A few quick thoughts on the 2011 Wallis Family Little Sister Cabernet Sauvignon from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa.
Edward Wallis first purchased 85 acres on top of Diamond Mountain back in 1975. The property included two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places–a 19th-century carriage house designed by architect William H. Corlett and a stone castle built in 1906 by Frenchmen Jacques Pacheteau.
In 1997, the Wallis’ planted 13 acres with plans of selling grapes to wineries like Lokoya and Ramey. By 2006, they were producing wine from their estate fruit.
Since 2008, Thomas Rivers Brown has been making the Wallis Family’s wines. Brown began his career in 1997 at Turley before moving on to cult producers Schrader and Maybach. In addition to making his Rivers-Marie wines, Brown consults for 45 clients in the Napa Valley including Vermeil, Revana, Round Pond and Outpost.
The 2011 vintage of Little Sister is 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with 1% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 18 months in 80% new French oak barrels with only 650 cases made.
Medium-plus intensity nose. A mix of red and black fruit–cherries and plums. Pop and pour, just the fruit shows up. But after 2 hours decanting, cured tobacco and spicy fennel emerge.
The fruit carries through on the palate and tastes fresh with medium-plus acidity. However, the palate brings out more oak than what the nose revealed. Creamy vanilla, allspice and clove become even more pronounced as the wine decants. The firm, high tannins also soften with the added time–balancing the full-bodied fruit. Moderate finish lingers on the fennel and oak spice.
The 2011 vintage in California has been hit or miss for me. Some wines, like the 2011 Stag’s Leap Fay have had way too much pyrazines for my taste. But there have been others that I’ve enjoyed.
This 2011 Wallis Little Sister falls into the enjoy camp, holding its own for $70-80. It definitely benefits from decanting, but it seems to have escaped the green monster of 2011.