Representing the winery was Ursula Hermacinski, the marketing manager of both Screaming Eagle and Jonata, the winery projects of Charles Banks and Stan Kroenke. Matt Dees, Jonata’s winemaker, also joined us to present the seminar and tasting to 24 eager wine lovers who paid $1,000 to attend.
“The secret of our success is that no one knows what the wine tastes like,” began Hermacinski, referring to the fact that the scarcity of Screaming Eagle negates the opportunity for most wine lovers to taste the wine.
In fact, other than a few sips of Screaming Eagle at Wine Spectator’s Grand Tastings at the Wine Experiences over the years, I have only tasted the wine once. In 2006, at the California Wine Experience in San Francisco, Banks presented the 2002 vintage at a seminar of Napa Valley Cabernets. Vertical tastings of the wine are extremely rare. My colleague James Laube has reviewed all the vintages on release; in 2005 he tasted 10 vintages from 1992 through 2002.
Screaming Eagle was founded by Jean Phillips in the early 1990s. Most of the harvest from the 55-acre Oakville vineyard was sold to other wineries, but Phillips kept a prime parcel of about an acre of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, for herself. She released 175 cases of the 1992 vintage in 1995, charging $50.
That wine became the symbol for Napa’s cult Cabernets. Within two years, it sold for $650 at auction, and by the end of 2007, it peaked at almost $7,000 a bottle.
In 2006, Phillips sold Screaming Eagle to Banks and Kroenke. She was surprised by the success of her wine, and as Hermacinski related to the attendees, “She had the rocketship ride and said enough is enough.”
|Screaming Eagle's new winemakers blended the 2005.|
Heidi Peterson-Barrett was the consulting winemaker on the first dozen vintages. When the winery was sold, the 2004 was still in barrel. The new team, with Andy Erickson as full-time winemaker and Michel Rolland as consultant, tweaked the blend. They also blended the 2005. According to Hermacinski, they are looking for more midpalate depth.
The wines were poured roughly 45 minutes to an hour before we tasted them, non-blind.
Here are my notes:
1998: This has mellowed, showing plum, cedar and spice aromas and flavors, with a slight herbaceous element initially. Fresh and elegant, it still has firm tannins, but balanced, with fine length. Going back to it at the end of the seminar, it was very Bordeaux-like. 90 points, non-blind.
1999: This is very rich and much more youthful compared to the 1998. Very fruity, offering plum and cherry notes on a powerful, concentrated profile. Still tastes like primary fruit, with a sweet midpalate and excellent finish. 96 points, non-blind.
2002: A touch of herbs in the aroma gives way to cherry, black currant and sage flavors. The tannins are more assertive, yet this remains elegant, with concentration and intensity. 95 points, non-blind.
2003: Very ripe, even overripe on the nose, but fresher on the palate, with plum and cherry jam flavors. The tannins are less integrated in this wine and despite its length, it seems less complex than the other vintages. 91 points, non-blind.
2004: Aromas and flavors of coffee, black olive and sage are complex, and this is very sweet midpalate. It has fine length and concentration. More polished and refined than the earlier vintages. 94 points, non-blind.
2005: This is intense, yet elegant and full of fresh herb, mint, cherry and black currant aromas and flavors. The sweet fruit notes persist from beginning to end, where the aftertaste is expansive. Terrific harmony and balance. 95 points, non-blind.
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — February 27, 2009 6:58pm ET
Lisa Dornbach — Walnut Creek, CA — February 27, 2009 7:42pm ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — February 28, 2009 12:28am ET
David A Zajac — February 28, 2009 7:39am ET
Michael Hill — Satellite Beach, FL & Napa, CA — February 28, 2009 11:12am ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — February 28, 2009 2:25pm ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — March 2, 2009 12:39pm ET
Peter Goffredo — Pen Argyl, PA — March 2, 2009 2:28pm ET
Terry Burton — March 2, 2009 5:15pm ET
David A Zajac — March 2, 2009 5:34pm ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — March 3, 2009 12:40am ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — March 3, 2009 9:56am ET
Arshavir Kouladjian — Los Angeles, California — March 3, 2009 12:40pm ET
Jeremy Reed — roseville, ca — March 3, 2009 3:30pm ET
Kam Naidoo — Dallas, TX — March 3, 2009 4:37pm ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — March 3, 2009 9:47pm ET
Gene Keenan — san francisco — March 4, 2009 2:13am ET
David A Zajac — March 4, 2009 5:21am ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — March 4, 2009 11:19am ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — March 4, 2009 12:19pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — March 4, 2009 12:45pm ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — March 4, 2009 8:11pm ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — March 5, 2009 1:55am ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — March 5, 2009 12:25pm ET
Scott Scherger — March 5, 2009 11:40pm ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — March 6, 2009 1:09pm ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — March 6, 2009 4:12pm ET
Jonathan Davis — Birmingham — April 12, 2009 9:10pm ET
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