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02.27.2007

The Best 2005 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Premiere Napa Valley '07

http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/pnv_tasting-thumb.jpgWho wouldn't want to shop around at this bake sale, especially if there were free samples of everything? I joined nearly 1000 winemakers, restaurateurs, and retailers this past weekend at Premiere Napa Valley, the event which the Napa Valley Vintners Association affectionately refers to as their bake sale. As opposed to Auction Napa Valley, an event whose sole purpose is to raise money for charity, Premiere is a combination of celebration and fundraiser for the Vintners Association.

Premiere also happens to be the ultimate Napa insider event -- a place where winemakers and some of their best customers get to mingle and mix. Some of those customers come prepared to spend some pretty hefty amounts of cash ($2.1 million this year) during the Main Event: an auction of hundreds of barrels of some of the best wine made in Napa Valley.

These wines, along with the spectacle of seeing people bidding tens of thousands of dollars for them, are the draw that brings me back to Premiere every year. As I am distinctly NOT a Napa insider, I simply get a chance to taste a lot of wines that generally represent the very best wine that can be produced in any given vintage by the members of the Vintners Association. Somewhere between 150 and 200 wineries donate up to a full barrel (20 cases) of what is typically a unique blend, block selection, single vineyard designate, or varietal from their best wine.

I typically try to arrive at Premiere in the morning and spend 3 to 4 hours tasting every single wine, and then I spend the afternoon resting my palate while I check out the prices paid for wines that I have either liked or loved. There is very often little correlation between what I like and what sells for the highest price at the auction, a fact which provides me a combination of amusement and shocked bewilderment at times. There's nothing quite like seeing someone drop $40,000 on 5 cases of wine I thought was just so-so while 10 cases of my favorite wines of the tasting sells for only $8,000.

At the end of the day, Premiere is one of the best ways I have of getting a handle on the recent vintage in Napa, and this year was no exception. Most of the wines on offer were from the 2005 vintage, and I can report that it is looking solid. Not phenomenal, but very, very good. The area of most variation I found were in tannin levels which in some wines seemed extremely out of balance. Of course, all the wines on offer were barrel samples, and tannins continue to smooth out with time, but there were some wines that were grossly tannic, more so than some of the worst offenders in Bordeaux. In my mind there is a difference between a wine that is young and tannic and in balance, and one that is out of balance and may never recover.

Premiere can also be a benchmark for what the wineries in Napa are playing with. Often wineries will bring some of their special or newer wines to Premiere (within reason -- they want them to sell, after all). It's always interesting to see the mix of wines that are on offer. They are most always red wines (this year there were 2 sparkling wines and one Sauvignon blanc -- all the rest were red) and quite often Cabernet. Perhaps my memory is unreliable, but it seemed to me that this year there were quite a few more Bordeaux style blends on offer than ever before, along with an interesting smattering of single varietals like Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Malbec -- who knew that there was excellent Malbec being grown in Napa?

One final note before we move on to my tasting scores. One of the frustrating aspects about the wines of Premiere is that because they are unique wines that are sold only at auction, they can be hard to find. In the event that you get the hankering to purchase these wines, however, you should know that many of them are indeed available for purchase from the retailers who buy them -- that is, once they are finally bottled and delivered (most of these 2005s will most likely stay in barrel until the Fall).

Those wines that will be available for resale are listed on the Premiere web site. With the wines selling to retailers at an average case price of $1781, you can bet they won't be cheap, but of course, these wines are one-of-a-kind.

TASTING NOTES:
Note that all wines are barrel samples with the exception of the sparkling wines which are, of course, "bottle samples" so to speak. Within the groupings by score, the wines are listed in no particular order (though they might actually be in the order that I tasted them -- I'm not sure).


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 and 10
2005 Hourglass "36 24 36" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 D.R. Stephens Estate "Moose Valley Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Peacock Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District


WINES WITH A SCORE OF 9.5
2005 Shafer Vineyards "Sunspot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Livingston-Moffett Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
2006 Reverie on Diamond Mountain "The Girdled Harvest" Malbec, Diamond Mountain District
2005 Cardinale Merlot, Howell Mountain
2005 Blackbird Vineyards Red Table Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Emilio's Terrace "Sophie's Rows - Special Selection" Bordeaux Blend, Oakville
2005 Robert Foley Vineyards and Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
1992 Schramsberg Vineyards "J. Schram Late Disgorged" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Bennett Lane Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Corison Winery "Premiere Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Flora Springs Wine Company "Terra 4" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Jocelyn Lonen Wines Malbec, Napa Valley
2005 Jones Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Summit Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Farella-Park Vineyards "Terrace Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
MV ZD Wines "Petit Abacus (1992-2005)" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Dyer Vineyard "Meteor Vineyard, Clone 7" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Darioush "Apadana Block: Exclusive Single-Vineyard Release" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Pine Ridge Winery "Epitome Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 CrauforD Wine Company "The Hidden Tattoo" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Louis M. Martini Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Groth Vineyards & Winery "Preview" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Spencer Roloson Winery "La Herradura Vineyard BLOCK ONE" Syrah, Napa Valley
2005 Ladera Vineyards "Two Mountains" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Grgich Hills Estate Petit Verdot, Yountville
2005 Ehlers Estate "Sylviane's Cuvee" Meritage, St. Helena
2005 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Cinnamon Moon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Amuse Bouche Winery Cabernet Franc/Merlot Bordeaux Blend, St. Helena
2005 Volker Eisele Family Estate 50% Cabernet Sauvignon/50% Merlot Red Table Wine, Chiles Valley District
2005 Lang and Reed Wine Company "Stanton Vineyard" Cabernet Franc, Oakville
2006 Bouchaine Vineyards "Auction Select/Best Barrel" Pinot Noir, Carneros
2005 Cloud View Vineyards "Pritchard Hill" Cabernet Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Paradigm Winery "CS4C" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Monticello Vineyards "CORLEY Proprietary Red Wine" Red Table Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Terra Valentine Bordeaux Blend, Spring Mountain District
2005 Sawyer Cellars Rutherford Estate Red Table Wine, Rutherford
2005 Artesa Winery "Granite Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak
2005 Thirteen Appellations "Fourteen" Meritage, Napa Valley
2006 Girard Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2005 St. Clement Vineyards "Star Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2006 Benessere Sagrantino, St. Helena
2005 Paraduxx Zinfandel/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc Proprietary Blend, Yountville
2005 Larkmead Vineyards "Larkmead Harvest 111" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2006 Carter Cellars Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Vineyard 29 "Premiere Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Reynolds Family Winery "Proprietary Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Outpost Wines "Inaugural Vintage of True Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2005 Joseph Phelps Vineyards "Backus Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Franc/Merlot Bordeaux Blend, Spring Mountain District
2005 Quintessa "Corona Sur" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 von Strasser Winery Petit Verdot Diamond Mountain District
2005 Spring Mountain Vineyard "Destiny and Fortune" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2006 CONSTANT-Diamond Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Diamond Mountain District
2005 Longfellow Wine Company "Vintners Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Spelletich Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 RUDD Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2006 Source-Napa "Gamble Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc, Yountville
2004 Vineyard "7 & 8 Cask 7 Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2004 Tom Eddy Winery "Block G-1" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 William Cole Vineyards "Hillside" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


WINES WITH A SCORE OF 9
2005 Barnett Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Truchard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros
2004 Etude Vine Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Ceja Vineyards Pinot Noir, Carneros
2005 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
2005 Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 O'Brien Family Vineyard "Seduction Late Harvest Cuvee" Bordeaux Blend, Oak Knoll District
2005 Fantesca Estate & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Arger-Martucci Vineyards Cabernet Franc Atlas Peak
2005 Brown Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel blend Chiles Valley District
2005 Pillar Rock Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Rubicon Estate "Clone 29" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard "Clone 5197" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
MV Page Wine Cellars "Touts Dans Le Garage" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Hendry "Special Barrel Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Chimney Rock Winery "Alpine Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Trinchero Winery "Stagecoach Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
1996 Domaine Chandon "Late Disgorged Vintage" Blanc de Blanc, Mount Veeder
2006 Frazier Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Cakebread Cellars "Dancing Bear Ranch" Bordeaux Blend, Howell Mountain
2005 Wolf Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, St. Helena
2005 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "The Peacock's Tail" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Atlas Peak Red Wine Blend, Atlas Peak
2005 Frog's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Revana Family Vineyard "Premiere Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Stags' Leap Winery "Estate Vineyard " Block 7" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 J. Davies Vineyards "Jack's Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
2005 Rombauer Vineyards "Stice Lane Block D Barrel Ferment Puncheon" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Beringer Vineyards "Ridge to Ridge" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Viader Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Swanson Vineyards & Winery "Schmidt Ranch, Block A" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Sequoia Grove Vineyards "Stagecoach Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak
2005 Rocca Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 The Terraces "Quarry Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Signorello Vineyards "Big Rock Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery "Spottswoode Estate Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Juslyn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Twomey Cellars Merlot, Napa Valley
2005 Napa Wine Company Syrah, Yountville
2005 Lewis Cellars "Premiere Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Paoletti Estates Winery Nero d'Avola, Calistoga
2005 Eagle Eye Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Kuleto Estate Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Summers Winery "Villa Andriana Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Stony Hill Vineyard Syrah, Napa Valley
2006 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir, Carneros
2005 Conn Creek Winery Petit Verdot, Yountville
2005 Newton Vineyard "The Puzzle" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Schweiger Vineyards "When Pigs Fly Blend," Spring Mountain District
2005 Bressler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Ahnfeldt Wines "Quid Pro Quo" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 and 9
2006 Robert Mondavi Winery "Nostalgie" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Broman Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend, Napa Valley
2005 Palmaz Vineyards "Tres Laderas" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Zahtila Vineyards "Oat Hill Estate Barrel Select" Zinfandel, Calistoga
2005 Nickel & Nickel "Sullenger Vineyard, Central Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Markham Vineyards Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
2005 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Regusci Winery "Block 11" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2004 Astrale e Terra "Castle Peak Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak
2005 Chappellet Winery and Vineyard "Heaven on the Hill" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Trefethen Family Vineyards "OKD 4" Red Table Wine, Oak Knoll District
2005 PlumpJack Winery Syrah, Carneros
2005 Rutherford Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 HALL "Sacrashe Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Clos Pegase "Palisades Vineyard -- The Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2005 Stewart Cellars "Special Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 William Hill Estate "Seven Sisters" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Miner Family Vineyards "50/50" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Far Niente "Stelling Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Mi Sueño Winery "Carpignano Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Cafaro Cellars "Cafaro Family Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Peju "Three Muses" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Hartwell Vineyards "Highland Red" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2004 Martin Estate "Puerta Dorada Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Clos Du Val Wine Co., Ltd. "667" Pinot Noir, Carneros
2005 Merryvale Vineyards "Triple Crown" Red Table Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Judd's Hill "Bodacious Barrel '05" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Bravante Vineyards Bordeaux Blend, Howell Mountain
2005 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar 61% Cabernet Sauvignon / 32% Cabernet Franc / 7% Merlot Red Table Wine, St. Helena
2005 Sonador Cellars "The Dreamer" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Renteria Wines "Mt. Veeder & Stags Leap Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2004 Bourassa Vineyards "Katharine's Founders Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District
2006 StoneFly Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
2005 Diamond Terrace "Two Mountains" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Krupp Brothers Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Atalon Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Robert Craig Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2005 Provenance Vineyards "Beckstoffer's To-Kalon and Hewitt Vineyards Blend" Bordeaux Blend, Oakville
2005 Keenan Winery "Side by Side" Meritage, Spring Mountain District
2005 Bighorn Cellars "Bill's & Dick's Broken Rock Barrel" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Sterling Vineyards "Bear Flats" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
2005 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Long Meadow Ranch "E Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Oakville Ranch Vineyards "Callum's Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Arietta "Fantasia" Red Table Wine, Napa Valley
2005 Snowden Vineyards "Los Ricos Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO, Double Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Sherwin Family Vineyards "Stars and Stripes Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2006 Frias Family Vineyard "Single Vineyard Exclusiv"e Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Salvestrin Vineyards & Winery "Premiere Blend" Bordeaux Blend, St. Helena
2006 Dominari "Dominari Riserva" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Anomaly Vineyards "Indee's Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Amici Cellars "Jericho Canyon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


WINES WITH A SCORE OF 8.5
2005 La Jota Vineyard Co., "Howell Mountain Hill Block" Petit Verdot, Howell Mountain
2005 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Mitchell Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 NARSAI Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Clark-Claudon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Gabrielle Collection "Silver Stallion Cask One" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2006 Cuvaison Estate Wines "Swan" Pinot Noir, Carneros
2005 Duckhorn Vineyards "Candlestick Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
2005 Turnbull Wine Cellars "Red Soils Red" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Buehler Vineyards "The Kindly Well" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Hess Collection Winery "Elevation 1492" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 Mount Veeder Winery "Rosenquist Block 5" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 Flying Horse Winery "The Brass Ring" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Baldacci Family Vineyards "First Born" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2004 Freemark Abbey "Ahern Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2006 Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Anselmo Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 and 8.5
2004 Ardente Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak
2005 Barlow Vineyards Bordeaux Blend, Calistoga


WINES WITH A SCORE OF 8
2004 Helena View "Johnston Vineyards" Cabernet Franc, Calistoga

Comments (6)

David wrote:
02.28.07 at 8:29 PM

At what point does palate fatigue come into play?

Alder wrote:
02.28.07 at 9:57 PM

David,

Good question. Palate fatigue happens for sure. For me it happens in two ways. At about 250 wines I tend to hit a wall and my tasting ability rapidly drops off. Before then my palate certainly gets less sensitive, especially with very acidic or very tannic wines, but I do several things to keep it performing. I drink a lot of water every 20 or so wines, and I eat at about the same interval. Water and crackers or bread do a lot to refresh the palate. As do short breaks to chat with people.

But mostly? It's mental, and it's practice. I remember the first major tasting I went to a few years ago. After about 30 wines I felt numb. Now, I can taste and critically evaluate 30 wines in 20 minutes without batting an eye.

Justin Smith wrote:
02.28.07 at 10:30 PM

Alder,
Limited production is perhaps an understatement in this case...I didn't know some of these wineries even made these! (If you don't mind me asking) how much were tickets to this event? And finally, do you have any criteria for evaluating? ie, what gets an 8 or 9 etc.? Thanks for all the wines!

Justin

Alder wrote:
03.01.07 at 8:25 AM

Justin,

Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough in my writup. These wines are often a single barrel that these producers make ONLY for this event. They are special wines that are designed to be unique and not available in any other way than through Premiere.

I don't know how much tickets are to the event, as I go on a press pass each year (a dim memory suggests $700, but don't quote me on that). The tickets are made available generally through invitation only.

If you have questions on how I score wine, you can reference this post.

Justin wrote:
03.01.07 at 9:11 AM

Alder,
Thank you very much for the explanation and the link to your previous post. After reading your post, I realize I read a long time ago, but that it still strikes me as relevent and important to the blogosphere and tasters alike. Thanks for the insight.

Best,

Justin

Justin wrote:
04.02.07 at 2:06 PM

Alder, thank you very much for your kind words.
Best,
Justin

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