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02.26.2011

The Best Cabernet in Napa: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2011

PNV11.jpgOne of my favorite events each year involves the opportunity to sample some of the best wines that Napa produces in a given vintage. At Premiere Napa Valley, an auction that serves as the world's most expensive "bake sale" to support the efforts of the non-profit Napa Valley Vintners Association, journalists like me get a chance to sneak a taste of hundreds of unique wines that are purchased by the nation's top wine retailers at staggeringly high prices.

This year, as every year, 200 member wineries each crafted a unique auction lot of wine that in most cases represents the very best wine that they are capable of producing. Some bottle five or ten cases of wine from their best barrel and some make a unique blend from their two best vineyard blocks. No matter what their composition, each auction lot must be a unique wine that will never be available anywhere else, and implicitly, it must be as good as possible, to ultimately fetch the highest price.

So what's the good in me tasting wines that most won't be able to buy, let alone drink for some time? As I swoon over some of these wines, I often ask myself the same question.

Some of these wines can actually be purchased by the public, though they require persistence to track down, plus a cavalier attitude towards the price of wine. Who knows whether anyone will actually get a chance to buy a bottle (let alone a case) of the Scarecrow wine which sold at $125,000 for five cases (more than $2000 a bottle) today, but I shudder to think what the price per bottle will be.

In recent years, the Napa Valley Vintners Association has been making a concerted effort to give the public access to these wines, and as a result, interested parties can look up the winning bidders on the auction site, and see which lots may be sold by the winning bidders.

If you're like me, however, you probably can't afford a single bottle of even the lowest priced wines from this event, so really, apart from offering a ringside view on the uppermost echelon of California wine buying, the Premiere Napa Valley auction provides three main insights:

1. The measure of demand strength for the luxury end of the Napa wine industry
2. A gauge of the quality of wine that a large number of Napa producers can make when they really try
3. A broad sense of the qualities of a particular vintage -- in this case, 2009

I attend every year for these insights, along with the fantastic food and laid-back camaraderie that accompanies the event.

This year's event saw a healthy jump in proceeds from last year, which could have been predicted from just the energy in the auction room starting from the very first bid, and culminating in the record-setting bid for the Scarecrow lot. According to unofficial PNV11_me.jpgestimates this afternoon, the auction brought in $2.4 million, compared to last year's $2 million. While no one in their right mind would suggest that the market is "back to normal" for high-end luxury wines, the demand shown today is quite encouraging for anyone with a $70 Napa Cabernet to sell.

With regards to the 2009 vintage in Napa, there have been some less than enthusiastic reports, largely due to the rains that hit mid-October of that year, which was in the middle of harvest for some, but did not really spell disaster for any. Somehow this rain overshadowed a largely perfect, even deliciously cool, growing season which made for excellent fruit development.

My experience tasting these auction lots found in general that 2009 was an excellent vintage for those who knew what they were doing in the vineyards, in particular for the nice acidity and very fine grained tannins that many wines seemed to possess. Some of the wines were excessive in their tannin, not to mention ripeness, which is to be expected from any cross section of Napa, but on the whole, the 2009s are excellent wines, which I think I even prefer to the 2008s. The best wines are bright and juicy, and quite accessible even in their pre-bottled state.

The Premiere barrel tasting is quite a marathon, especially for a guy like me who sets out to taste literally every single one of the 200 wines on offer. I have to work my ass off in order to get through them all. This year, I tasted all but two (Continuum and Levy-McClellan), who had run out of wine before I got there.

Despite being a several-hour-slog through a lot of big wines, I really enjoy the opportunity to sample fabulous work of 200 master craftsmen and women. By virtue of having my iPad with me (caught on film as you can see, by a friend of mine), not only were my notes legible, but I don't have to transcribe any of them, which usually keeps me from including the little bits of tasting data I record about each wine. I'm happy to provide these adjectives (shown in italics below) that are my personal notes about the wines -- not tasting notes from considered analysis of the wine, but initial impressions, and in some cases, snarky comments.


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10

2009 Scarecrow Wine "Toto's Opium Dream: Scene II" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
Bright medium garnet in color, this barrel sample leaps out of the glass and grabs you by the shoulder and whirls you into a sparkling haze of cherry perfumed belly dancers. Explosively bright and juicy on the palate, this wine can't help but bring a smile to your lips, as ripe cherry, cola, and hints of citrus oils swirl in a dazzling electric silk river down your tongue. Extremely restrained, fine grained tannins hover in the background at the far reaches of perceptibility. Great acidity and a remarkably light body make this wine a joy to drink. Utterly compelling.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2009 Barbour Vineyards Man Cave Blend II: Celia's Debut Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.Very rich bright cassis, cherry, long, pure, fine grained tannins, fantastic acids
2009 Blackbird Vineyards Cinq Cas Red Wine, Napa Valley. Rich, plummy, dark bright
2009 Chateau Boswell Winery A Place in History Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright cherry, fantastic, balance, rich
2009 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Hint of sweetness, really rich, bright lovely.
2009 Elyse Winery Blend, Los Carneros. Super bright, juicy, fantastic, lovely
2009 Gargiulo Vineyards OVX vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Hint of sweetness rich, cherry
2009 La Jota Vineyard Co. Blend, Howell Mountain. Bright clean rich, cherry, tobacco, crystalline
2009 Ladera Vineyards Two Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Lean beautiful, cherry, bright
2009 Lang & Reed Wine Company Last Stand Cabernet Franc, Oakville. Juicy, bright, floral, wow!
2009 Lewis Cellars Premiere Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich cherry, intense tobacco quality
2009 Moone-Tsai Cor Leonis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich black cherry, velvet tannins
2009 Oberon Wines Hillside Reserve, Three Elevations Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, rich, not too ripe, clean, fine tannins
2009 Ovid Napa Valley MMIX Red Wine, Napa Valley. Dark, rich, cherry, chocolate, cassis - thick, velvety tannins
2009 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich and bright. Cherry, hint of sweetness
1985 Schramsberg Vineyards Late Disgorged Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley. Bright, juicy, yeasty, apple pear, long finish
2009 Shafer Vineyards Sunspot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Tobacco, cherry cola, bright, fine tannins
2009 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Dark, cassis, cherry, earth, deep
2009 Spring Mountain Vineyard The Pearl Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Floral, bright, fine grained tannins, cassis
2009 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Cherry, tobacco, cola long finish


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2009 Anomaly Vineyards Fozzy's Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Rich bright, fine restrained tannins, cool fruit
2009 Antica Napa Valley - Antinori Family Wine Estate The Edge Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak. Stony, wet dirt, fine tannins, excellent
2009 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich cherry, bright, juicy, tobacco
2009 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Cassis, bright, grippy tannins
2009 CADE Winery Cade Estate Clone 2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Rich cherry, chocolate
2009 Chimney Rock Winery 2009 Alpine Vineyard Cabernet - Tête de Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Bright and smooth
2009 Cimarossa Poppy Flats Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. A bit sweet, but rich cherry
2009 Cliff Lede Vineyards Moondance Haze Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Bright, rich, velvety
2009 Coho SummitVine Ranch Upper Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District. Cherry, bright, fine and floral
2009 Corison Winery Premiere Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Delicate
2009 Cornerstone Cellars Davis Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Rich, cherry, delicious
2009 Coup De Foudre Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Rich, sweet, bit heavy on the residual sugar, but undeniably tasty
2009 Detert Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Oakville. Floral, bright, cherry, very nice
2009 Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, Cheryl, cassis, pure
2009 Ehlers Estate Three Clone Cabernet Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Rich, cherry, smoky, cassis
2009 Gemstone Brilliant Cut Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville.
2009 Grgich Hills Estate Petit Verdot, Yountville. Velvet, incredibly bright, cassis
2009 HALL Sacrashe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Powdery tannins, bright cherry
2009 Hewitt Vineyard and Provenance Vineyards Oakville Meets Calistoga in Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, pure, clear
2009 J. Davies Vineyards Jack's Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District. Cherry, creamy, velvety
2009 Jones Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Cherry, leather
2009 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Backus Vineyard/Las Rocas Vineyard Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Black cherry, rich
2009 Keever Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Rich cherry, tobacco, cedar
2009 Lagier Meredith Vineyard Incest Blend, Mount Veeder. Juicy, bright, hint of spice
2009 Lail Vineyards Henry II Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Tart bright, rich cherry
2009 Livingston Moffett Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Bright cherry, floral, juicy, fine tannins
2009 Longfellow Wine Company Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Smooth, clean, cherry, coffee
2009 Martin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Cherry, cassis, rich
2009 Peacock Family Vineyard and Somerston Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, cherry, bright, clean
2008 Porter Family Vineyards Duet Red Wine, Napa Valley. Spicy, rich cherry, blackberry
2009 Realm Cellars PNV Cuvee Blend, Napa Valley. Sweet cherry, fine tannins
2009 Revana Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Bright rich, cassis, cherry, long floral finish
2010 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. Rich bright, raspberry, cranberry, floral
2009 Schrader Double Diamond "B2 Bomber" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Ripe hint of sweetness, delicious
2009 Signorello Estate The Collaboration Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, rich, fine tannins, cherry, tobacco long finish
2009 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars The Alchemist II Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Fine grained, stony, graphite, cool, more of a Bordeaux style
2009 Sterling Vineyards Peterson Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District. Bright, pure, elegant
2009 Storybook Mountain Vineyards/Seps Estate Antaeus Reserve (Zin, Cab, Petit Verdot) Zinfandel, Calistoga. Juicy, zin, with a little cab, petite.
2009 TEXTBOOK Vineyards Professor Pey Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich cherry
2009 Thirteen Appellations Meritage Red Wine, Napa Valley. Cherry, juicy, nice
2009 Trefethen Family Vineyards Red Table Wine, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Bright restrained cherry
2009 Vineyard 7 & 8 Collaboration Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, though fairly sweet
2008 Waterstone Study in Red Red Wine, Los Carneros. Cherry, bright, tobacco

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2009 Alpha Omega Proprietary Red Wine Red Wine, Napa Valley. Bright, juicy, would be fantastic except for the 200% new oak. Ugh.
2009 Amuse Bouche Winery Merlot, Rutherford. Tart cherry, juicy, but bitter
2010 Ancien Wines Pinot Noir, Napa Valley. Rich raspberry
2008 Ardente Winery Grande Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak. Clean, cool, bright
2009 Arkenstone Vineyards What If Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Cherry, pure
2009 Baldacci Family Vineyards First Born Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Rich graphite and gunpowder, cherry
2009 Benessere "Last Man Standing" Red Wine, St. Helena. Juicy, spicy
2009 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Rich, dark, very ripe
2009 Bialla Vineyards Blend, Napa Valley. Cherry, lean, bright, juicy
2008 Boeschen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Ripe cherry
2009 Bressler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Hint of sweetness, cassis
2009 Buoncristiani Family Winery JAMN Black & Blue Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Tart, chart, leather, cassis
2009 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards Blend, Napa Valley. Exotic, rich, bright, spicy
2009 Clos Du Val Cabernet Franc, Stags Leap District. Fine graied tannins, clean, smooth
2009 Clos Pegase Antipodes Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, ripe, lightly drying tannins
2009 Conn Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Biodynamic, cherry, hint of vegetal
2008 Courtesan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, cherry
2009 Farella-Park Vineyards Terrace Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, rich, juicy
2009 Fontanella Family Winery Melanson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Cherry, rich
NV Freemark Abbey 77.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cab franc, 5.8% Merlo Blend, Napa Valley. Cherry, bright, smooth
2010 Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Yountville. Bright yellow gold, pear, apple, lemon, grapefruit
2009 Hess Collection Winery, The Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Very tannic, cherry, rich
2009 JAX Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, spicy, touch overripe, but good acid
2009 Juslyn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Bright, velvety, cassis
2009 Kristine Ashe Vineyards One Acre Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Juicy, spicy
2008 Larkmead Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, ripe cherry
2009 Long Meadow Ranch Winery F Block Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Cherry, rich
2009 McCrorie Family Vineyard Meritage Red Wine, Napa Valley. Interesting, bit of syrah in there
2009 Merryvale Vineyards Estate Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Cherry, ripe
2009 Meteor Vineyard Celestia (90% Cabernet /10% Petite Verdot) Red Wine, Napa Valley. Petite verdot, bright and juicy
2009 Miner Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Deep, stony, Bordeaux style, rich, 4-5 years needed
2008 Newton Vineyard Piece of the Puzzle Red Wine, Spring Mountain District. Bright cherry, velvet
2009 Nickel & Nickel Hayne Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Bright, juicy
2009 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Cherry, bright
2009 Palmaz Vineyards Single Favorite Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Ripe rich, bright
2009 Paraduxx Red Wine, Napa Valley. 65% Cabeernet, the rest, Zinfandel. Juicy.
2009 Patland Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 PEJU Demeter Block Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Rich bright, unbelievably thick tannins, needs a lot of time
2009 Raymond Vineyards Tribute to Generations Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Thick tannins
2009 Reynolds Family Winery "Uber" juice Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Bright, cassis
2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Grigsby Vineyard's 20th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Bright cherry, tangy, grippy tannins
2009 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Thick tannins, needs years, nice balance otherwise
2009 Sawyer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Espresso, graphite, hint of bunt match
2008 Schweiger Vineyards M Blend, Spring Mountain District. Cherry smoky cedar
2009 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Cherry, rich, bright, tobacco, cola
2009 Summers Estate Wines, Zahtila Vineyards, Barlow Vn Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Cassis and cherry
2009 Tamber Bey Petit Verdot, Yountville. Rich, ripe
2009 Tayson Pierce Estate Wines Cuvée Rothchild Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright cherry
2009 Terra Valentine Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District. Cherry, bright, plummy,
2009 Tetra ARTET Red Table Wine, Napa Valley. Heavy oak, grippy tannins
2009 The GRADE Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Bright, pure cherry
2009 Titus Vineyards Rain Beater Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, thick tannins


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2009 Amici Cellars Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Bright
2009 ARNS Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Cherry, tannic, bright fruit,
2009 Artesa Winery Foss Valley Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak.
2009 Ballentine Vineyards Petit Verdot, Napa Valley. Rich cassis
2009 Black Stallion Winery Heart & Soul Red Wine, Napa Valley. Cherry, tobacco
2009 Cain Vineyard & Winery François' Pick: Ancien Régime Red Wine, Spring Mountain District. Meaty, cherry, barnyard
2009 Cakebread Cellars Red Wine, Napa Valley. Tart, leather, rich, thick tannins
2008 Caldwell Vineyard and Winery Red Wine, Napa Valley. Super ripe
2009 Clark-Claudon Vineyards Briana's Song Petit Verdot, Napa Valley.
2009 David Arthur Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Rich, black cherry
2008 Domaine Chandon Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Medium bodied, light on its feet
2009 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Bright fuit
2009 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich cherry, ripe
2009 Heitz Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Tart cherry, lightly vegetal, earthy
2010 Hill Family Estate Tiara Sauvignon Blanc, Atlas Peak. Sweet, unfortunately
2009 Honig Vineyard & Winery Westside Trio Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. A little sweet
2009 JP Harbison Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2008 Kenefick Ranch Winery Pickett Road Red Blend, Calistoga. Sweeter than it should be
2009 Krupp Brothers Ringo Kid Bordeaux Blend Red Table Wine, Napa Valley. Rich, a bit too oaky
2009 Louis M. Martini Winery Cellar 254 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 Markham Vineyards / Ghost Block Blend, Yountville.
2009 Mi Sueño Winery Seleccion Herrera Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bunt cherry, smoky, a bit too sweet
2009 Monticello Vineyards The Five Boroughs of Monticello Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, smoky
2009 Oakville East Exposure Red Wine, Oakville.
2009 Oakville Ranch Vineyards Robert's/Anniversary Release Cabernet Franc, Oakville.
2009 Paoletti Estates Winery Nero d'Avola, Calistoga.
2009 Pine Ridge Vineyards 5X5 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 Pride Mountain Vineyards The Brother and Sister of (Volcanic) Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich ripe, cherry
2009 Renteria Wines Nuestra Seleccion Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Tart, plummy
2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Monastery Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Rich, tannins, dark
2009 ROY Estate Voix Basse (a whisper) Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 Rubissow Three Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder.
2009 Sequoia Grove Vineyards Gary Morisoli's Catch Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Super heavy tannins
2009 Sodaro Estate Winery Petit Verdot, Napa Valley. Rich tannic
2009 St. Clement Vineyards Progeny Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Bright, clean
2009 Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Tannic, woody
2009 Swanson Vineyards & Turnbull Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 Terlato Vineyards Tête de Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2009 Tierra Roja Vineyards Katharine's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Mountain to Mountain Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2009 Tuck Beckstoffer Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Overripe for my taste, black cherry, rasined
2009 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Juicy cherry, but a little too sweet
2009 VinRoc Wine Caves Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak. Smoky, oaky, hint of sweetness
2009 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiles Valley District. Taut tannins, strong oak, cherry
2009 von Strasser Winery Rudy's Choice Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District.
2009 Whitehall Lane A Blend of Whitehall's Six Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Very sweet, but nice otherwise

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2009 Broman Cellars You'll Think It's Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Quite ripe
2009 Castello di Amorosa Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Tannic, cherry, tobacco
2009 Crushpad Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Tannic
2009 Emblem Wines Oso Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Egads, too much oak
2010 Frias Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Juicy cherry, young yet
2009 Groth Vineyards & Winery Sweet Spot Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Cherry, tobacco, drying tannins
2008 Hestan Vineyards Stephanie Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Overripe sweet, crazy oak
2009 John Anthony Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Sweet, ripe, great fruit but too much residual sugar for me
2009 Keenan Winery Solitaire Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Tart, great acids, cherry, tight tannins
2009 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Tobacco, cherry, redwood bark, oak
2009 Rombauer Vineyards Stice Lane Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Ripe but a little bitter, extracted
2009 Rutherford Hill Winery Premiere Blend Red Wine, Napa Valley. Tart
2009 Silverado Vineyards SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District.
2009 Spotted Owl Vineyards Debut Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Heavy oak, heavy residual sugar
2009 St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Very ripe, raisin, prune
2009 Tres Sabores Petite Sirah, Calistoga. Sulfur quality, dark fruit
2010 Truchard Vineyards Sal's Selection Red Wine, Los Carneros. Unusual
2009 William Hill Estate Winery Bench Blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Sweet, over extracted
2008 XTANT Fifty/Fifty Red Table Wine, St. Helena. Heavy oak, dark, extracted

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2009 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Raisiny, over-ripe
2009 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Vegetal, woody
2010 Coquerel Family Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Tart
2009 Far Niente Martin Stelling Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Over-oaked, just too much
2008 Frank Family Vineyards Winston Hill Block 5 (Heart Block) Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Incredibly sweet. Too much
2008 Hopper Creek Winery Proprietor's Private Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Very sweet
2010 Madonna Estate Due Ragazze Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. Sweet raspberry, simple
2009 Maroon Wines Maroon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Sulfurous, overripe
2009 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Franc, Oakville. Bitter
NV ZD Wines Petit Abacus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Heavy oak

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2009 Buehler Vineyards Kindly Well Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Overripe
2009 Charnu Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Sulfurous, very ripe
2009 Havens Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Tastes like 200% oak, and then some. Youch.
2009 PureCru Napa Valley Secret 7 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Quite sweet
2009 Regusci Winery Block 3, Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Overripe, drying tannins
2009 Robert Foley Vineyards/Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Quite sweet, overripe
2009 Sabina Vineyards Blend, St. Helena. Burnt match, overripe

WINES SCORING AROUND 7
2009 Silver Oak Cellars Come Together, Right Now Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Enough oak to choke a horse, and only the barest hint of fruit in the background. Didn't know it was possible to have this much oak.

Comments (11)

Jim Caudill wrote:
02.27.11 at 8:00 AM

One of the other interesting challenges in tasting through these wines is that most are still in infant stage. The Hess offering, for example,would normally not be bottled until next August at the earliest, and then rest in bottle before release for another six to nine months. These are truly barrel samples. Having said that, it was a roomful of amazing wines and I admire your diligence in tasting every one. I doubt there are many who could make that claim. The scariest thing was watching you balance that glass on the Ipad, even with that special thingee. With all the bumping and grinding from the crowd, I was almost ready to start a pool on how long it would be before we'd find out what happens when an Ipad gets soaked in expensive wine. You also didn't mention the most interesting sight at the tasting, the former Utah Jazz center towering above the room at 7'plus, bringing wine to new heights....

doug wilder wrote:
02.27.11 at 10:55 AM

Alder, I confirmed it - you were the only one there with an iPad (and compliments to the person who did take that shot!) I never seem to get around to tasting anywhere close to all of the wines, and viewing your log points out that many I skipped were not inspired examples in the first place. Thanks for continuing to innovate and raise the bar for the rest of us. I used the little spiral notebook from ANV last year and found it perfect for scribbling notes. I didn't open the catalog once.

Regarding Scarecrow - I agree it was a very special wine. Upon tasting it I closed my eyes and thought back to John Daniel and Joseph Cohn standing in front of his house looking at an empty piece of Rutherford dirt in 1945 and agreeing to plant some vines to add for Inglenook. I can't think of any other Cabernet vines even half as old in the valley.

I am not surprised by the bid - Personally, I think the buyer got value at $2K per bottle; I wasn't there for any of the auction and only heard about the record bid this morning. The wine will likely never be repeated and is essentially as close to a time machine as any of us will ever experience. Congratulations to the Scarecrow team, the organizers and all of the vintners who made PNV2011 a success.

02.27.11 at 10:39 PM

Really a treat to taste the Man Cave collaboration right after it was blended on Thursday - glad that Jim and Celia finally have a chance to merge their enormous talents - happy to see it at the top of your list.

02.28.11 at 8:54 AM

Keep in mind that the barrels at PNV were the absolutely best, most delicious wines the wineries could make. That's the whole point of PNV. The wines we tasted may or may not be representative of the "regular" 2009s, which will be coming out over the next 2-4 years.

02.28.11 at 9:50 AM

But Alder, were any of the wines savory? ;-)

Evan Dawson wrote:
02.28.11 at 9:54 AM

Alder,

Thanks for the notes. I've heard a lot of buzz about Alpha Omega, but haven't tasted their wines yet. You mention the 200% new oak; I naively thought we had rounded a corner and we no longer heard people talking about oak in such silly, pumped up terms. I guess I'm wrong?

Hope they can gear back in the future. Cheers.

Kevin OBrien wrote:
02.28.11 at 10:34 AM

Alder,

As I said when you came by our barrel to taste, it is commendable that you endeavor to taste all of the wines at PNV. That makes you unique amongst some of your famous peer-group. It also ensures that selection bias doesnt occur as wines are declared The Best of PNV by critics who only taste 10-15 wines and miss the rest. I have seen it so many times...

On another note, you told me you had a chance to also try our 2007 TETRA blend this week. I would love to get your feedback on the wine.

Thanks again,

Cheers,

Kevin OBrien

Donald Sodar wrote:
02.28.11 at 10:56 AM

Great report - thanks
Look for us next year considerably higher up
Don Sodaro

02.28.11 at 11:00 AM

Wait 'til next year

Don Sodaro

1winedude wrote:
02.28.11 at 11:16 AM

Bro, you looked like you'd been in a bar fight with an enormous plum after that tasting (and lost! :-).

Great reading this because it's fun to see how our tastes agreed / differed for some of the wines (looks like we're in lockstep on the Schramsberg and Blackbird).

Cheers!

Mark wrote:
02.28.11 at 3:26 PM

Evan,

We're pretty familiar with Alpha Omega having worked a day of bottling with them last October. Not arguing with Alder at all here, I haven't tried anything of theirs for at least 6 months now, but the winemaking team isn't known for big oak driven wines. I think they've lost out on scores in the past because of being too restrained in fact.

Who knows, but I hope it was just one barrel, they're definitely well funded and willing to put in the time/effort for great wine.

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