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Sign of the Dove Is Napa Valley’s Next Great Cult Winery

Sign of the Dove Is Napa Valley’s Next Great Cult Winery

Sign of the Dove Is Napa Valley’s Next Great Cult Winery

This story is from an installment of The Oeno Files, our weekly insider newsletter to the world of fine wine. Sign up here.

When we recently tackled the idea of how to spot Napa Valley‘s next cult wine, two concepts stood out: winemaking talent and fruit sourcing. That’s simple in theory, but it’s not easy to ascend to the rarefied air of sought-after labels like Harlan, Bond, Promontory, Screaming Eagle, and Opus One. That doesn’t stop wineries from trying. In addition to the roughly 1,000 wine brands from Napa that are already in existence, we are constantly in touch with producers who state that the first vintage of their new wine is sure to be the next big thing. It’s fair for us to be skeptical, but that doesn’t mean our eyes—and palates—aren’t always open to the possibility.

Then came along Sign of the Dove, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon produced from historic vineyards under the hand of Sonoma winemaker Jesse Katz. The father-and-son team behind the brand, Marc and Jake Taub, chose Katz—whose Devil Proof, Aperture, and the Setting Wines have earned him a reputation as one of the most accomplished young winemakers in the world—to lead their new project using fruit sourced from a pair of Napa’s most sought-after plots, Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III Vineyard and Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard. Talent, meet fruit sourcing. After tasting first vintage and digging deeper into its story, we can boldly state this is Napa Valley’s next great cult wine.

Katz and Jake met at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic five years ago, and Jake was immediately impressed with Katz’s winemaking style. They also hit it off because Jake and Katz grew up in and around the wine industry. The fourth generation of his family in the wine and spirits business, Jake is director of business development at Palm Bay International, a powerhouse in wine importation. As a child, Katz traveled the world visiting vineyards with his father, noted photographer Andy Katz. A few weeks after Jake’s initial encounter with Katz, he and his father headed to Healdsburg to check out Katz’s Aperture Cellars winery, which was under construction at the time. Blown away by facility’s design and state-of-the-art technology, the Taubs signed a deal that day for Katz to start making small lots of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for them.

Jake Taub

Nicola Parisi

They put themselves in good hands, as 11 of Katz’s wines have received a combined 17 perfect 100-point scores from a variety of publications, with his Devil Proof 2018 Farrow Ranch Malbec earning top marks from The Wine Advocate, The Wine Independent, and JebDunnuck.com. And in 2021, a six-liter bottle of Katz’s Cabernet Sauvignon fetched $1 million at a charity auction in New Orleans, setting the world record for most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. Katz says the fruit sourcing for Sign of the Dove was a collaborative effort; the Taubs had been contracting some grapes from these sites for another project, but Katz was able to leverage his relationship with one of the vineyard managers to access what he considers the two best blocks in the vineyard. He also teases a potential upcoming release, telling Robb Report, “We have some other world-class sites that might be coming into the portfolio in the future as well.”

The Taubs were drawn to the Beckstoffer sites in Oakville due to their provenance and proven track record. “These two vineyards offer such distinct profiles of different parts of the valley that we have always loved,” Jake tells Robb Report. “We felt they were the perfect wines to begin our project together.” He explains that Katz put his own touch on the farming through trellising techniques that provide an optimal shade-to-light environment for the grapes to allow for slow, even ripening and overall balance.

“The Beckstoffer team are some of the most talented farmers in the world,” Katz says. “I collaborate with them to drive style in the vineyard so we can fine tune it in the winery. I make all harvesting decisions, but we collaborate on all other elements of viticulture throughout the year as a team.” Once grapes have been harvested, they are subject to a sophisticated infrared optical sorter to select only the best of the best. “This level of sorting gives us the purest expression of the fruit, without extremes, and allows us to remove underripe green berries, stems, leaves, and overripe raisins,” Katz says. He also uses an automated pump over system with air injection “to make the most concentrated and expressive wines, because we can extract when we want and how we want.” He points out that this helps him to preserve wine aromas and build texture during the entire fermentation process. Both wines matured for 22 months in the cellar: Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III in 80 percent new French oak and Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard in 100 percent new French oak.

Jesse Katz

Jesse Katz

Rachel Weill

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Sign of the Dove 2021 Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III Vineyard is inky violet to the eye and has aromas of Luxardo cherry, raspberry, and menthol with a touch of earthiness. A cloak of elegant tannins wraps around flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark chocolate, and a hint of tobacco leaf that lingers into the long finish. Sign of the Dove 2021 Beckstoffer Vineyard Missouri Hopper Vineyard is deep garnet in color with a purple rim. It offers a bouquet of blackberry, caramel, and crushed violet that leads to a gorgeous opening note of butterscotch on the palate. Flavors of black cherry, purple plum, milk chocolate, fennel, and lavender are set into a layer of velvety tannins that endure into a floral-scented finish. If drinking now, decant for 30 minutes before serving. Both wines will age gracefully for another 20 years or more.

The Taubs and Katz really want to keep this an “insider” offering. Besides Jake holding a private tasting for Robb Report at Carbone Privato in New York City, the wines were only submitted to one scoring publication, JebDunnuck.com, whose following is more focused than many of the more mass-market wine magazines and sites. The George III received 97 points, while the Missouri Hopper garnered a score of 97+, a solid showing for a first release.

There are several other high-profile first vintage drops this season, but as we said up front, this is the one we really have our eyes on for the fast track to success. The owner and winemaker are both young—Jake is 27, while Katz is 40—and they will be introducing Sign of the Dove through private tastings around the country and in Napa and Sonoma. While Jake lets Katz “drive the farming and winemaking,” they taste the wines together as they evolve and work on the overall profile. The Taubs chose the name because “taub” means “dove” in German, but Jake also points out that the long-gone New York City restaurant Sign of the Dove was his grandfather David’s favorite. The mosaic-inspired dove on the label is in homage to the restaurant’s mosaic floor. Sign of the Dove packs a lot of history into its vineyard sourcing, label imagery, and bottle design (which has the same shape as David’s favorite wine, Haut-Brion) and we are here to tell you it has a lengthy future as well.


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