Sometimes you have to go a long way to find a local wine. For this week's wine(s), we turned to Canada. Actually, Canada came to us in the form of our friend Dups, and his iPhone image of a Waterstone Cabernet. He asked if we knew it. We didn't . He liked it, we tried it, and now here we are.
Waterstone is a "virtual winery" in that they own neither vineyards nor an actual winery. Instead, they buy the first and rent the second. There are plenty of exceptional wines that fit this model, such as Kosta Browne. The freedom from assets gives freedom of choice: Which grapes to buy, which wines to make, when not to make a wine at all.
Of course, to make great wine you need great grapes, and to get great grapes you generally need long-term contracts, so the image of a free-wheeling winemaker driving around Napa picking which grapes to buy each season is a bit illusory. But with vineyard acreage in Napa selling for as much as $300,000 an acre, there's plenty of reason not to be an owner, and plenty of winemakers that don't have the option.
Waterstone makes a variety of wines, and we found their Merlot and Cabernet to be the best of what we sampled (those $40 and below). It's also an exceptional value. Apparently renting is paying off, in price to value, for the moment.
Wine: Waterstone 2008 Napa Valley Merlot
Notes: Dark garnet color. Cherry-vanilla-tobacco-mocha nose. Mid-mild Merlot with pleasant balance of acidity and plummy fruit notes. A touch of spice, a fist of fruit, and a dusting of dark cacao make for a pleasant winter wine. Stands alone or with lamb or beef, and all the other things a medium-full bodied red would pair. Drinking nicely now but will likely improve for at least three to five years.
Sells For:$18 Drinks Like: $35+
Wine:Waterstone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Notes: Dark red cherry juice in color. Tastes soft, not quite velvety but perhaps velveteen on the tongue. Mocha, sour cherry, notes of tobacco, milk chocolate at the mid-palate and pronounced acidity towards the end. A bit of plum and a pinch of pomegranate. A nice, solid, cab.
Sells For: $24 Drinks Like: A well made $28 or an average $32.
Where to score Waterstone: Wine Club, Wine Spot, Fallletti Foods, Gallery Market Union Square, Stomp, Real Foods and Lunardi's.