2004 Topel Winery Hidden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Codename: Topel of the day to you

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Visit Topel Winery and acquire an allocation of their delicious 2005 Hidden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Topel Winery

Wine Subject: 2004 Hidden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Donnis Topel


Mendocino AVA, located along the Russian River and highway 101 north of Sonoma County is where the grapes for this delicious Cabernet Sauvignon were grown. The actual AVA is centered between Hopland and Ukiah in the southern third of the county and are heavily influenced by the climate which is regulated by the mountain ridges that surround the upper Russian River. The deep alluvial and gravelly loam soils also contribute to the flavor profile of the grapes grown in the region. While Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay are the primary grapes grown in the region, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Petite Sirah and many other secondary grapes thrive in the climate.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and dark burgundy with ruby and garnet streaks that reflect light through its dense but clear core. Along the edges the color fades slightly to a deep ruby red and when swirled, thin tears hang before slowly descending to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and redolent with aromas of wild bramble berries including raspberry meld with ripe black cherry. Layers of complex spice, licorice, cigar box tobacco and oak adds to the classic Cabernet nose.

Feel – The initial attack of this dry and full-bodied wine is bold and firm with highly textured tannins that keep their grip as the feel softens as it breathes. A touch of spice on the tip of the tongue and solid acidity at the mid palate lingers into the finish. Given some time, this wine softens slightly but is still big and bold with great texture.

Taste – Rich and classic Cabernet flavors lead off with dense and ripe black cherry and other dark fruit are well integrated with notes of black licorice, spicy pepper, oak and cigar box tobacco and a touch of bramble herbs and hints of characteristic green bell pepper.

Finish – The textured tannins, acidity and spice felt on the palate hold tight and linger long as the rich fruit and other flavors gently fade and beg for another sip.

Conclusion – The 2004 Topel Winery Hidden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious and classic Mendocino Cabernet that is lead off with bold and rich black cherry and other dark fruits. A classic and solid structure grabs a hold and doesn’t let go for a long time, making this wine perfect for rich foods and also to keep a few bottles in the cellar to enjoy in the future.

Mission Report:

What follows is our original Dossier and Interview with Mark Topel. Please note that parts of the interview make reference to a different Topel wine than the one we are featuring today:


SUBJECT: Mark Topel

DATE OF BIRTH: January 11, 1945

PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois

WINE EDUCATION: Self- taught. Audited courses at UC Davis, mentored by some of the finest CA winemakers who are good friends, and OJT.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker, Topel Winery 1996 – Present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Minimal intrusion. Let the grapes express themselves.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Tremendous positive feedback from satisfied customers

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Each vintage is like a new and unique poem—handcrafted and polished to perfection”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your exceptional 2005 Meritage today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MARK: 1962/63 Penfolds Grainge Hermitage, discovered while I was in Australia, trying a legal case.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

MARK: From my co-winemakers whose families had been working with grapes from our area for five generations.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

MARK: Minimal intrusion to allow the grapes to express themselves in the most profound manner possible.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MARK: Three; The aforementioned Penfolds Grainge Hermitage style, Harlan’s Red Table Wine—Merlot/Cabernet Blend, and Chuck Wagner’s Caymus Special Select.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

MARK: Since 1993

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MARK: Simply, ourselves and our customers

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

MARK: There are no shortcuts, no tricks, only hard work, long hours, and dedication to perfection.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

MARK: This wine was a blending dream. Donnis and I sat in the winery for Christmas week of 2006, blending various combinations of our Bordeaux varietals. And then, magic! One of the blends began singing, and that blend became the 2005 Meritage. The Petit Verdot gave it brightness, in perfect balance with the flavors of the other varietals.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MARK: Rack of Lamb with a rich brown sauce reduction, very savory wild mushroom and wild rice combination

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

MARK: 2006 Topel Estate Blend

RED: We’ll have to feature that one, next! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

MARK: In a not-too-serious, but appreciative mode, reflecting an understanding that they are about to experience a very pleasurable product, which has resulted from lots of loving and joyful careful preparation.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

MARK: Thank a lot, Agent Red. We are sure that your Operatives will love our Metitage.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of Topel’s Healdsburg tasting room where today’s wine and other great wines can be tasted can be seen in this satellite photo.

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