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.
“Forman’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous. Rich and beautifully layered in the glass, the 2017 has gorgeous depth and a touch of exoticism that is so appealing. Ripe red berry fruit, floral overtones and a touch of spice are all laced together. Just bottled, the 2017 is super impressive, even in the early going. This is an especially racy style for Ric Forman, and yet he clearly got every ounce of potential out of the year. 2024-2042.”
95+ points, Antonio Galloni vinous.com, Jan 2020