It’s Time for Wine: Introducing Shadowbox Cellars

Our Own (plus our partners) shadowbox cellars to Make its Debut

By Monty and Sara Preiser

We were chosen as the “inspectors” for an election the other day, meaning that we watched the counting by both sides to be sure all was accurate and there were no shenanigans. There were a number of candidates, and we were astonished to see that one person did not mark the ballot for himself. Not surprisingly, he did not win, but in O’Henry like irony, he lost by only one vote. It made us think about grade school, where kids (at least of our era) did not commonly vote for themselves, as well as about later realities when one learns that if you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to cast in vote in your own favor, you shouldn’t be running in the first place.

Well, that lesson sort of carries over to this column. We are always happy to write about and review the wines we taste and enjoy, so today we are proud to announce the debut of our own line of wines – shadowbox cellars, making premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Owned by Monty and Sara Preiser of Boynton Beach and Napa, Ira and Eydie Holz of Boca Raton, and Justin and Stacy Preiser of Napa, shadowbox is following a bit of a different business model than most wineries in an effort to put truly fabulous wines in the bottle. And the effort has, at least for now, worked spectacularly.

For quite a while, we have been fortunate to live five months a year in Napa, and our son Justin has lived there full time running our comprehensive wine and restaurant magazines (The Preiser Key to Napa and The Preiser Key to Sonoma) for almost seven years now. This has allowed us some pretty good insight into what vineyards produce the best fruit, what winemakers excel at crafting certain varietals, and what flavor profiles are desired by consumers who, like us, want outstanding quality at prices that do not border on the insane. With the addition of Ira, a financial and business expert, we put together a team of people on the production and business sides who all contributed something positive and important to every varietal we make. Our wines are, if we do say so ourselves, beautiful in every way, and properly priced for consumers.

When the owners gathered to taste our wines for the first time out of the bottle we were of course apprehensive. Under a past and different label, we (Monty and Sara) had refused to distribute one vintage of a wine many years ago because it did not meet our standards. We are ecstatic to report that such a problem did not exist with shadowbox. Below is what we found.

2010 Orchard Vineyard Oak Knoll Napa Chardonnay
Made by winemaker Mike Drash (late of Far Niente and Luna, and now owner of Tallulah), this is a wine of immediate impressions – a golden straw color to the eye, a powerful medium to full body on the palate, and a fruit-to-dry finish that seemingly lasts forever. Yet there are many other characteristics belonging to this layered and balanced Chardonnay. The nose gives off scents of brioche, grapefruit, and Crenshaw melon, while the mid palate is consumed by caramel, apples, and a hint of ripe banana. Overall, the wine is bright enough to accompany light meats, salads, and fish, while suggesting a long period of ageability. The Oak Knoll grown fruit is next door to the famed vineyard that produced the grapes for the storied 1976 Paris tasting. Ours is even better. It is ready now, and should continue to improve for many years to come.
85 cases available. $40

2009 Anna Katerina Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
Strong, yet lovely, aromas of roses and violets are evident long before this wine reaches one’s nose. And the gorgeous dark color of ruby/garnet is the perfect sensory lead-in to distinct flavors of strawberries and raspberries. The fruit here comes from Donum President Anne Moller Racke’s private vineyard in Carneros, and is transformed into this luscious Pinot Noir by Donum and Auteur winemaker Ken Juhasz. It is smooth on the palate, evidences berries from start to finish, shows the perfect Pinot Noir medium body, and boasts soft, yet structure-providing tannins. The berries, white truffles, and Hen of the Woods mushrooms give way to traces of forest floor that take you to a lingering finish. If you seek terroir from your wine, here it is, and here it should stay for better than ten years.
65 cases available. $46

2008 Mountain Terraces Vineyard Sonoma Valley Syrah (SaraBec)
There is only a bit of this left, and it is under the name of our previous label “SaraBec,” which until we began this new venture was not offered for sale. Now the 2008 is available and the 2009 will be released in the spring under the shadowbox name. The fruit for the 08 comes from the top of the mountain separating Napa and Sonoma, and is influenced by the San Pablo Bay, which is actually in sight on a clear day. The winemaker is rising-star Ames Morrison of Medlock-Ames winery. Before you drink this huge wine, it needs a good two hours in a decanter. Only then will you experience the inviting tar and charcoal on the nose, the hints of graphite that pop up in various stages, the black plums that seem to frame the tannins, and the velvety/rose petal smoothness that takes over immediately and stays with you to the back palate. By that time the wine has danced around your mouth and transformed into notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, and purple fruit on the finish. Game or meat is the perfect accompaniment. Ready to drink now and through 2018.
10 cases available. $44

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The rich, alluring, and intense color of this full-bodied Cab only hints at the beauty of the wine in the glass. Supple aromas of caramel, Bing cherries, and toasted spiced nuts give way to a smooth, creamy, and layered mix of dark fruit, currant, and black cherries. A touch of Merlot assures drinkable tannins while a dash of Cab Franc enhances each sip. But this is Cabernet all the way, with a chocolate finish supported by zest of orange that simply sails on and on. Our choice to make this wine was Steve Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Family Wines, and famed for his Reds of all varietals. The fruit is from varying locations in Napa, including a healthy dose from the Annapurna Vineyard, acknowledged as one of the Valley’s finest. This Cab is fantastic now, but perhaps best enjoyed between 2012 and 2025.
40 cases available. $75

2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
It is no secret that the 2007 vintage is one of Napa’s finest ever. And this bell-ringer reflects the perfect growing season of that summer with its outstanding balance and multiple layers. Chocolate and mocha aromas are not only prevalent on the nose, they hover around on the taste buds throughout the entire sip of wine. Primary flavors of sweet black cherries, black plums, and currants fill the palate from start to finish. Tannins are surprisingly smooth for such a huge Cabernet Sauvignon, also made by Steve Reynolds, yet they allow one to enjoy the wine immediately, or lay it down for a generation or more. A long finish completes the picture.
Only 20 cases available. $78

Purchasing shadowbox Wines:
We are a small producer, as you have seen, and so our wines will be highly allocated and we expect them to sell quickly. Those restaurateurs and others who have sampled them have nothing but accolades for what we have produced, we are happy to say. We expect to be able to deliver around Valentine’s Day.

If you would like to be on our allocation list and have us get in touch with you about an order, or if you have any questions, please send an email to info@amateurgastronomer.com.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you will like what we have produced.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November. In fall 2011 the Preisers released the first issue of The Preiser Key to Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.