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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

A Mature Red in a Young Neighborhood

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley The Montelena Estate 1999

Thomas Matthews
Posted: August 19, 2010

My birthday came around, as they do whether we like it or not, but there were some consolations. Chief among them, a dinner with good friends Rosemary and Jim at The Good Fork, a restaurant in the emerging but still gritty Brooklyn neighborhood called Red Hook.

It’s a small, casual place with the locavore menu and short, eclectic wine list that are standard in this new wave of new American places in Brooklyn. Sohui Kim, the chef-owner, has cooked at Annisa and Blue Hill, and adds some piquant Asian touches to the food, like black bean sauce on roast chicken, and black rice that accompanies a duck breast grilled medium rare. Prices are reasonable (with main courses $18 to $23), service is friendly and the place draws a relaxed, diverse crowd clearly enjoying themselves.

As were we, not least because Jim had pulled a 1999 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet from his cellar. It showed classic California character: smooth and dense, with a deep core of ripe black cherry fruit. Yet it had matured beautifully, adding spice, tobacco and herbal notes over softening tannins. I’d say this red is on a happy plateau that could last another five to 10 years; I rated it 92 points, non-blind. Was it perhaps a bit more serious, more grown-up, than the restaurant itself? Perhaps, but then so were we; it just made the moment all the sweeter.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review and see the current auction price for Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley The Montelena Estate 1999 (94 points, $140 on release).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Cabernets from Napa Valley, along with our quick list of Top Values among California Cabernets.

David Blakeley
New Jersey —  August 19, 2010 10:14am ET
Thank you Thomas. I have one bottle left of the '99 Montelena Estate Cab and have been wondering how long to let it "hang on the vine". I loved it four years ago and was curious how it may have changed.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  August 20, 2010 8:45am ET
David, How has it changed in four years?
Peter Hellman
New York —  August 20, 2010 7:00pm ET
The ember-hot, unanswered question, Tom, is: Did Jim arrange ahead of time to bring the Montelena? And: What was the corkage fee? These are not academic questions for those of us who'd love to do the same with a fine mature bottle from our home cellar.....
M Mccormick
Pasadena CA —  August 22, 2010 9:44pm ET
The 1999 Napa Cabs and Clarets have aged well in general, and are drinking great.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  August 23, 2010 9:38am ET
Peter: Jim followed the procedure I recommend to anyone who wishes to bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant: He called ahead, to explain the situation and the wine, and ask what was possible.

Some restaurants have fixed policies; others will work with you. In this case, Jim was told the restaurant would charge $20 corkage, which he accepted. In the event, we ordered a bottle of rose from the list and offered a sip of the Montelena to our server, and in the end, no charge was made. Whether that would be the outcome for others, I can't say. (However, I was anonymous, so no favors were done for Wine Spectator.)

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