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By Fine Wine magazines

The challenging vintage of 2008 set the Napa vintners in position where understanding of the terroir factors of their vineyard site proved to be critical. Only by understanding the terroir of each plot of vines, the wine producer was able to make the necessary decisions in the vineyards on supporting the vines during their growth cycle and helping them to produce the best quality fruit.

As results of our tasting, we may conclude that the best Napa Valley wine producers succeeded from the challenge incredibly well. The quality of the wines shows great if not excellent. While all tasted wines will reach their optimum drinkability after 10 to 15 years there were great deal of surprisers according to wines current enjoyability. The winner of the best Napa Cabernet 2008 goes to a newcomer in Napa Valley, Dana Estates, whose Lotus single-vineyard wine which charmed us with its opulence, depth and elegance.

Out of the three Dana Estate owned vineyards, the Lotus vineyard located on St. Helena hillsides, stands at 1200 feet above sea level with a beautiful panoramic view of the Napa Valley floor.

This steep hillside vineyard is spread over the rocky, low-yielding soils with Western exposure. Thanks to the influence of the afternoon sun, the wines shows ripe and rich fruitiness while the three to twelve inches, fractured grey bedrock soil generates the marked mineral structure to the wine.

“This is incredibly dry, well-drained soil that has very low water holding capacity and in dry, warm vintages it reflects outstanding a level of grape ripeness,” Vawter sums up. 


The vintage 2008

“2008 proved to be a tremendously challenging vintage, yet it ultimately produced some of the best wines of this decade. The vintage characteristics were defined primarily by the strongest La Niña spring for two decades,” Cameron Vawter, the winemaker of Dana Estate points out.

According to Vawter, the dry La Niña winter and an unusually warm March led to the earliest bud break on record for many of Dana Estate vineyard blocks. 

“This seemed like a good thing until temperatures plummeted in late April and gave us the worst frost season in over thirty years. We used our frost fans for 32 nights during the spring. The frost, combined with some cool bloom temperatures, led to a very uneven veraison. This vintage was like no other vintage that I have experienced. A vintage is really made up of winter rains to fill the soil profile, the spring’s ability to dry the profile, summer’s ability to hold constant and then September’s warmth to either push ripening or allow it to happen slowly.”


Vawter comments also that the previous generation of Napa winemakers has compared the vintage 2008 to the spring of 1972, when the last really serious frost was experienced in the valley. However, apart from spring, he outlines that 2008 was actually a very dry, hot vintage. 

“It had more heat spikes than any recent vintage. These heat spikes actually stunt a grape’s ability to ripen, and this is one reason the vintage boasts such purity and great acidity. The ripening was very rapid, preserving much of the freshness,” Vawter explains. 




Dana Estate is owned by South Korean winelover, Mr. Hi Sang Lee, who first fell in love with wine more than 40 years ago, when he lived in New York City. In the early 1990s he founded Nara Cellar, a wine importing business in South Korea. In 2006 he opened Podo Plaza, a cutting edge food and wine center in Seoul that contains a wine bar, retail store, wine academy (WSET) and cooking school (Japanese Culinary Institute).

Through his import business, Mr. Lee has been responsible for bringing the world’s most sought-after luxury wines to the Korean market, including Harlan, Shafer and Colgin, and has increased awareness and appreciation for world-class wines in his home country.

The import business has brought Lee to the Napa Valley regularly for more than ten years, allowing him to develop an understanding of luxury wine production and form close relationships with the people whose wine he imports. These relationships were integral in bringing his dream of creating his own wine brand to fruition: Lee was able to acquire coveted vineyard land, as well as gain access to some of the most talented people in the industry. Mr. Lee purchased the Helms Vineyard and the winery in 2005. The winery is listed as one of the “ghost wineries” of the Napa Valley and was originally built by H.W. Helms, a German vintner in1883.  The purchase of Hershey and Lotus vineyards took place in 2006.




Dana Estates produces three single vineyards wines, from sites that are dramatically different from one another. Each vineyard is farmed organically at low yields to allow the unique qualities of each site to be expressed in the bottle.  Multiple passes through the vineyards are made during harvest, and only the purest expressions of fruit and most balanced lots make it into Dana wines. Depending on the character of each lot, blocks are fermented in either concrete tanks, oak uprights or small barrels to enhance vineyard characteristics and help produce wines of distinction and sophistication.


Helms Vineyard

This gently sloping site is relatively cool, and is protected from the intensity of the late afternoon heat during the height of the growing season.  The gravelly loam soils provide excellent drainage and wonderful fruit purity. Helms Vineyard Cabernet displays the classic profile of the Rutherford Bench: dark fruit, richly layered with a touch of spice and earth. The finely grained “dusty” tannins so prevalent in the appellation are integrated and harmonious, producing a wine of sophistication and depth.


Hershey Vineyard

The incredibly rocky, rhyolitic soils of this Howell Mountain site provide fruit with structure and depth, yet the cool climate produces a wine of restraint and vibrant acidity. An underlying minerality gives the wine a particularly distinctive character and provides another layer of complexity. The appellation has become a favorite of collectors who value the ageworthy capacity of wines from this elevation.


Lotus Vineyard

Located at 1200 feet above sea level in the Vaca Mountains on the east side of the valley, Lotus is the warmest of our three vineyards.  With rocky soils and low yielding vines facing west that embrace the afternoon sun, Lotus produces a wine of power and concentration.  Packed with layers of black fruit, with notes of mocha, anise and graphite, Lotus tends to be the most full bodied of the three wines we produce.



The winemaking practices are based on site-oriented wine production where philosophy is adapted from Burgundy and where organic farming plays a critical part.

“Organic farming allows the vineyard to truly express itself and not input upon input from a man. The site is irrigated minimally and even dry farming is taking place when possible to highlight the expression of both vintage and vineyard. In winemaking, the fermentation takes place in concrete vats under the influence of indigenous yeasts,” Vawter says. According to his experience, the concrete tanks enhance the terroir focus along with the fruit characteristics of the wine and soften the chunky tannins discreetly. The fermentation process is remained not intervened despite the sulphur addition which is kept to a minimum. The wines are aged in French oak barrels for 1.5 to 2 years. No fining or filtration takes place. 


5 different wines with 48 vintages


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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Antonio Galloni, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  8 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  28 wines 

The Dana 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Hershey Vineyard stands out for its classicism and energy, two attributes that aren't always typical of the Dana wines. There is a feeling of translucence to the 2019 that is just breathtaking. Old School meets New World in a riveting, stunning Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon loaded with class and personality. The 2019 Hershey is one of the most elegant and refined wines I have ever tasted at Dana.

8m 8d ago

 Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 / In the running for the wine of the vintage, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is an incredible success and offers more depth, opulence, and purity than just about every other wine out there. Revealing a dense purple color as well as a killer nose of blueberries, chocolate-covered cherries, scorched earth, tobacco, violets, and exotic spices, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a seamless, pure, incredibly layered mouthfeel, building tannins, and a great, great finish. As with most top 2017s, it stays tight and compact on the palate, with notable structure and impressive concentration. It has some up-front appeal given its purity of fruit and balance, yet it's going to take 7-8 years to hit prime time and will be a long-lived bottle of Napa Cabernet. Hats off to Doug Shafer and the team for yet another magical Cabernet Sauvignon!

9m 19d ago

 Dana Estates  has updated producer and wine information

1y 5m ago

 Antonio Galloni, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  4 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  29 wines 

Bryant Family 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted from a working base blend, is just magnificent. Seldom - maybe never - I have seen a young Bryant Cabernet that is this well put-together at this stage. The integrity of the fruit, acid and structure is outstanding. Sweet red and purplish fruit, sweet floral notes and spice are all beautifully lifted. The 2018 is flat-out stunning. That's all there is to it.

1y 8m ago

 Dana Estates  has updated producer and wine information

1y 10m ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  22 wines 

American Beauty -tasting with Dominus, Dana Estate, Ovid, Caymus, Colgin etc.

1y 10m ago

 Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  3 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Dana Lotus Vineyard 2016 / 100 points / With more minerality as well as a bloody, iron character, the perfect 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Lotus Vineyard is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot that saw 27 months in new French oak barrels. Incredible notes of blackcurrants, graphite, tobacco, Asian spices, and dried herbs all emerge from this full-bodied, ultra-pure, layered, and just incredible wine that tops out my scale. Coming from a vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain and aged in 90% new French oak, it has the class to offer pleasure even today yet is going to benefit from 7-8 years of bottle age and keep for 3-4 decades. It’s one of the greatest young Cabernets I’ve ever tasted.

2y 1m ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  43 wines 

Château Mouton-Rothschild 2014 / Intense Mouton with velvety tannins, dark cassis notes and savory herbs. This is a restrained Mouton that has power and good density. The long hang time and growing period in this vintage means everything was concentrated - tannins, flavor and acidity. The alcohol is just over 13%. This is a wine to lay down

3y 3m ago

 Dana Estates  has updated producer and wine information

3y 8m ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Krug Vintage Champagne 1985 / 100 points / I was speechless when I tasted this Champagne. Although I had the 1985 Krug before, in a magnum format, it was magnificent. A perfect wine that has evolved so beautifully that it has more layers and depth than many Grand Cru red Burgundies. Full bodied yet delicate with toasted hazelnuts, brioche and biscuit notes. Very long finish. A perfect vintage to enjoy now, at nearly 30 years of age.

3y 9m ago

 Mikko Pakkanen, Wine Collector (Monaco)  tasted  1 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  10 wines 

Tasting latest Colgin wines at the Winery with winemaker Allison Tauziet.

3y 10m ago

 Chris Cooney, Wine Maker (United States)  tasted  21 wines  from  Dana Estates . In a tasting of  21 wines 

Dana Onda Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 / The 2011 Onda is layered with aromas of cherry, fresh raspberry, dark black fruits, cassis and dried flowers. On the palate, it exudes blueberry cobbler, with mineral tones highlighting the freshness of the vintage. The mountain nature of this blend is shown in the tannin profile; it’s refined with a boisterous edge. The elegant finish is dominated by dark chocolate and currant. It will age gracefully
for 10-15 years.


3y 11m ago

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