Napa's Cultish Cabernets
All notes courtesy Ben Sherwin
All notes courtesy MikeP
Thanks to everyone who was part of this. Bens comments about this being a contentious tasting is the understatement of the year. This was a raucous loud group with lots to say. But yes, fun was had by all. Leaving the pouring of wines to the individuals was tricky. More than once the bottle was dry by the 10th pour. (and Greg was not directly left of the shorted pouree all the time). I want to publicly offer a new CLONYC contract to Ben for his note taking. His notes are clear and concise. Reading them one not need to have been a part of the tasting to know what the wine tasted like. Well done Ben! It was nice to see old friends and make some new. The NY/CT crowd is awesome.
I have some impressions of my own on these wines;
1994 B&H- This initially seems flawed with v/a. There was some port like qualities that always put up a red flag to me, but some time gave the hint of a decent Cabernet. Additional time made it seem like v/a may have been the culprit. Synth cork not withstanding. Dump.
1995 Dalle Valle- This was flat and uninteresting. There seemed to be some v/a here as well. Didn’t improve, didn’t collapse, just didn’t. Dump
1997 Vineyard 29- Yes, now we are talking. Light in color but big on flavor. Great dark red cherries, this is a beautiful wine that is in a very great place. I think the company it was in may have been the reason it did not show well. Daniel P mentioned that this would have been perfect in the 2002 Blanket’s place…but who knew? Happy to have this on my table anyday.
1999 Merus- Initially a fantastic wine full of flowers (rose petals) crushed stone, blackberries and cassis. I think this wine is plateauing right now and in no danger of sliding anytime soon. This was a very early candidate for wotn, but then something strange happened; the 2002 Merus opened a bit and the Kobalt opened a lot. I never seen such a quality wine slide in favor so much in my life, and for no reason what-so-ever except for the company. My 4 for the evening.
2002 Merus- With youth on its side the 2002 was tightly wound and full of potential. This was an elegant wine with cassis, blackberries, tar, cocoa, and crème de cassis. I would not be disappointed if I had a half dozen in my cellar.
2003 Kobalt – Lush smooth and full of the qualities I expect in my better cabernets from a much better vintage, this was surely the new contender for WOTN. I love this wine and can only imagine the selection process used in 2003. A QPR Cultish Cabernet. My number 2 of the night.
2003 Switchback Ridge- Here we go. Afigginmazing. This had it all; Fantastic cassis, cola, anise, super dark cherries, and more. A purity that elevates it to the top of the previous group save for the Kobalt. My WOTN
2002 Blankiet- This was very 4 square and European in style. The tannins were hovering over everything else. The fruit was somewhere, just not in my glass. Needs much time.
ZD Abacus- Along with the Vnyd 29, this was overshadowed, but awesome. Great American oak(?) is the frontispiece. This was purple in color. Currant, cocoa, vanilla, dark berries, and some tar & leather. I really enjoyed this, but again, it was in a tough crowd.
2002 Shafer Hillside Select- Hmmm. I get why this gets its praise, I just don’t know what to make of it. The decant seemed enough. It had everything in a compact little space. The proverbial 5lb Bologna in a 2 lb bag so to speak. I sensed the oak and the fruit and the acid and the tannins, but sensing seemed not to be enough. Interesting to have it included. I can understand the 10-year rule imposed here.
2003 Scarecrow- I wanted to like this on hype alone, but time always reminds me my palate in not intuned with hype. Good. It was nice, but nice? Plenty to like here but Napa is full of wines that have plenty to like. Bottles you can actually get. Again, happy to have it in the group.
2004 Maybach- I seem to always be in the underdog crowd, but if drinking this was the underdog….bow bow. Sure its young, the youngest of the night. Sitting in my glass for 30 minutes it came alive. The elegance, the structure, and the beautiful fruit profile came roaring on. Given the year or so less bottle age difference its understandable the overall showing. Glad I have a 6 in my cellar. One wine to watch. My number 3 of the night, and that aint bad at all….(decanted 2.5 hours could have used 10)