Critical Acclaim

VINOUS, Antonio Galloni

March 2018

The Kongsgaard estate was in the eye of the storm as fires of unprecedented ferocity ravaged much of the property this past October. The Kongsgaards barely escaped, literally with just a few minutes to spare. Miraculously, the family home was saved, while the fire stopped just outside the winery. Portions of the estate vineyard were damaged, although it will take some time to know how badly. My fall tasting was memorable for the number of utterly sublime wines I tasted with John and Alex Kongsgaard. As I have written here previously, my impression is that the wines are a bit more refined today than in the recent past. These remain some of the most unique and deeply human wines being made in Napa Valley today.

Wines tasted from barrel are scored in parenthesis:

2016 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge Napa Valley
The 2016 Chardonnay The Judge is a hugely promising wine. Rich, sumptuous and intensely resonant in the glass, the 2016 is endowed with tightly wound layers of fruit that just need time to fully emerge. A hint of reduction adds nuance without overpowering the wine. Aging in barrel might dissipate the reduction, but even today, it is only a thread in a very noble tapestry of captivating aromas, flavors and textures. (94-97) points

Kongsgaard 2016 Chardonnay Napa Valley
A wine of breadth and resonance, the 2016 is a more typical Chardonnay from Kongsgaard than its older sibling. Lemon oil, chamomile, and floral notes are nicely pushed forward. Oily and viscous in the glass, with notable freshness, the 2016 is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine. (93-95) points

Kongsgaard 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Kongsgaard’s 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon opens with captivating aromatics. Nuanced and inviting, the 2016 offers a super-appealing interplay of lifted savory notes, dense fruit and perky energy that gives the wine its sense of focus. Veins of tannin sustain the mid-palate and finish in this electric, dazzling Cabernet Sauvignon from Kongsgaard. This is the first vintage that includes Cabernet Franc off the estate. In 2016, the blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. (95-98) points

Kongsgaard 2016 The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2016 The Fimasaurus is endowed with magnificent aromatic intensity, depth and a distinctly vertical sense of structure. The 2016 is going to need time to fill out its many layers of flavor and texture. The 2016 was racked about a month before this tasting. It may very well turn out to be even better than this note suggests. (93-96 points) points

Kongsgaard 2016 Syrah Napa Valley
The 2016 Syrah Hudson Vineyards is fabulous. Huge varietal aromatics make a strong first impression. A host of black pepper, game, smoke, licorice, incense and blood orange notes give the 2016 an exotic feel that carries over into the palate, where the wine possesses stunning richness and volume. The 2016 is textbook Syrah from John and Alex Kongsgaard. In other words, this is about as good as it gets. (96-99) points.

The following wines were tasted from bottle:

Kongsgaard 2015 The Judge Napa Valley
The 2015 Chardonnay The Judge has turned out beautifully. Like the Napa Valley Chardonnay, The Judge is a hushed, quiet wine. Whether it ever develops into a more typically exuberant, flamboyant wine in the more classic Kongsgaard mold remains to be seen. Today, the 2015 speaks to finesse, nuance and understatement. There is lovely depth and texture of fruit. As always, the Judge is marked by a distinct oiliness, but the 2015 is less overtly flamboyant than other past vintages have been. 96 points

Kongsgaard 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is just as impressive from bottle as it was from barrel. A big, powerful wine, the 2015 is an especially dark, somber wine. Black cherry, gravel, smoke, licorice and dark spices add to an impression of darkness. The effects of the drought are felt in the wine’s intense fruit and equally forbidding tannins. I expect the 2015 will need quite a few years to fully come into its own, as the tannins are not at all friendly today. Even so, the wine’s density and textural resonance are impossible to miss. A dollop of 10% Merlot rounds out the blend. 96+ points

Kongsgaard 2015 The Fimasaurus Napa Valley
The 2015 The Fimasaurus is plump, juicy and delicious, all qualities that make it easy to drink young. Soft, polished tannins give this Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend much of its allure. The intensity of the drought is evident, but at the same time, the Fimasaurus is much more accessible and pliant at this stage than Kongsgaard’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Black cherry, mocha, plum, new leather and spice add nuance to the fleshy, voluptuous finish. Best of all, the 2015 will drink well with minimal cellaring. Fimasaurus is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that are fermented together. 94 points

Kongsgaard 2015 Syrah Napa Valley
The 2015 Syrah Hudson Vineyards comes across as very closed in on itself, and yet is also the red that appears to be the least affected by the drought. Dense, powerful and meaty, with massive concentration and yet relatively tamed tannin for a young Kongsgaard Syrah, the 2015 has so much to offer. Today, the 2015 is quite a bit less expressive than it was from barrel, but that is not surprising given the natural ebbs and flows of Syrah, especially in the months following bottling. 96+ points

Kongsgaard 2016 VioRous Napa Valley
The 2016 VioRous is bright and lifted in the glass, with striking aromatic top notes that give the wine brightness. Viognier from Atlas Peak, which is playing a greater role in this wine, adds a measure of translucence and purity that previous vintages have not shown. The 2016 is all class. Readers should expect a relatively restrained VioRous in 2016. The blend is 65% Viognier/35% Roussanne from the Atlas Peak and Judge vineyards. 93 points

Kongsgaard 2016 Albariño Napa Valley
Soaring aromatics, bright acids and chiseled fruit give the 2016 Albariño its super-distinctive personality. Alluring and also hauntingly beautiful, the 2016 is drop-dead gorgeous. I would prefer to drink it over the next year or two, while the citrus and floral notes retain their youthful precision. 94 points