Viticulture, the driving force of quality in wine, is pursued without compromise in Ric Forman’s vineyards. His goal is to fully capture the best of his Saint Helena site’s terroir, and he put in the time, care, and attention to detail to make that happen. In the winery, Ric draws out the identity of each vineyard parcel by using equipment specifically designed for small-lot production. You can rest assured that in a survey of Napa Cabernet, Forman will highlight the best of a vintage.
Ric’s vineyards, founded in 1979, cover 28.5 acres in Saint Helena and 60 acres on the Rutherford Bench. The Saint Helena vineyards near the winery are divided into three parcels, each planted to the four Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. You’ll find a different soil type in each parcel. The enclosed vineyard below the winery is rooted in deep deposits of gravel and sand. The steeply-sloped plot directly above the winery is composed of hard volcanic rock (so impermeable that dynamite was used extensively to shatter the rock before planting). Further up the mountain sits a parcel made of pink gravel underlain with grey volcanic ash. These locations each contribute subtle differences to the wine. The vineyards are managed meticulously by hand – each vine is tended to no less than 16 times in a growing season.
Hand-harvested fruit from these parcels was processed within 30 minutes of picking: bunches were hand-sorted and gently de-stemmed, then transported (berries intact) to small temperature-controlled stainless steel fermenters. Following fermentation, the final blend of four varietals is decided. The wine was transferred to new French oak barrels as malolactic fermentation began, then cellared in caves ten floors below the fermenting cellars. In the deep, cool cellars, the wines literally age in the soils from which they grew. Over the course of 20 months, depending on the vintage, the wine was periodically racked, always barrel to barrel using air pressure. The finished wines were minimally fined.
“The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is dense, pliant and wonderfully expressive. Ric Forman’s wines are always on the restrained side, but the 2015 packs a good bit of punch. Sweet red cherry, raspberry, sage, mint, and rose petal overtones all add to the wine’s precision and nuance. In 2015, Forman took in fruit from Thorevilos, which he co-manages with David Abreu, but ultimately decided to add that juice to the Cabernet Sauvignon rather than bottle it separately. Dollops of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec round out the blend. This is one of the classiest wines of the vintage.”
96 point, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, March 2018
“The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, which came from yields half of what is normally routine, is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon followed by mostly Cabernet Franc and smaller quantities of Petit Verdot and Merlot. This wine, which is still in barrel, displays gorgeous blueberry and black raspberry notes with some licorice, truffle and forest floor. The wine has a dense ruby/purple color, medium to full body, a Bordeaux-like structure, but wonderful energy, purity and richness. It should drink well for 15-20 years at minimum.”
92-94 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2018