The Leaky Lake Vineyard: A Decade of Cabernet Excellence

Nestled 1,000 feet up in the hills above Napa Valley, is an extraordinary 3.5-acre plot of land known as the Leaky Lake Vineyard. Framed by a small but picturesque lake, this vineyard has been producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes the Napa Valley has to offer. So fine, in fact, that Cultivar Wine has sourced this vineyard exclusively for the past decade for our only single-vineyard designate wine: The Cultivar Wine Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.

What makes this vineyard so special? Like most of the terroir in Napa Valley, it’s a combination of the soil, the weather, and even the people.

Leaky Lake Vineyard Terroir

To say that the Leaky Lake Vineyard produces “mountain fruit” would be an understatement. It takes a long trip up a winding, mountain road—often with just one lane—just to reach the vineyard. Once there, you’re greeted by 3.5 acres of slopes, swales, and hills, all covered with gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. 

Vineyard rows from the Leaky Lake Vineyard in the hills of Rutherford, California

The soil is a rugged mix of clay loam and iron deposits, a direct result of the tectonic forces that created the Mayacamas Mountain range. Part of the plot faces directly west, which means it gets direct sunlight for a good portion of the day. The north-facing portion of the vineyard is subject to the cool winds that blow across the mountaintop at night.

Farming Cabernet Sauvignon at The Leaky Lake Vineyard

Leaky Lake was originally planted decades ago. It’s a small vineyard that’s just up the hill from Caspar Estate.  

A man harvests cabernet sauvignon grapes from the Leaky Lake Vineyard in the hills above Rutherford, Napa

Cultivar Wine has been farming this land since 2007, when we replanted the vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon from clone 191 and 337, which is known for good set along with small berry and cluster size. This clone was grafted to rootstock 101-14, which thrives in rocky conditions where water can be scarce. We have been using purely organic farming methods and techniques from the very beginning. The result is bold, powerful, and concentrated fruit, grown in a way that’s uniquely Cultivar. It’s the perfect fruit for Cabernet lovers who appreciate a sense of terroir and want to experience the development of a wine as it ages. And in order to bring out that quality the best we can, we turned to an expert winemaker.

Julien Fayard Brings Bordeaux Finesse to Napa

You may already know that Julien Fayard, one of the most renowned winemakers in Napa Valley, is the genius behind our Caspar Estate wines. But when Julien got a look at the Leaky Lake Vineyard and sampled the unique fruit we grow there, he wanted to be a part of the project.

“The cabernet we grow there is extraordinary,” Fayard says. “I saw it rivals any of the mountain appellations in Napa—Howell Mountain or Diamond Peak—for boldness and character.”

Winemaker Julien Fayard leans against wine barrels in a wine cave in Napa

Fayard presses whole clusters of fruit for Cultivar’s Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon. He then transfers to 100% French oak for at least 24 months before bottling. “Even then, it’s good to allow the wine to develop in the bottle for another two years, just to bring out the aromatics,” Fayard says.

This is one reason why the 2016 Leaky Lake Cabernet is our newest release. And at a mere 90 cases, it’s one of our most limited releases as well.

Cabernet For Summer? Definitely Yes

You typically don’t think about lush, opulent Cabernets when it comes to summertime wines. But you should! Our idea of a great summer weekend is rib eyes and roasted vegetables on the grill. If you’re the same, then you need a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon to complement that. 

In fact, we typically release our Leaky Lake Cabernet just in time for summer, because that’s when grilling season reaches its peak. “Seared meats are especially wonderful with this wine,” says Fayard.

The Leaky Lake Vineyard is one of those small-lot vineyards that make Napa so special. It has its own unique character—a character that we have had a hand in creating. It’s no wonder why Cultivar Wine has been using this vineyard exclusively to produce our only vineyard-designate wine. We invite you to try the Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon and taste for yourself!

A bottle of 2016 Leaky Lake Cabernet Sauvignon with a wine glass and a decanter