Tasting the Phifer Pavitt 2006 Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon

My time in Napa is always precious. This most recent trip, a few weeks back, it was particularly so. While I was spending nine days in wine country tasting, only one was in Napa Valley. Spending one day in Napa feels like an eye blink to me, so I planned the day as well and carefully as I could. A couple of friends were going to be with me for the whole day so whatever I planned they’d be in on, something for me to be mindful of as I planned. When I was presented with the opportunity to meet Suzanne Phifer Pavitt, taste her wine and have dinner with her, I took  the chance. Even though the day was already pretty full, and I was unfamiliar with her or her wine it seemed like exactly the sort of great opportunity with fortuitous timing that pops up on the best trips to Napa Valley. Without question I’m glad I did. My friends and I met Suzanne at her property on the Silverado Trail. We got to see the Phifer Pavitt tasting room which is currently being completed. After seeing the property and getting a little bit of her history we made our way to dinner so we could learn more and taste her wine. Suzanne and her husband Shane spent a lot of date nights meeting up at various locations throughout California. At first their relationship was long distance and they would pick a place to meet and have a date night each week. Eventually once they were together it led them to buying property in Napa. Those date nights then started taking place on their property, where they dreamed of what it would become.

When the time came to name their wine they realized that Date Night was the natural choice for them. Sure it sounds catchy but for them the name embodies the essence of how they got around to making a wine to begin with. It’s rare (at least for me) to meet a person and feel as if you already knew them. Suzanne has that quality about her. She’s incredibly engaging and charming. Being from Georgia she’s imbued with down home hospitality; quite frankly it pours out of her.

Between stopping at her property and sitting in the restaurant we were all talking for close to a couple of hours and we hadn’t actually tasted her wine yet. At that point I was hoping I would like her wine because I already liked her. I’d have been genuinely disappointed if it turned out I didn’t care for her wine. The good news is that her wine is pretty terrific. Suzanne and her husband make a single offering, Cabernet Sauvignon. They’re currently on their second vintage which is 2006. The fruit is from the Pope Valley section of Napa. In addition to Cabernet winemaker Ted Osborne blended in 2% Petit Verdot. They made 275 cases of this wine and it has a suggested retail price of $75.

Over the course of a leisurely and delicious meal at Solbar we went through two bottles of Date Night and it left a lasting impression. The Phifer Pavitt 2006 Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon is classic example of Cabernet from the valley to my taste buds. Make no mistake it’s a big and bold wine, but it’s structured, well-balanced, and remarkably even, throughout a very persistent palate. The flavors are remarkably mouth-filling and completely take over, but do not overwhelm your senses. The finish is lengthy and the flavors linger for a good long while. The tannins are finely knit and give this Cabernet the structure to age gracefully over the next 6 or so years. And while it will certainly improve in the bottle, this Cabernet is ready to go now. This wine is simultaneously bold, refined and elegant. Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon harkens back a few years in my opinion, to when the goal was to make delicious, drinkable wine that had legs, not specifically to chase scores.

Before too long the Phifer Pavitt tasting room will be open. I highly recommend that you stop by. Tasting the wine and meeting the people behind it is likely to be an occasion you won’t forget. I generally only speak for myself but in this case I can safely say my friends and I all had a wonderful time getting to know Suzanne and her excellent Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon. I eagerly anticipate tasting the next vintage.

Photos by David Vermeire