I am writing this while I wait for a connection from Madrid to Pisa. I am jetlagged already. But I was thinking about this past weekend's California Wine Experience, and I think one of the most interesting tastings was the Napa Valley Cabernet Tasting, moderated by James Laube, our lead taster in California.
For me, the clear winner of the tasting was the 2003 Colgin IX Estate. I thought it had everything going for it, and in my opinion, the wine rates 96 points during this nonblind tasting. The red showed beautiful aromas of blackberries and vanilla that followed through to a rich and soft palate, solid tannins and a long finish. It is a wine with balance and opulence.
My second favorite wine in the tasting was the 2003 Robert Foley Claret Napa Valley. I gave it 94 points. Granted, it was big and powerful and slightly alcoholic but I was impressed with its black licorice and currant character with an underlying earthiness that gave it a unique character. I wrote on my tasting sheet, “real deal.”
The 2002 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard was a close third – 93 points. I really liked the tobacco, berry and light earth character on the nose. It was full, silky and complex. Some friends complained of what they called a green undertone, but I thought it was just the tobacco character in the wine. It was very Bordeaux-like.
Unfortunately, I found a number of the other wines very hot and alcoholic. I know that a lot of California winemakers talk about picking their grapes when the fruit tastes perfectly ripe, but maybe some are going too far?
I thought the 2003 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley was impressive but a little overdone due to the high alcohol levels in the wine– 89 points. Another wine that suffered from this, although it was better quality, at 91 points for me, was the 2003 Harlan.
Both the 2003 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard and 2003 Schrader Napa Valley Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard were better balanced, cleaner and more stylish. 92 points.
The 2002 Gemstone Yountville was enjoyable but rather one-dimensional and didn’t really turn me on much. 88 points. The 2002 Screaming Eagle was also a little of a letdown. It seemed a little reserved, or muted might be a better description. I gave it 90 points at the tasting, but a year ago I scored it 93 points. Not sure about that. The 2001 Sloan was too woody for me and finished a little bitter. I gave it 89 points. Stuart Sloan proudly said that he left the wine 25 months in new wood. I am not sure that was such a great idea.
Sloan also said something funny at the tasting – “When you have a great bottle of wine, don’t you wish you made it?”
I am not sure about that either. But I am sure glad that I got to taste the Cabs at the tasting during the Wine Experience…making them sounds like much too much work!