97pts Wine Advocate
The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon The Bard Blair Edition is a new wine, perhaps a one-off, to be released as a special offer in the fall of 2022, in part to help bridge the gap created by the nonexistent 2020 vintage for Realm. It is made entirely from fruit from the Blair vineyard in Calistoga and so comes close to the early vintages of The Bard, which mainly came from this vineyard. It is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.
Deep garnet-purple, the nose is a little closed to begin, slowly unfurling to reveal notes of warm cassis, blackberry pie, spice cake, cardamom, cedar and Sichuan pepper with touches of eucalyptus and pencil lead. Full-bodied, the taut, tightly knit palate is very structured, featuring a lively backbone and firm, ripe, grainy tannins, finishing very long and earthy. It will need time to show what it’s really made of, and then I suspect it’s going to be mind-blowing.
The 2019 The Bard Blair Edition is a one-off bottling created as a partial compensation for the total lack of reds in the 2020 vintage. Blair, a site in Calistoga, has long been a core component of the Bard, especially in the 2012/2013 era. In 2019, the Realm team took half of the wine and used it for blending in The Bard, and then bottled the other half as the The Blair Edition, Realm's first single-vineyard Calistoga Cabernet. An absolutely stunning wine, the Blair Edition races across the palate with captivating richness and energy. Gravel, plum, creme de cassis, chocolate, licorice and cloves give this statuesque red a real feeling of weight and substance. The Blair Edition will be offered in 2022. I won't be surprised if it becomes part of the lineup, as the 2019 is fabulous.
Sense of Place
Sits between Larkmead and Three Palms Vineyards; warm, rock, alluvial site
Higher toned fruit than The Bard; big personality but less complex
The Bard Reimagined
The Bard Blair Edition represents the first time Realm has taken what is traditionally a component of The Bard and bottled it as a Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s fitting to branch out this way with Blair Vineyard, the Calistoga site that’s been a source of Cabernet Sauvignon for us since 2010. In 2012 and 2013, the vintages that turned Realm’s fortunes around, Blair was the backbone of The Bard. As time has gone on and The Bard has grown in production, Blair has become a lesser percentage of the wine, but no less important. Sitting in the southeast corner of the Calistoga AVA with Larkmead Vineyard to the immediate west and Three Palms Vineyard to the north, Blair is a rocky, alluvial site formed by runoff from the eastern hillsides over millions of years. Vines here struggle in the well-drained soils, and the Calistoga heat, which we have learned to manage carefully, results in a rich fruit profile.
Another reason we bottled Blair on its own is to honor Realm’s long partnership with its owners, Greg and Patricia (Pat) Johnson. The property has been in their family since the 1950s, originally owned by Greg’s Aunt Cecilia. Greg, a veteran who spent 21 years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helped his aunt oversee Blair Vineyard in the late 1980s and 1990s, and when she died in 1996, she left the vineyard to Greg and Pat.
For several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s Blair Vineyard was bottled on its own. Greg and Pat’s son, Chris, a Fresno State University enology graduate, replanted the vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and used some of the fruit for his own small project, Blair Estate. Sadly, Chris died in 2009, and the Johnsons reverted to selling the fruit from Blair. With The Bard Blair Edition, we are excited to honor Chris’ memory and our long relationship with the Johnson family.