Critical Acclaim


Issue 228, December 2016

Part mystic, part great winemaker and long-time veteran of the Napa Valley wine scene, John Kongsgaard continues to turn out a bevy of exciting and compelling wines from his family’s vineyards high in the cool, rocky soils of Coombsville in the southeastern sector of Napa Valley.

Wines tasted from barrel are scored in parenthesis:

2015 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2015 Chardonnay The Judge may well be one of the all-time greatest Chardonnays ever made in California.  It took 12 months to ferment dry and it is incredibly concentrated, like the quintessential Chardonnay – with lemon custard pie notes intermixed with orange marmalade, white peach, honeysuckle and a liqueur of rocks, all in a full-bodied, super-dense style that remains relatively light on its feet.  This Chardonnay could be mythical!  Another wine I love from Kongsgaard, but he doesn’t make much of it, is the blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne called VioRous, all coming from The Judge Vineyard. (98-100) points

2015 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2015 Chardonnays are incredibly concentrated, as you might expect because of the low yields.  He makes two cuvées – his Napa cuvée and the homage to his father, The Judge.  Both are made from low-yielding Old Wente clonal selections. The 2015 Chardonnay, which is two-thirds Hudson clone and one-third Hyde clone, offers plenty of muscle, rich, extracted honeysuckle, orange blossom, tangerine oil and crushed/powdered rock in a full-bodied, rather large-scaled effort reminiscent of truly profound Grand Cru from Burgundy, the likes of which we don’t really see anymore.  However, they certainly appear in increasing numbers from great terroirs in California.  This wine has spent its time for nearly two years in 80% new French oak prior to being bottled unfiltered. (96-98) points

2015 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
There are two cuvées of Cabernet Sauvignons, his Napa Cabernet and his equal-part co-fermented Merlot/Cabernet called Fimasaurus.  The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon will spend two years in 100% new Darnajou barrels.  Glorious berry fruit and minerality jump from the glass of this opaque ruby/purple wine that is full-bodied, dense and incredibly unevolved, but has the structure, extract and deepness to go 25-35 years, if you have that sort of patience.  Nevertheless, as with most California Cabernets, there will be pleasure to be had at a young age. (92-94+) points

2015 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
A barrel sample of the 2015 The Fimasaurus, an identical blend to the 2014, has an opaque bluish/purple color and a big, sweet kiss of powdered rocks mixed with chocolate, mocha, espresso, blackberry and cassis.  I’m not sure you could ask for anything more in terms of aromatics in this full-bodied, highly extracted, killer effort that will go the distance of three decades or more. (94-96) points

2015 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
Absolutely compelling – the 2015 Syrah has a saturated black/purple color and an extraordinary nose of blackberry liqueur intermixed with creosote, charcoal, burning embers and bacon fat.  The layers of meat and black fruits, pepper and spice are unreal.  This is a tour de force in winemaking from John Kongsgaard.  Unfortunately, there are just under 200 cases of this wine that will be bottled unfiltered in a few months. (98-100) points

The following wines were tasted from bottle:

2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2014 Chardonnay The Judge emerges from his best parcel, which was planted in 1976 and 1990 on St. George rootstock in rocky, malnourished soils that rarely give up more than one ton of fruit per acre.  This is a fabulous Chardonnay, and certainly one of the Chardonnays of the vintage.  Rocky minerality intermixed with lemon custard, orange blossom, pineapple and white peach are all present in this big, complex, sensational Chardonnay to drink over the next decade or more. 98 points

2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2014 Chardonnay is a knockout, showing loads of structure, with lemon blossom intermixed with subtle pineapple, honeysuckle and crushed rock, giving it a vivid minerality, a full-bodied mouthfeel and a long, long finish. This should drink well for 7-8 years at minimum. 94+ points

2014 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon has a completely different aromatic profile, showing more chocolate, blueberry, blackberry, new saddle leather and loamy soil/earthy notes, seeming like a scaled-back version of this great 2013.  Drink it over the next 20+ years. 92 points

2014 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
As for the 2014 The Fimasaurus, his co-fermented equal-part blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon strikes me as a Napa version of a ripe, concentrated, Bordeaux from St. Emilion or Pomerol.  It is lush and fruity, showing loads of forest floor, blackcurrants, black cherries, chocolate and spice.  Drink it over the next 15-25 years. 94 points

2014 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The two newest Syrahs that Kongsgaard has made to date may well be the 2014 Syrah and especially the 2015 Syrah, which has all of the characteristics of a potentially perfect wine.  The 2014 Syrah, 100% from a two-acre block in the Hudson Vineyard that rarely ever gives more than .5 tons of fruit per acre and was planted to the specifications of Kongsgaard. The wine has a meaty, flowery, blood and blackberry scented nose, plenty of pepper, lard and a touch of oak.  It is dense, full-bodied and cascades over the palate. This is aged 24 months in 50% new French oak prior to being bottled unfiltered.  It should drink well for 20 or more years. 96 points

2015 Kongsgaard VioRous Napa Valley
The 2015 VioRous has a gorgeous nose of apricot marmalade, peach jam, honeysuckle, tangerine oil and subtle tropical fruits all making an appearance in this wine that actually has some structure because of the tannins in the Roussanne.  It is full-bodied, exotic and probably best drunk in its exuberant, rather dramatic youth. 95 points

2015 Kongsgaard Albariño Napa Valley
The other white that is noteworthy is his 2015 Albariño.  He has been making this Albariño for a few years.  This is all delicacy and spring flower garden notes with a hint of gin and tonic spiked with fresh lime.  It’s fresh, lively and a perfect foil for an assortment of shellfish and seafood dishes.  Drink it over the next year. 90 points