Hunting for Excess Treasure: Treasure Hunter “The Castaway”

treasure“Excess” is the magic word here: as in “excess supply,” which is something we have a lot of these days in higher-end wines. Ever since the bottom dropped out of the fine wine market two years ago, good wines has been accumulating in wineries and warehouses all over California. With a couple of vintages still unsold, the last thing a winery wants to do is bottle more wine, or at least bottle too much more wine. So they quietly release some of their wine for sale, often already bottled, and savvy buyers snap them up.

One such buyer is Treasure Hunter Wines, which calls itself a negociant. It’s one of four labels from 3 Finger Wine Company, which is owned by a winemaker, a fourth generation farmer and an entrepreneur (they’re the “3 fingers,” get it?).

The 3 Finger guys find excess juice from high-end California wineries who don’t want to devalue their label by selling their wine at less than full price. Negociants like these guys (and Cameron Hughes, too) buy top-quality juice from appellations such as Rutherford and Oakville and release them under their own name at a fraction of the regular price. I think this works for all of us:  the wineries recoup at least some of their investment, the negociants get a great product to sell for a profit, and wine drinkers get some stunning wine at a very reasonable price. As the 3 Fingers guys say on their website, it’s a “win-win-win.”

I just tasted the 2007 Treasure Hunter Oak Knoll “The Castaway.” This one is a blend, and although the grapes aren’t listed on the bottle, there are some pretty good clues about what it contains. In a nutshell: it’s kinda dark, kinda edgy, kinda earthy… but very good! The aromas jump out of the glass with dark fruit, vanilla and a hint of earth. The palate is rich but well-structured, with currants, blackberries, a little bit of spice and earth. Clearly, there’s a lot going on here, and the tannins on the finish say there has to be some Cab in this thing. And there is, but only 20%. The dominant grape is Merlot at 60%, along with 20% Syrah.

Now this ain’t no ordinary Merlot. If you look back at the label, you’ll see the Oak Knoll appellation and go, “Aha!” This is prime Napa Valley fruit, the kind of Merlot that’s got enough stuffing to masquerade as a Cab. We really enjoyed it, and it still has a few years of age-ability left. But if you’d like to try it, you’d better do it soon. All the Treasure Hunter wines are one-time releases, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. So start hunting for treasure now…

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