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



Issue 222, December 2015

One of the great wine producers in Napa Valley, Kongsgaard first worked at Newton winery, where he had been taught well by the world guru in winemaking, Michel Rolland. When he went out on his own, he developed a strong relationship with the Hudson family and now produces fruit from specially planted clones in the Hudson Vineyard, while also maintaining his own estate on Atlas Peak in Coombsville. All of his wines are unfined, unfiltered, singular in style, and often some of the most expressive and remarkable wines in Napa Valley. Talking to John Kongsgaard is akin to talking to some medieval wizard or mystic, but it all makes sense.

Wines tasted from barrel are scored in parenthesis:

2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
Of course, it’s hard to find any, but there are usually about eight to 15 barrels of his estate Chardonnay from Coombsville called “The Judge” in honor of his father. From old Wente clones originally planted in 1975, yields are rarely in excess of one ton of fruit per acre, which no doubt accounts for its extraordinary intensity and richness. The 2014 Chardonnay The Judge has a magnificent fragrance of peach pie, honeysuckle, white currants, wet rocks and quince. Gorgeously full-bodied, with great acid and stunning purity, this is a tour de force in Chardonnay.(96-100) points

2014 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s speciality is Chardonnay, and he continues to excel, making some of the finest and longest-lived Chardonnays in California. The basic cuvée is his Bâtard-Montrachet of Napa. The 2014 Chardonnay offers wonderful minerality, with notes of apricot, white peach, honeysuckle and crushed rock, all coming from an old Wente clone with tiny, tiny yields. One of the last to put any SO2 in it, the 2014 may have been one of the finest Chardonnays I tasted on my second swing through Napa. (95) points

2014 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Atlas Peak on a parcel of leased ground. What he likes about it is the fact that the vines in 2014 were 35 years of age. The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, this has 20% Merlot in it, which is his standard practice, and exhibits loads of chocolate, graphite, dusty, loamy soil undertones, blackcurrants and blackberry fruit. It is a big, full-bodied wine that in many ways could be considered the vinous equivalent of John Kongsgaard himself. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. (91-94) points

2014 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s Fimasaurus, which is equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in 2014, comes from, as he said, the “gnarliest vines” in this leased parcel planted in the white tufa volcanic soils. The wine shows slightly more toffee, chocolate and black cherry notes to go along with the blackberry and cassis. It is impressive, rich and full-bodied. (92-95) points

2014 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
Kongsgaard also makes an amazing Syrah from a clone he obviously knows a lot about, because it does remind one of a great Côte-Rôtie such as Guigal’s La Landonne. Both the 2014 and 2013 are just loaded with notes of beef blood, grilled steak, raw beef, chocolate, asphalt, truffle and black olive tapenade. The 2014, which may not quite have the complexity of the 2013, smells like walking into a French butcher shop, with all kinds of charcuterie hanging from the ceiling. If that doesn’t turn you on, I don’t know what will. Drink it over the next 10 years. (94-96) points

Tasted from bottle:

2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2013 Chardonnay The Judge is perfect, and certainly one of the greatest Chardonnays I have ever tasted. Keeping in mind that Kongsgaard is no youngster at this game (2015 was his 41st vintage making wine), his 2013 The Judge, from the white volcanic soil in Coombsville called tufa, is an amazing wine of great intensity, power, glory, elegance, texture, density and richness. The wine offers up loads of tangerine oil, caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, apricots, and wet stones. It seems to be a smorgasbord of aromas and flavors that just keep opening as the wine sits in the mouth. This is an amazing effort and one of the greatest Chardonnays ever made in California. 100 points

2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2013 Chardonnay, which is already in bottle, displays nectarine, tangerine oil, crushed rock, earthy, full-bodied richness, and magnificent texture and length. This is just a stunner to drink over the next decade or so. 96 points

2013 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Atlas Peak on a parcel of leased ground. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is sensational. This looks to be great stuff, but needs another 3-4 years of cellaring to show its full potential. Layers of ripe blackcurrant fruit and again some dusty, earthy minerality are present, and the wine shows plenty of blackberry and cassis. It is full-bodied, moderately tannic, and relatively extravagant in its density and richness. This wine should be put to sleep for 3-4 years and drunk over the following 25-30 years. 94+ points

2013 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2013 Fimasaurus might be the finest red wine made with Bordeaux varietals that Kongsgaard has produced to date. Dense purple, with notes of spring flowers, roasted coffee, white chocolate, blackberry and cassis, the wine is full-bodied. Some mocha comes out as it sits in the glass, but this is a massive, monster wine to be forgotten for 4-5 years and drunk over the following 25-30. 96+ points

2013 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
Kongsgaard also makes an amazing Syrah from a clone he obviously knows a lot about, because it does remind one of a great Cote Rotie such as Guigal’s La Landonne. Both the 2014 and 2013 are just loaded with notes of beef blood, grilled steak, raw beef, chocolate, asphalt, truffle and black olive tapenade. The 2013 has even more body and richness, and is a dead ringer for a great Cote Rotie from Guigal, especially one with no Viognier in it. It is pure meat, blood and black fruits. Drink it over the next 15-20 years, although I found it irresistible when I tasted it. 98 points

2014 Kongsgaard VioRous Napa Valley
The 2014 VioRous White, which is 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne, is perhaps the only blend of this nature from Northern California that can compete with similar blends from the great Manfred and Elaine Krankl on California’s Central Coast. This wine went through full malolactic and was bottled unfined and unfiltered. It has an absolute killer nose of rose water, apricot and peach marmalade, honeysuckle, a touch of smoky wood in the background, the incredible texture of a great Chardonnay and a stunning finish. It is totally dry, but the delicacy of the amazing aromatics often deteriorates quickly with Viognier, so drink it up over the next several years. 95 points

2014 Kongsgaard Albarino Napa Valley
The 2014 Albarino from the Hudson Vineyard should make believers of this varietal in California. Of course, there is not much of it, but the wine exhibits terrific notes of white peach and apricot as well as a wet, pebbly minerality and has that wonderful, flowery fragrance that one expects from a top Albarino from Northern Spain. This wine is meant to be drunk in its exuberant youthfulness, and that’s what readers should do. 92 points


Issue 215, October 2014

With two great vintages (2012 and 2013) in the pipeline, and with 2014 looking superb at the time of my visit, Kongsgaard is overflowing with liquid treasures.

Tasted from barrel:

2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2013 Chardonnay The Judge has no added SO2, yet is amazingly fresh and lively. Tasting like a rock quarry with notes of orange blossom, tangerine oil, white peach and stones, this is an enormously endowed, full-bodied Chardonnay that is far superior to any grand cru white Burgundy I have tasted in many a year. In fact, this is what great Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet used to taste like before all the oxidative issues began to surface in Burgundy. The textural impression is enormous, but the wine cuts a relatively elegant profile as it dances across the palate. This should drink beautifully for 5-10 years, but who can wait? (97-100) points

2013 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The spectacular 2013 Chardonnay (1,500 cases) exhibits notes of white peach, hints of apricots, pineapples and wet rocks and is amazingly full-bodied, fresh, rich, broad and savory with great fruit on the attack. It should turn out to be one of the estate’s finest Chardonnays given its fresh acids and minerality that buttress the wine’s big, bold, exuberant style. Drink now through 2022. (95-97) points

2013 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Kongsgaard also produces outstanding red wines. His 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (aged in 100% new oak) was picked at 25-26 brix, and includes 20% Merlot in the blend. One of his strongest efforts, it reveals lots of mocha, white chocolate, créme de cassis, blackberry and graphite notes are present in this well-delineated, full-bodied wine that reflects the intensity, purity and precision of this great vintage.(92-94) points

2013 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The St.-Estèphe-styled 2013 The Fimasaurus Proprietary Red Blend (an equal part blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that are co-fermented) is a massive, hugely tannic effort revealing lots of earth and blackcurrant characteristics. It will test owners’ patience, but those with discipline with be rewarded in 5-8 years with something quite profound. It should keep 2020-2040. (93-95) points

2013 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
Not to be forgotten is the Côte-Rôtie-like Syrah (about 300 cases). The full-bodied 2013 Syrah exhibits lots of charcuterie, roasted meat, smoked duck, spring flower, black raspberry and blackberry characteristics. I know of no other Syrah that is remotely similar in style. It tastes like a Côte Rôtie on steroids. Drink now through 2025. (95-97) points

Tasted from bottle:

2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
Also amazing, the 2012 Chardonnay The Judge offers impressive aromas of tangerines, orange marmalade, wet rocks, quince, spring flowers and honeysuckle. Impressively full-bodied and majestic with terrific acidity, it is a tour de force in Chardonnay. Furthermore, it is about as “natural” as possible. Thankfully, Kongsgaard is not one to deal in the quintessential B.S. that now seems so prevalent. Drink now through 2025. 98 points

2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The full-bodied 2012 Chardonnay reveals more buttery popcorn and honeysuckle characteristics, but there is no doubting the minerality, great fruit, super-freshness and 40+-second finish. Drink now through 2024. 95 points

2012 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Aged in Darnajou barrels, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with lavish, extroverted scents of sweet vanillin, lead pencil shavings, blackberries, blackcurrants, licorice and camphor. This gorgeous effort is very much in keeping with this showy, ostentatious vintage. Drink now through 2030. 95 points

2012 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2012 The Fimasaurus Proprietary Red Blend (only 100 cases produced) struck me as a Napa Valley version of the 2003 Château Montrose from St. Estéphe. Abundant minerality, deep, cedary blackcurrant fruit, licorice and whiffs of vanilla and unsmoked cigar tobacco are present in this fabulous, full-bodied stunner. It should age effortlessly for two decades or more. two great vintages (2012 and 2013). 98+ points

2012 Kongsgaard Merlot Napa Valley
Kongsgaard rarely makes Merlot, and there are only 75 cases of his 2012 Merlot. A beauty, it offers sexy, creamy chocolaty, Asian plum sauce, and blackcurrant notes as well as a hint of minerality. Full-throttle and opulent, this layered, stunning Merlot can be enjoyed over the next 15 or more years. 96 points

2012 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The 2012 Syrah is a compelling example of this varietal. It is 100% Syrah, but it smells as if it includes a large quantity of Viognier. Huge notes of flowers, honeysuckle and lavender jump from the glass of this dense purple-colored wine along with notes of scorched earth, charcoal, smoked meats and a touch of steak tartar. A wine of great intensity and magnificent concentration, it could easily achieve perfection in a few years. Drink now through 2026. 99 points

2013 Kongsgaard Roussanne /Viognier Napa Valley
The 2013 Roussanne/Viognier exhibits terrific acidity. It is a provocative, one-of-a-kind, singular white wine to be enjoyed during its first 2-3 years of life. 96 points

2013 Albariño Napa Valley
The 2013 Albarino cuts a bigger, bolder, richer mouthfeel than those from Spain. It exhibits lots of tropical fruit, honeysuckle, guava, mango and flowery notes. Drink this beauty now through 2016. 91 points

THE WINE ADVOCATE 2013, Robert Parker

Issue 209, December 2013

These all look like impressive wines, but they are so limited in availability, I’ve kept my tasting notes short. The brilliant John Kongsgaard – part winemaker, part opera devotee, and part mystic – has a few new items up his sleeve for release. Of course, he is still offering his Chardonnays and Syrahs, which are among the very best made in California. Over recent years Kongsgaard has branched out to produce Cabernet Sauvignon from Atlas Peak. He has two cuvees now that come from these volcanic soils, cropped at very tiny yields of one ton of fruit per acre. The wines come from relatively old vines for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 years of age as of 2012. Kongsgaard’s newest baby, which he started making in 2009, is only two to four barrels of co-fermented Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a 50/50 blend from the Atlas Peak site.

Tasted from barrel:

2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The tiny cuvee of 200-250 cases of 2012 Chardonnay the Judge comes from Kongsgaard’s best parcels and lowest yielding terroirs (about three-fourths of a ton of grapes per acre). Incredibly rich and textured, with loads of honeysuckle and exotic marmalade notes, this sexy beast of a Chardonnay has brilliant delineation and stunning concentration and length along with undeniable minerality. This is one of the greatest young Chardonnays I have ever tasted. Overall, 2011 produced lighter weight wines, but you would never know that from tasting Kongsgaard’s two cuvees. (98-100) points

2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2012 Chardonnay from the Hudson and Hyde Vineyards is spectacular, with notes of creme fraiche, orange marmalade, honeyed citrus and crushed rock as well as white currants and flowers. Gorgeously full-bodied, with great freshness and acidity, this beauty will be released early next year. (96-98) points

2012 Kongsgaard Syrah Napa Valley
The spectacular 2012 Syrah, which has plenty of roasted meat, bouquet garni, charcuterie and sausage notes along with some bacon fat, blackberry and cassis. It is a mind-blowing, rich, full-bodied, very complex Syrah that seems to broach both the more austere and intellectually complex world of European Syrahs and the ripe opulent, voluptuously textured New World Syrahs. (96-98) points

2012 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa displays lots of black currant, graphite and crushed rock in a full-bodied, dense, very concentrated style, with the vintage’s exuberance and full-throttle fruit and power well-displayed. (93-95) points

2012 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
Called The Fimasaurus, I tasted four vintages and found the two stars to be the grapy, layered, full-bodied and opulent 2012 and its older sibling, the 2010, which was primordial, earthy, meaty, but very tannic and structured, with a cool-climate mouthfeel and an almost Bordeaux/Medoc austerity imposed on the richness of California. More elegant and spicy as well as more attractive for current drinking were both the 2011 and 2009. (92-94+) points

Tasted from bottle:

2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2011 Chardonnay The Judge is more evolved, complex and seductive, with plenty of honeysuckle, roasted nuts, and marmalade notes intermixed with citrus oil and orange blossom. Although it doesn’t have the size and foundation of the 2012, this beauty is still a knock-out Chardonnay. 95 points.

2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2011 Chardonnay displays a creamy richness, with oodles of buttered hazelnut and tropical fruit in a medium to full-bodied, textured, complex and evolved style. I would drink it over the next 3-4 years. 94 points.

2011 Kongsgaard The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2009 The Fimasaurus cuts a larger swath across the palate and seems to have more spice, clove, and wood seasonings than the other cuvees, while the 2011 is very up-front, charming, medium-bodied, aromatic, spicy and round. 90 points.

2012 Kongsgaard Viorous Napa Valley
One of Kongsaard’s specialties and a wine that I love, Viorous is essentially a fruit bomb of Viognier and Roussanne. The 2012 is almost a comfit of rose petal-flavored liqueur interwoven with apricot, white peach, and honeysuckle that jumps from the glass of this superb, full-bodied, richly fruity wine. It is best drunk in its first exuberant years of life. 95 points

2012 Kongsgaard Albarino Napa Valley
Kongsgaard has made a 2012 Albarino from the Hudson Vineyard. Aged in neutral wood with no malolactic, this is the finest Arbarino I have tasted from California. This second vintage exhibits loads of crushed rock, spring flowers, exotic fruit such as mango, pineapple and mandarin orange as well as a long, crisp, textured finish. This 2012 is a beauty to drink over the next several years. 92 points


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


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


Robert Parker

2008  Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2008 Chardonnay The Judge is exquisite. Full-bodied with layer upon layer of ripe stone fruits, crushed rocks, and floral notes, it is a honeyed, super-rich Chardonnay displaying a hint of tropical fruits in the long, 40-second finish (a remarkable length for a Chardonnay). This brilliant effort should last for 8-10 years. 97 points

2008 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2008 Chardonnay Napa, which was bottled in July, 2010, has far more minerality along with notes of orange blossoms, honeyed melons, nectarines and crushed rock. This mineral-dominated Chardonnay tastes like a California version of a Burgundian Chevalier-Montrachet. Full-bodied, fresh, lively and well-delineated, this gorgeous white should last for 4-6 years. 94 points

2007 Kongsgaard The Judge Chardonnay Napa Valley
A special selection of the top barrels, the 2007 Chardonnay The Judge is more backward than the regular Chardonnay, revealing a liqueur of rocks-like character intermixed with hints of almond paste, tropical fruits, quince, and mango. Its incredible length, richness, and depth suggest this wine will benefit from 1-2 years of bottle age, and should keep for over a decade. 98+ points

2007 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley Napa Valley
The 2007 Chardonnay possesses abundant aromas of white peaches, citrus blossoms, crushed rocks (think liquid minerality), and honeyed tropical fruit presented in a full-bodied wine with good acidity, depth, and length. It should drink well for a decade. 95 points

2007 Kongsgaard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon to date is the 2007. Its dense purple color is accompanied by deep cassis, smoke, blackberry, licorice, and roasted meat-like characteristics. Dense and rich with sweet tannin, full-bodied power, and a youthful style, it should evolve for at least 20 years. 94 points

2006 Syrah Napa Valley
The 2006 Syrah Hudson Vineyard jumps out of the glass with its notes of scorched earth, beef blood, blackberries, black olives, spring flowers, coffee, and roasted meats. Incredibly textured, rich, full-bodied, and long, this beauty must be tasted to be believed. It should evolve for 15 or more years, although few purchasers will be able to defer their gratification. 95 points

2005 The Judge Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2005 The Judge Chardonnay flirts with perfection. Incredibly intense flowery notes along with a liqueur of honeysuckle and crushed rocks complete with some tropical fruit, quince, orange, and pineapple characteristics. This intensely full, fresh, lively, gorgeous white benefits from 22 months aging in barrel, and bottling off the lees unfiltered.  98 points

2005 Chardonnay Napa Valley
A stunning effort, the 2005 Chardonnay boasts copious notes of floral, honeysuckle, and orange oil offered in a full-bodied white. It possesses terrific acidity, a striking terroir-based minerality, and beautiful delineation as well as purity. This is a large-scaled yet remarkably fresh wine with the balance and grace of a world-class ballerina. Enjoy it over the next decade.  95 points

2005 Syrah Napa Valley
The fabulous 2005 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is even better than it was last year. An incredible dark purple color offers up notes of creosote, subtle charcoal embers, aged beef, fresh beef blood, black currants, sweet cherries, pepper, and tapenade. An incredibly complex, deep, full-bodied Syrah with expressive chocolatey notes in the mouth, this intense Syrah challenges just about every ounce of grey matter between the ears. It should evolve for 10-15+ years.  98 points

2005 Roussanne/Viognier Napa Valley
The best white Rhone Ranger made north of San Francisco is Kongsgaard’s blend of Roussanne and Viognier, a blend that he plays with and changes every year depending on what the vintage gives. The 2004 was a letdown after several thrilling vintages, but I have to say that the 2005 is possibly the best he has yet made. A 120-case blend of 63% Roussanne, and 37% Viognier, it is right up there with the great Sine Qua Non blended white from the Santa Barbara region. An unbelievably exotic nose of litchi, high class perfume, sweet apricots, and tropical fruits with hints of lilac is followed by a wine of great intensity, tremendous acidity, and a flamboyant personality. This is a Marilyn Monroe in her prime dressed in a chic Chanel suit. I wouldn’t push my luck on aging this one, so my best advice would be to drink it over the next two years, assuming you can keep your hands off of it for that long.  96 points

2004 The Judge Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2004 Chardonnay The Judge is about as fine a Chardonnay as one is likely to find in the world. The wine, as one might expect, is from the same vineyard and simply the most concentrated barrels of what is already a very concentrated wine. It just has more of everything when compared to the regular 2004 Chardonnay, but I think the most striking thing is that, from what I can tell, he is looking for even more intense minerality in the wine, and this wine certainly offers it in spades. It should age for up to a decade.  98 points

2003 The Judge Chardonnay Napa Valley
The Chardonnay of the vintage is the 2003 Chardonnay The Judge. At $175, it may be California’s most expensive Chardonnay, but what a remarkable wine! Tightly-wound as well as super-concentrated, it represents the essence of a terroir and varietal character. Sadly, there are only 100 cases of this remarkable effort.  99 points

2003 Viognier/Roussanne Napa Valley
One of California’s finest white Rhone Ranger blends is Kongsgaard’s 2003 Roussanne/Viognier (45% of the former and 55% of the latter, both co-fermented). Kongsgaard told me the wine that inspired this cuvee was Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, a 100% Roussanne considered by most authorities to be the Montrachet of the southern Rhone Valley. Exotic notes of papaya, mango, and other tropical fruits intermixed with lychee and mineral characteristics emerge from this full-bodied, concentrated, intoxicating, provocative white. It is meant to be consumed during its first 2-3 years of life as once the aromatics begin to crack up, much of this wine’s allure is over.   96 points

2002 The Judge Chardonnay Napa Valley
The powerful, full-bodied 2002 Chardonnay The Judge possesses a similar character to the regular bottling, with more orange marmalade/nectarine characteristics as well as a 60-second finish. These wines tend to age beautifully for 6-7 years, perhaps even longer … I just never have any bottles left after that period of time.  97 points

2002 Chardonnay Napa Valley
The 2002 Chardonnay reveals evolution in its orange liqueur, lemon oil, honeyed grapefruit, roasted hazelnut, and leesy personality. With terrific delineation, intensity, and full body, noble purity, and an amazing texture, it represents California’s version of a Batard-Montrachet. These wines tend to age beautifully for 6-7 years, perhaps even longer … I just never have any bottles left after that period of time.  95 points

2002 Syrah Napa Valley
There are 400+ cases of Kongsgaard’s distinctive Syrah. Aged in 50% new French oak, it is fashioned from a special parcel of Hudson Vineyard vines planted in volcanic soils. The last three vintages have all been extraordinary, with perhaps the 2001 Syrah Hudson Vineyard my overall favorite. However, the 2002 is close in quality. The wine possesses striking blackberry, ground pepper, fried bacon fat, barbecue spice, and underbrush/composty characteristics that are also meaty and primordial. The volcanic soils may give this wine a more smoky, scorched, meaty character than other Northern California Syrahs. As the wine sits in the glass, notes of melted licorice also emerge. The 2002 is extremely layered and long. This cuvee always benefits from 2-3 hours of decanting, and a young vintage might even be better if decanted 24 hours in advance. This wine should easily last 10-15 years. It is unquestionably the most singular expression of Syrah in Northern California.   95 points

2001 Chardonnay Napa Valley
An awesome effort, the 2001 Chardonnay may be this estate’s finest Chardonnay to date. Boasting profoundly intense notes of orange marmalade, minerals, lemon oil, and honeysuckle as well as great delineation for its massive size, this terrific Chardonnay tastes like a grand cru white Burgundy. The finish lasts for 45 seconds. Wines such as this make a mockery of some of the uneducated rhetoric coming from wine journalists who constantly criticize mediocre, over-oaked Chardonnays, but fail to identify the great ones. It is capable of lasting and evolving for a decade.  98 points

2001 Syrah Napa Valley
The 2001 Syrah may be the finest yet produced by Kongsgaard. It is a dead ringer for a more exotic version of Chapoutier’s great Le Pavillon (from 80+ year old vines planted in granite soils on the Hermitage Hill). Aromas of white chocolate, ground pepper, blackberries, cassis liqueur, and flowers (lilacs?) is followed by a wine of great density, a certain exoticism, and powerful, thick, huge flavors oozing with extract, glycerin, and personality. There is also considerable tannin as well as decent acidity. This is about as close to a northern Rhone as Kongsgaard Syrahs get. Look for this 2001 to tighten up considerably, and be at its finest between 2007-2020.  96 points

1999 Chardonnay Napa Valley
The light green/gold-colored 1999 Chardonnay (900 cases) displays an extraordinary perfume of liquified minerals, honeysuckle, citrus oils, smoky nuts, and hints of caramel as well as orange marmalade. As it sits in the glass, even more nuances develop. It is concentrated yet extraordinarily structured and intense (much like its winemaker). This wine will drink beautifully over the next 7-8 years.  95 points

1999 Syrah Napa Valley
The 1999 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is even better out of bottle than it was from cask. Its opaque black/blue/purple color is followed by an extraordinary perfume of barbecue spices intermixed with creosote, violets, blackberry and creme de cassis liqueur, explosive, full-bodied flavors of cassis, and an amazingly thick, juicy yet vibrant and well-defined personality. There is plenty of tannin, but the wealth of fruit and intensity is mind-boggling. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2020. Kongsgaard is crop-thinning down to one grape cluster per shoot in an effort to obtain Syrah at its most intense. There are 125 cases of the 1999 Syrah Hudson Vineyard. The wine is 100% Syrah fermented and aged in wood for 18 months, and then bottled without fining or filtration. The result is one of California’s most awesome as well as singular expressions of Syrah.  95 points