Does anyone else miss the old style of California reds? I was with some friends in Los Angeles the other day having dinner at the Bazaar (which, by the way, is one of the best food experiences in the United States at the moment à la Fat Duck or El Bulli) and they brought a couple mature bottles of California reds.
One of the wines was not really that old. It was a 1999 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains, and the other was a 1975 Freemark Abbey Pinot Noir Napa Valley. Both wines had very little to do with so many of the high-octane jam juice being made in my home state.
The Ridge was so balanced and beautiful. It reminded me of a 1995 Latour in structure and in character, with lots of currant, mint and fresh herbs on the palate. It was full-bodied, with soft, velvety tannins and a long, refreshing aftertaste. I scored it 94 points, non-blind.
The 1975 Freemark was outstanding as well. I was surprised how good it was. It showed tar and rubber at first, but then it opened to smoke and hints of ripe fruit. It was full and chewy, with fresh fruit and tannins. It was a little funky, but I really appreciated its old-style California character.
The two wines reminded me of my early days at Wine Spectator in our San Francisco office, tasting and visiting wineries from California. They also reminded me of the many Cali Cabs I used to share with my dad from his wine collection, including the classic BVs and Mayacamas Mountain Cabs from the 1960s and 1970s.
I miss the freshness and the slightly austere character of those California wines. I miss the lower alcohols. I miss the minerally undertones and the fresh herb aromas, too.
Some might say that I am being nostalgic. And I admit that I love the fruit-forward, big, juicy characters of some of the best reds from California, but I would love to see a little more austerity and reserve in some of them.
Scott Oneil — Denver, CO — January 6, 2010 1:21pm ET
Evandro Pereira — Sao Paulo — January 6, 2010 5:03pm ET
Michael Hakeem — Stockton,Ca. — January 6, 2010 8:03pm ET
Steve Dow — Beavercreek, OH — January 6, 2010 10:06pm ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — January 6, 2010 11:26pm ET
Josh Moser — Sunnyvale, CA — January 6, 2010 11:35pm ET
Don Rauba — Schaumburg, IL — January 7, 2010 9:23am ET
Nelson Brooks — Phoenix, AZ — January 7, 2010 11:32am ET
James Suckling — — January 7, 2010 11:40am ET
David Jankow — Redondo Beach, CA — January 7, 2010 12:04pm ET
Thomas Hughes — Texas — January 7, 2010 12:13pm ET
Kevin Smith — Sunshine State — January 7, 2010 11:19pm ET
Don Rauba — Schaumburg, IL — January 8, 2010 8:17pm ET
Paul A Stein — New Canaan Connecticut — January 9, 2010 4:39pm ET
Jonathan Auerbach — Tuscany — January 10, 2010 4:51am ET
Ronec Enterprises Ltd — Springfield, IL — January 12, 2010 7:53pm ET
James Suckling — — January 12, 2010 10:36pm ET
Steve Kirchner — huntington beach, ca — January 13, 2010 6:15pm ET
Anthony Dixon — Atlanta, GA — January 14, 2010 7:30pm ET
Chad Bowman — Manhattan, KS — January 14, 2010 11:16pm ET
Ronec Enterprises Ltd — Springfield, IL — January 15, 2010 5:45pm ET
Anthony Dixon — Atlanta, GA — January 19, 2010 9:03am ET
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