Home Iconic bar Napa Valley’s New Cabernet Sauvignon Could Be Rutherford’s Next Iconic Wine

Napa Valley’s New Cabernet Sauvignon Could Be Rutherford’s Next Iconic Wine


Wine drinkers who have enjoyed a wide range of fine wines around the world may have only used the word “ethereal” when referring to some of Burgundy’s most notable red Grands Crus such as Bonnes Mares or even more elusive Romanée-Conti. And yes, the word ethereal can be defined as describing something so “light in a way” that it seems “too perfect for this world”, but when it comes to wine it takes on even more meaning. outstanding. This is an undeniably concentrated, complex and multifaceted wine, but overall there is a quality of stunning delicacy that will take your breath away. The great Burgundy wineries seem to hold the original, unofficial rights to such a descriptor, although there is a new wine from a vineyard in Rutherford Bench, Napa Valley, that inspires such a word.

It’s shocking that a word like “ethereal” describes a Bordeaux let alone a Napa wine, and a Napa wine made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon nonetheless. But that’s what the new released 2018 Stalworth The Rutherford Bench wine displays exquisitely when its acclaimed winemaker, Celia Welch, beams when speaking of the wine’s “weightlessness” which has a striking combination of that balanced heavenly character with a delicious juiciness on the finish.

From the first taste, it imparts the aromas and flavors that are known among Rutherford Bench wines such as ideally ripe fruit with a hint of spice notes like anise or a floral characteristic, even if it is the texture of this winning wine. on another level.

The name “Rutherford Bench” is talked about enthusiastically among Napa wine lovers and in a straightforward scientific way one can read about the process of benches forming in soils that are caused by geological events that can cause a diverse mix of soil types, such as the alluvial fan in the Rutherford Bench, to logically understand why he is special. However, most wine drinkers want to experience the most outstanding examples of what sets this revered region apart from other neighboring areas of Rutherford and the rest of Napa Valley. The Stalworth 2018 is an opportunity to taste such an exemplary example.

Tim Person

The co-owner and captain at the helm of the Stalworth project is Tim Persson who, along with his wife, Sabrina, took over his father-in-law’s wine business, Hess Family Wine Estates, and today it is called Hess Persson Estates. Tim took over running their wine estates after spending a lot of time with his father-in-law, Donald Hess, as many challenges arose during the post-financial crisis of 2010 and 2011 that affected the vast Hess. businesses around the world, and so in 2012 Tim and his wife moved to Napa Valley so they could directly oversee the estate and the family winery.

Even in the multicultural region of Napa Valley, Tim’s background stands out as he grew up in one of Africa’s smallest countries, Eswatini – Africa’s last absolute monarchy, formerly known as Swaziland. After attending college in Europe, he became a corporate lawyer and practiced in New York and London; then Tim met his wife Sabrina and his path took an adventurous turn.

Tim does most of the work supervising and directing the wine industry while Sabrina continues her psychotherapy practice. She is a licensed psychotherapist who has come in handy for their winery business which has to “navigate the series of setbacks and natural disasters” that has prevailed since 2014. But she still finds time to help their winery “behind the scenes” while juggling his practice. and being very “hands on” with raising their two children.

Some of these setbacks and natural disasters include the 2014 earthquake which destroyed one of their main wine cellars, landslides in 2016 which cut electricity and access to the cellar, in 2017 the winery only able to make a small fraction of its high-end wines due to wildfires and wildfire smoke in 2020 forcing them to make no Napa wine.

Yet Tim’s original mission to “restore” Hess’ credentials for making premium Cabernet Sauvignon wines was never discouraged. As he thought about the 30th anniversary of Hess Family Wine Estates, celebrated in 2011, it was now his responsibility to ensure the winery remained relevant for the next 30 years and that’s where Stalworth came into the picture.


Tim sought out a top Napa winemaker who would oversee the project to create an iconic wine from the Rutherford Bench, raising the bar for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Although there was a group of great winemakers in the area, he was determined to find someone who not only had a great understanding of what makes an exceptional winery in Napa, but also had the lack of ego to allow this vineyard to speak for itself. And that’s when Celia Welch’s name came up again and again, as she was an expert in making Rutherford’s signature wines. So Tim and his wife researched his various wines to taste, some easier to find than others, like the hard to get Scarecrow. According to Tim, the lack of ego was evident in his wines, and he loved “integrity, honesty and consistency of excellence” in all of his various offerings. Tim and Sabrina’s connection to Celia was instant when they first met, and Tim noted that meeting Celia, unlike the rest of Stalworth’s story, was seamless from the first moment.

They found the ideal vineyard in the Rutherford Bench in 2015 but the back-to-back unfortunate events of extreme drought accumulation from 2012-2015 and all the disasters suffered from 2014-2017, pushed Stalworth’s debut vintage until 2018. – considered a “spectacular year” and “driven by the terroir” according to wine spectator. Celia said they used this delayed time to really understand this particular vineyard and have time to experiment in the cellar with the wines so that they are fully prepared once they make the inaugural vintage. In addition, the need to rebuild the winery, destroyed by an earthquake, allowed the green light to be given to a huge investment that would allow the construction of a state-of-the-art winery giving them all the tools to achieve more high peaks.

The reconstruction of the old stone cellar, originally built in 1903, took several years as there were many complications at every stage of the process. When the new winery opened with a celebratory dinner on August 14, 2018, Tim Googled the date just before giving his commencement speech at the dinner because he wanted to reference other historic events at that time. date, he realized that it was the 4th anniversary of the date the cellar was destroyed.

Never lose sight of luck

When it came time to name the wine, given the very bumpy journey, Stalworth was ideal as it’s a word that has evolved to describe someone who shows “determination, bravery and courage”, and Tim and his wife have certainly achieved their dream. , to move Hess Persson Estates to a higher level of excellence, challenged in many ways.

The label features contemporary art that reminds Tim and Sabrina of their favorite poem called “The Journey” written by David Whyte. One section reads “someone has written something new in the ashes of your life”, representing their chance to write something new in the ashes of the Hess Cellar.

Tim laughed when he thought how his family thought of him as an unlucky kid as he broke nearly every bone in his body as a child and it seems the deluge of unfortunate events surrounding the Stalworth project weren’t only a continuation of his unlucky tendencies. , but he has a very different perspective. “I can’t help but look back at my life and think I’ve been incredibly lucky,” he says with a strong sense of gratitude.

And the 2018 Stalworth certainly proves that he is indeed a very lucky man.

2018 Stalworth, Rutherford Bench, Napa Valley: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Celia modestly pointed out that this vineyard produced a completely balanced Cabernet Sauvignon in 2018 with an extraordinary texture that is both concentrated and refined with an overall “weightlessness” that gives it that remarkable ethereal quality, but it finishes just as incredible as t starts with a juiciness that only begs for another sip. The purity of red cherry and blackberry is stunning with those characteristic notes of anise seed and floral notes with tannins so fine they’re imperceptible, but they’re obviously there to support the wine throughout. long expressive finish.

2019 Stalworth, Rutherford Bench, NapaValley: mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a tiny amount of Malbec and Petit Verdot. Delicious cassis flavor to this wine that has plenty of juiciness with blackberry jams and baking spice with sweet tobacco leaves and crushed stones all wrapped in lush tannins and superb flavor length.

The 2019 is still in the preview phase and will probably not be released until next year. But since it showed so well, they allow the media to try it. Regarding the addition of a slight amount of Malbec and Petit Verdot, Celia noted that it was more “to balance the texture” as there could be either a dip in the mid-palate that needs to be filled, or maybe a rounding off as she always wants the last sip to be tasty as she wants to avoid any astringency. But she added less than one percent of each because she wants the wine to be a full expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and so the other varieties are only there to help bring out the more complementary elements of the Cab.