- Producer: Dana Estates - read about the Estate
- Winemakers: Philippe Melka & Chris Cooney
- Region (AVA): Napa (Rutherford)
- Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Vintage production: 254 cases
- Winery location: Rutherford
- Owner: Hi Sang Lee
- First vintage: 2005
- Drinking window: 2023-2045
About The Wine:
This gently sloping site is relatively cool, and is protected from the intensity of the late afternoon heat during the height of the growing season. The gravelly loam soils provide excellent drainage and wonderful fruit purity. Helms Vineyard Cabernet displays the classic profile of the Rutherford Bench: dark fruit, richly layered with a touch of spice and earth. The finely grained “dusty” tannins so prevalent in the appellation are integrated and harmonious, producing a wine of sophistication and depth.
A very wet January and February started the season with the soil full of water which allowed the vines access to all the nutrients in the soil. The spring was dry with more moderate temperatures than the last several years leading to a slightly later budbreak at the beginning of April. After budbreak, the weather was dry and warmer than in the previous five seasons. This led to a large healthy canopy due to adequate soil moisture. The large canopy dried down the soil rapidly early in the season setting the vines up to produce smaller, thicker skinned berries. The thick skins and careful water management allowed the fruit to weather the multiple heat spells that characterized the 2017 vintage. The three spells in July before veraison, as well as those in September, slowed sugar accumulation leading to lower brix at harvest. Grapevines behave similar in extreme heat as they do to cool weather, they stop ripening. Thus, the wines from 2017 while having robust tannins from the dry spring, also have a finesse and brightness reminiscent of cooler vintages.
Dana's philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard and winery has resulted in a slow progression to dry farming. This forces the vines to look deeper for water, but also for nutrients and minerals. The results are balanced vines that produce small intensely flavored berries with thick darkly colored skins. The 2016 season started with the soil full of water giving the vines a respite from 3 years of drought. The season started with a warm April and May which promoted rapid shoot growth with no water limitations. This established healthy canopies early in the season. A little extra work was done to keep dappled light in the fruit zone open which is critical for tannin development.
Flowering occurred in mid-May during warm weather which is ideal. The crop level was moderate and slightly below average. The summer heat was moderate with only a few heat spells; an almost perfect season. Veraison was early giving plenty of time for flavor and tannin development before harvest. This near perfect growing season yielded wines with great balance, precision, and depth of flavor.
The harvest at Helms started September 26th and 27th with the upper slope and a few pockets on cooler soils lower in elevation. The core of the vineyard was picked on October 5th. The fruit was near perfect with moderately sized berries and no dehydration. The fruit was fermented in an oak upright tank on skins for 19 days. Smaller lots were fermented in a mix of small and large barrels for 29 days. The wines were drained directly into barrel. The wine was racked once for blending in the spring of 2018 and then aged on fine lees until bottling.
Dana Estates Helms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
"Perfect aromas of crushed berries, cedar, roses and blackberries. Touch of rose leaf. Medium body, very fine tannins and nuanced flavors. Lovely, complex finish. Wonderful elegance and length. Drinkable now, but better in two or three years."
99 points, James Suckling (Jan. 2020)
"From vines planted around the estate in Rutherford, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Helms Vineyard sports a deep purple hue as well as gorgeous notes of blackcurrants, tobacco, crushed rock-like minerality, lead pencil, and forest floor. Just pure, unadulterated Cabernet Sauvignon on both the nose and palate, it has a Chateau Lafite-like elegance and minerality as well as its hallmark lead pencil character, medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful balance, and a great finish. It's bigger and richer than the Lotus Vineyard Cabernet, yet its balance, purity, and elegance stand out just as much. It will offer pleasure for 30 years or more."
97 points, Jeb Dunnuck (Jan. 2021)