Behind the Bottle #4 | Summit

This is truly Napa at its peak. Seven Apart’s award-winning winemaker Andy Erickson takes you Behind the Bottle to introduce our most elevated Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The next release of the Summit will be available in November 2022.

In life, we are all seemingly driven by an invisible force. A feeling that motivates us to get out of bed every day and aspire to achieve something greater, something beyond what we have now. For Andy Erickson and the Seven Apart winemaking team, the Summit 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine encapsulates this feeling. It reflects a way of winemaking that always strives for greatness. Philosophically speaking, the summit doesn’t quite exist, because as soon as you reach it, there is always another level for which to aim. In the final part of our four journal series, Andy goes behind the bottle of the Summit to unveil why this is truly Napa at its peak.  

Behind the Name

Summit [noun]

Meaning: ‘The top or highest point, especially of a mountain’

For us, Summit has a dual meaning. The first is quite literal, as the grapes for making this wine are handpicked exclusively from our Stags Ridge Vineyard which is located near the summit of Atlas Peak  in the eastern mountains above Napa Valley. The second is that it refers to our winemaking vision, which is to create the most elevated and compelling expression of Cabernet Sauvignon possible. 

“At Seven Apart, Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme. It is our focus varietal, which is why we craft four different expressions of it. But the Summit is the crème de la crème of our offering. The goal is to create what we feel is the very best wine we can make from each vintage. As we use only the best lots from our Stags Ridge vineyards, the quantities are typically minuscule. In fact, there were only two barrels of the 2018 vintage released.”

Behind the Vines 

At 1,475 feet up in the air, Atlas Peak is an appellation that sits on the highest elevation in Napa’s wine region. Here, the Stags Ridge Vineyard is on full, panoramic display to the elements. At this height, the vines are above the fog line, meaning the vineyard gets morning sun. It also faces the Pritchard Gap – an opening to the San Francisco Bay. Every afternoon around 3 pm there’ll be a cool breeze that blows in on the San Francisco Bay to cool down the vineyard and help balance the sugar levels and acidity of the grapes. These conditions are ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s why all the grapes for the Shale, Basalt, and Summit are grown in the Stags Ridge Vineyard. 

“What makes Stags Ridge so remarkable is that despite it being one vineyard, the varying soil types can result in a completely different style of wine depending on where you pick. The Shale soil results in a more soft Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Basalt soil delivers a more rugged and tannic wine. For this reason, I didn’t want to blend the unique lots into one big blend, as the nuances would be lost. Instead, we created three wines that exemplify this terroir,” explains Andy. 

2018 was a growing season that offered up dark, delicious, perfectly ripe fruit throughout the Napa Valley. High atop Atlas Peak, where our soils are incredibly rocky, and the temperatures are cooler, the grapes became more concentrated as the season extended into late October. This said it is not possible to decipher which lots will go into which wines while they grow in the vineyard. During harvest, all the Stags Ridge grapes are handpicked together and brought into the cellar. The categorization process only begins once the individual Cabernet Sauvignon components have been vinified and aged for about a year in the cellar. Then the real fun begins…

Behind the Barrel 

While you may think of wine blending as pertaining to only different grape varieties, it is also a process that is used to combine different vintages or different single lot barrels. At Seven Apart, we use the process to evaluate and rank all the single Cabernet Sauvignon barrels individually before creating the final Summit blend. Together with Seven Apart Assistant Winemaker Patrick Nyeholt, the duo marks exceptional barrels with chalk as they taste throughout the season. Then, during the blending process, they select only the most exceptional barrels to go into the Summit blend. Once the final Summit Cabernet Sauvignon components are selected, the wine is then aged for two years in 100% new French oak barrels. 

“For me, Summit is a wine that should have a purity of fruit and elegance about it. I want it to have structure but not hit you over the head with it. It should be something that is going to age for a long time but shows off finesse as well. After all, we’re shooting for the top! This wine has to express the best thing that we can make each year,” says Andy. 

Dark, black-purple, and opaque, the 2018 Summit is highly aromatic, with an aroma profile as deep as the wine is dark. Baked blueberry, vanilla bean, cedar, and even hints of bay leaf fill the glass. On the palate, the wine has a highly polished texture, rich and soft, and with remarkable fruit intensity. The dark black fruit flavors dance with notes of oolong tea and gunsmoke, bringing layers of complexity that expand with time. With such softness and richness, the wine is practically hedonistic and pleasing right now.

According to Andy, Summit is a wine designed for the decades that will develop over the coming years in the bottle:

“This wine will age for decades, but if someone prefers more fruit in the expression, 3-5 years of age would be great. I prefer to taste these kinds of wines after 10-15 years in the bottle, that’s when they really come alive.”

Join our Allocation 
With only four handcrafted barrels, the 2019 Summit Cabernet Sauvignon will be released in November 2022 and available exclusively by allocation. Join us on this journey as we climb the mountain, push ourselves to the limits, and craft exceptional Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sign up here if you’re ready to become a member of our allocation list and savor wine taken to new heights.