A Quirky Vertical | Virtual Angwin
1993 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 13.5% alc.: An inky purple garnet, this is a rougher wine than the Fisher, and despite the fact that it smoothes out nicely with extended air, it never does achieve the "silk" or "velvet" of the previous selection. Still, it shows plenty of black currant, cassis and plum, accented with notes of dark chocolate, saddle leather, cedar and a hint of mahogany; Dan added impressions of "bright cherries and a nice, sharp, tart spiciness." Another good match for the filet, this is a very fine wine on its own terms, and one that needs even longer to resolve the considerable tannins than does the Fisher, so there's no reason to be in any hurry to open one if you have any.
1994 Viader, 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cabernet Franc, $33.99, 13% alc.: We liked this much better than one critic seems to have, based on a recent score of 82; we found nothing "oxidized" in our bottle, so the "cellar from heck" seems to be doing what it's supposed to. Dark garnet in color, slightly rusty at the rim, this shows tobacco and cigar box right away on the nose, with rich black currant, cassis, blackberry and plum jumping up to take over on the palate. Moderate tannins make this tasty right out of the bottle (we passed it back and forth for over half an hour), and while not quite velvety, the smooth texture adds to the pleasure. If there's a complaint here, it's that the finish fades a little sooner than I'd like, but it's a small complaint. More Bordeaux - like than your mainstream Napa claret, and all the better for it, this is a fine match for Kim's hearty beef stew with corn meal dumplings and sides of sautťed portabella mushrooms and acorn squash with melted blue cheese. It would appear that Delia Viader was right on the money when she advised drinking her wines either shortly after release or at 10 years of age.
1995 Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Resťrve Speciale, $55: Dark garnet, with no rust to speak of, this didn't live up to expectations for such a highly regarded bottling. It shows black currant and blackberry flavors and aromas with a creamy overlay and what Kim described as "coffeed chocolate;" Alan Kerr added impressions of "coffee crisp and a cedary balsa thing." Fairly fruit forward with moderately tannins, on a medium to medium full - bodied frame, but without the depth or multi - dimensional qualities of the 94 Ridge SCM Cab tasted immediately before it, this is a nice Cab, but not a great Cab, causing Alan to observe "I'm a little surprised at the Reserve designation, it has good concentration, but little else." Is this at an awkward phase, or was it simply overwhelmed by the less prestigious Ridge SCM? We all felt it was the second choice.
1996 Stonestreet Legacy Alexander Valley Red Wine, 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, $59.99, 14.2% alc.: This deep, dark garnet hued Bordeaux blend is all about silk and elegance at this point; initially reticent on the nose, a bit of the barnyard blows off to reveal more and more cassis, black currant, cocoa powder and soft leather. Not quite understated, the flavors mirror these impressions, with fully resolved tannins and a fine, lovely balance. I'd recommend decanting this half an hour before drinking, not for any issues of sediment, but simply to allow the wine to open and show more of what it has to offer; the leathery quality in particular becomes more and more accentuated, adding greatly to the appeal. A very nice wine, although perhaps not for those who prefer a powerhouse style.
1997 Plumpjack Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, 13.8% alc.: A dense dark garnet turning pink at the rim, this one is really starting to come into its own, showing very appealing flavors and aromas of cassis, black plum and blackberry, with earthy undertones, a note of dark chocolate and more and more tobacco - cigar box as it opens. Medium full to full - bodied, it still has at least three to five years worth of tannins and a boatload of fruit to take it down the road, but it's not a fruit bomb, nor does it show any excessive oak. Pure, rich, delicious Napa Cabernet; I could drink this on a regular basis!
1998 Woodward Canyon Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, $54.99, 13.9% alc.: The only wine from Washington in our quirky vertical, this deep, dark garnet offers sweet oak, cassis and blackberry on the nose, with flavors to match, picking up added notes of white chocolate, coconut, dill and just a smidgen of bell pepper along the way. Itís pretty smooth on the palate, with soft tannins and good acidity, and if itís not a style that Iím wild about, it doesnít suck either. However, it IS overpriced for whatís in the bottle, IMNSHO.
1999 Schweiger Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, $45.99, 13.7% alc.: This deep, dark garnet colored Spring Mountain Cab is downright pretty, there's no other way for me to describe it. It's elegant, refined and very nicely balanced, showing lovely flavors and aromas of perfumed black cherry and cassis, accented with notes of subtle sweet spice, smoke and rock and rye. Medium to medium full - bodied, it's not a blockbuster by any means, it's just a pleasure to drink. It's food friendly, and while the fine tannins will certainly allow this to improve over at least the next few years, I'd have a hard time keeping hands off, it's so good already.
2000 Seavey Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, $72.99, 14.1% alc.: An inky purple garnet with a tight nose of cassis, black currant and a little bell pepper; the big, dense flavors echo and expand. Opening fairly quickly, it loses the bell pepper and gains something like shades of root beer, nutmeg and leather. Significant tannins put a bit of a crimp on the finish, but with air, this is not just very approachable, it's rich, concentrated and very tasty indeed, not at all overdone or over the top. It shows good varietal character and is very impressive, a real success given the vintage; I can only imagine what it'll be like in about five years or so.
2001 Phelan Vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2% alc.: A Bob Egelhoff - made wine, this deep dark garnet colored Cabernet has lots going on in the aroma department, including sweet oak, briar - bramble, cassis, blackberry, black cherry, toast and coffee; there's some good char on the oak, which turns sweet, but not quite sugary. full - bodied and assertive, the rich flavors echo, but are decidedly dry on the palate, with good structure that bodes well for aging into 2011 and beyond. As it opens, more oak shows on the nose. I made myself a note to try this again in five years to see where it's going.
2002 Worthy Napa Red Table Wine Sophia's Cuvee, $27.99, 14.6% alc.: This deep dark garnet Cabernet based blend from grapes that didn't make the cut for Bob Egelhoff's Axios (and indeed, was not made by Egelhoff), could almost be mistaken for Zinfandel or Syrah, it's so big and ripe. It exudes rich sweet spice, cassis, blackberry and black cherry with hints of chocolate, and the ample oak isn't what almost sends it over the top, it's the ripeness of the fruit. Substantial tannins, zippy acidity and the alcohol all give this a bit of a bite at first, but tone down with some air; still, this will be better three to five years down the line. It's a good bargain for those who like this kind of big, ripe wine, and while it's not a style I prefer, it's one that I can appreciate.
We've enjoyed some other Left Coast Cabs besides those in our "quirky vertical" lately; here are notes on five of them, and there is another whole page of selections exclusively from Howell Mountain.
Burgess Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage Selection, $29.99, 13% alc.: We've
always liked Burgess
wines, both early and late, so when
I found a couple of these languishing down in the "cellar from hell," I
immediately excavated them, and while they should have fared well to
their tenth birthday and beyond, they didn't last two days at Gang
Central. Dark garnet, with no rust to speak of, they show typical
Burgess characteristics of cassis, black and red currants, sweet spice
and undertones of earth, decaying vegetation, cedar and a hint of
chocolate. Medium full - bodied, with moderate tannins and a nice finish,
this needs a little air to lose some excess funk; then, it morphs into a
balanced Napa Cab that performs very well, and I wish I had a few more
down there. Hey, maybe I do...
Provenance Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford, $35, 14.5% alc.:
A dark garnet in color that's typical of a strapping young Cab, this one
exudes sweet oak, chocolate, confectioners' sugar and cherries on the
nose; these characteristics follow through on the palate with the
emphasis on the chocolate - cherry, and a good dose of tannins on the
medium - full to full - bodied frame. It's fairly long on the finish,
turning earthy on the end, and while it's not at all an unpleasant wine, neither is it what I want to drink with
my New York strip.
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