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CLONYC 19- Napa AVA Distinction

If you have ever seen the movie ‘burn after reading’, you know the line from the very end where the FBI boss is being briefed about some spy activities that no one seems to know much of about the goings on of a few fools and buffoons, acting like spies, says: “So what did we learn here?--------Damned if I know”. He then shakes his head and closes his file.
That’s how I feel this morning about the many AVAs of Napa Valley. As you see, we had some wonderful wines, but aligning them with their respective AVA by either style or characteristics would be difficult for most MIT Scientists—who would have to have large cellars themselves, and WITHOUT their beakers and bunsen burners.What might have initially seemed futile actually turned to an array of wonderful wines with great company and grub, all on a beautiful June evening---and what’s so wrong about that?
That said, last night we put CLONYC 19 into the books. Its theme was Napa AVAs. We planned to sample a bottle of Cabernet from each and every of the official AVAs. We were short a few, but marched onward into cabernet hedonism anyway.

2001 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon –Diamond Mountain District AVA: (Pop & Pour) this changed moment to moment. Started great with good fruit, some nice balance and mouth feel. It did not initially show its age, but in 10 minutes sure changed to an older wine. Structure was persistent and overall a very good bottle indeed. 89

2001 Shafer Hillside Select - Stags Leap District AVA – Dark and ominous, this was tight out of the gate (as expected for pop and pour). Within minutes it started shedding its armore and black fruits started emerging. Wow, this is pure and precise with tones of refined black fruits of currant, blackberry and black plum. Some real nice cola notes amidst some tar, cardamom and soy. I kept this in my glass all night. It evolved, but in the super-flight at the end of the night, my new pour seemed a bit tired and fading. Still, all in all a very great Hillside from a classic vintage will always please in my book. 95

2001 EMH Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon - Calistoga AVA – Steve opened this early. Too early. It came across as a pure, but oldish cabernet with some remnants of beauty. Initially there was some burnt rubber on the nose, but that left quick, it had some correct cab features; some nice red currant, red raspberry, lead pencil shavings, cedar and forest floor. Others who have recently had it did not recognize it all sure agreed pop & pour would have been best. 90

2002 Caymus Special Select - Rutherford AVA – A very flashy generous Cabernet with tons to give. Stylistically appealing to many, maybe not me. It had great mid weight mouthfeel with goby red & black fruits. Balance seemed to lean toward a higher acidity. Great finish. Some great discussions about this, and it being a delicious wine, but most wanting more defining depth and character. I agreed. 92

2002 Bryant Family - St. Helena AVA – Ready for this? This is one of the most incredible cabernets that I have ever had. It had everything a Napa Cabernet drinker could, should ever want. Depth, elegance, structure, and reverence, all wrapped around some sweet black fruits of macerated currants and black cherries--Bing cherries—maybe maraschino cherries. Stellar and precise, this had lead pencil shavings, soy, worn leather, crème de cassis, kirsch, river stones, and more. Almost mystifying depth and purity that one can make cabernet dreams of. Made me want to find my pillow tout suite. 100

2004 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - Howell Mountain AVA – always happy to sample these, this was a revelation to many as its approachability. Opened at 9am, this was really balanced and super-structure, all while showing some elegance and class. It maybe suffered by the company it kept tonight. Dark black cassis with some kirsch notes, cola, sassafras and earth. Maybe a bit four square in style and if a bit of show can or should ever be warranted, this would be the time. 92.5

2004 Gemstone – Yountville AVA – Flashy nose, this is fragrant and showy. Reminded me of a Cali Syrah, initially, both in nose and taste. The palate had some redder fruits of red cherries, plums and pomegranate. A subdued currant note with some soy, tar, leather, and cedar. Some oak, some anise. I am a fan of gemstone, and again, this suffered from the company it kept. 91.5

2005 Fourteen Appellations- mixed AVAs- All over the place. It really never could do as promised, which is to display ALL the AVAs, this marketing genius wine stood a bit slouchy amongst giants. Really seemed a bit out of place and messy. Red and black fruits with some awkward balance. Short finish... 87

2007 Maybach Materium -Oakville AVA – Remember where I said the EMH should have been pop and poured? This should have had the 4 hours air-time. It opened with such a creamy oak profile, Steve almost screamed! Once it sat in the glass, it really opened and unwound by the minute to a very pure, elegant, somewhat showy cabernet. Having had all the Maybachs available, this sits in the number 2 position after the 2006 Maybach Materium. To me the 2007s in general lack structure. It had some black currant, crème de cassis, ultra pure and precise, with a light to mid weight mouth feel. A super long finish, it showed its pedigree well---with air. I might hold mine until 5 years. Tasted during the Super-flight this really came around and beat out the SHS. 93+

2007 Pott Wine CS Kaliholmanok Bel Canto- Spring Mountain District AVA – Quiet, pure, precise and focused, this held its own. Initially stylistically appealing to me, this had some wonderful structure wrapped in elegance, all while being confident and bold. After the Bryant, possible the most exact Cabernet on the table. Lacking the depth of the Bryant, this really was in my wheelhouse to start, it changed quickly to something resembling a Bordeaux, (hence the ‘Initially stylistically appealing to me’ comment) and then back to cali. Very interesting. 91.5

2007 Domaine Georg Rafael Cabernet Sauvignon- Mt Veeder AVA- This was the wild card on the night and it sure shined bright. Black and deep colored, this had a pure cassis nose with some cardamom, cherry cola, coffee, cocoa/mocha, sweet plums and lead pencil, all wrapped around some very structured and aligned tannins with a deft balance. A really admirable wine that managed to stand tall amongst the ‘trees’ of the night. A super QPR ($45ish +/-). A long clean finish. Very nice indeed. 92

Thanks to everyone for participating!