An arrow sign saying 'Red Rock Terrace' with bushes and a pink rose

Diamond Creek Vineyards was founded in 1968 in Napa, California. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

Diamond Creek is a name that resonates among the most discerning international wine collectors. Its wines, made from fully organic vineyards with minimal environmental damage, combine distinctiveness, complexity and sophistication. Diamond Creek’s Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, and Gravelly Meadow, are all based on Cabernet Sauvignon, and all priced around the same elevated level, yet are subtly but distinctly different in character. LUX meets President of Diamond Creek Vineyards, Nicole Carter and Graham Wehmeier, winemaker at the estate, which is now owned by the Louis Roederer champagne house, for a conversation and tasting over Zoom

Graham Wehmeier, winemaker at Diamond Creek:

“One of the magical aspects of this place that you have, just a stone’s throw away, obviously different soils and very different wines as well. To the point where even if you are not a collector or a wine geek or you didn’t know what terroir means or you don’t care, you could still taste the difference [between the different wines], it is that clear from glass to glass.

A vineyard with a road curving round and trees

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

The vineyards are very different in terms of temperature, Gravelly Meadow being the coolest, Volcanic Hill being the warmest. When we taste them side by side, the hand print of the three vineyards is quite strong.

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The altitude difference is 30 meters between Red Rock and Volcanic Hill, the top of Red Rock is almost level with the top of Volcanic Hill, then they both go down to the creek, which is where Gravelly Meadow is. It is the lowest, that is also why it is so cool. The cooling down there is so noticeable, on a hot day.

The creek has a big effect, in terms of soil difference. The creek’s soil for whatever geological reasons really stops on the north side of the creek and then the red soil starts the south of the creek.

A house in the distance surrounded by grape vines

The Diamond Creek Winery. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

I would agree that Gravelly Meadow has a taste of wet stones. I have no idea if it is something the grapes actually absorb; I would absolutely not rule out that grapes on rocky soil absorb the smell of those rocks, they are sitting there all summer long. It is very romantic, and one of the great things about Diamond Creek: Red Rock gives you these red earth flavours and Gravelly Meadow gives you these gravelly flavours and Volcanic Hill just tastes like a volcano in its flavour spectrum. ”

grapes on a vine

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

Tasting notes, by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai:

We tasted the three celebrated single vineyards wines from Diamond Creek from the 2011 and 2018 vintages. 2011 was an interesting vintage in Napa Valley, relatively cool and wet, it was initially looked down on by some influential critics. But cool for Napa is not the same as cool in Northern Europe, and actually wines created by skilled winemakers from top vineyard sites were quite outstanding and balanced, suitable for palates that don’t want the fruit bomb type wines some Napa estates produce, particularly in hotter vintages.

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The tasting focussed on two vintages of its three celebrated single-vineyard wines, Gravelly Meadow, Volcanic Hill and Red Rock Terrace. Made from three near-adjacent vineyards, all based on Cabernet Sauvignon, they have very different characters, due to the differences in soil, temperature and aspect between the three vineyards, a perfect illustration that the concept of terroir can be as powerful in California as it is in Burgundy, where it reflects very distinctive wines, made from the same types of grape, from nearby vineyards.

A vineyard and a road

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2011 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow:
This is the vineyard by the creek at the bottom of the property, cooler than the others and as its name suggests, surrounded by stones. Sublimely balanced wine, with stones, slightly dusty tannins, cool blue fruit, a little meatiness. Improved for hours.

2011 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace:
Richness and tannin in balance, with an underpinning of medium-ripe, almost smoky fruit. Hints of freshly-rolled Havana cigars. More punch than the Gravelly Meadow, but beautiful equilibrium.

A black and white photo of a man and woman

Al and Boots Brounstein, founders of Diamond Creek Vineyards. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2011 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill:
Denser, lots of filaments of black fruit, plenty of power, and a wine that would match an umami cut of steak, like a bavette, with the acidity to match up to a cuisson a l’échalotte.

2018 Diamond Hill Gravelly Meadow
Lashings of stones, lots of blue and red fruits, a kind of transparent limpidity. A wine to enjoy by itself, and also one to keep in the cellar for as many years as you can bear as it will only improve. Pretty much unique: although if you are a fan of the great and classy Bordeaux second growths like Chateau Pichon Comtesse (in the same ownership), you will love this wine.

A vineyard with flowers growing on the side and sun shining on the trees

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2018 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace
Wow! Dense yet light, layers of opulence but with a kind of restraint that seems to be the hallmark of this estate. Porterhouse steak with mushrooms; or maybe even just the mushrooms, on a brioche.

2018 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
A big wine with rich fruit, but balanced and defined, with definite tannic offset, in no way an unbalanced Napa cliche. Darkness and light in one wine, and so many layers. One to hang on to for 10 years, if you can find it, and if you can bear doing so. We don’t approve of foie gras, but if we did, we would recommend it as an accompaniment; as it stands, go for some marbled Wagyu beef, or a mushroom and truffle tart with a hint of olive oil from a single estate in Tuscany.

Find out more: diamondcreekvineyards.com