Results of recent cellar sleuthing....for B.E.'s comments on aging, see Cellar Notes
December 2020: Cellar Treasures: Franciscan Magnificat 1993, a special year for me so I have a mixed case that I've just broached: The Magnificat '93, a Meritage blend (65% cabernet, 22 merlot, 18 cabernet franc) made me extremely happy: richly aromatic of spicy red and black currants, cedar, which followed through in flavor, silky smooth in texture, balanced, smooth, long appealing finish. Decanted, with 30 minutes airing; absolutely lovely!
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 1983, Howell Mountain - at 11.2% alcohol I thought this might be gone (after 37 years); a cool, rainy year, but No! Utterly smooth, with lively blackberry flavors and simply delicious. Winemaker Paul Draper noted on the back label "....the grapes matured at lower sugars, an excellent formula for elegant, claret-style wines...accessible now but structure and balance should extend its aging over the next 5 or 6 years." !!! Fine job, Mr. Draper!
Hanzell 1993 Pinot Noir, Sonoma. I pulled this from my cellar for a holiday dinner, thinking Uh-oh -- maybe I waited too long. Twenty-five years for a Pinot Noir? But no way; decanted (actually not a lot of sediment), its pedigree showed handsomely. Spicy aromas--cinnamon, a hint of smoke, very subtle, as well as subtle accents of butterscotch--billowed out of the glass. Very seductive. Flavors large and round and smooth on the palate, richly textured, same accents of spiced fruit made it a thrill to savor. Transcendental. 12/18
Villa Ragazzi 1998 Sangiovese, Napa Valley. Visiting with Michaela and Greg Rodeno at their charming Italian house smack in the middle of Napa Valley this week, they had brought the '98 up from the cellar. A revelation--this vibrant red surprised us with its lively, still youthful mingle of red cherry-raspberry-cranberry fruit, grown richer in both flavor and texture after nearly 20 years in bottle, and from a vintage that was roundly bashed but this gem obviously overlooked. Decanted, it opened and bloomed in aroma and grew silkier in texture--a tribute to its excellent balance. It should easily hold at this plateau for some time yet, but it was a lovely moment to catch it. The 2014 VR Sangio may well do the same--a charmer now, but just as well-balanced. Thanks, guys! 8/18
Château Léoville-Barton 1982, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. Oh my! almost waited too long to open this very lovely wine. Even decanted, it took nearly two hours to fully blossom before beginning to fade, but the aromas--floral-accented berry fruit, tinged with flavors of worn leather, wood, tobacco wove a complex and persistent bouquet, lingering in the glass long after the last drop was consumed. Amazing at almost 36 years of age--I think it would have been at its dramatic best five to seven years ago. Still, a delight to share with friends at a recent dinner. I love St. Juliens--so I better pay attention to my '83 Léoville-las-Cases!
Grant Burge GSM The Holy Trinity 2002 Australia A "holy" blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre (GSM), still dark, rich and spicy with black raspberry and black cherry flavors, chocolate accents and a hint of black pepper. Intensely aromatic; tannins beginning to soften but firm--considerable time ahead of it but quite gorgeous to drink now (9/2017) at 15 years of age. Decant for a good 45 minutes to an hour.
Barboursville 1998 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Virginia. Amazingly vibrant fruit--currants and cherries. Tasted this blind with a California Cabernet Franc (2005), as well as a Bordeaux (2005) from Margaux--and the 1998 Cabernet Franc (19 years old!) was the unanimous favorite. Iyt's the perfect moment to drink it--a few bottles available in the 1821 Cellar at Barboursville--worth a trip to Charlottesville! 7/17
1991 California Cabernets. I selected a few of these from my cellar racks a while back and put them in a box labeled "pot roast wines"--in 2012, I think. Recently I decided I better pull a few and try them, decanted of course. Very rewarding so far. 1991 was an excellent vintage for California reds, especially cabernet sauvignon. The first I decanted was Liparita 1991 from Napa Valley; we were delighted with its vivid fruit, still quite dark (after 26 years!), beautifully integrated fruit, oak and acidity making it wonderfully complex, rich and smooth--superb with braised short ribs.
Murphy-Goode 1991 Alexander Valley. Still a young winery then but this solid Cab boasted solid blackberry flavors typical of good Alex Valley Cabernet. Smooth and round, Very good depth, also excellent with the beef. Plenty of life left in it.
This week I tried the William Hill 1991 (Atlas Peak, Napa), which has faded in color a bit; still pleasant to drink but a simple straightforward Cab, undoubtedly better a few years back.
Scroll down for Dry Creek Reserve 1991 and '91 Clos du Bois Marlstone--both outstanding. May 2017
Villa Mt. Eden 1991 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: August 2017--another example of underrated Caliifornia Cabs--this one 26 years old from the heart of Napa Valley--richly dark, still-vivid black fruit flavors, smooth and balanced, good long finish. Delicious to drink now. Predicted to go 15-20 years when released arund 1994--exceeding expectations by a decade.
Clos du Val 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Surprised a few folks in Richmond recently by serving this one blind. No one guessed it, though I was only interested in how they liked it--and everyone did. Aromatic, vibrant and succulent, with spicy black currant flavors, subtle oak thoroughly integrated with the fruit, very well-balanced, smooth but lively and quite vivid for a 16-year old Cab--drinking extremely well now--so the Stag's Leap District and the Reserve must have years ahead of them. Wish I had more of this one.
Swanson 1996 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 1996 was a good vintage, though not exceptional, but there were plenty of lovely black fruit flavors, spicy aromatics, and incredibly smooth texture. Typical of good Napa Cabs to have the structure and depth to age two decades--and this one, round and long in finish, still has a stretch to go. If you like richness that still has a snap to it, enjoy it now if you're lucky enough to have it.
Merry Edwards 2011 Pinot Noir Georgeanne, which I tasted with Merry at the winery when it was still in barrel. It was impressive then, but now, 5 years later it is delicious--spicy and smooth, great depth and layers of ripe berry flavors. It has years ahead of it, 5-8 certainly, but the juicy spiciness and smooth texture are beguiling now (November 2016)
Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1991, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma. 1991 was an excellent vintage -- I remember it well and many of the wines have aged magnificently; it still has time ahead of it. The Dry Creek '91 Reserve, decanted January 17, 2015, had a huge, billowing aroma of ripe blackberry with hints of chocolate and licorice. Color still dense, a deep purple garnet to the rim. The vibrant, lush fruit maintains a grip of tannin that will keep it going a few more years, so perhaps not yet at its peak--but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the luuriant blackberry and boysenberry flavors at this stage of its evolution. Lovely with braised short ribs.
Clos du Bois Marlstone 1991, Alexander Valley Decanted July 26, 2014 Outstanding. Still dark and dense deep garnet in color. A blend of 54% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 6% malbec, 5% cab franc. There are lovely flavors of blackberry (typical of Alex Valley cabs); it is extremely smooth with saplike fruit (the merlot and malbec, I suspect). Truly this is the reason to allow wines to age--they simply transform into something quite beyond their infancy at release. Luscious to drink, long smooth finish. At its peak? I'm delighted with it now, but it still has a grip to it that portends more life ahead.
Simi 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Alexander Valley. January 2014. I plucked this bottle from my cellar to take to a gathering in Napa Valley celebrating Zelma Long's 70th birthday with a group of stellar women in the field of wine. As Simi's winemaker in the 1980s, Zelma made this exceptional wine....and I was relieved to find it, as we all did that evening, still exceptional. The cork crumbled as I pulled it but it was tight in the neck of the bottle and the wine was sound, with very little ullage. I had stood it up a day in advance, and we decanted it. The blackberry flavors so typical of Alexander Valley cabernet fruit are still vivid, the wine beautifully evolved and marvelously lush in texture, richly aromatic and long in finish. We all got a few choice sips. Anyone who owns this wine is lucky. Thanks, Zelma.
Cosentino M. Coz 2001, Napa Valley. A Bordeaux blend from the outstanding vintage of 2001, one of the best of the 21st century so far. It was part of a lot of venerable Napa Valley gems I donated to a fundraising auction for the Rhine Research Center in Durham. The winning bid came from my godson and his brother in California, enthusiastic young wine collectors in the bay area. Still dark and rich (we decanted it), very firm-structured, the wine showed layers of complexity, with flavors of black currant, cedar, licorice and black fruits, very long in the finish. It was a treat to enjoy its flavors unfold over dinner. Still has some years ahead of it.
Caymus 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection, Napa Valley Opened with friends in Oxford MS over the holidays. Outstanding Cab--but not at its peak yet, as I suspect it will be in another five years or so, and likely something to swoon over from 2018-2020. Black currant fruit concentrated and intense, framed in oak and tannin just beginning to soften. Aromas took a while to really open but very rich and vibrant when they did. Alongside Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1995 SLV--also in need of further aging but not as complex as the Caymus. Both, however, solid treats with grilled; beef tenderloin. Thanks, Duke and friends!
Château Gruaud-Larose 1982, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. June 2011. A fabulous treat, courtesy of fellow Virginia judge Andy Williams, who decanted this venerable bottle and brought it to share with judges at the recent Virginia State Fair wine competition (scroll down for some good VA wines).
The Gruaud-Larose '82 amazed us all with its still-vivid color, its generous well-matured fruit and aromas of smoke, blackberries, and sweet cherries fairly billowing out of the glass. Tilting the glass showed its bricky orange edges, but the wine was still lively, very smooth, some tannins extant, but with great complexity and fine length. Some thought it could go another decade, but I thought we caught it at an excellent time to really enjoy the brightness of the fruit melded with oak.
I originally tasted this wine in the mid-eighties when I still lived in New York and attended a tasting hosted by importer Chateau and Estates. Back then I found it very dense, opaque and closed, even a little heavy. What a lovely surprise to taste it some 16 years later and find it so delightful and charming.
Many thanks, Andy!!!
Château Prieuré-Lichine 1982. Decanted. Well, it couldn't last forever. This '82 from Margaux in the Haut-Médoc is well past its peak. Alas. I'm wondering what to do with the ramainder of my of my case! Fall 2010
Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 1988, Napa Valley. Decanted. Terrific. Over Labor Day (2010) with friends on Bald Head Island. With grilled rib-eyes. Superbly evolved Cabernet, smooth but complex, with layered aromas and flavors of black currants, cedar, and an appealing smokiness. Fine balance, still vivid and lively.
Jordan Vineyards 1979, Alexander Valley. Decanted. I live for wines like this! Thirty-one years old, yet possessed of rich color; complex aromas of black fruits--currants, plums, berries mingled with a slight smokiness. Great balance and acidity, a bgeautifully evolved Cabernet, with smooth but still vivid texture and layers of lovely flavors. Kudos to Rob Davis (and his mentor and consultant, the late great Andre Tchelistcheff). This is the kind of wine that makes an evening utterly memorable. [7/10]
Silverado 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley. Decanted this for my Duke wine class (2/2010), and it showed beautifully. Still deeply colored, with mellowed tannins and black fruits flushing nicely with air. Not as classicly impressive or complex as some Napa Cabs, but surprisingly fine and vivid at almost 19 years of age. Still some life ahead of it, but I think we caught it at a very good moment--and longed for a good roast of beef or lamb to accompany it.
Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 1991, Napa Valley. Decanted. Pulled this up to have for dinner with friends--just at the right time. Decanted it, a good inch of sediment. Took 20 minutes or so to open up, then big ripe berry aromas billowed up enticingly. Nice and full but quite smooth on the palate. Great with tenderloin. The flavors bloomed and lasted for over an hour, then the fruit began to fade and tannins took over....what was left, that is, just a scoche.
Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Monte Rosso Vineyard. Decanted.
The legendary Monte Rosso vineyard atop the Mayacamas range is named for its
red iron-rich earth. The property has yielded many fine Zinfandels and Cabernets
through the years, and this 1997 is no exception. Big and muscular still at 12 years of
age, it is drinking well but has easily 5 to 8 years left to improve further. Flavors now
of dark ripe black cherry, spicy oak and a hint of earthiness that is very appealing.
Good length and structure.
Mayacamas 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Outstanding! This superbly balanced Cabernet is drinking beautifully right now, showing great depth of color, wonderful black currant flavors, and softened tannins that have mellowed into a plush velvet texture. On its way perhaps to achieve the remarkable complexity of the 1984 (**see Mayacamas 1984 below), but it is awfully good now. A re-release from the winery, there may be some left, $75 a bottle. Check it out at:
Merry Edwards 2000 Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane, Russian River. We had this in my winter wine class at Duke. Always one of Merry Edwards richest Pinots, the 2000 Olivet Lane has mellowed into a smooth and silky, deliciously complex wine, still quite lively and lovely for drinking now. We longed for braised quail or roast duckling to complement it.
Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 1995, Australia. Decanted. Really gorgeous now, but still youthful, with more years ahead to develop further. Quite evolved, with softened tannins and complex aromas of wood, earthniness, roasted meat and rather high floral notes of violet. Perfect for roast beef or lamb. Glad I put away another bottle!
Beaune 1995 Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus, Grèves Côte de Beaune, Bouchard Père et Fils. Outstanding! A beautifully evolved Beaune, with flavors of cherry, cinnamon and smoke. L'Enfant Jésus is one of the prized vineyards of the Côte d'Or, noted for its velvety texture. Lovely with braised quail.
As was Robert Sinskey 1991 Pinot Noir Carneros. Still loaded with fruit but round and mellow, smooth and rich. Quite a knockout! And extremely well-balanced, only 12.5% alcohol (well, maybe 13)--Give us more like this!!
Mayacamas 1984 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. An amazing testament to the aging process!! The '84 vintage was spotty, but mountain vineyards sometimes exceed ripeness and quality in a lesser vintage. Mayacamas, atop Mt Veeder, produces consistently fine Cabernets--but if you want glorious drinking you have to wait . Give them time and they'll turn into a beauty like this 1984, with a bouquet of ripe berries and layers of dark fruit and oak, wonderful clean, bright plummy fruit, still vibrant and enticing. Superbly balanced, this wine was an exciting catch à point--perfect maturity. What a joy to drink, with its elegance, long appealing aftertaste--and here's the kicker: 12.8 to no more than 13% alcohol, proof the grapes don't have to be 25+ Brix at harvest to produce a classic. My thanks, and a toast, to owner/winemaker, the late Bob Travers!!