Please follow my winemaker interview series! You can find this interview at the following link:
Drank over a four hour decant. Nose after pour is full of menthol and alcohol that almost masks the other more subtle notes of black plum and currant with tobacco. The acidity is very high… a definite food wine, needing red meat, or ribs. The texture fills the mouth with chewy tannins that are soft, but a touch rustic. This wine needs time to decant. After an hour decant, still shows big alcohol and menthol – overpowering the cherry and raspberry peaking through. After three hours, the alcohol has blown off and subtler notes appear. The fruit has moved forward and the plum and currant are now dominating. The menthol is now a subtle after-taste. The mid-palate has tobacco, oak and vanilla moving to a dark chocolate finish that turns a touch bitter and lasts forever… This is a premium Napa Cabernet showing its chops. For those that love the Napa Cab experience, this is an excellent example of one of the best. Another year, or two in the bottle and this wine will be ready to drink. Suggested optimum drinking window: 2016-2018.
Initial taste is hot and alcoholic, watery and missing fruit. After a 90 minute decant – the wine has evolved into a beautiful aged Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The alcohol has blown off, the tannins are soft and dusty and the blackberry and black currant is in front. A definite Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience! This is the third 10-15 year-old premium Napa Cab I have tasted this year, and the experience has been similar. These older Napa cabs need time to open… The nose is still hot, but the fruit is prominent, with leather and loamy earth. The palate is fruit forward now, but is typical of an older wine: missing the fresh fruit, but not oxidized yet. The mid-palate has leather, oak, spice and earth with a medium-long finish of dark chocolate. The acidity is high and the tannins are very soft and subdued. The structure is solid, but the balance is a touch off. A few years earlier and the additional fruit might have offset the high acidity and alcohol. I found this enjoyable paired with a meat and cheese plate…
Had to add this postscript:
After 4 hour decant – Oh my gosh! The fruit is turning red and becoming sour raspberry. The tannins have completely resolved, but the wine is moving towards a velvet texture. The acidity has calmed down. A great example of a balanced profile. Just fantastic aged red wine! Is there enough fruit to put another 3-5 years of bottle age on this, I hope so… I have one last bottle…
I look forward to folks reading the piece. I would love to hear feedback, or comments. Always interested in what people have to say. I enjoy telling stories with my writing and I hope this piece gives you a glimpse into the winery and the man. I really enjoy these family wineries and hope the piece does their story justice.
This is a monster cab. If you are a big Robert Parker fan, this is his kind of wine. Initially, the nose was hot and a bit funky with a very closed flavor profile. For an 8-year-old cab, this wine is STILL drinking very young. After 3 hour decant… Much of the alcohol has blown off now, but is still present. The nose has plum, blackberry, a touch of herbaceousness and menthol. It has a very complex palate of typical Cabernet Sauvignon flavors – black fruit, leather, tar, graphite, dark chocolate and oak. The wine shows a very long bitter chocolate finish. The age has resolved the tannins somewhat and they are now medium-high, but still a bit grainy. The wine is very acidic and would be best drunk accompanying a rare steak. The texture is full, fleshy and soft. This needs more time in the bottle to come together. I am looking forward to popping the next bottle after several more years. This wine has plenty of structure to hold up into the next decade. A suggested prime drinking window might be 2017-2020.
My wife and I really appreciate the producers on Spring Mountain. If your wine nirvana is mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain will be one of your go-to AVA’s (wine growing region). We have been meaning to try Terra Valentine for quite some time. We see their sign every time down the mountain from Pride Mountain Vineyards… On our last visit, we spoke to the family over at Schweiger and they shared the story of the Wine Growers Association’s effort to keep resort development out of the Spring Mountain area. A great story of family owned wineries who love the beauty and character of their home, trying to keep it that way. The fight prompted an agreement between the wineries to allow a last right of refusal – in case of a principal’s death, the surviving winery owners would be able to purchase the land, before a sale to an outside party. I have not been able to confirm this, but I hope it is true.
Fruit forward nose with black plum, blackberry, mint, cinnamon, oak and alcohol. On the palate, this has not quite come together yet. Needs another 2-3 years in the bottle to hit its stride. Good structure, high tannins and medium-high acidity… plenty of mojo for continued bottle aging. I would put the prime drinking window at 2016 – 2019. This is moving towards a silky texture and soft tannins… I will try my other bottle in a couple of years. Strong fruit forward flavors of black fruits that follow the nose. Really enjoy the mid-palate of cinammon, vanilla, leather and a touch of mint that comes through. The oak is present, but does not overpower. A bit of milk chocolate on the finish, but it is weak. Perhaps it will improve as the fruit calms down and the tannins soften. At $30/btl. this is a great wine value from Spring Mountain Estate fruit!
Fabulous idea! This is a great way for a medium size winery (under 40K cases?) to reach a broad audience. Technology provides opportunities, if we know how to leverage it. Unfortunately, the technology had its challenges. The audio had a terrible echo, which could have been eliminated by muting all the sites other than the point of origin. The message was a bit scattered, but the mother of the host family was awesome! She was interesting enough to host her own wine talk show… all in all, for a first effort at internet marketing – a gallant one, and they will get better over time. Keep it up guys! Good Luck!
I liked the lower cost Sonoma Loeb on its own, but the Chappellet chard would be best accompanying food.
USA, California, Napa Valley
This was a VERY traditional Napa style chardonnay specifically made for accompanying food. The color was a very pale straw and extremely clear. The nose was very weak, but bright, with notes of grapefruit, lemon curd and oak. The palate was a touch sweet, light-bodied with very high acidity. The flavors on the palate matched the nose with a short finish. This is not an easy drinking aperitif. It would be much better with a nice seafood, or pork dish.
USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
This is an attempt at a classic Burgundian oaked chardonnay. Very weak nose, showing nail polish initially, then aromas of lemon curd, vanilla and oak. Medium bodied and very dry with high acidity. Palate was soft, but had a minimum of depth to the flavors. I sort of enjoyed this for an easy drinking chard at a wine bar kind of beverage. It resides somewhere between a food wine and an aperitif. Over-priced at $30/btl, but decent enough.
USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Russian River Valley
The winemaker tried so hard here, but missed the mark. I guess if you were looking for a Rombauer chard you might find this appealing, but they do over-the-top chards much better. Big nose of lemon curd, butterscotch and pineapple with a strong presence of oak. There is some minerality, but it does not come through to the palate. The wine coats the mouth with rich textures. The palate simply brings the nose through with no mid-palate and there is a medium finish of pineapple. Only medium acidity… so food pairing options would be limited. There is too much oak and the freshness is lost because of it. I didn’t care for this wine.
Regarding the Pinot Noir, the lower priced Sonoma Loeb again was superior to the higher-priced wine. Of Cab Sauv and blends, the Pritchard Hill Cab stood out by far as superior, but at $120/btl… my goodness!
USA, California, Sonoma County
The nose is full of cherry cough syrup, browned butter, oak and medicinal overtones. High acidity and medium tannins provide a fair amount of structure. The texture is very light. The palate is full of red cherry and oak. It also has a smokey flavor with a light spice character. This is too fruity and the oak is not integrated. There is enough structure and complexity present to elevate it a bit.
USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
A strong oak character. The nose is full of sweet red cherry, butter and oak. The acidity is very high with low tannins. Not very well balanced. The texture is very light. This could have been very good with more freshness to the fruit. On its own, the acidity bites… but paired with the right foods, this wine would be awesome. The flavor profile is a bit simple.
USA, California, Napa Valley
Powerful nose of alcohol that did not blow off dominates. This is a light bodied wine, with high acidity and high tannins. Good structure with reasonable balance. The palate is fruit forward with sweet cherry and black raspberry moving to a mid-palate of bitter dark chocolate and a long slightly bitter finish with earthy undertones. This would be a very good table wine, pairing well with richer food dishes, but I would expect it to cost under $30/btl.
USA, California, Napa Valley
Very dark extracted looking wine with an intense nose of alcohol, plum and blackberry. High acidity and high tannins – very young. This has a light mouth-feel, offering more of a food wine approach. The palate is fruit forward with sweet plum, blackberry and white pepper. The fruit is very concentrated. The mid-palate brings in oak and toffee and then finishes with vanilla. A middle of the road Napa cab.
USA, California, Napa Valley
A beautiful wine. The nose is full of rich black plum with a pretty floral character, moving to menthol and alcohol. High acidity and high tannins with a nice mouth-feel. The palate is fruit forward with extracted plum and blackberry with a mid-palate of tobacco, tar, oak and vanilla. The finish is long with a mildly bitter dark chocolate flavor. This wine is balanced and has good structure, but it is still young and would benefit from another 3-5 years in the bottle.
The nose is very fruit driven… ripe plum and blackberry, sweet carmel and a slight floral note. The nose will fool you! The palate starts with a hint of blackberry and black currant and then full-on hits you with tar and charcoal. The mid-palate is full of sweet vanilla with a touch of black pepper and there is a medium-length finish of bitter dark chocolate. The alcohol is not very evident. The acidity is medium-high. The cab component is still young and tannic, but the malbec softens the wine – just short of silky. I am not sure what to make of this wine? It is not unpleasant, but there are so many conflicting flavors that do not necessarily compliment each other… This may not be enjoyable for some people, so read this note carefully before deciding to try. Aging may not improve this much. The value was good at $18/btl – providing a significant amount of complexity. So, the best evaluation might be to describe this wine as: “interesting”.
2006 was an interesting vintage year that seemed to favor old-world style Napa producers. IMO, it was difficult to find valley floor producers with exceptional wines. Whereas, many of the mountain fruit producers (Spring, Howell, etc.) with a more subdued style (Ladera, Cain, etc.) released amazingly soft, nuanced cabernet sauvignon. This Ramey followed the line… After 30 min. decant, complex nose of blackberry, plum, cigar box and mint. This wine is black fruit forward with a mid-palate of vanilla and a medium short finish of bitter dark chocolate. The texture is a bit watery and the alcohol is not integrated well. Medium-high acidity with medium tannins. Rather disjointed and unbalanced. This is difficult to enjoy, without food. Try accompanying beef, or pasta with a rich tomato-based sauce. I don’t think this will improve with more time in the bottle. Drink now.
How can any wine critic score a wine at a perfect 100? This is one critic’s explanation at Wine Spectator Magazine: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/49223.
There are aspects of this piece that I agree with, especially with regard to defining wine as a snapshot of a moment in time. The wine experience is definitely more than a scientific examination of flavor components. This is a major reason why I was taken by wine in the first place. Yes, of course your situation and surroundings will affect your scoring of the wine, but aren’t the critic’s reviews as an authoritative resource supposed to be impartial… and therefore tasting should occur in a neutral environment? The more I learn about wine critics and their approach to scoring wine, the more I have come to ignore them.
This drives me crazy! I have been moving towards placing more weight on collector’s reviews for several years now. CellarTracker scores are consistently 3-4 points lower than Parker, Kramer, Robinson, Galloni. Although, Stephen Tanzer seems a bit more conservative, if you look at a cross-section. Take some time to compare and you will see for yourself. At least their ratings are consistent in this regard, so the scores are not likely to be a bias towards a given producer. It almost seems as if they all want to believe the wine is better than it actually is? Is this some subtle coordinated promotional effort to advance the wine industry as a whole?
Here are a few recent Robert Parker, Jr. perfect 100’s that I have enjoyed:
2010 Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard
2007 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS
I am sorry, but the Bryant Family IMHO did not belong on this list, but I digress. Of course, anytime you discuss RP you have to take into account his penchant for big fruity wines. Still, are these perfect scores based on his perception when tasted, or based on projecting their profile after bottle-aging? I wouldn’t choose any of these, keeping the divergent criteria in mind. Don’t get me wrong , three of these were great wines and the fourth pretty damn good too, but perfect? I have tasted perfectly balanced 5 year old cabernet in an approachable style from Ladera, or a huge fruity, tannic monster from O’Shaughnessy that would be superior (IMO) after 10-15 years. Although, I wouldn’t score these at 100 either.
Everyone’s palate is different AND wine truly is enhanced by the environment in which it is being consumed AND obviously the wine critics make little effort to taste in a neutral environment… Of the wines I have enjoyed most in my life and matched my palate best, I would give none of them a perfect 100. In each case, there was something about them that could have been a little better. Now, I WILL say… some have been drunk in perfect settings, and I will remember them clearly my entire life!