I had dinner in Florida on Saturday night in Coral Gables at a friend’s house and he laid out a fabulous dinner with excellent food and stunning wines. There’s nothing better than being from out of town and being made to feel like being part of the family. My friend, cigar manufacturer Jorge Padron, is Cuban-American, so the Latino welcome was as rich and as warm as the great cigars he makes.
Anyway, we drank a range of 1995 California Cabernets including wines from Montelena, Peter Michael, Caymus, Dalla Valle and Dunn. We also popped the cork on a 1996 Lafite Rothschild and a 1995 Noël Verset Cornas and 1995 Pauillac from Château Latour.
The Cornas went really well with pan-seared scallops with braised beef over polenta and the Cabs were delicious with the steamed sea bass over a bed of spinach and glazed fennel with olives. Our buddy Willy is an excellent cook. He spent the afternoon cooking at Jorge’s house.
The 1995 California Cabernets were showing wonderfully. They all seemed completely ready with varying degrees of fruit and tannin concentration. A couple were drying out a little. Here are my notes on the 1995s:
Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley The Montelena Estate 1995: The most forward of the group, showing sweet tobacco, plums and sage on the nose and palate. Medium to full body with fine tannins and a minty, berry aftertaste. Subtle and just a tad funky. But I like it a lot. 90 points, non-blind.
Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley 1995: Fruity and fresh on the nose with currant, lightly toasted oak, sage and mint. Full body, with ripe fruit and a minty undertone tone. Velvety. Turns a little cold and reserved on the finish. No need to wait. 91 points, non-blind.
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 1995: I thought this was the most complex of the group and I am seldom disappointed with a mature bottle of CSS. Aromas of dried flowers like violets and lilacs with hints of currants. Full and silky with plenty of clean, berry fruit character. Long and caressing. Balanced and beautiful. 94 points, non-blind.
Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1995: Loads of minty, berry, cherry and plum aromas follow through to a medium body, with sweet tobacco and berry character but turns just a tad bitter on the finish. Drying out a bit. 90 points, non-blind.
Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1995: This is an old-style Cabernet Sauvignon that I really appreciate, with currant, blackberry and hints of mineral on the nose. Very reserved, even austere. The palate is full but slightly hard with slightly angular tannins and a medium finish. I think a little more time would improve this wine. 90 points, non-blind.
It was interesting to compare the 1996 Lafite to these wines. Unfortunately, the claret outclassed them all. The first-growth had so much more complexity on the nose with sweet tobacco, cedar, cigar box, plum, currant and ripe strawberry aromas. The palate was full and very rich with caressing tannins. The palate continued to change from ripe fruit with cedar and cappuccino to red licorice and tobacco, even a little meaty. This is a wine with a long life ahead of it. 96 points, non-blind. I would leave it for another three to five years, or decant it a good three hours before serving.
I don’t know why I have it in my mind, but the dinner seemed to be another example of how well California wine can age, despite the non-believers. It also proved how “bienvenido Cubano” remains incredible. No matter where you are!