They Say 2011 Napa is No Good. Todd Anderson Says They're All Wrong

Posted October 29, 2014

Sandra Zotti


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"2011 Napa? Thanks, but I'll pass."

A phrase I hear more often than not when making recommendations while working the floor of our store. In a nutshell, Napa’s 2011 vintage has gotten a bad rap. A cold, wet spring affected fruit set, which in turn lowered yield production. Cooler than normal summer temperatures delayed ripening of the grapes. Add to that October's heavy rains which not only disturbed harvest, but in some instances created rot and botrytis. Sounds like a complete disaster, right?

According to Todd Anderson, owner and winemaker of the famed Anderson's Conn Valley in St. Helena, California, "There is no such thing as a bad vintage in Napa. The weather just is." The issue is less about the actual weather in a given year. The real story lies in how the winemaker chooses to deal with it.

In the wine world, we tend to rave about wines that come out of "perfect" vintages, when all aspects of the climate and land are in total harmony. However, wines from the less-than-stellar vintages are the real gems we should be seeking out. 2011 Napa wines are shaping up to be "A sleeper vintage," Todd reveals to me. A year for the winemaker and a collector's dream. Wines with vibrant acidity that allow for serious aging potential.

2011 was a later vintage, largely in part to those October rains and the eventual warming that finally occurred in early November. In most instances a later harvest is ideal, allowing the fruit to hang onto the vines as long as possible resulting in more developed flavors. Todd went on to explain, "You can have perfect acid, sugar and pH, but that still doesn't guarantee you are going to make a great wine. You need that physiological ripeness." A ripeness which Todd clearly managed to achieve.

2011 Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve sings in the glass. A gorgeous opaque purple hue with a violet tinged rim. Black fruit, spice, fresh soil, tobacco and chocolate emerge with the gentlest of swirls. A surprising approachability at such a young age, yet a vibrant acidity and firm tannic structure that guarantees many years in the cellar. With a 95+ rating from Antonio Galloni, Todd Anderson managed to produce one of the highest scoring wines of the 2011 Napa vintage.

A year for the winemaker indeed it has been.

Here's my full conversation with Todd when he was kind enough to come give a seminar during Wine Library's annual Charity Super Tasting. Take a look!



Sandra Zotti is Wine Library's Director of Special Events as well as the host of Wine Library's Food and Wine Video Series. She often does private events for the store, where she lectures on various food-wine related topics to groups of all sizes. She recently passed Level 1 of the Court of Master Sommeliers' Program and is currently preparing for her Level 2 examination. When she is not working with wine, Sandra focuses her time on her other love, being a classical pianist.

Product Label.

Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon...

95 Antonio Galloni - Vinous

Item: 82219

750 mL

Retail: $95.00

$69.99 per btl