We had a killer bonus round this past week in our Napa office tasting room.
The bonus round is our editors' version of show-and-tell. Once we’re done with our respective blind tastings, we like to gather around the table, talk about the wines we tried, what we liked and what troubled us, why certain wines have that "wow" factor and others come up short. We pass around the bagged wines so that each of us—Tim Fish, MaryAnn Worobiec and myself—gets a snapshot of what the other tasted. Most of the reviews are written and scores assigned. Yet we each appreciate another perspective
Yesterday’s tasting was extraordinary on many accounts. My colleague Tim Fish had tasted a flight of Zinfandels and came across a couple that excited him. In describing one of the wines, the effusively fruity 2007 Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel, he said he had had one of those tasting "aha's"—he found the distinctive huckleberry in the mix of wild and boysenberry flavors.
For Tim the huckleberry flavor proved a taste revelation. He couldn’t recall ever having specifically tasted a huckleberry. But he "discovered" huckleberry in a slice of pie and found it in a couple of the Zins.
What’s so intriguing about some fruit flavors—huckleberry, raspberry and boysenberry—is you only find them in very young wines. Once a young Zin matures, those flavors that were once so evident tend to evolve into a more generic dark berry flavor. That’s a trade-off you get if you cellar wines. That’s also why I like so many of my wines young—the primary youthful berry flavors are so fresh, vibrant and invigorating.
It’s a great Ridge Zin, and further evidence from our blind tastings that Ridge’s wines of late have shown greater focus, purity and depth than they have in recent vintages. That’s great news.
My flight of some 20 Cabernets was stunning, with some truly amazing wines, most of which were from the 2006 vintage . Many of these wines were unusually pure, rich, layered, complex and concentrated, with captivating toasty oak, mocha and chocolate brownie flavors.
Ten of the wines were really off-the-charts great. They showed up the shortcomings of some of the other wines in the flight. I went back and forth tasting and retasting the wines; I found that while some offered that wonderful immediate gratification that typifies so many new world or modern wine styles, they were also were deep, rich, extracted and mouthcoating—evidence that they will reward both drink-me-now and longer-term drinking windows.
As we discussed the wines, we agreed in general about all of the top wines. But each of us had a favorite or two that stood out for one reason or another. A couple we completely loved and found to be extraordinary examples of young Napa Cabernet.
We also discussed when these wines might be at a peak. Tim offered that no one will be disappointed in these 10 years from now.
When the bags came off we had six Schrader Cabernets (including the fire-breathing "Old Sparky," disguised in a 750ml rather than its usual magnum format), and singles from Continuum and Coho and Sam Sebastiani. While he’s been out of the wine business for several years, Sebastiani is still making a little wine that may or may not be sold. His 2005 is mostly Cabernet, but also with small amounts of Sangiovese and Petite Sirah. More on that later.
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — February 24, 2009 1:31pm ET
Richard Wilson — Texas — February 24, 2009 4:03pm ET
Carrie Bowman — February 24, 2009 4:06pm ET
Jon Begos — Petoskey, MI USA — February 24, 2009 5:29pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — February 24, 2009 10:21pm ET
Jim Edmiston — Chino, Ca — February 25, 2009 8:15am ET
Bruce Nichols — Naples, — February 25, 2009 10:18am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — February 25, 2009 11:29am ET
Robert Caruana Jr — East Islip, NY — March 4, 2009 6:23pm ET
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