“You want it darker,” sang the late-great poet-singer Leonard Cohen in one of his final albums before he died in 2016. Too bad he wasn’t singing about wine.
Yes, Mr. Cohen, I want it darker too – in the glass. After drinking pale pink rose` wines for what seems like an eternity this summer, my palate’s heading due north for a new and extravagant purple-colored wine. Enter 2016 Double Diamond ($74.99), an exceptional Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Schrader Cellars and winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown.
First, if there were a Winemakers’ Hall of Fame, Brown would be Babe Ruth. In his 18-year collaboration with winery owners Carol and Fred Schrader, Brown’s team has helped produce an unprecedented record of 27 perfect scores (100 points) from respected global wine critics. In fact, Schrader Cellars has the distinction of being the only U.S. winery to receive perfect scores for two individual Cabernet Sauvignon wines over three consecutive vintages. (The reviewer was Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate; the wines were Schrader CCS and Schrader Old Sparky.)
Second, Double Diamond, created in 2001, is coming off a three-year hiatus with this new release featuring Carol Schrader’s redesigned red and white label. The wine, however, is the main draw.
Like prior vintages, grapes are sourced from Oakville’s top Napa vineyards making Double Diamond an ultra-premium Cab at an appealing price. Yes, its cost has tripled since 2002 when it sold for $25 a bottle. But for a taste of Schrader Cellars’ exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon – there are nine hard-to-get labels in the winery’s portfolio – Double Diamond is quite a bargain. Consider that a bottle of the 100-point CCS Beckstoffer to Kalon costs $499 a bottle – if you can find one online. Schrader Cellars has a mailing list of loyal followers who annually buy up every bottle of the limited production Cabernets. Potential new customers are encouraged to sign up for its wine purchasing program and patiently wait for an opening. This makes Double Diamond even a better deal, since 28 precious bottles are now available at select New Hampshire State wine outlets (The Rockingham Mall site in Salem had 10 bottles as of Sunday, July 28.)
I sampled Double Diamond a week ago at home and here are my impressions.
From its deep, purple color to silky, opulent richness, Double Diamond is a stunning, saturated California Cabernet (2 percent Merlot goes into the mix). It’s loaded with dark cherry and black berry traits, and truly captivates with emerging, secondary layers of herbs, spices, mocha, and other earthy ingredients. Interestingly, DD began many years ago as an oaky, toasty Cabernet Sauvignon but the Schraders and winemaker Brown have dialed back the use of new French oak considerably to highlight the gorgeous fruit. Today, the wine is aged 16 months in French oak, 25 percent new. The result is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5 percent alcohol) where intense fruits, subtle spices and velvety tannins mix and mingle harmoniously. Fit for a royal banquet of umami (savory) meats, Double Diamond excelled with sirloin steak tips, porcini mushrooms, wild brown rice, and a garden salad. Next time I’ll try it with roasted prime rib. While it’s drinking smoothly now, Brown says Double Diamond will “mellow nicely” for the next two to six years. I say double down today and enjoy it while it lasts.