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CLONYC 23 The 2003 Napa Caberent Retrospective

Last night a few of us got together indulge in the nectar of our beloved Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Why is this different than any other night you ask? Good question. On this night we sample some Cabernets from an much boohooed vintage (and yes, granted, I did much of that boohooing), the 2003 vintage of Napa Cabernets. What a great night with a spectacular lineup. Everyone arrived hungry and thirsty and as usual, the staff at North Square did a fantastic job. The food always just right for the wines we love.
Thanks to everyone who was a part and who generously brought these beauties. Now onto it......

2003 Araujo Eisele- Intense and darkish, the nose of pure cassis and kirsch. A beautiful and elegant mouthfeel with smooth black fruits, cedar, a hint of vanilla and a touch of exotic spices. Such a wonderful expression that was polished and refined. A long finish to complete a near perfect package in such a questionable vintage. 95
2003 Karl Lawrence Dr Crane Reserve- This was slow out of the gate. Initially giving nada. After 10 minutes this started coming through. It had dark currant, Framboise, white chocolate and black cherry cola. Somewhat outclassed a bit by the Araujo. I have had this with better results numerous times, but I guess you are only as good as the company you keep. 92
2003 Hobbs Dr Crane- This went the other way: It started with some wonderful fragrant black fruits and spring flowers. Initially the palate revealed some expressive blackish-red fruits of plums, red currant, and blackberries. this had a bright feel to it which makes sense with a more red fruited Cab, at least to me. After about 20 minutes this became almost fabricated in its approach, something I always found in many a 2000 or 2003. Interesting to see the spin on these two wines and glad we put them together. 89

WOTF for the group (7/10) was without question the Araujo. Runner up was the KL with 5/10 votes .

2003 Hourglass- There was a reduction port-like quality on this that to me never subsided. A few thought it flawed, I was not sure about that. It did garner 1 vote for WOTF and coincidentally we might have 1 seat available for future Cab dinners….NR
2003 Blankiet Paradise Hills- You still with me? Good. Let’s speak Blankiet: I wish I can recall a Blankiet Cab I have enjoyed & I think the merlot is somewhat better. That said, this had distinct baby diaper quality that really never blew off. I called it ‘bad terroir’, but in reality this seemed like a TA issue. Shocking to find this in this wine tonight. Four people had this as their second wine of the flight, so maybe I have zero clue as to what I am tasting. NR
2003 Lewis CS Napa- I like to slip these types of bottles into mixes like this. They really add some dimension on the night. This was ex-Pride/Foley on the nose. Mocha, cocoa, malted and black fruits ruled. It was loud and rambunctious on the nose and palate with a bulldozer like attack. I loved it for its unabashed charge nonetheless. Black currant, cassis and super blackberries with hints of vanilla and oak, this was medium bodied and gorgeous. Not to be confused with the Araujo EVER, this was the polar opposite but yet still Cab and still enjoyable. No doubt this is a Cab. great QPR on the night too! 93

My WOTF was an obvious choice here. The group was 8 for the Lewis.

2003 Schrader RBS- If ever there was a wine I could call just by nose, Schrader is it. This had all of the hallmark Schraderesque components: it was flamboyantly classy with big black fruits that deliver in layers and a medium to medium plus mouthfeel. Pure mouth coating love of leather, dark soy, vanilla and cigar box. I always appreciate getting a taste of these early TRB Schraders. You really get a sense as to what he is trying to tell you and the message is clear: Enjoy my Napa Cabernet. If an issue could be found, it is in serving this with dinner or food for that matter; I think these are contemplative wines that deserve the stage all their own. 93

Blind wine: 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington). I knew what this was going in and what I expected from it was what was delivered; it was a pure and multi dimensional wine with some cool climate nuances of eucalyptus and menthol. not too much, but just enough in this recipe to add to the dimensionality. Long and broodingly dark, this has sweet currant, cola, Kirsch and hints of Asian spices. Power and grace all wrapped up as one with hauntingly finely meshed tannins and lilty acidity. A tremendous showing for this tonight in the company of many of its southern peers. 94

2003 Colgin IX- I did not get what others at the table got on this one. When I first tried it after about 30 minutes open, it was deep and luxurious. at the table 2 hours later it seemed uninspired and unmemorable. Sure, it had Cab components and showed up to the party, but chose to sit out the major dance portion of the night and you will never get to be prom queen that way. 89

This group was the toughest to formulate and the closest in the bunch yet. 4 people voted for the Quilceda Creek for WOTF. 3 people chose the Colgin and 3 chose the Schrader. The 2nd place stuff was all over the place as well. An interesting flight.

2003 Harris Estate Jakes Creek- Having always been a fan of this bottling, I was glad to get another look-see. It was pure and focused with black fruited profile that screamed ‘Napa Cab that anyone can’t but help love’. It’s great to come across wines that really remind you why you are here this night. Classically styled and a hint of the iron fist/velvet glove thing, this really kept pace on the nights lineup. This is what I seek on those quiet snowy weekend days that there seems to be no shortage of these days. Mark Herold made and it shows. 92.5
2003 Phelps Backus- Go ahead, ask me what the 92.5 above is all about. That wine happened to be served with this wine and this wine is awesome-ly Napa too. This was black as night with a hint of sweetness that really gave dimension and depth. Long and beautifully structured, this is the schnizzle that Cab lovers want. This wine has such a delineated bone structure that ooohs and aaahs could be heard amongst the fellas. I have ALWAYS loved this one better than the Insignia and the reason is simple: It is a cabernet sauvignon. Not a five grape blend that seeks house style, this house style starts in the dirt. 93.5

Six in the group are with me on the Phelps being WOTF, a tough but great flight that really bookended such a wonderful array of wines. This night's lineup started strong and finished stong. What else can you want? Especially from a vintage such as 2003. maybe the ‘07s will show better in 8 years after all…….

Araujo was WOTN with 5 votes. Schrader & Phelps with 2 first place votes each.

May all of your wine nights be as great as this one.