I walk into John Kongsgaard’s barn-like winery on a late September afternoon just as the sun set over the hills of Atlas Peak. The first thing I see among the clutter of equipment is a photo of composer Gustav Mahler taped to one of the tanks. I ask Kongsgaard if he can put something on as I set up my computer and get settled in. His choice? The last movement of the 9th Symphony. Wow. Talk about going for it all. But that’s exactly how Kongsgaard’s wines are; bold, dramatic and full of ebbs and flows. The music goes off and the wines go on, and they are fabulous. In 2014, the wines are intensely mineral and savory. The 2013s are much more opulent. Both vintages look like they will be slow to mature. Other than that, it’s still very much a down home affair here, with John Kongsgaard’s wife Maggy, and son Alex both very much involved.
Wines tasted from barrel are scored in parenthesis:
2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2014 Chardonnay The Judge comes across as refined, subtle and nuanced, which is not exactly what comes to mind when I think of The Judge. Beautifully delineated and nuanced, the 2014 speaks to polish and finesse above all else. I can’t remember ever seeing such an embryonic Judge. It will be interesting to see what another year in barrel does here. (93-96) points
2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
Finely-knit and focused, Kongsgaard’s 2014 Chardonnay offers exceptional balance and persistence. Lemon oil, white flowers and mint are all beautifully articulated in a Chardonnay that speaks to precision and total class. This is an incredibly vivid, translucent Chardonnay from John Kongsgaard. Fruit sources are Hudson and Hyde. (93-95) points.
2014 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon races across the palate with a host of dark stone fruit, sage, licorice, graphite and crushed rocks. Deceptively medium in body, the 2014 possesses striking mineral cut and pure energy throughout. The power, intensity and drive are dazzling, but the 2014 also gives the impression it is going to need time to fully come together. The blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. (94-97) points.
2014 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s 2014 The Fimasaurus brings together Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, a blend that works beautifully in 2014 as the Cabernet is especially savory and nervous, while the Merlot adds mid-palate richness and generally volume throughout. Savory herbs, mocha, cocoa and plums add nuance, but like all the 2014s, The Fimasaurus is all about structure and feel. (93-96) points.
2014 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
An intense, wild wine, the 2014 Syrah Hudson Vineyard takes hold of all the senses and doesn’t let up for a second. Game, smoke, licorice, leather and black pepper all hit the palate. The 2014 is exotic, powerful and bursting at the seams with personality. Power and finesse have rarely coexisted with this level of pure, effortless grace. Today, the 2014 is soaring and majestic. I can’t wait to see where it is next year. (95-98) points.
The following wines tasted from bottle:
2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
Powerful and broad on the palate, the 2013 Chardonnay The Judge is another wine that is only showing the barest hints of its potential. Lemon oil, pastry, white pepper, flowers and chamomile open up in the glass, but only with great reluctance. The Judge is usually a bit more overt but like the 2014, the 2013 appears to be a wine that will be slow to offer up the full breadth of its potential. 96+ points.
2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
Orange blossom, mint, wild flowers and lightly tropical fruit open up in the 2013 Chardonnay. Rich, plush and beautifully layered throughout, the 2013 possesses dazzling texture through to the ample, creamy finish. Just as impressive from bottle as it was from barrel, the 2013 is a real knock-out. 95+ points.
2013 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Deep, inky and powerful, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is towering. Dark, bass notes abound as firm tannins wrap around a core of intense black fruit. Smoke, tobacco and cedar add layers of dimension, but the 2013 is years away from being fully expressive. Today, the 2013 has regal, majestic bearing that strongly suggests readers will have to be patient. The marriage of opulence and power is compelling. 97 points.
2013 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2013 The Fimasaurus has really blossomed over the last year. As open and succulent as a wine from this vintage can be at this stage, the Fimasaurus is endowed with superb depth and more than enough richness to fill out its broad frame. Today the unctuousness of the Merlot is especially expressive. I imagine the 2013 will start drinking well with just another few years in bottle and will continue to deliver pleasure for another decade plus, perhaps longer. 95+ points.
2013 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The 2013 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is distinguished by its interplay of power, opulence and breadth. Black cherry, bittersweet chocolate, espresso, licorice and plums build to the imposing, brooding finish. A huge, intense wine, the 2013 possesses striking richness, depth and pure, explosive energy, but it is also going to require at least a few years of cellaring, as it is incredibly forbidding at this stage. 97 points
2014 Kongsgaard VioRous Napa Valley
The 2014 VioRous is rich voluptuous and beautifully layered in the glass. Apricot, chamomile and white flowers form a compelling fabric of aromas and flavors in an oily, beautifully textured white loaded with class and pedigree. Intense, but never heavy, this blend of Viognier and Roussane is gorgeous. This is the first vintage in which Viognier from estate vineyards on Atlas Peak were used in the blend. 92 points
2014 Albariño Napa Valley
A wine of exceptional finesse, the 2014 Albarino is a bit richer than normal, with more concentration, but that serves to balance some of the slightly angular contours that can at times be present. Lemon, lime, mint and white flowers are some of the nuances that flesh out on the finish. Kongsgaard’s Albarino, which emerges from Lee Hudson’s vineyard in Carneros, is in a class of its own. 93 points