- Rating: 98 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $125 or Free with Purchases
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
Saint Helena, CA 95474
It doesn’t get much better than Lokoya… Not views of the valley below, not the tasting room, not the isolation/attention, and definitely not the wines. I guess the only things to complain about is that they only make four wines (all Cabernet Sauvignons) and that I don’t make enough money to drink these wines regularly. Though, I find myself saying that often for all the best wines. Even with an allocation, I couldn’t get access to the 2015 Mt. Veeder and Howell Mountain, which happen to be my two favorite mountain terroirs of the four they produce from. The other two are their Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain wines.
The tasting room for Lokoya is up on Spring Mountain, past Fantesca but before Pride Mountain Winery. It’s fairly difficult to find the gate as it’s unbranded and the location isn’t really advertised. Don’t worry though - it’s neigh impossible to get a reservation for a tasting there, so if finding the place is your issue, consider it a small one. Once you reach the property though, you’ll see that the views of the valley below are breathtaking, tempting you to sit outside on the patio all day. Unfortunately though, that’s not on the menu…
Lokoya was purchased by Jackson Family Wines (one of the large wine conglomerates in the world today) to be the crown jewel of their Spire Collection. And the entire experience does not disappoint. From the moment you walk in the door, you are greeted by the wine ambassador and given a glass of excellent sparkling wine; I forget what Grand Cru Champagne we had. Regardless, it was very good and quite pricey.
As you are led inside and listen to the history of the winery and winemaker (I am a huge fan of Chris Carpenter’s wines), it’s impossible not to just stare in awe of how pristine everything looks. Coupled with the fact that only one group is allowed at the property at a time, we all felt like a million bucks. In fact, everything was so overwhelming that it felt like I didn’t belong. Definitely my first time ever feeling uncomfortable in a winery, albeit in a good way. Finally, we were led to our table where the wines for the tasting had already been decanted and poured in our glasses. I thought I was entering my comfort zone again. These wines make you feel many things, but comfortable isn’t one of them.
- 2013 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($375)
- This was the first wine of the tasting, so that might bias me, but I am pretty sure out of all the wines, this had the most perfumed floral notes on the nose. Black and red fruit with minerality comes through on the palate. Purity and integration define this wine with great balance between power and elegance. Definitely the best Spring Mountain Cabernet I’ve had. With proper aging, only the Fantesca Cabernet might begin to compare.
- 2013 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($375)
- Oh my goodness. I lost myself in this wine. If the Spring Mountain was about purity and integration, this wine was powerful, complex and dominated by the terroir’s minerality. Blue fruit (more than black or red) with some spice in there as well. There’s a saying that “If God created Cabernet, the Devil created Pinot”. Of the many Cabernets I’ve had, this might be Cabernet that best fits that piece of hte equation; it just commands your attention and your respect. Very masculine - please age this for 20-30 years before drinking.
- 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($450)
- They were running low on the 2013 Howell Mountain, so they opened a library vintage instead. Even though it was 11 years old, it was still brooding with the dark chocolate and black fruit I love so much from this AVA. The one interesting note was that there wasn’t much tobacco / cigar box, but an herbal tinge (e.g. fennel) that was likely due to the aging. This wine seemed to change the most over the course of the tasting and was really nice. A clear example that these wines are going to age very nicely.
- 2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($450)
- Compared to the 2013, the 2006 had minerality that was just as distinct, but more chocolate/espresso flavors and black fruit rather than blue fruit. I’m surprised the floral bouquet was still so aromatic and the tannins were still so present (but sweet/rounded). Still, the piece that captures the attention is the texture and the complexity - the flavors are layered and integrated at the same time. I can’t tell which one I preferred more: the ‘06 Howell or the ‘06 Mount Veeder. There is a reason why these two are my favorite mountain AVAs.
I’ll admit, it must have been dumb luck that I was able to schedule a tasting here. Out of the 10 wineries I visited in three days, this was by far the highlight of that weekend and continues to be one of my most fond memories of Napa Valley. It’s really too bad that all they have to taste is four wines; this is where I give the edge to places like Kapcsandy who have wines that are also of extreme quality, but you get to walk through the full portfolio and various library vintages. Still the winery and views are almost enough to make you forget that.
We all walked away with a bottle of the 2013 Mt. Veeder. In hindsight, I really wish I bought a couple cases given the rating of the vintage by every wine publication and the 2013 Mt. Veeder itself (100pts Wine Advocate). I’m sure you got this from the tasting notes, but the theme of the wines here is power, character, and terroir. There are many powerful Cabernets in the Napa Valley, but these wines are just rock solid and don’t rely on the fruit to do the heavy lifting. And even though these wines will keep for 30-40 years, there is an approachability like all of Chris Carpenter’s wines that allows you to drink this early (if you really want to). But I like to think of these wines as an investment in oneself, so save it for a special occasion for when you really deserve it.
If you want to be able to try these wines, but can’t get a reservation at Lokoya on Spring Mountain, make a reservation at Cardinale. It’s much easier to get a reservation there and it’s also part of the Spire Collection. When emailing them to confirm your reservation, you can ask for them to add Lokoya to your tasting menu. It may add a few dollars to your tasting fee, but it is well worth it. The Cardinale wine is also of high quality and worth the trip on its own merits.
Alas, I hope the day comes where I can purchase and consume Lokoya wines as freely as I’d like, but I doubt that will ever be the case. So my advice to the readers - if you see a bottle in someone’s house, befriend them for life and pray you are lucky enough to be around when that bottle gets opened, haha. For those that have cases of this wine in their cellars: will you be my friend? Haha, cheers!!
Rating: 98 out of 100