Hi! Today we break all the rules here at Wineguider by reviewing a 2002 Napa Valley cabernet that you probably can’t find at your local store. Why? Because it saved my Napa Valley wine tasting trip. It cost me $50, but the price is $60 these days.
When you visit Napa, it’s all very beautiful, but after several wineries you begin to realize something: many of the reds taste similar. Cabernet, merlot, zinfandel, syrah, sometimes even pinot noir, all have this typical oaky California thing.
Not Van Der Heyden. We arrived at their tiny operation after enjoying two full days of sumptuous country clubbish dark-wooded wine bars. The tasting room at Van Der Heyden was a trailer. Hound dogs lay on the porch. Cats roamed. I started whistling the theme from Sanford & Son. Should we even get out of the car? We took a chance and went in. Soon, a short Dutchman appeared and started talking very fast. I could understand his longer-than-usual aging process, and a few other things, as he explained, basically, “here is why we make the best wine.” Oh really, I thought.
Then, as I realized we were speaking with Mr. Van Der Heyden, I tasted his merlot. “Hmmm… wow.” And the chardonnay. “Jesus.” (I usually hate California chardonnay.) Then the cabernet sauvignon, the subject of this review: Rich. Different. Exciting. Like a warm raspberry, cranberry and rhubarb pie, it was not a dry red, but it wasn’t blatantly sweet either. It had moderate tannins, with restrained oak. He was right. This was the best red wine we tasted on that trip. Including the fancy tasting at Beringer, where you sample their $100-plus bottles. Van Der Heyden’s cab was 50 bucks. And it rocked, because it had a complexity all its own. I hereby award it a “Best of the Best” designation. Finally, his cabernet dessert wine (“Late Harvest”) was out of control. Pornographic. So good, I feared chronic addiction, especially because its price was over $100.
It’s pretty hard to find this wine, because it is sold mostly right out of that trailer. And through their mailing list. If you want something special, call them at 800-948-WINE and order a bottle (and maybe that dessert wine). I think you’ll be glad you did.