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james laube's wine flights

A Rare Treat From Paloma

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 22, 2007 12:56pm ET

One of these days someone is going to put together a tasting of all of Paloma’s wines and I hope they can find and include the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Until Saturday night, I’d only had this wine twice. The first time was at a lunch with owners Jim and Barbara Richards when it was released, and it was a stunner. For me it was on a par with their sumptuous 2001 Merlot (95 points, $45), which ended up as our Wine of the Year in 2003.

Not long after taking a bow for their ’01 Merlot, the Richards showed me their ’01 Cabernet from their Spring Mountain estate, which was spectacular. I asked them if they would submit the wine for review.

Jim was hesitant, muttering that they’d only made 70 cases, and well, what would be the point?

The Richardses had already been inundated by hundreds of wine lovers seeking out their Merlot. They typically used the Cabernet as part of the Merlot blend (Cabernet accounted for about 11 percent of the 2001), but they had enough juice to bottle some Cabernet separately. And for years they produced an excellent Syrah from their vineyard.

So they sent the wine in for a formal blind tasting review and I scored it the same as the Merlot, 95 points, and a retail price of $45.

Out of the blue the ’01 Cabernet showed up on Saturday night, poured by a friend who is a collector and fan of Paloma. He had the good fortune to lay his hands on a bottle and it’s still an amazing wine. We drank it happily, not the least bit worried that we were drinking it too soon. It was delicious, darkly hued, intense, youthful and concentrated; it combined power with finesse and still has a long life ahead.

Brian
costa mesa, ca —  October 22, 2007 8:19pm ET
James, I'm wondering how the 2001 Paloma Merlot is showing right now. I'm thinking of cracking one open at a California vs. Washington blind tasting. Would now be a good time?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 22, 2007 8:24pm ET
Brian, I think so. I've enjoyed numerous bottles. Doubt it will get better.
John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  October 22, 2007 10:29pm ET
I opened one of the Cabs about a year ago and it was amazing. I think I'm ready for another bottle this weekend! Paloma rarely ever disappoints.
Don R Wagner
Illinois —  October 23, 2007 4:28am ET
Hi, Some months ago I located 2 bots of this wine (which is not easy) on a website of a retail/auction site in Chicago. Upon receipt, 1 of the back labels was damaged. I wrote Barbera a letter requesting a back label, enclosed a $10 Bill and hoped...A week later Barbara emailed me that she no longer had any labels - however, she had submerged a bottle from her cellar under water and that once it was dry she would send it! 3 days later I received a perfect label (and the $10 Bill) with the instruction; "Don't let this one get away"! This wine might be 95 Pts but the Richards family is 100 Pts perfect. I am going to save this bottle for my 13 yr old son and let him know some really special people made it! True story! Thanks for the great blog, Don
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  October 23, 2007 6:27pm ET
To follow up on Don's comments...

Barbara and Jim are absolute gems. About two years ago, I emailed them in the hopes of getting on the mailing list (still patiently waiting). She had no spots, but she offered me bottles of the 2003 Merlot (which I accepted). More than 6 months later, I went up to St. Helena to pick up the bottles. I expected a small facility where a staff member would dig up my bottles and send me on my way...

Boy, was I wrong. After driving through 3 gates, I pulled up to their home. They invited my girlfriend and I into their home, gave us a tour of their house, and showed us their amazing views and their vineyards. Assuming that they had gone more than out of their way for me, I prepared to leave.

Again I was wrong. They figured that I would want to join them for an impromtu tasting in their barrel room...YES!!!!

Jim took us down to the barrel room after hand washing some nice Riedel stemware. He showed us great pictures of customers on the wall, menus from when their wines were poured at the White House, and the equipment they use to filter the wine into barrel. Then the tasting...we tried the 2004 and 2005, both heafty poors, straight from barrel. We even tried their new 2005 Syrah. We left shortly after, with smiles on our faces for having met such a friendly, kind, generous couple.

In this day and age, the Richards are truely 1 in a million. They deserve all the praise that is heaped upon them and their wines.

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