Revisiting Scattered Peaks

Hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I had dinner with Joel Aiken and first tasted Scattered Peaks Wines. While the first time we met was in person, we caught up recently on a virtual chat where I learned what he has been up to which included some new single vineyard wines as I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and share here.

Revisiting Scattered Peaks

Twenty months ago, I went out to dinner with Joel Aiken of Scattered Peaks Winery in Napa. As we discussed his 30-year career, his expertise with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and the story of Scattered Peaks Wines, we noticed that we were the last people in a sparsely populated restaurant.

Little did I know that this evening would be the last time I would dine out socially for an undetermined time. Now, after almost two years, I met up with Aiken via Zoom to hear what he has been up to.

Scattered Peaks is a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon producer created by Napa Valley’s Derek Benham and Joel Aiken. Having worked with more than 50 vineyards in the Napa Valley over a 40-plus year career, Aiken is one of the most knowledgeable people about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scattered Peaks was created as a Cabernet Sauvignon house and the primary wine is the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sourced from vineyards across Napa Valley, including Rutherford, Pope Valley, and Gordon Valley, this is an affordable Cabernet that retails for $35.

In March 2020, I tasted the 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which had a plush nose of dark fruit, warm spices, licorice, chocolate, and vanilla, and finishes with firm tannins.

Recently I tasted the 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is made from grapes sourced from the Usibelli Vineyard in the Pope Valley and the Abruzzini Vineyard in the Suisun Valley. While it is still a young wine, it has a lot of power and color with deep red and blackberry aromas and velvety tannins. The wine is a little tight and lean right now but with a little age this wine will open up and for $40, it is quite a value.

When I met with Aiken, I also tasted the Scattered Peaks Small Lot 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. For this limited production wine, the grapes were sourced from the Morisoli Vineyard located on the valley floor on the Rutherford Bench and the Sage Ridge Vineyard located in the hills east of St. Helena.

2017 was the first vintage of this wine that Aiken had made from start to finish. With the 2018 release, he has now bottled two vineyard-specific wines.

The 2018 Sage Ridge Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) has a lush nose with aromas of cherry pie and has a  lot of structure on the palate. The wine is sexy and approachable with fresh acidity. The 2018 Morisoli Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($150) is a classic powerful Cabernet with bold tannins.

Another new addition to the Scattered Peaks portfolio is a white wine, the 2020 Scattered Peaks Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. The grapes were sourced from the Usibelli Vineyard in the Pope Valley, a vineyard Aiken was already familiar with having sourced Cabernet Sauvignon.

While 2020 brought more fires to wine country, these Sauvignon Blanc grapes were not affected because they were harvested just before the Complex and Glass fires. The grapes were cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged in lightly toasted French oak barrels for four months. The oak influence compliments the wine, adding complexity and depth to the wine without overpowering it. Aromas of tropical fruit, white peach, and lemon lead to a wine with good acidity as the wine rounds out on the palate. Retailing for $20, this is food-friendly Sauvignon Blanc.

Despite a pandemic and a few fires, it was great to see what Aiken and Scattered Peaks have been doing over the last 20 months.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.