World’s End Crossfire 2008
A few weeks ago I expanded my long-standing profile of Château Teyssier, a wine which I have long been familiar with, and incorporated it into a five-page profile of Jonathan Maltus and all his wines, not just Teyssier but also Le Dôme, Vieux Château Mazerat and the rest of the Maltus ‘gang’. Jonathan is not only active in Bordeaux, however, but has also been busy in the past few years making wine in Australia and, most recently, California. It is the latter of these two projects, World’s End, that I experienced this weekend just gone. The wine in question is Crossfire, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
World’s End is a relatively new project; if I have it right 2008 is the first vintage. The range incorporates three limited-production cuvées, sourced from some fairly exclusive vineyards, and also three wines with larger productions and more accessible prices; in a way, it mirrors the set up in St Emilion, where there are single-vineyard micro-cuvées from the plateau and côtes, and a larger-scale good-value wine from Teyssier down on the sandy plain. Crossfire, named for the Stevie Ray Vaughn song (all the wines made here are named after favourite songs – Jonathan, who owns a guitar or two, is clearly a rock fan), is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard in Oakville, which is situated between the Vine Hill and Dominus vineyards. If that sounds impressive, consider for a moment one of the other cuvées in the range, the Good Times, Bad Times Cabernet Sauvignon, which is sourced from the To-Kalon vineyard. My specialist subjects are Chinon and St Julien, or maybe Sauternes, not California, but even I’ve heard of To-Kalon, one of California’s most famed vineyards and source of some of the state’s highest quality fruit.
The wine is made by Jonathan and his head winemaker Neil Whyte, a Scot who started working for Jonathan at Teyssier in the mid-1990s, and took control over the entire Bordeaux range in 2005. The fruit is harvested at a yield less than three tons per hectare (conversion into hectolitres per hectare is beset with error and assumption so I won’t try), sorted twice and then subjected to a long cold soak prior to fermentation. This takes place in wooden vats, imported to California from Cognac, after which the wine sees malolactic fermentation and aging in new French barriques. It is the earlier-drinking of the World’s End wines, says Jonathan. Well, let’s put that to the test, shall we?
The 2008 World’s End Crossfire has a dark concentration in the glass. The nose is rich in sweet fruit, with ripe mulberries and blackberries to the fore, with scents coming in behind of high-roast coffee beans no doubt from the oak. There is a sense of richness to it, almost a tinge of chocolate, although thankfully nothing overt; it all comes together in a fairly harmonious manner, and if any one component comes to the fore it is the berry fruit. On first nosing it there is just a little hint of a high-toned edge to this fruit, but it isn’t obvious and it soon fades away, although it did fleetingly reappear once or twice later in the evening. The start of the palate is surprisingly bright, the fruit fresh in terms of its tone, the berry character here more like raspberry such is its definition and vibrancy. This is textured, very svelte and polished, lightly creamy but not fat, the oak harmonious and appropriate, the backbone of tannins ripe, the finish mildly grippy but certainly not dry. A wine of substance but it is composed and even shows some elegance; it is very well made and although doubtless a wine of California I can perceive a resemblance to the upper echelons of the Maltus Bordeaux portfolio as well I think, in terms of that combination of strong build with freshness and life. An excellent wine, a seductive delight, and very long too. 17/20 (28/1/13)