My prediction: cult Napa wines, as a general category, will be increasingly irrelevant. However, there will always be a place for the very best of them. According to Rob McMillan’s Silicon Valley Bank State of the Industry report 2019, Millennial fine wine consumption is well-below gen-X and the boomers. This does not surprise me given the increasing financial challenges faced by the younger generation (I myself fall just outside of the Millennial category but can understand it). A review about cult-Napa wine is well outside the reality zone for this demographic. I understand. Millennial wine buyers (1) do not have the disposable income to buy wines like this, and (2) don’t identify with the philosophy behind cult Napa. This of course means the market for cult-Napa in North America is declining. Boomers are getting too old to be significant wine purchasers for much longer and Gen-X is a relatively small generation. That leaves international markets, particularly those in Asia. So where does that leave wines like this Blankiet single vineyard designate?
With a production of only 2,500 cases across all the bottlings, a roster of expensive consultants such as Helen Turley, David Abreu, and Michel Roland, this is a wine that is designed to be great and also definitionally expensive. Many younger wine drinks have grown up to have an innate distaste for this kind of wine. I think that is misplaced. Blankiet undoubtedly makes excellent wine, but it is also undoubtedly wine for the rich. To pretend that wine and wealth have not always gone hand in hand is to ignore the history of the product and the nature of luxury goods. Price does not dictate quality and these wines are of great quality.
However, wines like this Blankiet do not represent the new view of fine wine as idiosyncratic, unpretentious, and imperfect: an expression of the beauty and the flaws of place and person. In contrast, Blankiet and wineries like it strive to make perfect wine: always elegant, expressive, and complex, with a bevy of pleasurable flavours and aromas. It’s not of the moment. It is an expression of technical skill in both the vineyard and the cellar. I also believe that, if shed of its trappings and ideologies, most people would find the wine’s quality to be remarkable. These are also wines that feed into many Asian markets’ desire for prestige and quality. I thus predict that such wines are heading to a down-market, that the best will survive, but that this approach to growing and making wine will not go extinct.
2012 is a great year in Napa, and while it is surpassed by 2013 in some sub-AVAs, it is one of the best vintages of the last decade. The wines are exuberant while also being complex, and many are now showing great finesse and elegance. This, Blankiet’s top wine, falls within that category. It is really at the apex of what cult-Napa can achieve and, as noted above, I think it has personality to make it a legitimate wine if you strip away the brand. As for the price? It is not in the category of relevant or reasonable and it is not difficult to buy better, longer-lived wines for less. Such is the problem with cult-Napa. The wines are very good, but the prices are outlandish. Moreover, if you still have a soft-spot for Napa (like I do), the valley offers some tremendous wines for less, from well-known producers such as Spottswoode, Larkmead, and Matthiasson and lesser known producers such as White Rock and Philip Togni. So, despite the quest for perfection, again we learn that nothing is perfect in life.
$380 + tax at BC Liquor Stores