Baller Red Wines from Mount Veeder, Double Diamond, and Schrader Cellars

Is there a better way to describe these wines? Probably. But I choose to use this six-letter word: baller.

As part of the first annual Global Release of the 2021 vintage of Mount Veeder, Double Diamond, and Schrader Cellar, we gathered at Toronto’s Vintage Conservatory for a masterclass, joined by the Principle Fine Wines team and an intimate group of media and trade guests. Together, we tasted a lineup of luxury wines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, from some of the most world-renown terroirs in the Napa Valley.

A few things to highlight are that the 2021 vintage was, “at times, wildly variable.” Yet it still yielded wines that “shined in quality, character, and complexity”. We were fortunate to learn about how the diligence, craft, and attention to detail from the vineyards and the winemaking teams have enable a line up of great wines year after year.

The event started with an introduction to Mount Veeder, a winery that entered its fifth decade of operation. As the winery proclaimed so eloquently, Mount Veeder crafts wines with altitude. It all started in the 1960s, when the industry was in a lull during Prohibition. Michael and Arlene Bernstein purchased a 20-acre prune farm on Mount Veeder in the Mayacamas Mountains and planted Bordeaux varieties. Since day one, grapes have been hand-harvested because the vines are grown in a double row, with one side ripening faster than the other.


Mount Veeder

2021 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the intention of this wine is to express the Mount Veeder mountain viticulture. In this case, it is all about fresh fig, ripe blackberry and blackberry jam, with a hint of herbaceous character, which is typical compared to wines made from valley floor grapes, balanced with notes of leather and cocoa. A wine with balanced intensity, integrated tannins, lifted acidity, and full-body richness.


Double Diamond

We then moved onto Double Diamond, which is somewhat positioned as Schrader’s second wine; it is originally a wine that is offered to buyers while they are waiting for their Schrader allocation. The intention was to enjoy Double Diamond in the weekdays (although, at $129.95 a bottle, that’d still be considered lavish to most).

One of Double Diamond’s allures is that buyers will be assured that the wines are vinted and bottled by Schrader, a guarantee of quality.

Double Diamond is inspired by Oakville AVA, with the core of the fruits sourced from the appellation’s top vineyards, including the iconic To Kalon Vineyard. The average vine age of grapes that went into these Double Diamind wines is 7-8 years old.

2021 Double Diamond Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine

Not a whole lot of the proprietary red wine was made because it is considered to be more of an experimental bottling. As the only blend in the line-up (the rest are 100% Cabernet Sauvignons), this wine rightfully stood out. The blend is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 24% Cabernet Franc. The Merlot offers a broader expansiveness, whereas the Cabernet Franc offers a fragrant perfume of red cherry, pomegranate, and crunchy bell pepper against a background of dark, ripe fruit and vanilla bean from the touch of American oak.

2021 Double Diamond Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

Made from vines of an average of 7-8 years old, this classic Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon offers exotic spice and a refined tannin structure under a foreground of ripe raspberry, nutmeg, plum puree, a hint of cedar bark, chocolate, and lavender. Relatively approachable right now compared to Schrader we will have tried, but definitely one to reap its enjoyment at least a decade from now.

Schrader Cellars

It was clear that we were climbing up the premium ladder. Our journey continued to the heart of Oakville where we experienced two remarkably different expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon from different blocks of To Kalon Vineyard, and compared them with the expressions of Stags Leap District.

Schrader Cellars was the feature for the rest of the wines that evening. Considered a California cult wine among Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, Schrader represents Napa excellence and has received 100-point scores for four vintages.

We were introduced to the timeline of winemaker Thomas River Brown and his growth into a Napa super star; the meticulous classification of To Kalon into single blocks, sub-blocks of blocks, that contributed to California Cabernet’s super cult status. Today, Thomas works directly with the vineyard teams, which allows him complete influence over the vineyard practices.

Did you know To Kalon is Ancient Creek for “The Beautiful”?


2021 To Kalon RBS Cabernet Sauvignon

Syrupy and velvety, or, dare I say, almost suede-like? The ripeness and balance of this wine are palate-filling, and there wasn’t any tannin out of place.

Made from Clone 337, one of the most well-known Cabernet Sauvignon clones, yielding the most structured, angular, and linear expression. To Kalon RBS Cabernets are always aged in the same barrel that are sold only to Schrader. “Bespoke barrels,” as they call them, and the wines are always aged in 100% new French oak. (The second-used Schrader barrels are dedicated for the making of Double Diamond wines.)

2021 WH “Wappo Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap

Compared to the RBS, the WH Cabernet displays ‘bluer’ fruit notes. Think blueberry anise jam on toasted sourdough with a touch of black sesame seeds, bay leaf, and a touch more angular than the precious wine.

The wine was sourced from Stags Leap District, located more on the foothills of Avaca Range, west of Silverado Trail, just a stone’s throw south-east of Oakville.

These are Clone 685 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that produce bigger clusters and berries and are often less linear than 337. Planted on a very small block that benefits from more afternoon sun with meticulous canopy management (vineyard workers would drag a material like a black pantyhose across in front of the fruit to prevent sunburn) to protect the berries with shades, the result is a modern, opulent style of Cabernet.

2021 Monastery Block To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

A big black wine that at the moment, convinced me this is the boldest Cabernet to end all bold Cabernets.

These are made from Clone 169 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes—a Bordeaux clone identified in the 1970s by US Davis known to produce structured wines with round tannins—planted in the plot within To Kalon that is owned by Constellation, just 400 meters from RBS. What is special about this plot is that it features big, chunky gravel soils that are less nutrient-rich with lower water-holding properties.

The result is bold aromas of liquorice, chocolate, cocoa dust, earth, and asphalt that accentuate its intense, ripe, and dark fruit profile, almost Amarone-like, with intense extract.

5 apples out of 5

2012 To Kalon RBS Cabernet Sauvignon

We ended the tasting with a nine-year-old To Kalon RBS Cabernet to help us glance into the feature and imagine the evolution of the 2021 release. In the end, I would be lying to say that the 2021 Schrader line-up is at its peak right now. While there is no doubt that the wines are exceptional, these are ‘time-capsule wines’ that collectors would need to tuck away to experience their full potential, often after decades. The 2012 has gorgeous leather, dried blueberries, green olive and gravelly earthy seeping through, accented by ripe blackberries and cedar. A wonder to behold.

All wines are rated out of a possible five apples