SOMM Journal Review – Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon

As seen in Somm Journal, December 2021

By Meridith May

Famed Winemaker Andy Erickson climbs to new heights with Expedition.

Andy Erickson has some remarkable brands on his winemaking resume, among
them Screaming Eagle, Stagin, and Dalla Valle, and he unquestionably understands the
nature of Napa Cabernet. For his latest venture, he’s serving as winemaker for Seven
Apart, whose Expedition expression is a small-production (60-barrel) odyssey, made
with grapes blended from the winery’s Base Camp and Stags Ridge vineyards, it’s aged
for 18 months in French oak. Stags Ridge sits on a volcanic plateau, yielding what the
winery refers to as “extreme mountain-grown” Napa Cabemet at an elevation few
vineyards reach.

Mike Wolf, an acclaimed vineyard manager, has joined the team at Seven Apart and wil
manage all 18 of its estate sites: his first project will be to replant the recently acquired
5-acre Base Camp Vineyard and 3 adjoining acres. Wolf, who has a B.A. in history, has
managed vineyards at Beckstoffer and Scarecrow, among others, and is respected by
Napa Valley’s top winemakers.

Seven Apart’s allocated wines are showcased at its new tasting room, which opened in
October: It’s limiting the number of guests to only ten per day due to the small scale of
its production.

Seven Apart 2019 Expedition

Big, bold, tarry notes take on a mellower toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate for a breathtaking adventure of flavor and texture. Black fruit melts across the mouth. Well-built from the inside-out, a core of minerality is surrounded by fig preserves, dried violets, and a blackberry intensity. Tannins are pronounced, with a savory slide of satin meatiness. This wine is certainly on another level. 

98 points

The Winemaker Behind Some of Napa’s Most Coveted Cabs Has Created Another Sensation

Published October 18, 2021 on robbreport.com

Written by Sara L. Schneider

Andy Erickson, formerly of Screaming Eagle, Harlan and more, impresses with Seven Apart. 

When it comes to Napa Valley resumes, the “Winemaking Experience” section of Andy Erickson’s reads like a fantasy lineup: Screaming EagleHarlan, Staglin, Dalla Valle, Ovid. And let’s not forget the cool, postage stamp of a winery he owns in up-and-coming Coombsville, Favia, with his viticulturist wife, Annie Favia. Those high-scoring and highly allocated brands might share marquee status, but what they don’t share is cookie-cutter character. Erickson has earned his own legend status by working with the unique terroir of each site, to make wines that are their best selves from that place.

Now he’s done it again, creating wines from new Seven Apart that showcase a vineyard high on Atlas Peak: Stags Ridge, planted in 1999 and more recently purchased by Don Dady in partnership with Jason Kyle, former long snapper for the Seattle Seahawks. Erickson tells me that he had never made wine off Atlas Peak before, but this site (which, according to rumor, has produced at least one 100-point wine) completely intrigued him. “I had worked with fruit from Pritchard Hill,” he says, “not far at all as the crow flies, and at precisely the same elevation.” (For Pritchard Hill pedigree, think Chappellet, Bryant Family, Colgin Cellars, Ovid and Tim Mondavi’s Continuum Estate.) “So I knew it would make something compelling. Sure enough, it turned out to be true.”

Erickson makes coaxing out the site’s potential sound easy: “Really, we’re just managing the stress in the vines, to induce great tannin and aromatic production. The soils are incredibly rocky, so we’re able to let the vines feel just enough stress that they produce small berries with excellent phenolic maturity. With the elevation being so high (nearly 1,500 feet), temperatures stay relatively cool, allowing us to harvest with a fairly long season, which adds to the complexity and gives the tannins in the wine a fine grain.” With equal understatement, he describes the character the site delivered in Seven Apart’s first three Stags Ridge Vineyard Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignons. “The wines are very dark,” he says (indeed, these are inky beauties) “aromatic and powerful, but nuanced and balanced. They have a seriously strong character, but are also very appealing.” (Read: tough to hold in your cellar for long, even though they deserve it.)

The dense and perfumed 2018 Shale Cabernet Sauvignon ($240, with only 230 cases produced) packs a gorgeous punch of concentrated black fruit: cassis, black plum, black cherry and blackberry, while high-toned florals mingle with mint, gravel, forest, toasted spice and licorice, backed by impressively mature and rounded tannins. The equally concentrated 2018 Basalt Cabernet (also $240, with 230 cases) is dense and earthy, giving up aromas of crushed rock, pencil shavings, savory mountain herbs, dusty blackberries and hints of purple flowers, leading into a concentrated palate, with lovely savoriness and powerful tannins under juicy, dark fruit and Asian spices. And the 2018 Summit Cab ($365, with only 100 cases), blended from the best lots off the vineyard, delivers beautiful nuance and complexity with power. Warm baking spices, anise, cedar and graphite lead into a cascade of red, blue and black fruit, with crushed herbs, savory minerality and mouth-watering brightness.

Those miniscule production numbers might very well add up to heartbreak for those who don’t land a spot on the allocation list soon enough. But Erickson also makes a few more bottles of a blend of fruit from Stags Ridge and a smaller vineyard on the valley floor called Base Camp (precisely seven miles from the Atlas Peak Vineyard—thus the brand name—and where, incidentally, Seven Apart is opening a new, impressive winery this month, which members can visit). “The fruit from Base Camp is lush and soft,” says Erickson, “and when we blend it with Stags Ridge Vineyard, which has serious structure and muscle, it creates a wine that is dense, flavorful, round and downright tasty.” That checks out too. The just-released 2019 vintage of this Seven Apart Cabernet, called Expedition, ($450 for a 3-pack), a blend of Stags Ridge and Base Camp fruit, is remarkably balanced, its 15 percent alcohol notwithstanding. A savory edge on the nose comes from crushed rock, graphite, garrigue (that French word for underbrush aromas) and bay, opening to exotically spiced black currant. Red and black fruits—imagine a red-currant liqueur—dance on the palate against a backbone of tightly knit tannins. Freshness buoys ripeness and generous fruit an elegant structure. Or, as Erickson puts it, “it’s a wine that has broad appeal and rates high on the deliciousness scale.”

Erickson might have one of Napa Valley’s best resumes, but he knows when to ditch the wine speak!

Decanter Review – Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon

Published September 2, 2021 on decanter.com

Written by Clare Tooley MW

Toasted oak on the nose, with nutmeg, white spice, gingerbread and fresh linseed nuttiness. This is followed by dark berry fruit aromas seeping through together with more subtle florals (hibiscus) and a touch of a fresh Cabernet leaf. Full-bodied palate held in check by seamlessly tight-knit tannins, there is a concentration of ripe black berries, currants, plump blueberries and a hint of ripe strawberry. Restrained at this youthful state, the elegant oak mantle is firmly in place and unresolved. The level of acidity is well matched to the fruit ripeness and intensity, thanks to the mountain-top fruit from the Stags Ridge vineyard component, ensuring there is no hint of heat despite the 15% alcohol. There is an appealing lightness and energy to this wine despite its compact fruit core and oak barrel frame. Very elegant wine with no overbearing elements, finely tuned, refined, still a little reticent. It needs three or four years to find its feet but will age beautifully over two decades or more. Cru Classe Margaux-esque in its finesse, but with that signature, powerful, inimitable California fruit sweetness at its heart.

Drinking Window 2021- 2045

96 points

New Names, New Wines from Napa

Published April 30, 2021 on vinography.com

Don Dady grew up in Sonoma but eventually made his home in Scottsdale, where he founded the financial firm Annexus. Partnering with former NFL long snapper Jason Kyle of the Seattle Seahawks, Dady purchased the Stags Ridge Vineyard, a rocky plot high on Atlas Peak planted in 1999. The two then hired famed winemaker Andy Erickson (of Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, and Staglin fame, among others) and set out to take a money-is-no-object kind of approach to building a wine label they are calling Seven Apart, including a brand new, state-of-the-art winery and hospitality building that will soon finish construction. As one might expect, there’s a waiting list already.

2018 Seven Apart “Expedition” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, gorgeous black cherry and plum fruit are juicy with fantastic acidity. Muscular tannins grip the core of fruit as dried herbs and flowers mix with the dark berry licorice that is the core of this wine. Brawny but not overdone, and restrained in its expression of oak. Just a tiny hint of bitter wood on the finish. A blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Merlot. 14.1% alcohol. Comes in a massive, 1.78 kg bottle with a cork so long that because of the inset due to a wax cap, a Coravin needle couldn’t go all the way through. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $135.

Napa Valley’s Thrilling 2018 & 2019 – Antonio Galloni

Published January 2021 on Vinous.com

Written by Antonio Galloni

Seven Apart

A collection of four Cabernets from vineyards in Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak. Andy Erickson is the winemaker.

2018 Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Expedition, the first wine in this range, is a heady, exotic Cabernet laced with copious blackberry jam, bittersweet chocolate, spice and new French oak. Unabashedly opulent, this full-throttle Cabernet delivers plenty of intensity in a bold style that will require only minimal cellaring. Soft contours add to its considerable appeal. This is certainly an impressive debut. Hopefully the oak can be a bit more measured in the future, but that’s a pretty small quibble at this level. The Expedition is built around a core of fruit from vineyards in Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak.
Score: 94 points.

2018 Shale Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Shale is gorgeous. Deep, pliant and aromatically expressive, the Shale Cabernet has a lot going on. Sage, mint, cedar, rose petal, licorice and spice add a brilliant aromatic upper register to play off the fruit. The 2018 is deep and powerful, as all these wines are, but it also possesses tremendous purity from start to finish.
Score: 92-95 points

2018 Basalt Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Basalt is laced with black fruit, chocolate, gravel and smoke, all of which come together to convey an impression of breadth and brooding power. Full-bodied and vibrant, the Basalt is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine. This is impressive.
Score: 93-96

2018 Summit Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Summit is a blend of the best lots in the cellar. It is the most intensely mineral and savory of these Cabernets. Mountain structure and generous inky dark fruit come together in a huge, dramatic Cabernet that delivers the goods. Gravel, dried herbs, crushed rocks and flowers add myriad shades of nuance. This is another compelling and promising wine from Seven Apart.
Score: 93-96

Wine Enthusiast 2018 Expedition Review – 95 pts

As seen on Wine Enthusiast, December 2020

The inaugural release made by Andy Erickson, this comes from the owner’s Stags Ridge Vineyard atop Atlas Peak, at 1,400-feet in elevation and planted in 1999. Thick, tannic and earthy, it buzzes in dried herb, sage, flint and a rich intensity of blackberry, plum and vanilla. -Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast 

Rating: 95 points & Editor’s Choice

International Wine Report: 2018 Expedition

Published October 2020 on internationalwinereport.com

Written by J. D’Angelo

The outstanding 2018 vintage marks the inaugural release for Seven Apart and their ‘Expedition’ Cabernet Sauvignon. This new Napa Valley winery has much to offer, starting with one of Napa’s most talented winemakers Andy Erickson, who will be in charge of the winemaking. He will be utilizing the fruit sourced from their Stags Ridge Vineyard, which sits on dense volcanic soils at an elevation of 1,400 feet on Atlas Peak, along with fruit from their Base Camp Vineyard that is situated seven miles below on the Silverado trail. This wine is beautifully crafted, from a blend consisting of predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, but also includes a small percentage of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which spent 18 months in 80% new French oak. The result is a simply stunning wine that bursts open with seductive aromatics of ripe black currants and blueberries that are joined with nuances of espresso, graphite, dark chocolate shavings, baking spices, fresh violets and hints of gravel. On the palate this is full-bodied, layered and incredibly concentrated, with beautifully ripe dark fruits that resonate throughout. It continues to impress as it displays wonderful overall balance with a remarkable sense of freshness as the gorgeous round, opulent mouthfeel goes on to envelop the long well-defined finish. Overall, this is an absolute knockout from Seven Apart that is drinking exceptionally well today, yet should also have a marvelous future ahead. I can certainly see why there is so much excitement around this winery, especially with three new vineyard specific releases on the horizon for next year.    

96 Points

Forbes Wines Of The Week: Seven Apart Cabernet

Published October 2020 on forbes.com

Written by Brian Freedman

My red Wine of the Week is also a first bottling, but the winemaker who crafted it is no stranger to critical and consumer adulation. The Seven Apart “Expedition” Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 is a new project that brings together world-class winemaker Andy Erickson (his work has helped elevate some of the top names in Napa, including Harlan, Dalla Valle, Scream Eagle, Spottswoode, and more), a new winery on the base of Atlas Peak, and the high-altitude Stags Ridge Vineyard, which is located on a volcanic plateau approximately 1,400 feet above sea level.

That location, with its warm, sunny days and brisk nights, and Erickson’s work in the vineyard and in the winery, has resulted in an inaugural vintage of power, complexity, and age-worthiness. Minty aromas are joined by other balsamic notes that, as well as mineral, pencil shavings, blackberries, and black cherries. On the palate, this is dense and chewy, with plenty of tannic structure carrying a guyser of blackberries, cassis, blueberries, charred vanilla pod, black cardamom, and a hint of violets on the finish.

Only 60 barrels were made, which translates, at 25 cases each, to just 1,500 cases, and they are available on strict allocation from the winery itself. But at $135 per bottle, and given the sumptuousness of this first vintage, collectors would be advised to add their names to the list. It’s excellent.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 2018 Expedition

As seen on Robert Parker, August 2020

Opaque purple-black in color, the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Expedition explodes from the glass with vibrant notes of crème de cassis, crushed black cherries, blackberry preserves and mulberries plus suggestions of clove oil, red roses, plum preserves and sandalwood with a compelling waft of licorice. The big, rich, full-bodied, full-on pedal-to-the-metal palate is absolutely chock-full of black fruit preserves layers and a whole firework display of exotic spices, framed by rock-solid, ripe, rounded tannins and tons of freshness, finishing with epic length. This has a bold, in-your-face style at this stage, which is great if that’s your thing. If you are looking for subtle nuances and savory/earthy characters, I’m confident that this is headed that way, but it will need a good 10 years in the cellar and should continue to evolve over the next 20 years. Only around 1,500 cases were produced.

This is the first vintage of this brand-new project coming from Stag’s Ridge Vineyard, located up on Atlas Peak, and Base Camp Vineyard, located seven miles down the mountain (hence the name). The winemaker here is none other than Andy Erickson, formerly at Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, currently also consulting winemaker at Dalla Valle (among others).  “I have not worked before with an Atlas Peak Vineyard so high up on the mountain,” Erickson informed me. “What we call our ‘Stag’s Ridge’ vineyard was planted in 1999 and is at 1,400-feet elevation (nearly the same as Stagecoach, Ovid and Continuum, and not far away as the crow flies). It is planted to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, but with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Seven miles down the road, where Soda Canyon Road meets the Silverado Trail, is the four-acre ‘Base Camp’ vineyard, also where the winery was just finished (at least the production part). Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon there as well, but with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This is right where those white, volcanic soils spill into the Valley. ‘Base Camp’ was planted in 1994 and 1998. We also have another five-acre adjacent parcel to the west (closer to the river) where we will most likely plant Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.”  Erickson told me that Seven Apart has three other wines to be released from the Atlas Peak vineyard: “‘Summit’ is a barrel selection of the most impressive lots of the vintage, ‘Basalt,’ a more muscular presentation of the vintage, and ‘Shale,’ which shows the more balanced, feminine side of the property.” These three wines, all small cuvées of around 200-400 cases each, will be bottled after harvest and released next year.

96+ points

So Scottsdale: Firmly Planted