PerUs Wine. Always be humble and stay true to your roots, regardless of your success in life. Family is paramount. These are excellent truisms from PerUs founder and visionary, Anmol Bhandari – values he has carried throughout his life and career and have played a grounding role in the inception and ensuing development of PerUs Wine. His road to the Napa Valley has been an International journey. Anmol was born and raised in New Delhi, immigrated to the United States and built a successful career in finance – initially at Goldman Sachs and later co-founding Cians Analytics based in New York – a company that provides research and analytical support to international financial institutions.
He is also responsible for bringing together a select group of accomplished individuals in the world of wine to be a part of PerUs. Anmol was introduced to Dustin Wilson, Master Sommelier and one of the individuals featured in the wine documentary, SOMM. Both men met while Dustin was working at the acclaimed restaurant in New York City, Eleven Madison Park. Anmol and Dustin traveled to the Napa Valley several times touring vineyards and meeting select winemakers. During one of these trips, Dustin introduced Anmol to noted winemaker, Russell Bevan.
Russell has a led a varied life – he earned his Masters in Philosophy from Gonzaga University, worked in Minneapolis selling dental equipment, wrote a syndicated column which was published in the Wine Spectator and then became a self-taught winemaker with his first vintage in 2005. Russell has worked with a number of iconic Napa Valley based vineyards over his career, getting his start with Kal Showket (who used to own Showket Vineyards in Oakville before selling to Peter Michael). Russell identifies a select group of winemakers who he has been influenced by including Napa Valley’s long time winemaker, Philip Togni.
While Russell owns the premium 41-acre Saunders Vineyard in Oakville next to Dalla Valle and Oakville Ranch, he also works with a number of excellent vineyards in Napa Valley. However he maintains one significant requirement for all vineyards he works with: he must maintain full control of the farming practices.
Russell’s personality is considerable – he is a straight shooter, a doer, someone who thinks outside of the box and who has brought his own style of vineyard management and wine making to the Napa Valley. In contemporary Napa Valley wine making, he is leading the charge – working with some of the best vineyards in the valley and producing wines that are opulent and energetic and rich and well-textured, both on the bouquet and palate.
The first vintage of PerUs in 2013 was tiny, only 30 cases produced. Their production has certainly grown since then – built organically around top vineyard sites, excellent wines and the wine making prowess and personality of Bevan.
The label was designed by prominent graphic designer, Michael Vanderbyl, who has been responsible for some of Napa’s iconic branding (incorporating a simplicity, yet an elegance in his designs) including for Barbour Vineyards, Checkerboard Vineyards and Scarecrow among others. When he first saw the brand, Anmol was immediately drawn to its simplicity and its design similarities to Ganesh (the elephant-headed god in Hinduism).
Tench Vineyard is 42 planted acres on a site that grows premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (and what is rare for Oakville, a small part of the vineyard is planted to Sauvignon Blanc). The soils change dramatically from the east to the west sides of the property, to the east featuring red rocky iron rich soils that are characteristic of the eastern Oakville benchlands and higher into Pritchard Hill – and to the west, the property features alluvial and clay soils. As one walks this vineyard, it is fairly easy to see the dividing line between these two remarkably different soil types. This is a prime part of Oakville- their immediate neighbors are Screaming Eagle, Gamble Family and Gargiulo Vineyards.
PerUs wines are made at the state-of-the art Tench Winery on site (opened in time for the 2017 harvest).
One of Napa’s larger and more impressive vineyards is Sugarloaf Vineyard (at nearly 700 acres, vines flow in all directions along the rolling hills overlooking San Pablo Bay to the south and the southern Napa city limits). PerUs sources their Cabernet Franc from select blocks within the vineyard. This vineyard is predominately planted to Bordeaux varieties – growing in a part of Napa historically thought to be to cold to ripen red varieties. An important characteristic of this vineyard (despite its size) is a consistency of rocks throughout the property. Russell describes the site as a ‘no soil’ vineyard – when one has a chance to walk through block after block, one clearly sees what he means.
Rows of rock literally line some of the vineyard rows for as far as the eye can see. Despite the closer proximity to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay, it is this rock that actually helps mitigate some of the cooler temperatures at night. It acts as a huge heat sink or solar collector during the day and then radiates back some of this collected heat at night. Afternoon breezes often kick up – cooling things down later in the day. Fog is common in the morning. Hang time is long with harvest often occurring in October and sometimes in November.
Russell practices what he calls “aggressive farming” of the Cabernet Franc block used in the PerUs wines. This involves denuding (removing) the leaf canopy right around the fruit zone on the vines during fruit set (very early in the growing season). As a result, these grapes receive more direct sunshine throughout the rest of the season. When one walks this vineyard block (in stark contrast to all the neighboring blocks) one clearly sees the fruit isn’t immediately protected by leaves, leaving it exposed to more direct sunshine and air flow throughout the day.
And perception is not always reality. Several premium winemakers were offered fruit from the blocks that Russell now manages, but they turned down the offer due to the vineyard’s southern location and their perception that this vineyard is in a location that would not properly ripen every year.
The 2016 PerUs Janeen Proprietary Red (named in honor of one of the board members’ wives) is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon from Atlas Peak with 10% Cabernet Franc from the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. This wine is dark in the glass – its opulence immediately shows on the bouquet. Ripe forward aromas of blackberry, and black licorice are complemented by dark olive, old cedar box, cloves, mocha and a dusty characteristic. Perhaps the most approachable of the young wines we tried, offers a balance on the palate between ripeness and elegance. Fairly supple from start to finish, the wine lingers with firm yet fine-grained tannins.
The 2015 PerUs Alessio Bordeaux style blend (named in honor of one of the co-founders’ father who passed away) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Tench Vineyard and 30% Cabernet Franc from the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. Noticeably dark in the glass the bouquet is a captivating mix of dark fruit, dessert spices and floral notes. Shows aromas of milk chocolate, mocha, dark cherry and plum. Well concentrated but approachable, offers flavors of black cherry and blackberry. Shows a juiciness on the palate with mouth watering acidity – slightly tight and somewhat chewy tannins anchor the very long finish.
The 2016 PerUs Alessio is a bigger wine in its youth then the 2015 PerUs Alessio. However it features a similar bouquet including aromas of dark fruit complemented by dark chocolate and mocha. This wine certainly holds power and depth – releasing these characteristics throughout the palate. It is layered from start to finish, the wine ends strong, with a robust grip of tannins from both the oak and the fruit.
The 2016 PerUs Arman Cabernet Sauvignon (named after Anmol’s son) shows notes of blackberry, boysenberry, tobacco leaf, cloves and dark chocolate. On the palate, this wine is “a mouthful of energy” according to Russell – certainly an accurate description of its lively and powerful force. This quintessential muscular Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers significant density on the mid palate – anchored by long lasting, chewy, gripping, ripe and flashy tannins. This is a wine that in its youth would pair nicely with a big juicy well-marbled steak. This is a memorable wine sure to be coveted by collectors.
The wines are selectively available in the Napa Valley including at the French Laundry in Yountville and ACME Wine Shop in St. Helena. The wines are primarily sold direct to consumer via an allocation/membership list based on a personal invitation. However, those interested in acquiring the wines may also signup via their website by requesting an invitation code. This exclusive list gives one access to private events and to master sommeliers and well-regarded chefs. For more information and to become a member, visit: www.peruswine.com