Three library wines from incredible producers, plus an exclusive new bottle.
When a winemaker known for its signature bottle starts making a companion sipper that mines the same or similar terroir, using the same varietals and going for a similar flavor profile, we want a taste. Especially if it’s offered at a lower price point but still breathes the rare air of fine wine.
One such “little sister” is Vanitas from Memento Mori. The current, inaugural release is from 2017, though the 2018 is imminent. Owners Adam Craun and Hayes Drumwright told Robb Report that in making Vanitas, they wanted to offer a wine that was perhaps more of an everyday drinker and an easier entry point than their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for around $225 and regularly sells out. But they didn’t sacrifice on quality. The blend of grapes comes from prized vineyards that winemaker Sam Kaplan sought out. And while it certainly has the structure to age for a decade, it’s made to drink now, rather than after substantial time in the cellar.
A defining characteristic of these little sisters is that they’re not meant to be mass-market wines. They’re still difficult to acquire; for Vanitas, only 55 cases were made. And they’re not available at the Memento Mori tasting room in Napa or from the winery’s website. The wine is currently available only through the second edition of Robb Report‘s Rare & Fine wine program, released in partnership with Wally’s Wine & Spirits.
Vanitas itself is a Cabernet Sauvignon comprised of grapes sourced from plots around Napa Valley. Scents of roasted meat, tobacco and black cherries greet you at the glass. On the palate, the wine tastes of both savory herbs and rich fruit, with an elegant balance between that richness and strong but smooth tannins.
That bottle joins three others in the latest Rare & Fine offering, all of which are library wines that have some age on them. The selected release of older vintages has gained ground recently both domestically and internationally. Stateside, wines tend to launch younger, mostly because of the economics of annual releases and the amount of cellar space required to age many vintages at once. But with the recent years of devastating fires tainting or burning whole vineyards and recently harvested barrels, winemakers in Napa and Sonoma have added more library releases into the mix of annual offerings. In France and Italy, however, wine is often allowed to accumulate a few more ticks of the clock before making its debut. Still, some estates will hold back a stash, especially from a stellar year, only to release it in limited quantities later on through trusted outlets, so buyers can be assured the quality of the wine is ideal and provenance is intact.