I found some pieces of paper on my dresser this morning with tasting notes from the night of the Grand Tour in Vegas a few weeks ago, where I tasted some amazing wines. Of course, the hundreds of wonderful wines on pour were excellent enough, but I hooked up with some buddies from Zurich at Delmonico Steakhouse following the tasting. My companions included vintners Silvo Denz who owns Château Faugères, and Frank Ebinger, who makes and sells Spanish wines.
There were five of us, and we went large on 2002 cult Calfornia Cabernet Sauvignons that included Bond St. Eden Napa Valley, Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Hillside Select, Harlan Estate Napa Valley, and Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard.
Obviously, this was not a blind tasting. In fact, it was over some juicy steaks. But here are my brief notes anyway:
2002 Bond St. Eden Napa Valley: This is long and jammy with lots of plum and berry aromas and flavors. Full and velvety with bright and focused fruit with coffee undertones on the finish. Hard not to drink now but could use another couple years of bottle age. 93 points, non-blind.
2002 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Hillside Select: This reminds me of the 1990 Latour when I tasted it very young. It shows wonderful precision and power, yet remains balanced and very, very long. Gorgeous aromas of crushed raspberries and spices with currants. What a wine. I would leave it for another five years. 97 points, non-blind.
2002 Harlan Estate Napa Valley: This is big and alcoholic but impressive with masses of fruit and chewy tannins. Loads of plumy, jammy fruit with an underlying minerality. Velvety tannins. I will be curious to see how this evolves. 92 points, non-blind.
2002 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard: Wonderful aromas of vanilla, coffee, plums, currants and fresh herbs follow through to a full bodied palate, with big yet silky tannins and a long, long fruity finish. All in balance. It needs another five years of bottle age. 95 points, non-blind.
We all took a vote at the end of the meal for which wine we preferred, and Shafer was the clear favorite. “It’s funny how some people don’t consider Shafer to be a California cult wine, but it clearly is, in terms of quality,” Denz said.
It made me think back to a tasting I did in Florence of California cults versus Tuscan cults, and Shafer Hillside Select was the overall winner. The Shafer family sure knows how to make California Cabernet.