Critical Acclaim


by Antonio Galloni for the Wine Advocate
Issue 204, December 2012

These wines from John Kongsgaard were among the highlights from the month I spent in Napa Valley this year. The overall quality level here is absolutely remarkable. It is rare to see someone who is so brilliant with so many grape varieties, but Kongsgaard seems to have the magic touch. The Chardonnays remain among the most exquisite in California. Kongsgaard favors longer elevage for his Chardonnays and is generally willing to take greater risks than most of his colleagues. No guts, no glory, as the saying goes. Well, there is plenty of glory here.

Tasted from barrel:

2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2011 Chardonnay The Judge could be easily mistaken for a top flight Burgundy. Slate, crushed rocks and all things mineral lead to lemon and yellow stone fruits. Even with all of the flavor complexity, the 2011 is mostly about tension and pure vibrant minerality. To be sure, there is plenty of the typical Kongsgaard richness in the glass as well. A textured and totally impeccable finish rounds things out in style. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2021. (95-97) points

2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2011 Chardonnay is pretty bombastic today. Layers of tropical-infused fruit saturate the palate. Today, the 2011 is pretty rich. It will be interesting to see if the wine becomes more refined over the next year. Today, the Muscat clone seems to dominate in the wineís balance. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2019. (92-94) points

2011 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
A wine of remarkable polish, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon boasts stunning depth and textural richness backed up by serious tannic clout. With time in the glass, the tannins seem to sweeten, releasing layer after layer of huge, dark fruit. Sweet floral and mocha-infused notes add lift on the finish. This is, frankly, an eye-opening wine with regards to potential of this much-maligned vintage. When I tasted with John Kongsgaard in late October 2011, he still hadn’t brought in a single red grape. He would do that on November 2 with this Cabernet. I can’t wait to see how the 2011 develops. Today, it is hard seeing the 2011 giving much pleasure anytime soon, but it should be magnificent with a few years of bottle age. Anticipated maturity: 2019-2031. (95-97) points

2011 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The 2011 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is more floral and lifted than the 2010, until the firm tannins hit the palate. A tightly wound wine, the 2011 nevertheless impresses for its refined tannin and exceptional overall balance. Black pepper, game, smoke and olives are some of the notes that frame the deep, pungent finish. In other words, there is plenty of varietal character here. Yields were minuscule, just 25% of normal levels. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2026. (94-96) points

Tasted from bottle:

2010 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2010 Chardonnay The Judge is rich, ripe and seamless, but also supported by plenty of vintage 2010 minerality. Lemon, pastry, spices and intense crushed rocks are all woven together beautifully in a focused, taut Chardonnay loaded with class and personality. Saline notes come to life on the layered, nuanced finish. A high presence of shot berries reduced yields to just one ton per acre. Most of the fruit was old Stony Hill Wente. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2020. 96+ points

2010 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
Kongsgaardís 2010 Chardonnay wraps around the palate with juicy, yellow, fleshy fruit, smoke and spices. There is pungent, aromatic intensity in the bouquet of these old Wente Chardonnay clones that gives the wine its aromatic heft. Layers of fruit build to the textured, inviting finish. In another year, the oak should be even better integrated than it is today. These parcels are planted with a combination of a Hudson selection of Wente with no seeds and a Muscat version of Wente. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. 93 points

2010 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon explodes from the glass with juicy dark cherries, tobacco, plums, spices and grilled herbs. Despite its considerable concentration, the 2010 is quite compact. Today, the wine is much less expressive than it was when I tasted it from barrel. According to John Kongsgaard, the cold vintage produced small berries with high skin to juice ratios, great for firm, cellar worthy wines, but not exactly the conditions that make wines accessible when young. Readers who can be a little patient will be rewarded with a superb wine. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2030. 94+ points

2010 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The 2010 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is showing beautifully today. Black olives, plums, tobacco, violets, smoke, cured meats, incense and sage jump from the glass in this inky, deep Syrah. Firm tannins frame layers of opulent fruit. The 2010 is dark, masculine and brooding. It, too, will require quite a bit of patience. With time in the glass, the 2010 turns increasingly inward and massive. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2028. 97 points

2011 Kongsgaard Viorous Napa Valley
Kongsgaardís 2011 Viognier/Roussane blend Viorous is stunning. In this vintage, the Roussanne dominates, because frost during flowering decimated yields for the Viognier. The wine? It is drop dead gorgeous. A racy, perfumed white, the Viorous offers up a compelling array of juicy pears, white peaches, earthiness and mint. Intense saline notes support the textured, beautiful finish in this dazzling white. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016. 94 points