Tomorrow I'll begin tasting barrel samples of California Cabernet Sauvignon from 2006. The two-day tasting will be fun but grueling, with lots of intense, inky young wines. When it’s over, I'll go home with purple-stained teeth and a craving for an ice-cold beer.
I’m looking forward to it. When you taste blind, you never know exactly what to expect—and there are always surprises.
In the past few weeks, winemakers have been talking up this vintage, which is fair enough. While the 2006 growing season offered its share of challenges, the final stages of the harvest—the days and weeks that matter the most—came through with flying colors, winemakers say.
Right now, winemakers are tasting the 2006s the most frequently of all their wines (whether it’s Cabernet, Pinot Noir or Zinfandel). And when you taste dozens of wines from the same vintage day after day that becomes your reference point.
So in the next two days, I expect I’ll have a pretty good idea of how the young 2006s are showing.
Judging barrel samples is much different than assessing finished wines. You expect barrel samples of Cabernet to be dark-colored, very intense, effusively fruity, with floral and dark fruit aromas. They can also be a bit chunky, raw, rustic, rough-hewn and tannic. Some of the wines will already show evidence of oak, while others won’t offer a hint as to whether they’ve been in barrel or not.
But what I’m looking for is the purity of flavor, depth, richness, concentration and balance.
A lot can change with these wines from the next two days’ tasting until they're bottled and sold in three years. Some of these wines have not yet had their final blends made, and different winemaking techniques can polish up a rough-and-tumble young barrel sample.
While there are typically a few superstars (and hopefully not supersamples), what usually emerges is a pretty clear overall picture of how the best Cabernet producers fared in 2006. Since hardly any of these wines are sold as futures, there’s no need to rush out and spend any money the way Bordeaux lovers often do with Bordeaux futures.
Still, it’s worth knowing whether 2006 will be a good year, or, as some winemakers predict, a great year.
Jack Tang — San Gabriel, CA — May 14, 2007 4:30pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — May 14, 2007 5:35pm ET
Brent L Pierce — St. Helena, CA — May 14, 2007 8:27pm ET
Jim Prowak — Rochester, NY — May 15, 2007 1:35pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — May 15, 2007 1:42pm ET
Steven Mirassou — Livermore, CA — May 19, 2007 9:33am ET
Ashley Potter — LA, — May 20, 2007 2:45am ET
Chambers And Chambers — San Francisco, CA — May 22, 2007 9:25am ET
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