Sharing a Landmark Cabernet With My Family

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Cinq Cépages 1996
Thomas Matthews
Posted: June 10, 2011

In life, I find, sadness and joy are often intermingled. Recently we held a memorial service for my mother, who died this spring; the grief was softened by a wonderful gathering of family and friends.

My brother Bob, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., came with his family, and spent a night at my home in Brooklyn. We grilled filet mignon in the garden, and when we sat down to dinner, I opened both a young super Tuscan and a mature California Cabernet. I thought the Tuscan red—ripe with fruit and sweet with oak, polished and rich—would win the day. Instead, we were all captured by the subtler beauty of the 1996 Cinq Cépages.

The wine was rusty in color but exuberantly expressive, with tobacco, dried cherry and spice-box notes that sailed through the silky, supple finish. It had just enough tannins to frame the tender beef, refreshing acidity and an elegant balance.

This wine earned a 95-point rating when it was reviewed on release, and it was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of The Year in 1999. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 1996 Cinq Cépages is experiencing significant bottle variation now, but for us it was clearly a classic, a great pleasure and a fitting tribute to family, past and present.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review and the retrospective tasting note for Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Cinq Cépages 1996 (95, $28 on release).

Member comments   3 comment(s)

Brian Peters — Broomfield, CO —  June 11, 2011 10:15pm ET

Thanks for sharing...


Lorenzo Erlic — Canada —  June 13, 2011 12:18pm ET

Condolences to you and your family Thomas from mine... Tonight when a Pommery NV Brut is served you will be in my thoughts and prayers.


Thomas Matthews — New York City —  June 13, 2011 3:51pm ET

Brian, Lorenzo,

Thanks for your sympathy. It's not easy to know how personal these little wine snapshots should be, but this one felt right to me.

Tom Matthews


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