He wanted to show me his wines and properties in Napa Valley and I suggested that for the tasting we sample a mix of his wines and others in a blind format. It’s an arrangement I prefer when tasting anyone’s wines and in this instance I left it up to him to choose the wines.
He came up with an excellent mix and, starting at 9:45 a.m., we blind tasted 13 reds. I knew he would have his wines in the lineup, but that was it.
Here are my notes, with the name of the wine at the end. These scores are simply personal impressions and are not official Wine Spectator ratings.
No. 1: Classic Bordeaux nose of lead pencil shavings. At first lean and structured, with loamy currant flavors that build to a remarkably complex finish. Second and third tastings show more depth, refinement of balance, graceful and harmonious. My last taste: The color is far more advanced than the other wines. 95 points unofficially (Château Margaux 1990).
No. 2: Richer and fuller than the Margaux, with riper, younger black cherry, plum, cedar and spicy flavors that are complex and focused, ending with a long, persistent finish. A delicious mix of young and maturing flavors. 95 points unofficially (Araujo Eisele Cabernet Napa Valley 1997).
No. 3: A mix of spice, touch of leather and dry savory sage notes. Complex and balanced on its own terms, though comes up shy of outstanding in this flight. 88 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2000).
No. 4: Great aromas, ripe, sweet plum, black cherry, spice and creamy oak. Full bodied, creamy textured, with a long intense persistent finish that keeps revealing extra favor nuances. 95 points unofficially (Shafer Hillside Select 2002).
No. 5: Dark, rich and concentrated, a touch herbaceous with lavish mocha-scented oak wrapped around zesty wild berry, currant and plummy fruit that gains depth and complexity. 94 points unofficially (Caymus Special Selection 2005).
No. 6: The sixth wine I tasted was flawed.
No. 7: Taut and structured, with fresh, ripe, vibrant black cherry, plum and spicy charry oaky flavors that suggest it’s a very young wine that may have just been bottled, since the flavors are a bit rambunctious. 90 points unofficially (Grace Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005, indeed a new release).
No. 8: Big, dark, rich and complex, with loamy currant and plummy fruit, fresh earth, ample toasty oak and flavors that fan out, giving it a creamy mouth coating sensation. 93 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2002, which scored 94 in my review two years ago).
No. 9: Very complex, with pretty, focused plum, wild berry and black cherry fruit that’s centered, with a touch of vanilla-scented oak and ending with fine-grained tannins. 92 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2003, which scored 89 on release but has improved with time in bottle).
No. 10: The tenth wine I tasted was flawed.
No. 11: Dark and rich, with a mix and range of Cabernet flavors built around currant, cherry and berry that are both plush and elegant. Complex without being heavy. Ends with fine-grained tannins. 92 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2004, which earned 93 in my review upon release).
No. 12: Smells and tastes wonderful, a sort of chocolate-mocha-raspberry tort, with lots of fresh, vibrant berry flavors that suggest it’s a very young wine. Gobs of flavor and deeply concentrated. 94 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2005).
No 13: Very tight and Bordeaux-like in its structure. Lots of floral, spice and dried currant. Very complex, concentrated and complete, while also being very tightly wound and closed. 92 points unofficially (Hundred Acre Ark Vineyard 2005, which I rated 95-100 in my 2005 barrel tasting. This was very impressive if not yet at that classic stage in this showing).
After the tasting we toured Woodbridge’s new vineyard, Pickett Road, the Kayli Morgan and Ark vineyards, his new underground cellar, had a nice lunch at Tra Vigne in St. Helena, which has stepped up the quality of its menu of late and should be on your restaurant radar. Then Woodbridge was off to the airport and a flight to Australia, to oversee his Barossa Shiraz harvest, and me back to Napa to write up this.