Savory, inviting aromas burn at the heart of this Firebelle from the Larkmead library. The velvety palate carries dense, penetrating flavors of roasted meat, cola and black cherry that are lifted by lighter notes of flower petals and herbs. Generous and spicy at the start, this becomes ever more succulent and creamy with time in the glass as it drifts toward a lingering finish of fragrant lilies.
The Merlot-based 2010 Proprietary Red Wine Firebelle boasts stunning depth, power and richness. Black cherries, chocolate, spices and new leather explode from the glass in this deep, resonant wine. There is more than enough fruit to fill out the wine’s big, broad-shouldered frame. This is an especially structured vintage for the Firebelle, partly because the Merlot is the lowest ever. Winemaker Andy Smith did a lot of co-ferments with the 2010 to bring all of the elements together. The 2010 is 42% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2030. I was completely blown away by Larkmead this year. The 2010s are simply phenomenal across the board. This is also a vintage in which the different terroirs Larkmead works with are vividly marked. While many wineries are aggressively pushing the boundaries of pricing, Larkmead takes the opposite approach. The fashionable cult-loving crowd might look past these offerings, but savvy readers will recognize that Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignons in particular are some of the very best wines being made in Napa Valley today. If forced to choose one top-flight Napa Valley producer that remains under the radar, Larkmead would get my vote. These are spectacular wines that deserve a much broader audience. I can’t say enough good things about what proprietor Cam Baker, winemaker Andy Smith and the entire team at Larkmead are doing at this historic property.