FrontRunners: From The Robb Cellar
CLOS DU VAL DUSTY BOTTLE CLUB
Thanks to the depredations of Prohibition and relatively small quantities of wine produced in California as compared to Bordeaux, the opportunity to acquire older vintages of California’s finest reds is an especially welcome boon to serious collectors—or serious enjoyers—of wine. Rarely do the old-line vintners release bottles from their libraries, which is why readers should take note of Clos Du Val’s Dusty Bottle Club.
Founded in 1972 by prominent businessman John Goelet, who had hired 26-year-old French winemaker Bernard Portet to search the globe for the finest vineyard property, Clos Du Val is a long-established icon of the Napa Valley and one of the region’s first Franco-American experiments. Recently, cofounder and director of winemaking Portet conceived the idea of opening the doors of the winery’s library to a small group of enthusiasts who might appreciate sampling its history. To sustain this club, which he dubbed the Dusty Bottle Club, Portet limited its membership to 100 people, each of whom receives, twice yearly, one or two bottles of vintage wine. Members can purchase up to 12 bottles of vintage wine a year and as many as six of the same vintage.
The inaugural release in December 2005 included the 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon (a favorite of Portet’s) and the superb 1989 vintage, the first to bear the Stags Leap AOC. In May, the first of the 2006 releases will ship; these include the 1976 ($135) and 1992 ($95) Cabernets, both of which showcase the superb aging abilities of Clos Du Val’s reds. The former punctuates musical strains of cherry and red berry fruit on its nose with cigar-box and mocha scents; the flavors marry intense blackberry with holiday spices. The 1992’s nose has the wild, sagelike scent of chaparral and faint mint, which, on the palate, yields to luscious boysenberry fruit blended with wet leather, orange zest, clove, and traces of smoke. At press time, only 10 positions on the membership list remained open.
Clos Du Val Dusty Bottle Club