Anyone that has been a part of the California wine scene has heard the name Mayacamas. Purchased by Robert Travers in 1968, it was a visible member of the first wave of boutique California wineries. Under Travers, the winery gained international fame, particularly for its Cabernet and its legendary longevity. Arguably this was the first important ‘mountain Cabernet’ as Napa Valley moved to make its mark on the wine world. There were some distinct aspects to the winery, not the least of which was Travers own dry wit as a part of his winery missives.
While Mayacamas was still generally considered ‘top drawer’, the luxurious ‘trophy style’ became the style that dominated the review boards. As the preferred style leaned more towards pandering fruit and lots of creamy oak, Travers always stuck to his guns and the more ‘traditional’ style of Mayacamas Cabs rendered the label considerably less topical. The respect was always there, just not the buzz any more.
While very ‘mountain’ and very honest in their presentation, the wines were also often a bit chewy and perhaps a tad rustic. Eventually Bob got to the point where it was time to retire, and the property was purchased by a partnership of former Screaming Eagle owner Charles Banks and retail entrepreneur Jay Schottenstein in 2013. The timing of Banks’ well publicized legal problems took him out of the game relatively quickly, leaving the winery under Schottenheim’s supervision.
The winery now points to 2013 as the beginning of a new era, and the 2013 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon clearly demonstrates that there is a new sheriff in town. Bringing in husband and wife team of former Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson and Annie Favia has had an immediate impact and we dare say this is the most impressive effort from Mayacamas we have ever tasted. This is not your father’s Mayacamas. This one has structure, yes, but a purity and tenderness we can’t recall from these Cabernets in the past. Rich but also refined with a fleshy wrap of red and black fruits flecked with wild herbs, graphite, and cocoa coating the fine tannins.
The 97 point review from Antonio Galloni is a good jumping off point for the new Mayacamas with comments like, “The flavors are dark, bold and incisive, with potent tannins and a real feeling of gravitas to back things up. Black cherry, game, smoke, gravel and licorice add to an impression of brooding intensity. In many ways, the 2013 reminds me of some of the great wines of the 1970s in its dark, imposing personality.”
As to the quality, we agree wholeheartedly. This Cabernet knocked us out. But we differ on the comparisons to those ‘70s Cabs because this one is far more cohesive and harmonious and, given this particular winery’s history, much more engaging in its youth. If you’ve got the fare, this is something special.