I wondered about it. James Suckling blogged about it, too. And several people who tried the Screaming Eagle Cabernet -- including new owner Charles Banks and his winemaker, Andy Erickson -- at Friday’s Wine Experience seminar had the same impression: The wine didn’t have the richness and opulence it typically shows.
Now we know why: We weren’t trying the 2002, as planned. The wine actually poured was the 2003, which was a weaker vintage overall.
A shipping snafu led to six cases of the wrong vintage being sent to San Francisco. And, as the vintage date is at the bottom of the back label, where it can be obscured when someone is holding the bottle to pour it, none of us on the panel caught it until later.
It’s difficult tasting on stage in front of 1,000 people. But in my notes, I wrote that the Screaming Eagle tasted austere and closed, more like the 88-point wine that it was than a 95, which is what the 2002 scored.
Banks, who was on the panel, noticed it too, as did his winemaker, Erickson, sitting in the audience. “I’d had the  wine along with the other 2002s [poured that afternoon] a few days earlier, and it didn’t have the richness and depth it had shown,” Banks told me today. “It just didn’t taste the same as it usually does.” He and Erickson wondered if the wine had been decanted long enough.
My colleague Suckling also commented in his blog this week that the 2002 Screaming Eagle didn’t show as well as it did in a cult wine tasting this past summer.
Well, now we know why we think it didn't show that well.
So for those of you who attended the tasting, you’ll have to modify your scorecards. Scratch the 2002 and put in 2003. Very different wines.