Ray Signorello’s Quest to Perfect the $50 Napa Cabernet
The view from the private sitting room on the second floor of the Signorello Estate tasting room reveals the vast expanse of vineyards that make up the Oak Knoll District, the southern end of Stags’ Leap, and well beyond. On blindingly bright sunny days, with clouds billowing up miles high, it’s the kind of view that has coaxed dozens of others out from behind their high-profile desk jobs, and thrust them into the role of farmer, vineyard owner, and winemaker.
It pulled Ray Signorello, Sr., who in the late 1970s bought a piece of land on Silverado Trail just off the southern edge of the Stags’ Leap line, and planted a vineyard. In the years since his passing, his son, Ray Jr., has carried the torch and subsequently turned Signorello Estate into one of the rarest jewels of that world-class neighborhood.
We’re attending Premiere Napa Valley this week. Weeks of torrential downpours out here had us packing umbrellas, but we’ve been pleased to find radiant blue skies and surprisingly green hillsides basking in shimmering sunlight. It was easy to imagine, driving to our afternoon appointment, such beauty would inspire a winemaking destiny for someone in town, perhaps one of the few lucky attendees who wouldn’t blink at spending $50,000 at the barrel auction.
As we made our way up the driveway at 4500 Silverado Trail, we read markers on the ends of vineyard blocks that pulled us back through the history of the estate. “1980 Chardonnay Block,” “1990 Cabernet Block,” and “1990 Merlot Block” — mature vines eking out BB-sized berries with the kind of impeccable concentration and structure you’d expect in a wine whose prices run into the triple digits.
But we hadn’t come to taste Ray Signorello, Jr.’s 98-point “Alessandra” Cabernet ($300), which Robert Parker calls “killer good,” or even Ray’s “stunner” of a “Padrone” Proprietary Red (96+ points, $200). This time, we had our eye on a new project — something we know WineAccess members will appreciate — so Ray uncorked a bottle of the 2013 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon.
Antonio Galloni called it “one of the more approachable 2013 Cabernets readers will come across,” one that has “no shortage of depth or intensity,” and pinned on a 92-point score. Parker enjoyed its “sexy upfront style,” which Ray told us was “exactly my intention.” Parker considers it a “soft, forward, lush, restaurant-styled Cabernet with excellent concentration.”
As we’ve often reported, the 2013 vintage in Napa is one for the record books — a benchmark year that’ll be talked about for the next century. Parker gushed over the “mind-boggling,” “epic and awesome” wines he’d tasted, declaring 2013 to be the “greatest vintage in 37 years.” Wine Spectator argued that it rivals 2012, rating it 96 points overall. Galloni called the 2013s “viscerally thrilling,” and “the most profound, riveting, young wines I have tasted anywhere in the world.”
Count Ray’s 2013 Fuse among the best of what the critics are describing — other wineries of comparable pedigree wouldn’t hesitate to slap a $125 price tag on it. Fuse is a carefully curated blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. One-third of the fruit was harvested from the Signorello Estate, while the rest was sourced from select sites a stone’s throw from the estate that are “on par with quality from our vineyards,” Ray told us. Best of all, he wouldn’t let it hit the market at more than $50.
The 2013 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. A sumptuous nose of red-berry fruit, plum skin, and sweet oak spice tinged with vanilla. Juicy on the attack, redolent of black raspberry and blueberry preserves. A fabulously mouthwatering salty mineral thread leads to a graceful finish with whispers of graphite and sweet tobacco spice.
92 points and a Napa Cabernet courtesy of Ray Signorello, Jr., the author of under-the-radar triple-digit jewels from Napa’s Golden Côte for Cabernet. From any other winemaker for this quality juice, you’d pay at least $125. Because Ray likes a solid under-$50 Cab like the rest of us, only $45 per bottle. Shipping included on 4. Do not pass this up.