Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor hand-picks fine wines for drinking now and recommends others to lay down...

From the cellar

Napa treats

While in Napa as keynote speaker for the annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood in February, a highlight was dinner at the Staglin Family Vineyard with marvellous local wines, each presented by their owners.

Hostess Shari Staglin presented her elegant Staglin Estate Chardonnay 2015 in magnum, followed by a vibrant sparkling wine from Hugh Davies of Schramsberg: the late-disgorged J Schram 1999.

Three Cabernet Sauvignons followed: Quintessa 2004 (Agustin Huneeus Jr), an early vintage from this beautiful estate; Staglin Estate 2003 from magnum, vigorous and ripe but not too rich; and Spottswoode 2001 (Beth Novak Milliken), with 5% Cabernet Franc, my wine of the evening – a rich but controlled nose and still some florality which reminded me of a top Pauillac, perfectly expressed. (The 2016 Cabernets tasted at the Premiere Napa Valley auction showed that the ‘exaggerated style’ is now thankfully a thing of the past.)

The final two wines at dinner were a magnum of Raymond Generations Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Jean-Charles Boisset), still fresh and flavourful, and Pellet Estate Henry’s Reserve Red Blend 2013 (Tom Rinaldi), young but showing great promise.

For the cellar

Sesti Montalcinos

I have known the Sesti vineyard at Castello di Argiano, which was planted by Venetian astronomer Giuseppe Maria (Giugi) Sesti and his English wife Sarah in 1991, since their first vintage in 1995.

Located in the south of Montalcino, below Sant’Angelo in Colle, their 13ha (which are planted 85% to Sangiovese) are organically farmed ‘according to the stars – from the writings of a Greek philosopher 2,000 years before Rudolf Steiner’.  Thanks to the hands-off approach in the cellar favoured by Giugi and his daughter Elisa, the wines express their terroir beautifully.

When I tasted them recently in London, the Rosso di Montalcino 2015 showed fine florality and good ripeness, while a 2012 vintage from my Dorset cellar was even better with a little more bottle age.

Meanwhile the Brunello di Montalcino 2009 has warm middle fruit, drinking well at its mid-point of maturity; however, the latest 2013 release (£43.34) is the one to wait for: showing floral notes and light earthiness over a superb depth of vineyard fruit that will improve over a decade or more. The proof came with another bottle from my cellar: the 2001 was a magnificent, elegantly vigorous wine that blossomed in the glass. Contact UK agent Armit Wines for prices and availability.

Steven Spurrier recommends: