Carl Kanowsky: The Finale to Spire’s Achievements

Set in the midst of some of Napa’s finest vineyards lies the Spire Tasting Room. Courtesy photo

Following up on my last column, we had covered four wines from our tasting at the Spire Collection. Here are the final five we enjoyed.

Ryan Hughes then presented a great opportunity to compare and contrast. He poured us the 2014 Anakota Dakota Vineyard and the 2014 Anakota Montana Vineyard side-by-side. Both vineyards are in Knights Valley. Dakota runs southeast to northwest; Montana is northeast to southwest. Robert Parker preferred the Dakota to the Montana, rating them 98 and 93, respectively. I agreed with his assessment while Terry flip-flopped on the two. I got eucalyptus and berry on the nose, finding some tasty tannins that need a lot of air time to make it approachable. The Montana, for me, featured heavy tannins that will take considerable cellar time to dissipate.

As is to be expected, my bride disagreed with me. She found the Montana smoother and less tannic. We concurred that both wines had blackberry and black fruit on both the nose and the palate.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the strong tannic presence in both wines. Pierre Seillan, Anakota’s winemaker, also crafts one of Spire’s crown jewels, Verite. I’ve always found hulking tannins in Verite that do mellow after 10 years, akin to fine Barolos, some of which need 30 years before they are drinkable.

Next up was the 2014 Mt. Brave Cabernet Franc. Strong berry on the nose, the taste was fruity (boysenberry) and quite approachable. Also detected aromas of saddle and tastes of smoked meats. Very enjoyable.

Jackson Family likes to give their favorite winemakers a number of challenges. As I mentioned in my first column, Chris Carpenter makes Cardinale, La Jota, Mt. Brave, and Lokoya for Jackson. While quite the workload, it seemed doable since all of these wineries are in California. But we then had the 2015 Hickinbotham The Peake, a 56/44 cab/shiraz blending from Australia. Carpenter makes that wine, also! This was delicious. Although bone dry, it has almost a candy quality, with notes of dark chocolate and cherries. A great, long finish.

We finished, counter-intuitively one might argue, with the lone white wine of the tasting, the 2014 Capensis Chardonnay from South Africa. (I discovered that I appreciated doing the white last – another red after the heavy Napa wines would have been a bit much.) Perhaps realizing that excessive new French oak will overwhelm a good chardonnay with too much buttery taste, Capensis’ winemaker wisely aged the wine in a 50 percent blend aged 10 months in 100 percent French oak, 41 percent new. The result was a tasty wine that delivered tastes of banana on both the nose and palate. As I’ve said before, Terry’s sensory abilities far outstrip mine. On the nose, she got grass, grapefruit, pineapple and banana. She tasted grapefruit, banana, and toned-down butter. The Capensis is very balanced with a slightly acidic finish.

Ryan, thank you for this display of great vino.

A reminder of two upcoming events:

Next week, wineLA is hosting Stars of Pinot 2018 on Wednesday, July 11, at the Montage in Beverly Hills. An evening of pinot from producers all around the world – what could be better? Buy tickets at

Then, on Aug. 16, Limerick Lane and its celebrated owner/winemaker, Jake Bilbro, will host an evening of their award-winning wines with some tasty dishes from Santa Clarita’s own Salt Creek Grille, all to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to sample what Robert Parker has gushed about: “If you haven’t caught onto the magic that is emerging from Limerick Lane, it’s about time. Impressive heights of quality.” Get tickets at

© Carl J. Kanowsky
July 5, 2018

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