Critical Acclaim


by Antonio Galloni for The Wine Advocate
Issue 198, December 2011

The long, winding drive on an early Sunday morning up to John Kongsgaard’s place on Atlas Peak was well worth the effort. The small, nondescript cellar is decorated with photos of famous classical musicians that replace conventional numbers on the tanks. As for the wines, they are flat-out stunning. Kongsgaard Chardonnays are fermented with wild yeasts and are bottled with no fining or filtration after two years in barrel. The 100% new oak is barely perceptible in these fabulous wines. The Cabernet Sauvignons are now made from Kongsgaard’s vineyards in Atlas Peak. Incidentally, Kongsgaard was among the latest to harvest his Cabernet in 2011. As of October 23, not a single Cabernet grape had been brought in.

Tasted from barrel:

2010 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2010 Chardonnay The Judge is quite reserved, especially next to the other wines in this lineup. Layers of rich fruit are hidden behind a wall of structure. Right now, the 2010 is all about potential, but the integration of fruit, oak and minerality is hugely promising. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025. (96-98) points

2010 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s 2010 Chardonnay is a rich, textured wine. It shows exceptional length and plushness from start to finish. It is a bigger, deeper wine than the 2009, but not materially better nor more complex, just different in personality. Saline notes balance the creaminess of the fruit on the exuberant, explosive close. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. (93-95) points

2010 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon explodes from the glass with a rush of dark red fruit, licorice, spices, mint and tobacco. There is incredible finesse, energy and sheer class here. Clearly the 2010 is very much an infant, but its centeredness and sheer balance are impossible to miss. Game, tar, asphalt, graphite and flowers are some of the notes that linger on the finish. The 2010 manages to be rich, but not at all heavy. It is shaping up to be a spectacular effort. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2030. (96-98) points

2010 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The 2010 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is a huge wine. It shows tons of depth to the fruit in a dark, brooding style that is going to require some time in bottle before the wine is approachable. Whereas the 2009 is silky and feminine, the 2010 comes across as virile and muscular. Game, ash, licorice and a host of other varietal aromas and flavors emerge from this extroverted, impeccable wine. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025. (96-98) points

Tasted from bottle:

2009 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2009 Chardonnay The Judge sparkles on the palate with brilliant layers of fruit. It is bright, articulate and beautifully centered from start to finish. There is a weightless richness that is almost impossible to describe for its pure elegance. A dazzling, crystalline finish rounds out the flinty, mineral-drenched notes. This is easily the equal of any Chardonnay being made in the world today. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2024. 98+ points

2009 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2009 Chardonnay is breathtaking. It shows gorgeous layers of fruit intermingled with French oak in a dazzling expression of varietal Chardonnay aromas and flavors. It is weightless, elegant and totally harmonious; in a word – fabulous. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019. 94 points

2009 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon emerges from the glass with dark plums, black cherries, licorice, graphite and spices. The wine possesses striking textural depth and richness, with dazzling purity and exceptional overall balance. Today the spiciness of the oak comes through just a bit, but that should not be an by the time the wine is ready to drink. A final burst of fruit informs the explosive finish. Yields were tiny in 2009, just one ton per acre with 15% Merlot co-fermented in the blend. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2029. 97 points

2009 Kongsgaard Syrah Vineyard Napa Valley
The 2009 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is simply breathtaking. White flowers, spices, savory herbs, licorice, graphite and new leather are some of the many nuances that add complexity to a core of deeply expressive dark fruit. The 2009 impresses for its stunning textural elegance and sheer brilliance. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2024. 97 points

2010 Kongsgaard VioRous Napa Valley
The 2010 VioRous (Viognier/Roussanne) is a striking white laced with floral aromatics, white peaches and mint. This bright, high-toned wine possesses stunning focus and a weightless, totally refined personality. Layers of perfumed fruit seem to hover on the finish. This is yet another dazzling white from John Kongsgaard. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016. The long, winding drive on an early Sunday morning up to John Kongsgaard’s place on Atlas Peak was well worth the effort. 93 points