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2021 Screaming Eagle

2021 Screaming Eagle

98-100 VM

Critic Reviews

Tasted from barrel, the 2021 Screaming Eagle dazzles from start to finish. Dark, savory and explosive, the 2021 deftly marries power and finesse like few vintages I can remember tasting. Dark cherry, plum, mocha, grilled herbs, leather and a kick of spice all build in this wonderfully vibrant, layered Screaming Eagle. There’s plenty of tannin, but it is elegantly built into the wine’s fabric.

Vinous Media | 98-100 VM
As with the Flight, I was able to taste through multiple barrels destined for the 2021 Screaming Eagle. Pure cassis and assorted dark fruits, some classic graphite and lead pencil notes, as well as a beautiful sense of minerality were present in all of the barrels, and this will be a medium to full-bodied, elegant expression of Screaming Eagle. I wouldn’t expect too many fireworks right on release (although it will offer pleasure), but it should hit its stride about 7-8 years after release and have a long life.

Jeb Dunnuck | 96-98+ JD

Wine Details for 2021 Screaming Eagle

Type of Wine California Red : Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel, Californian red wine producers have a lovely habit of taking a varietal and expressing its essence in a unique, never before seen way. From Napa Valley to the regions south of Los Angeles, there's a red for everyone - and it's never too late to start exploring.
Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon : It is recognized worldwide, referred to as “king of grapes” and has easily become the most popular grape variety in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon has seemingly taken the world by storm. It has seen exponential growth and popularity in American and around the world over the past thirty years. The phrase “Cabernet is king,” is a common maxim in the world of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon wine has become so popular that when being referred to can be recognized by simple slang, such as “Cab” or “Cabernet. It might appear simple, straightforward and easily understood; yet, interestingly remains an enigma, which has both baffled and excited oenologists since its discovery.

The exact origin and circumstances of this world-altering event are still enigmatic; however, at the end of the 20th century, UC Davis Scientists (John Bowers and Carole Meredith) were able to solve part of the mystery using DNA fingerprinting technology that proved Cabernet Sauvignon to be the offspring of a surprising spontaneous crossing of Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. By the 18th century there were already records of Cabernet Sauvignon being well-established on the west side of the Gironde Estuary (Left Bank) in the Medoc and Graves.

Although tremendously popular in California and what seems to have become the identity of Napa Valley winemaking, Cabernet Sauvignon’s birth took place in the Bordeaux region of southwest France by fortuitous unification. Whereas Napa Valley experienced a winemaking renaissance during the 1970’s and 1980s (greatly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris) quality wine from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been produced in the Medoc, on the Left Bank of Bordeaux for over 400 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s first recorded plantings in California can be traced back to the 1850’s when Antoine Delmas, a French nurseryman, brought French vines (including one called ‘Cabrunet’) to the Santa Clara Valley. Early cultivation suffered due to obscurity of the varietal and improper planting in inhospitable soil. It wasn’t until pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, Randy Dunn and Warren Winiarski with their amazing foresight and understanding of terroir, would the grape variety finally find its niche in California winemaking.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in warm climates moderated by a cooling marine influence. It is perfectly attuned to gravel-based soils with good drainage. Whether on flat land or a hillside, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape flourishes in proper climates and terroir, producing incredible yields. The thick grapevine is extremely vigorous allowing it to exploit its natural host. Its distinctive small, black berries (reminiscent of blueberries) adhere firmly to the stalk and are capable of a very long “hang time.” These berries are extremely concentrated, producing intensely flavored fruit. The thick skins of the grape are characterized as having highly astringent flavor, high tannin, acidity and dark color. Coincidentally, the variety has a special affinity for oak, which helps soften the bitterness.

Today, the Noble Bordeaux varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on 340,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of vineyards across the earth’s surface. From Sicily to Sonoma, Chile to Bordeaux, South Africa to Napa. It has found symbiosis in terroir hotspots that mimic that of the Medoc and Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon’s globetrotting has allowed the grape variety to take root all over the world, captivating its inhabitants and influencing winemaking. This serendipitous marriage between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc centuries ago, which offered to the world its progeny, has changed the landscape of winegrowing, winemaking and the face of the entire wine market forever. It has influenced blending, changed civilization and has cultivated a place for itself in today’s world… the very pinnacle.

Country US : As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Region California : With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
Subregion Napa Valley
Appellation Oakville


Producer Screaming Eagle : Screaming Eagle took flight in 1992 with its debut vintage and quickly soared to the status of “cult” wine, driving collectors into a frenzy and creating a phenomena that had enthusiasts tripping over each other to obtain. This Majestic wine, in its short history has shot to the top of hot and continues to drive commanding prices. With a waiting list for the waiting list, allocating this wine is like grasping oil with your hands.

Without any knowledge of winemaking or growing for that matter, Jean Phillips, decided to take a plunge into the world of wine by purchasing the now roosting location for the magnificent wines of Screaming Eagle. Leaving behind a successful career as a realty investor, Phillips bought the already planted vineyard that dates back to the 1940s, as a 50-acre plot of a mishmash of varieties. She quickly replanted the land to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. By making “home” wine, she learned the nuances of those grape varieties and under the advisement of Robert Mondavi moved from grower to maker.

1992 became a monumental year for Screaming Eagle as it debuted the collaboration of the highest quality blocks of the Rutherford vineyard and the winemaking expertise of Heidi Peterson Barrett (wife of Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena). Barrett was brought on as chief winemaker and the formation of one of the most collectible California wines came to fruition. A mere three years later when the inaugural vintage was released, it gained major traction after receiving an astounding 99 points from famed tasting professional Robert Parker. Screaming Eagle had risen to fame quickly and was regarded by critics and collectors alike as a Napa first growth.

By 2006, demand far outweighed supply and with its small stone facility and the onslaught of leaf roll virus in many of the Rutherford blocks, it became difficult to produce more than a few barrels. Phillips decided to sell the property to Stan Kroenke and sports agent, Charles Banks. Hastily replanting blocks affected by the virus, brining on hotshot Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker, Andy Erickson, consultation by famous French oenologist Michel Rolland and David Abreu assigned to manage the vineyards were all savvy moves by the new owners.

Three years later Kroenke assumed sole ownership and had a young Nick Gislason as chief winemaker. Nevertheless, Screaming Eagle continued to soar towards greatness with each vintage released. A merlot-based blend, originally named Second Flight came to fruition as a nod to the winery’s bird iconography. And while Phillips tenure having been the “first flight,” it was suitably named. It has since been changed to simply, The Flight, as it is recognized more as a sister wine rather than a second wine to the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon of Screaming Eagle.

Today, the property is tenderly maintained by Gislason, who claims that the site is a convergence zone geologically, as it sits on a fault line creating an intermingling of soils. Volcanic stones, uplifted igneous rocks, alluvial gravel, and thanks to the influence of the Napa River, there are sections of clay. Both viticulture and vinification are overseen by Gislason, who suggests that it’s important not to just look at the vines but their holistic surroundings. He implements a unique method of oxidizing the soil by allowing sheep to graze the vine rows, but are quickly moved to pasture once budding begins as the sheep also enjoy the fresh green tips of the growing vines. The sheep are replaced with chickens that resume the task of clearing the rows and fertilizing the soil, increasing its health along the way. It’s a simplistic, holistic and genius way of doing more by doing less and by allowing nature to assume its role in the harvesting.

This luxury liquid is rarely tasted outside the winery, as much of the wine goes to collectors whom are more likely to sell their allocation than drink it; however, those who have had the unique opportunity are overwhelmed with its upfront elegance. Both Screaming Eagle and The Flight are age worthy wines, more classic Bordeaux than modern Napa, yet, still with the perfumed nose and mineral line that speaks of Oakville. The Cabernet is impressively layered, fine-boned and full of character. Screaming Eagle isn’t about power, but rather elegance, refined and pure, with a rich, silky, velvety texture. The Merlot has surprising and pleasing structure and poise. Though scarce and nearly mythical, if the wine somehow lands in a lucky individual’s hands and is willing to uncork the bottle, they would be taken on a flight to ecstasy and back.

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