the most connections to Napa Valley.
It's a bold idea, a wacky idea, a technological tour de force. So how does it taste? (Here's the "wow" part.) Well, rather than toot our own horn, we'll simply quote The Bounty Hunter, a merchant that Wine & Spirits Magazine calls "cult wine central."
Now the bad news. THIRTEEN is a strictly limited-production wine. Only 900-odd cases are produced each year. That's because, by decree, we take only one ton of fruit from each AVA.
13 (AND COUNTING)
The Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley (its formal name) is comprised of 8,300 acres, of which 3,500 are planted to 14 varieties, mostly Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While there are 16 bonded wineries within its boundaries, more than 40 wineries source fruit from it. Among them, Opus One, Joseph Phelps, and now, of course, THIRTEEN.
The creation of a brand new American Viticultural Area (AVA) might seem to have more to do with marketing than merit. But the truth is, wines from Oak Knoll have more in common with each other than with wines from anywhere else. What that is exactly, is hard to pin down. And therein lies the elusiveness of terroir. Why does a Cabernet Sauvignon from one plot of land taste consistently different from another one grown a few hundred yards away? When everything else is accounted for--rootstock, clonal selection, vine and row spacing, trellising, canopy management, disease control, irrigation, fertilization, and winemaking--what explains the difference one tastes?
In a word, soil. Soil is what makes wines distinctive. Soil is what takes wine beyond fruit. Soil is what wine-geeks mean when they speak of wines having a sense of place.
All of which brings us back to THIRTEEN. As Napa Valley continues to evolve--to discover itself--so, too, will our wine. Because it is not the hand that makes the wine, it's the land. And the brand follows the land.
In 2004, Napa Valley added a 14th sub-appellation. And so did we. With the addition of the Oak Knoll District, THIRTEEN became FOURTEEN Appellations. And our goal of creating a wine that expressed the entirety of Napa Valley became even more ambitious. As in years past, we selected one ton of fruit from the best blocks in the best vineyards in each AVA. We hope you enjoy the result.
In 2009 Calistoga was added as the 15th sub-appellation of Napa Valley. With the addition of the Calistoga AVA, FOURTEEN became FIFTEEN Appellations.
In 2012, Napa Valley added a 16th AVA . . . Coombsville. Stay tuned . . .