Winegrowers like to talk about terroir, but real estate agents have a better term for it: location, location, location. The quality of top notch real estate will shine again and again, whether the site is in Napa or New Jersey.
Charles and Shirley Roy bought land at the southern end of the Stags Leap district, with the initial intention of building a house overlooking the vineyards; initially they had no intention of making wine. Helen Turley saw the exceptional potential of the vineyard and convinced them to plant 17 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.
Roy Estate was created in 1999 and star winemaker Philippe Melka joined the team in 2005. Melka believes in non-intervention, winemaking in the vineyard and limiting techniques in the cellar. He immediately noticed that the property had “two voices, like the right bank and the left bank in Bordeaux”: fine soil covered with lava on the hillside (planted with cabernet) and deeper soil. with more silt (containing mainly merlot).
In 2017, Domaine Roy was sold to Canadian businessman and entrepreneur Stéphan Crétier. With his wife Stéphany Maillery, Crétier continues to work with Melka and devotes his considerable resources to the mission of bringing the Roy estate into a new era. Although much of the small production of 1,500 cases is sold through a mailing list, the wine is available in select restaurants and retail outlets across the country.
Approximately 550 cases were made of their 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon ($ 265), a blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot; According to Melka, the vineyard has experienced almost perfect conditions from the initial bud break to the last days of harvest. The wine has a seductive nose of black raspberries, bramble, fresh herbs and new oak. It is ripe and succulent on the attack, with a firm tannic structure framing the fruit on the mid-palate: flavors of blackberry jam, anise, black plum and prune continue on a long finish.
Considering that Roy Estate describes itself as a ‘Grand Cru of Napa Valley’, and considering that Melka draws the analogy between the winery’s Cabernet Stags Leap District vineyards and those of the Medoc, it is fair to wonder what resemblance the wine is a Premier Cru de Bordeaux. The answer, of course, is that these are two completely different experiences. The 94/6 combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot would probably not be found on the Gironde peninsula, where the art of blending is paramount and where the wine (in most cases) would have been sweetened. by the inclusion of Merlot. I suspect that including a bit of Melka’s Right Bank Merlot in the 2018 Roy Estate Cabernet would have produced a more complex, graceful and pleasant wine. There is of course a price difference: $ 265 may or may not seem expensive, but that compares favorably to $ 1,100 for a bottle of Château Latour. The real question, however, is why it’s not enough to call it (as they do elsewhere) “a pure and potent expression of the best of Napa Valley”. One day, I hope that will be enough.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the devil, has been republished on Amazon in print, e-book and audiobook format.