Nestled in the hills of southern Oakville, Ulysses Vineyard lies at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains.
Once part of the nineteenth century Charles Hopper Ranch, the estate is somewhat rustic when compared to the grandeur found elsewhere in Napa, being comprised of a simple farmhouse, a wooden barn and a water tower.
Tod Mostero oversees all things vinous on the Moueix Californian estates of Dominus and Ulysses, the former just a mile to the south, in Yountville. Trained in Bordeaux, Mostero clearly shares Moueix’s ideals of freshness and drinkability as paramount to a great wine.
The vineyard is planted on a mineral-rich alluvial fan, perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon. Although the soil is similar to that found at Dominus, the climate at Ulysses is better suited to producing richer, more opulent wines with tremendous energy.
Corney & Barrow is proud to be the exclusive UK agent of Ulysses for private customers.
Ulysses is a 14 hectare plot just west of Highway 29, Napa Valley’s main north-south thoroughfare. Whilst the San Pablo Bay exerts a moderating influence on the more southerly areas of Napa, in Oakville the Yountville hills buffer the coastal effect. This makes summer hotter and winter colder.
After Christian Moueix’s acquisition, in 2008, of what would become Ulysses Vineyard, an in-depth analysis of the soil and microclimate was undertaken. This was followed by painstaking vineyard restoration. The distinctive lyre trellising system of Dominus has been adopted as the model at Ulysses. The resulting high canopy keeps the fruit zones shaded. Fanned ‘cross-arms’ measuring two feet across at the top of the canopy further protect against the sun. Narrow rows act as a brake on Napa’s natural vigour, driving competition for nutrients.
The ubiquitous Napa dust is rinsed off in the vineyard. As at Dominus, ‘dry’ (unirrigated) farming is fundamental. This encourages the vine roots to dig deep and develop drought resistance. The soil is composed of deep gravel and clay loam. This fast draining soil, as in Bordeaux’s Medoc, is especially suited to Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, this venerable grape makes up the lion’s share of plantings, at 85-90% as at the 2013 vintage, the remainder being Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Given that Cabernet excels here, it is not surprising that the Moueix team chose to replant the vineyard’s Merlot vines with Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc (possibly because they feel they have enough Merlot back on the right bank of the Gironde). New clonal material has been introduced, including from unspecified top châteaux in Bordeaux…
THE GROWING SEASON
For Ulysses in 2018, consistency of temperature was key.
Throughout the growing season rainfall was significantly lower than usual (56 centimeters rather than the usual 79 annual average) which given Napa’s naturally warm climate could have risked some hydric stress to the vines.
Fortunately, with both a consistently warm start to the summer, some cooler than average temperatures due to morning fog in August and September, along with the absence of heat spikes, the fruit ripened slowly and evenly.
Harvest began with the young Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but was interrupted on October 2nd and 3rd by a storm which brought 3 centimeters of rain which halted progress. Thankfully, the warm and dry weather returned and between October 8th and 15th the remaining 57% of fruit was picked.
In 2018, Ulysses is delightfully complete. At first you are drawn in by an aromatic richness composed of blueberries, blackberries and the slightest note of sweet strawberry. The nose then evolves, with the cooling influence of eucalyptus, mint and iron filings which complement the decadent fruit beautifully. On the palate there is certainly structure, but because the texture is so remarkably silky the tannins feel very well integrated for a wine so young. However, what gives Ulysses such impact is the interplay between dark fruits, savoury notes of tobacco and a marked freshness so typical of the Moueix stable. Everything a Napa Cabernet should be— very good now, great later!
Corney & Barrow Score 18.5
Recommended drinking from 2023 - 2032
£695 /CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
£245 /CASE OF 1 MAGNUM, IN BOND UK