New Wines from the Screaming Eagle Folks

The owners of Napa's legendary Screaming Eagle vineyard recently launched Jonata, a superb winery in the Santa Ynez Valley

As many wine insiders know, Screaming Eagle quickly became the priciest and dearest of the cult cabernet sauvignons from Napa Valley. That winery was sold several years ago to a syndicate owned primarily by Charles Banks and Stan Kroenke. Screaming Eagle continues to be a benchmark reference point Napa Valley wine, but the newest venture from Banks and Kroenke is Jonata, a fabulous vineyard north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Working with a fabulous team of winemakers led by Matt Deiss, Jonata's 2004 debut vintage was somewhat a work in progress. The 2005s and '06s, however, have convinced even the most doubtful wine enthusiasts that compelling wines are emerging from this Santa Ynez vineyard of just under 100 acres. The wines are not cheap, but high quality and limited quantity never are.

Following is a look at some of Jonata's sensational upcoming releases. (The winery's telephone is 805 564-8581.)

90 points 2006 La Flor de Jonata Santa Ynez

Fashioned from 100% sauvignon blanc, the outstanding 2006 La Flor de Jonata exhibits abundant quantities of honeyed grapefruit along with a hint of underripe pineapple, and good mineral quality in a medium-bodied, zesty, fresh, white Graves-like style. Enjoy it over the next three to four years. $75

93 points 2006 La Tierra de Jonata Santa Ynez

There is 20% syrah in the 2006 La Tierra de Jonata, but it is dominated by sangiovese. It reveals classic sweet strawberry and raspberry notes intermixed with tobacco leaf and soil undertones. Medium- to full-bodied with supple tannin as well as beautiful freshness and vibrancy, it can be drunk now or cellared for five to seven years. It is easily the most accessible of the Jonata big reds. $75

94 points 2005 La Sangre de Jonata Santa Ynez

This 100% syrah offering exhibits an inky bluish purple hue along with a stunningly pure nose of melted licorice, meat juices, blackberries, pepper, and a hint of balsamic. It is a wine of extraordinary density, richness, high tannin, beautiful purity, laser-like acidity, and superb texture as well as length. This remarkable syrah is both powerful and elegant. Give it several more years of bottle age, and consume it over the following 10 to 15 years. $125

94 points 2006 La Sangre de Jonata Santa Ynez

The 2006 La Sangre de Jonata reveals bacon fat, pepper, and meaty notes, but not as much intensity as the 2005. Nevertheless, this is a concentrated, full-bodied effort with fabulous fruit purity, good acidity, and an unmistakable syrah personality that combines the best of French savoir faire with California fruit. It is a stunning effort from a challenging vintage. Drink it between 2009 and 2020. $125

94+ points 2005 El Desafio de Jonata Santa Ynez

Made from a classic northern Médoc blend of cabernet sauvignon (93%) and merlot as well as petit verdot, this 2005 boasts an inky purple color as well as a moderately intense nose of forest floor, earth, blackberries, crème de cassis, licorice, and incense. Full-bodied and powerful, with high but sweet, well-integrated tannins, the wine builds incrementally on the palate, but displays wonderful freshness, vibrancy, and precision. A tour de force in winemaking, this full-bodied red should drink well for 15-plus years. $125

95 points 2006 El Alma de Jonata

Perhaps the greatest cabernet franc being made in California is Jonata's El Alma de Jonata. The amazing 2006, a blend of 95% cabernet franc and the balance cabernet sauvignon and a dollop of merlot, tastes like a liquid version of haute couture from Chanel. It possesses nobility, grace, and remarkable complexity. An inky bluish purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary bouquet of blueberries, black raspberries, and graphite. In the mouth, it reveals wonderful elegance, precision, and laser-like focus along with noteworthy density and intensity for a wine dominated by cabernet franc. The wine's superb balance, purity, and well-integrated oak, acidity, and tannin are admirable. This beauty should hit its prime in two to four years and last for 15 to 20. $125

95 points 2006 El Desafio de Jonata Santa Ynez

A blend of 84% cabernet sauvignon, 9% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot, and 1% merlot, the 2006 El Desafio exhibits a beautiful blackish-purple color accompanied by stunning aromas of crème de cassis, graphite, camphor, and incense. It possesses tremendous intensity, beautiful sweet fruit, full-bodied power as well as purity, and a finish that lasts some 45 seconds. This amazing effort is the greatest cabernet sauvignon-based wine ever made in the Santa Ynez appellation. It should drink beautifully for 10 to 20 years. $125

96 points 2006 El Corazón de Jonata Santa Ynez

A blend of 39% syrah, 35% cabernet sauvignon, 11% sangiovese, and the rest petit verdot, cabernet franc, and viognier, this 1,000-case cuvée offers profound, sexy aromas of smoked duck, soy, blackberries, pepper, and a hint of spring flowers. The sumptuous aromatics are followed by an exotic, full-bodied, voluptuously textured wine bursting with complexity and richness. A subtle smoky, meaty component is noticeable in the deep, dark blackberry flavors. Long, rich, and pure, this stunning 2006 should drink beautifully for 10 to 15 years or more. $125

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