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11.23.2012

The Legendary Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes

legends_sign.jpgLast weekend I had the singular pleasure of co-leading a tasting with the title Legends of Napa Valley. I wrote about my impressions of the tasting overall, and the lessons that it offered, such as they were, about the aging of Napa wines across the last five decades, as part of my monthly column for Jancis Robinson.

Now that I'm done editorializing, we can get down to the wines themselves. Below I offer my tasting notes for every wine that we tasted, in the order we tasted them. We tasted in four flights, two each day. The start of every flight featured at least one white wine, which you will see interspersed below at about every twentieth wine.

These eighty wines were quite a treat to taste. Did they encompass every legendary wine of Napa? Certainly not. Conspicuously absent were Dunn Vineyards Cabernet, Dominus, Turley Zinfandel, Futo Red Wine, and Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay, all of which I would have included had anyone bothered to ask me which wines should be on the list. I might have also included an older vintage of Keenan Cabernet as well. But there's no sense in quibbling with the list at this point, it was what it was.

For those interested in labels, I've got a gallery of photos at the end of this post, in addition to those I've sprinkled into the tasting notes below.

Enjoy.

TASTING NOTES:

2001 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs, Late Disgorged
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples, toasted levain, and roasted hazelnuts. In the mouth a soft and velvety mousse delivers flavors of baked apples, buttered and salted toast, marzipan and wet stones. Harmonious and rich, with a hint of leesy flavors. Stunning. 100% Chardonnay. Dosage from the 2010 vintage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10.

2004 Stony Hill Chardonnay
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of wonderful white flowers and delicate buttered sourdough toast. In the mouth, the wine is wonderfully silky, with a rich pastry cream quality and flavors of lemon curd, wet stones, and that floral note which reemerges on the finish. Lovely. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

1976 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay
Medium yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of marzipan and a hint of paraffin with dried pineapple notes. In the mouth, dried candied lemon peel flavors have a remarkable, bright juiciness with an extraordinary acidity still remaining. Mandarin orange zest and dried mango notes emerge in the finish. Tangy, juicy, and utterly compelling. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

2010 Grgich Hills Estate "Paris Tasting" Chardonnay
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered sourdough toast with notes of lemon legends-6.jpgcurd. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful saline quality, with floral and bright and juicy lemon curd with notes of wet stone. Excellent acidity and nice texture. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??. Not yet released.

1957 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir, Carneros
Light brick red in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, raisins, and brown sugar. In the mouth soft tannins provide a velvety backdrop to flavors of raisins, wet dirt, leather, and a bright citrus note that emerges towards the end of the finish. Still kicking at this age. Quite probably the first post-prohibition Pinot Noir made in what would come to be known as the Carneros region. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

1966 Charles Krug "Vintage Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon
Light orange-ruby in the glass with a progression towards brick at the rim, this wine smells of mint, cedar, chocolate, and forest floor. In the mouth, the wine still possesses wonderful acidity that brings to life bright dried cherry and cedar cigar box flavors. Faint, taut tannins and wonderful balance round out a wonderfully harmonious package, that is tasting quite well for it being a less than ideal vintage with a lot of rain. Aged for 29 months in French oak. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $175. click to buy.

1967 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon
Light ruby in the glass, heading towards brick at the rim, this wine smells of sweet prunes and cocoa powder. In the mouth, gorgeously smooth flavors of forest floor and cocoa lie dark and deep over the glowing coals of deep red fruit that still clearly show life. Gorgeous, long, and seamless, with great acidity. Fantastic. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.

1968 Beaulieu Vineyard "Georges de Latour" Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of rich port-like prunes, brown sugar, and forest floor. In the mouth, rich forest floor flavors have an incredible red miso / umami quality that, along with the acidity makes the mouth water and makes you want to gulp this wine. Powdery tannins are faint, like the most delicate lace. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $275. click to buy.

1977 Beringer Vineyards "Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of dark chocolate and mint with an underlying deep rich fruit. In the mouth, rich, minty cedar and dried cherry flavors linger long and gorgeous. Fantastic acidity and beautiful lightly tacky tannins. Remarkable. This is the inaugural bottling of the Private Reserve. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

1978 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of licorice and forest floor. In the mouth, very grippy tannins wrap around a core of rich dark dried cherry and wet stony earth. Excellent acidity and wonderful balance. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $200. click to buy.

1978 Heitz Wine Cellars "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of brick at the rim, this wine smells of wet earth and eucalyptus. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful lightness to it, with flavors of cedar, wet earth, dried cherries, and a hint of citrus peel. Long, beautiful finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $220. click to buy.

1979 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of brick at the rim, this wine smells of coffee and prunes and chocolate with notes of dried mushroom. In the mouth, tart sour cherry and quince flavors have a great acidic edge to them that makes the mouth water. The tannins in this wine are still somewhat aggressive and seem blocky, leaving the wine slightly awkward, but the flavors are undeniably delicious. Long finish. Roughly 50% of the fruit came from the To Kalon vineyard. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $110. click to buy.

1979 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "S.L.V. Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon
Cloudy, inky dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of slightly meaty dark braised meat, prunes, and cedar. In the mouth gorgeously juicy and meaty cedar, cherry, licorice, and forest floor flavors have a remarkable dynamism. Stunningly delicious and almost legends-14.jpgcommanding in its presence, with powdery tannins that are very sensuous. Gorgeous.13% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10.

1983 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of green fennel and cedar with a hint of citrus. In the mouth, bright cherry, leather, and wet stone flavors mix with taut tannins and a hint of green herbs. This is the first vintage of Hillside Select ever bottled. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 9.

1986 Raymond "Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry, graphite, and wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a bright sweetness that transitions to a wonderful sour cherry quality that pervades the wine as forest floor notes and silky/powdery tannins linger in the long finish with notes of citrus. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1990 Freemark Abbey "Bosche Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby in the glass with a hint of orange at the rim, this wine smells of dark earthy leather with hints of herbs. In the mouth, soft velvety tannins wrap around a core of wet cedar, dried cherry, cinnamon, and leather. Wonderfully earthy notes linger in the finish. 82.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.5% Merlot. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

1995 La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of dark mushroomy earth with interesting greenish fennel notes that are quite faint. In the mouth the wine tastes of rich dark cherry, earth, cocoa powder and dark espresso. The mushroom quality, which I believe to be brettanomyces, persists through the wine and ultimately to its detriment, but it is restrained enough to not spoil the experience. 14.1% alcohol. Both bottles available for the tasting were the same. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

1976 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of farmyard and cherry and chocolate. In the mouth cherry and cedar and tobacco flavors all mix with just a hint of farmyard (likely brettanomyces) that thankfully doesn't overwhelm the fruit. Lovely acidity and powdery but muscular tannins. Aged for 18 months in French Oak. 13.8% alcohol. Both bottles available for the tasting were the same. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $160. click to buy.

1979 Opus One Red Wine
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of forest floor, meats, cedar, red apple skin and citrus. In the mouth the wine has an effortless quality that is quite disarming. Citrus-peel brightness pervades a juicy dried cherry and tobacco core that is tinged with a wonderful herbal note that lingers through the finish. Gorgeously supple tannins and wonderful brightness. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot. The label oddly does not contain any reference to its alcohol level. This is the inaugural vintage of this wine, and quite possibly the best bottle of it I have ever tasted. Bravo. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $700. click to buy.

2001 Trefethen Chardonnay, Carneros
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of bell pepper and wet stones with a hint of lemon zest. In the mouth, lemon zest and wet stones and zingy acidity. Linear, bright, zippy, and quite tight, with just a hint of honey on the finish. Lovely, and showing very little of its age, even after 11 years. Remarkable. I did not manage to record the alcohol level of the wine. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1990 Duckhorn Vineyards "Three Palms Vineyard" Merlot
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, plum, and tobacco. In the mouth, dark cherry fruit with plummy notes is wrapped in very soft, nearly imperceptible tannins that seem to taste of cocoa powder. Wonderful acidity that brings a bright hint of citrus to the wine makes for a juicy and delicious mouthful. Hints of tobacco and cedar emerge on the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $89. click to buy.

1986 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of smoked meats, dried herbs, and leather. In the mouth deliciously juicy cherry and sour cherry flavors mix with a zingy, almost saline legends-25.jpgcitrusy note. Fantastic acidity and powdery faint tannins wrap around the core of fruit. Tasted out of magnum. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

1988 Clos Du Val "Reserve" Proprietary Red Wine, Stag's Leap District
Medium to dark ruby with a hint of purple in color -- remarkably youthful for its age -- this wine smells of earth, and graphite and cigar box. In the mouth the wine is smooth and cool and stony, with cherry and red apple skin, cedar and tobacco in the finish. Fantastically juicy acidity has a citronella quality. Fabulous. Aged for 25 months in French oak. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Merlot. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

1992 Araujo "Eisele Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of gorgeously sweet cherry and tobacco aromas with hints of greenish herbs. In the mouth, this wine is incredibly juicy with flavors of cherry, wet earth and green herbs that have a depth and complexity that nearly bowls me over. The acidity is truly unbelievable and the finish soars on forever. Perfectly balanced and utterly compelling, this wine is almost impossible to spit out, and immediately had me furtively thinking about stealing whatever drops might be left in the glasses of my neighbors. The fruit for this wine came from the original Block Three of the Eisele Vineyard, planted in 1964. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 10. Cost: $2565. click to buy.

1992 Caymus Vineyards "Special Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of tobacco, dark red fruit and a trace of new oak. In the mouth, a core of pure cherry fruit is wrapped in well-integrated new oak. Excellent balance, good acidity, and a nice herbal note that lingers in the finish. Spent 30 months in wood. Elegant and very pretty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $180. click to buy.

1997 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Grown
Very dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of ultra-ripe black cherry, cassis, and tobacco. In the mouth, sweet flavors of cassis, black cherry, and wet earth are wrapped in powdery, mouth coating tannins. Rich, ripe, and dark, with a grapey youthfulness, this wine has a sweetness that is quite candied and not to my taste. I'm not sure if the sweetness here is residual sugar or just the sweetness of glycerol that accompanies the substantial 15.5% alcohol. Despite being high octane, there is no trace of heat on the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $800. click to buy.

1999 St. Supery "Dollarhide Estate Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby in the glass with a slight cloudy cast, this wine smells of sweet black cherry and tobacco aromas. In the mouth, dark black cherry fruit is wrapped in muscular tannins that coat the mouth, while excellent acidity keeps the wine quite alive. A hint of smokiness and earthiness lingers in the finish. Quite expressive and powerful, but not overwhelming. Gorgeous. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $73. click to buy.

1999 Pine Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Dark ruby in the glass with a hint of purple left in it, this wine smells of cherry cola and licorice. In the mouth cherry cola and cocoa powder flavors are wrapped in faint powdery tannins. Good acidity, but some alcoholic heat comes through the finish. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petite Verdot, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2002 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO" Cabernet Sauvignon
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry cola. In the mouth, the wine has a bright purity of cherry cola flavor that is remarkable and juicy. Powdery tannins coat the mouth but have a delicacy to them that is quite elegant. The excellent acidity makes this wine mouthwateringly delicious. Incredibly easy to drink. 14.7% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2002 Chappellet "Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark garnet in the glass with some ruby color showing on the rim, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth the wine has a bright aromatic sweetness to it that carries a core of cassis and black cherry fruit married to a darker underbody of smoky earthy notes that are quite compelling. Excellent balance, great acidity. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2001 Corison "Kronos Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry with a hint of mint and earth and raw, wet rocks. In the mouth incredibly bright cedar and cherry flavors have herbal undertones and wild floral overtones that are quite compelling. Stunning acidity and balance, with remarkable purity and length and a real sense of stoniness coming through in the finish.legends-32.jpgFaint suede-like tannins hang to the background of perception and provide supporting muscle for the ballet dancer that this wine is on the palate. Outstanding. Tasted out of magnum. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $135. click to buy.

2002 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raisins and prunes. In the mouth very ripe raisined fruits mix with cedar and chocolate, and these flavors combine with a sort of leathery note. Somewhat overripe to my taste, but the plush tannins and good acidity keep this wine easy to drink. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2005 Spring Mountain Vineyard "Elivette" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District
Dark garnet in color and throwing a bit of sediment, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco and wet earth with the tiniest hint of new oak. In the mouth, bright acidity makes flavors of cherry, cocoa powder, espresso, and cedar come alive. Wonderfully integrated wood is almost imperceptible in its presence, subsumed by great fruit and wonderful acidity. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. Great finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2007 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark garnet in the glass and looking surprisingly youthful, this wine smells of cassis and cherry. In the mouth the wine has a brightness and juiciness to it that is quite compelling. Sour cherry and cassis flavors are married to dusty earth undertones, and a sour cherry quality lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2005 Frank Family Vineyards "Winston Hill Vineyard" Red Wine, Rutherford
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of espresso, cocoa powder, and tobacco with a deep red fruit underneath. In the mouth, sweet cherry and tobacco take on a hint of new oak. Great acidity makes the fruit quite juicy. A Blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, and 4% Petite Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2006 Cardinale Proprietary Red Wine
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry and cassis with a rumbling darkness of wet earth. In the mouth the wine has a burliness that is extraordinary as dark rich cherry and cassis flavors seem strained through wet earth and Turkish coffee. Great acidity keeps the wine drinkable even in its massive darkness. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot, with fruit from Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain. Mount Veeder, St. Helena, Stag's Leap, as well as specifically To Kalon vineyard. 1500 cases made. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $240. click to buy.

2007 Lokoya Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
Inky dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and smoky graphite. In the mouth flavors of cassis and black cherry are closed tightly in a fist of powdery, muscular, teeth-coating tannins that rather gruffly insist that this wine be put back on the shelf for five or ten years. The dark cassis fruit has excellent acidity, and floral notes linger in the finish. Quite young and needs time. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $250. click to buy.

1988 Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs
Medium gold in the glass with incredibly fine bubbles, this wine smells of marzipan, baked apples, and parchment. In the mouth the wine offers a delicate and subtle mousse with flavors of grilled lemon peel, roasted nuts, white flowers, and notes of saline and beeswax and toasted bread. Somewhat narrow in its expression. Bottled in 1989, and aged on its lees for 20 years. 100% Pinot Noir, zero dosage. Exact alcohol level unknown. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2002 Ramey "Hyde Vineyard" Chardonnay, Carneros
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, buttered sourdough, and lemon curd. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful creamy silkiness, with flavors of pastry cream, lemon curd, and tropical fruits. Slightly lower acidity than I would like, but seamless on the palate and a wonderful integrated whole, with no overt oak quality. Showing very little sign of its age. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2006 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of pineapple and mango and vanilla. In the mouth, intense tropical fruits including pineapple and papaya mix with the sweet vanilla and toasted hazelnuts of new oak and. Silky, smooth, and sexy, but on balance, too rich and too oaky for my taste. Essentially this is a style of California Chardonnay that is thankfully going out of fashion 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2007 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, tobacco, and a hint of wet earth. In the mouth the wine is seamless and silky with an incredible broad and expansive presence on the palate. Rich cherry, cola, espresso and tobacco notes course over very fine grained, supple tannins. Excellent acidity and superb balance. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, and a tiny bit of Petite Verdot. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $210. click to buy.

2007 Sbragia Family Vineyards "Cimarossa Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis with notes of tobacco. In the mouth flavors of cola, cassis, and a creamy, chalky quality contribute to an overall weighty presence on the palate. Decent acidity and powdery mouth-coating tannins. Long finish. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2004 Macauley "Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco with notes of dark chocolate and raisins. In the mouth, intense dark black cherry fruit has a remarkable weightlessness on the palate thanks to bright, juicy acidity. Cola notes and deeper chocolate notes linger through the finish along with a creamy quality that is quite legends-46.jpgcompelling. Soft, velvety tannins. Gorgeous. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $??. click to buy in large format.

2009 Bacio Divino Cellars "Janzen - Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and blueberry. In the mouth, rich blueberry and cassis flavors are wrapped in a firm glove of mouth-coating tannins. Excellent acidity counterpoints this massively structured blue and dark fruit. Very long finish. 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.

2009 TOR "Clone 337 - Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich, dark cassis and chocolate. In the mouth, intense cassis, chocolate, and violets mix beautifully amidst a fine mist of powdery tannins that hang faintly in the background. Long finish, decent acidity. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2010 Carter Cellars "The O.G. - Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry with notes of blueberry. In the mouth, bright, juicy blueberry and cassis fruit with high toned qualities sit on a bed of velvety tannins. Gorgeous texture, and excellent acidity. Very little signature of its 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2010 12C Wines "Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoky cassis, licorice, and blueberry notes. In the mouth, cassis and blueberry flavors mix with deeper cola nut and licorice flavors. Excellent acidity and mouth-coating tannins, this wine has a massive quality to it. Some alcoholic heat washes up in the finish however. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.Cost: $75. click to buy.

2010 Myriad Cellars "Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, cigar box and dark chocolate aromas. In the mouth the wine is incredibly balanced and seamless. Totally effortless, this wine has incredible dark chocolate and cherry and a hint of cedar on the finish. Fantastic delicate powdery tannins. Expressive, great acidity, wow. Never would have guessed at its 15.1% alcohol, which thanks to the acidity plays little role in the perception of the wine. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $120.

2009 Realm Cellars "Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of chocolate covered blueberries. In the mouth, ubiquitous tannins hang like a fleece blanket draped over the muscular flavors of blueberry, cassis, and chocolate. A high-toned floral quality lingers in the finish along with the tannins and a hint of aromatic sweetness. Contains 3% Petite Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2009 Paul Hobbs Winery "Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and blueberries with deep black cherry bass note underneath. In the mouth, the wine has aggressive, tacky tannins that grip flavors of cassis, black cherry, and wet dirt. Great acidity balances the aggressive tannins, but this is a wine that will reward some extended aging. Balanced, and extremely well crafted. No trace of its 15.2% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $160. click to buy.

2010 Alpha Omega "Beckstoffer To Kalon North" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of wet dirt and dark black cherry fruit. In the mouth, rich and profoundly thick mouth coating tannins create a dark and resonant cave in which deep flavors of black cherry and chocolate brood stormily. Richly textured, and weighty on the tongue, the wine has good acidity and a nice balance, though it's hard to get away from the fact that this is a massive wine. For me, this is unquestionably the best wine I've tasted from this producer. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $??. Not yet released.

2009 Morlet "Coeur de Vallee Beckstoffer To Kalon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco. In the mouth the wine has a brightness and juiciness that is impossible not to love, as its bright flavors of cherry and tobacco and cocoa powder bounce along the palate with juicy acidity, even while a skein of fine-grained tannins settle over the palate. 24% Cabernet Franc adds a hint of greenish herb to the wine much to its benefit. Remarkable. I never would have guessed at its 15.2% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10.. Cost: $175. click to buy.

2009 Schrader Cellars "GIII - Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis with floral notes on top. In the mouth, the wine is bright and lively with rich, bright, juicy black cherry, powdery tannins. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit quite juicy and weightless on the palate. Incredibly broad, expansive, and silky, with a very long finish. Extraordinary. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $399. click to buy.

2008 Kapcsandy Family Winery "Roberta's Reserve" Red Wine, Yountville
Medium to dark garnet in the glass this wine smells of incredible floral and plum aromas. In the mouth, gorgeously juicy plum and tobacco flavors are coated in supple suede-like tannins. Excellent acidity and fantastic balance. 96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $375.

2009 Blankiet Estate "Paradise Hills Vineyard" Proprietary Red Wine
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black tea leaves, licorice, and pencil lead through which an intense blueberry fruit shows. In the mouth, the wine is expansive and broad, with flavors of pencil lead, dark black cherry, chocolate / cocoa powder, and licorice. Fine grained tannins, excellent acidity, and remarkable balance. Dark and mysterious and quite compelling. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $185. click to buy.

2006 David Arthur Vineyards, Estate Cabernet
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of prunes and cedar. In the mouth aggressive tannins hang in the front of the mouth and wrap around cherry and cedar flavors, while deeper earthy flavors linger through the finish with hints of cedar. Decent acidity. Somewhat incomplete. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2009 Fantesca Estate Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple, honey, and ripe apples. In the mouth, bright pineapple and lemon curd flavors have a hint of woody bitterness and a wet stone quality. Good acidity. Partially barrel fermented, not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

[For those wondering why a Sonoma County Chardonnay was included in this tasting, it was part of a group of wines that featured the winemaking of Heidi Peterson Barrett. Fantesca is one of her newer clients in Napa, and their Chardonnay happens to be made from Sonoma fruit.]

2002 Amuse Bouche Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of leather and chocolate and a hint of mint. In the mouth the wine offers dried plum and cherry flavors with hints of dried currants. Light powdery tannins mix with minty and black tea/coffee flavors. A blend of mostly Merlot and about 3% Cabernet Franc. Excellent. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

1989 Dalla Valle Vineyards "Maya" Proprietary Red Wine
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoked meats and oiled leather. In the mouth dried cherry, leather, parchment, and cedar mix with tannins that are still quite stiff. Black tea and nutmeg notes mix with the dried fruit. Somewhat tired, this is not showing as well as other old bottlings of this wine I have had recently. A blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $300. click to buy.

1992 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and graphite and red cherry. In the mouth the wine has a clean, crystalline quality that is quite excellent, with bright cherry, graphite, wet earth and leather flavors. Leathery tannins grip the tongue firmly but with a nice velvety feel. Juicy and delicious. Nice acidity. Where has this wine been all my life? 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $135. click to buy.

2005 Lamborn Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, pure, cassis and black cherry fruit with such clarity and presence it makes me swoon. With time the toast of oak emerges from the glass as well. In the mouth, the wine is bright and juicy and incredibly delicious with notes of graphite and espresso giving away the presence of new oak, but nicely integrated with rich and juicy fresh bing cherry and cola nut flavors. The fruit is wrapped in a jacket of muscular but not brawny tannins. While clearly done in the modern Napa style, this wine is a fantastic example of the form. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $130.

2009 La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth cassis and black cherry fruit flavors are wrapped in a suede blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps the wine lively. Long finish. A bit of Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cab Franc have been added in, though I am unsure of the percentages. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2009 La Sirena "Art Bus" Red Wine
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black pepper with a hint of black cherry. In the mouth the wine is juicy with a wonderful balance between spicy white pepper and blueberry and blackberry fruit. Lightly grippy tannins mix with a smoky quality as floral notes also join the finish. Tasty. A blend of 70% Syrah, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $114. click to buy.

2007 Dana Estates "Helms Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberries, cassis, raisins, and dark chocolate In the mouth the wine has a dark intensity with rich black cherry and chocolate fruit. Bright juicy acidity keeps the wine incredibly pure and smooth on the palate. Silky tannins that seem to have a sweetness to them that is quite compelling linger through the long finish. Gorgeous and quietly elegant. Yes, quietly, despite its significant 15.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $275. click to buy.

2009 Gemstone Estate Red Wine, Yountville
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of new oak with some dark blue fruit peeking through. In the mouth lightly sweet fruit and tannins have a nice bright acidity while stiff tannins grip the edge of the palate and front of the mouth. The tannins are drying and leave the mouth somewhat chalky and slightly bitter on the finish. Overdone. 15.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2009 Vineyard 29 "29 Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit has a great lift to it thanks to bright acidity. The fruit is wrapped in a thick fleecy blanket of tannin. Cedar notes have a sweetness to them that turns floral on the finish. Contains 4% Petite Verdot. Nicely balanced even at 15.3% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $220. click to buy.

2009 Blackbird Vineyards "Paramour" Proprietary Red Wine
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, plum, and espresso. In the mouth the wine is juicy and lush, with plummy cherry and notes of wood, leather, and green herbs. Wonderful acidity, nicely leathery tannins, and a long finish. 61% Cabernet Franc,legends-70.jpg 25% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2009 Patel Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and tobacco with hints of cola nut. In the mouth the wine is explosively juicy with fantastically bright cherry and tobacco flavors that are shot through with fantastic acidity. Remarkably silky, and frankly just stunning in its overall balance and complexity. Nearly knocked me off my chair it was so damn good. 250 cases made. A blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 12% Malbec. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $110.

2007 Herb Lamb Vineyards "HL Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of bright black cherry and cassis fruit. In the mouth juicy bright cassis and black cherry fruit is wrapped with muscular tannins, but remains juicy and bouncy thanks to great acidity. Wonderful finish with hints of licorice. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2007 Colgin Cellars "IX Estate" Proprietary Red Wine
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cassis and black cherry fruit. In the mouth sweet cherry and cassis fruit has a bright seamlessness to it. The fruit is quite juicy thanks to excellent acidity, and a wave of lacy tannin sweeps over the palate as the wine finishes with a sweetness that is almost, but not quite, candied, even as a deep earthiness that rumbles underneath this bright fruit. This is clearly a tremendous wine, I just wish it was slightly less sweet. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, with the remaining 10% a blend of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. 15.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $525. click to buy.

2009 Hundred Acre "ARK Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of raisins and prunes, with notes of leather. In the mouth the fruit is dried and nutty with tight tannins, and frankly resembles a wine 10+ years or older, and not in a particularly good way. I would swear that this wine was prematurely oxidized, except the other bottles were the same. Good acidity, but very, very odd. 15.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

2001 BOND "St. Eden" Proprietary Red Wine, Oakville
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cool cherry, earth, and graphite aromas. In the mouth the wine is explosively juicy with fantastic acidity and flavors of cherry, cedar, and a wet chalkboard slatey quality that is really remarkable. Incredibly fine grained tannins play a powdery mist against the juiciness of the acidity while the fruit takes a floral, exotic turn through the exceptionally long finish. Wow. Please wait while I pick up my clothes and put them back on. Tasted out of magnum 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 10. Cost: $349. click to buy.

1991 Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine, Oakville
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, dried cherries, and forest floor. In the mouth, bright cedar and dried cherries offer expansive floral notes. Wonderful juicy fruit still remains in this wine, silky tannins, long finish of cedar and leather, and wonderful sweet aromatics. I'm surprised this wine isn't tasting a little more youthful at this stage, but it is quite tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $795. click to buy.

2006 Quintessa Proprietary Red Wine, Rutherford
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy dried cherry, chocolate, and leather. In the mouth voluminous tannins are broad and massive with the bright cherry fruit somewhat hiding underneath. There's a creamy, aromatic sweetness to the wine that is quite compelling. The question of what will happen to these tannins is worthwhile to ask, but opening the wine in 4 or 5 years will tell us. Big boned, but really beautiful. 14.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2009 Continuum Proprietary Red Wine
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of sweet, candied cassis. In the mouth sweet cassis and black cherry fruit are wrapped in thick, suede-like tannins. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit juicy, but I wish there were less overt sweetness to the wine and some more savory notes, but it's hard to deny that this is quite a well made wine with much life ahead of it. Try it again in four or five years. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.

2009 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cassis and black cherry with a hint of nuttiness. In the mouth juicy and slightly sweet flavors of cassis, cola, and black cherry all swirl with a bright sparkly note thanks to excellent acidity. Velvety tannins persist in the mouth for a long time with cassis, violets, and wet dirt flavors that are quite charming. Seamless and balanced, but I wish it was slightly less sweet. Nonetheless, a stunning wine, and definitely showing better than when I tasted it back in April. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $1650. click to buy.

NV ZD Wines Abacus XIV (1992-2011) Cabernet Sauvignon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of roasted hazelnuts, new oak and chocolate. In the mouth chocolate and new oak flavors are layered with cherry, cedar, and caramel notes. Quite layered and exquisite with excellent acidity and supple tannins. Quite pretty. A blend of 20 vintages of ZD reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, from 1992 to 2011. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $445. click to buy.



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Comments (6)

Sean Spratt wrote:
11.26.12 at 12:32 AM

Wow...just....wow....you are one lucky man, Alder. Thanks for sharing.

duane wrote:
11.26.12 at 8:12 AM

Love this look back Alder. Thanks for sharing. Especially I was looking for your impression on the Stags Leap red and was oddly surprised at the longevity you're finding in the whites!

Chris Wood wrote:
11.26.12 at 8:40 AM

I suspect I'm not the only one who has sat for too long on bottles of good cabernet sauvignon producers from the 1980s when they were a lot more reasonable in price. I will sleep better knowing these cabernets are holding up well and that my one bottle of 1969 Martini Pinot Noir with good ullage isn't a mere relic. Much appreciated.

Ted H. wrote:
11.28.12 at 7:37 PM

What a well crafted post.
Funny how an entry like this gets only 3 comments and yet if you write a post on how many brain cells the average sommelier has- 400 people will engage in a masturbatory war that would shame even a grad from the Welcomgroup School of Hotel Administration.
Again, Thank you.

Bob Henry wrote:
01.30.14 at 12:30 AM

Hmmm ... as a longtime fan and owner of Stony Hill Chards, but a newcomer to this wine blog, some questions.

Quoting your notes on the 2004 Stony Hill Chard:

"... delicate buttered sourdough toast ..."

Contrasted with these "style" notes from the winery:

"... we crush and press the grapes with minimum skin contact and ferment in neutral oak cooperage. When fermentation is complete, we rack the wine off the lees, or dead yeast cells, in order to avoid the development of a yeasty flavor in the wine. We then age it in the neutral oak barrels, most of which are over ten years old, allowing the wine to develop and mature without absorbing an oak flavor component that could mask the natural fruit flavors. In addition, we avoid a secondary or malolactic fermentation in order to maintain the original acid structure of the wine and protect the citrus and apple flavor components inherent in the Wente clone Chardonnay grapes we grow."

(Source: http://www.stonyhillvineyard.com/about/style)

Where did that "butter" note come from? (Not from malolactic fermentation -- a practice avoided by the winery.)

Where did that "sourdough" note come from? (Not from keeping the wine on the yeast -- a practice avoided by the winery).

Where did that "toast" note come from? (Not from new/newer oak barrels -- a practice avoided by the winery).

Could it be your "expectation" of those signature bouquet components commonly found in California Chards overrode your actual sensory perception?

The mind wants to see "patterns" where none exist.

As for the line-up, where are the "legendary" Cabs from the decade of the 1980s: Heitz, Caymus, Montelena, Mondavi, Ridge, Dunn, Phelps, Villa Mt. Eden, Groth, B. R. Cohn?

This event was disproportionately tilted toward releases from the decade of the 2000s.

(Link to my single vintage, "single blind" comparative winetastings here in Los Angeles, attended by winery owners, winemakers, wine writers, wine marketers and wine collectors:

http://www.kirktech.com/bob_henry/ )

10.19.14 at 5:39 AM

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