Earlier this year I wrote about a hot new wine, with a super winemaker pedigree and a supersonic price. Last week, I got to try the 2004 Levy McClellan Cabernet, and its sister vintage, the 2005, with the makers.
The wines are awfully good. As you might expect, the style is similar to the wines Bob Levy and Martha McClellan Levy make at their day jobs—Harlan and Bond for him, and Sloan for her.
The 2004 is the riper and bigger of the two, which is consistent with the vintages. It’s plush, rich, opulent and, at points, fleshy and elegant, given its size. The 2005 is a shade less opulent, a little brighter, sleek and focused. Both wines share a similar flavor profile, with ripe black cherry, wildberry, anise and dusty herb notes. Both are dense and concentrated. Both wines, based on what I tried, would earn mid-90s scores.
Perhaps the easiest way to draw attention to a new wine is to price it at the top of the market, which is what the winemakers did with the '04. At $350 a bottle, only Screaming Eagle, now at $500, commands a higher price.
Think what you may about the price, it (not the wine) has been the year’s top lightning rod—whether it’s the owners’ audacity or their brilliant marketing plan, a test of the elasticity of supply-demand or perhaps the stark financial realities of buying land in Napa Valley, planting a vineyard and waiting for the vines to mature enough to make wine, only to declassify the first vintage.
The 2004 will be released next April, with the 2005 to follow a year later. No price on the '05 yet, though it’s a safe guess that it won’t be as big a surprise as the inaugural.
Many of you have wondered whether I think the wines are worth the money and I have three answers: One is I can’t determine what’s expensive for you. Two, I can’t afford them—or any others in that price range, and three I don’t consider price in my wine evaluations.
That said, the wines are terrific.