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Michael Malinoski

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WTNs: Dinner party with some nice Napa Cabs

by Michael Malinoski » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:10 pm

My wife and I joined two good friends for dinner over at their house a little while back. We decided to drink some California Cabernets and a few other things to go with the various courses throughout the evening. It was a fun and relaxed night, with a lot of time to sit and contemplate each wine.

Sparkling wines:

N.V. Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée Brut. This was served from a half-bottle purchased back in 2000. It’s in a great place right now, showing mellowed and elegant aromas of yeast, ginger, Delicious apple and a gentle nuttiness on the nose. In the mouth, it’s drinking really smoothly, but with good energy and fine balance to the baked apple, ginger, almond, yeast and nutmeg flavors. It’s just a pleasure to drink.

1995 Bollinger Champagne R.D. Extra Brut. There aren’t a whole lot of bubbles to this RD bottling, and I find the nose to be rather vinous in tone—giving up aromas of dark ginger, baked apple, apricot peel, root vegetables, blanched nuts, dark honey, toasted bread and slivers of sherry. In the mouth, it’s dense, dark and meaty, with an aged fruit profile but a nice smooth texture and a fine underlying twang of acidity. It’s rather complex and layered, with full flavors of toasted nuts, yeast, honey, nutmeg, apple, star fruit, dark spices and Madagascar vanilla. I can struggle a bit with the RD style at times, but this one is quite nice and was very enjoyable on this evening.

White wines:

2006 Peter Michael Chardonnay La Carrière Knights Valley. The bouquet here is much tighter and more structured than that of the full-throttled Cuvee Indigene drunk alongside it. It takes a while to open up and even then it stays pretty tightly-focused on aromatic notes of pear, lemon, light honey, hazelnut, ground nutmeg, mineral and mint. In the mouth, it has a fine oily and sinewed feel to it and delivers a nice pure expression of minerality allied to yellow fruit. There’s definitely some softly-sweet oak here that needs further integration, but otherwise this is focused and promising.

2006 Peter Michael Chardonnay Cuvée Indigene. Pow! This wine is wide open and just immediately giving on the full-blown and sexified nose that features vanilla, intense spicebox, lemon oil, hazelnut and slate aromas that are kaleidoscopic and excitingly fleshy and forward. On the palate, it’s rich and creamy, and is absolutely loaded with mouth-filling yellow fruit, brown spices and classy vanilla flavors that also manage to feel zesty and completely alive. This is hedonistic Chardonnay in the extreme, but it’s pulled off wonderfully here.

Napa Valley Cabernets:

1996 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. Both this and the 1997 acquitted themselves quite nicely, I thought. The 1996 comes across as rather classically-made and in a Bordelais style, featuring fine aromas of menthol, tobacco leaf, dry dusty earth, suede leather, red currants and lead pencil. It’s really quite enjoyable. In the mouth, it’s cool and refined--with black currant, blackberry and fine mineral impressions that I find quite subtle, restrained and nicely earth-toned. It has an old-fashioned goodness to it that I appreciate a whole lot and find extremely appealing. This particular bottle was a solid pay-off for my wife who bought it at the winery upon release and let it age these many years.

1997 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. As one might expect, the 1997 is much warmer-fruited in tone, showing plump and playful aromas of spiced plums, baked cherries, mixed currants, pencil shavings and fireplace ashes that are inviting and sort of sexy. It’s relatively full and quite generous in the mouth, with creamy flavors of plums, bittersweet chocolate and gentle spices. The acidity here is fairly soft and the mouthfeel is plush but pliant—and the whole thing is smooth and fleshy without being over the top or too obvious. Personally, I very slightly preferred the gentleman-like classicism of the 1996, but you can’t go wrong with either of these, really.

1991 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. This is an impressive specimen from Togni. On the nose, it’s masculine and muscled, dark and savory—just the definition of old-school styling in its smoldering aromas of black coffee, black leather jacket, fennel, Belgian chocolate, blackberry, tobacco and mincemeat. In the mouth, it’s wonderfully creamy and lush, but also masculine, dark and cool. It’s loaded with flavors of black cherry and black currant, with accents of leather and tobacco never too far away from the core. It’s still a bit sticky on the finish, and there’s little doubt it has eons of solid life ahead of it. It’s great stuff.

2002 Staglin Family Cabernet Sauvignon 20th Anniversary Selection Napa Valley. This wine is absolutely popping with aromas of mocha paste, cherry cream, baked plums, soft spices and pencil shavings that are very pretty, utterly classy and well-bred, and with a little sex appeal thrown in. In some ways it makes you stop and think “is this actually too perfectly-polished?” but I still find myself falling under its spell. In the mouth, it’s utterly seamless, with nary a hair out of place other than perhaps a bit of oak still showing through here and there. Otherwise, it’s generous, sleek, polished and luxuriant without ever feeling weighty or out of proportion. The mocha and blueberry notes can get a bit sweet at times, but they’re carried along so smoothly and effortlessly that it’s hard not to enjoy.

2004 Drinkward Peschon Cabernet Sauvignon Entre Deux Mères Napa Valley. Even though this is pretty young still, I’d have to say it’s drinking pretty well already and should have a very solid future ahead of it. Right now, it delivers lively and penetrating aromas of crème de cassis, blueberries, classy chocolate and limestone that are sweet, layered and pure. In the mouth, it’s quite similar--smooth, sweet and pure-fruited, with a silky texture at times despite youthful tannins and aggressive acidity that are stronger here than with any other wine on the table. Still, it pushes ahead very nicely and delivers a solid dose of tasty blue/purple fruit flavors that have good concentration but moderate weight. It’s well-made and should be even better in 5 years.

1995 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Napa Valley. My friend’s dad stopped by later in the evening to say hello and to join us for the end of our meal. He kindly brought this wine along with him, which we just popped and poured on the spot. It comes across as classy, controlled and refined on the nose, showing subtle aromas of ash, black plum, blueberry, blackberry and shaved wood that grow and blossom with air. In the mouth, it feels rock-solid, with a certain rich refinement that works well for me. The tannins are still out in some force, but this has all the right stuff.

Sweet wines:

1995 Toni Jost Riesling Bacharacher Hahn Beerenauslese Mittelrhein. This wine has an orange tint to the color, and it also smells of oranges to me, to go along with notes of nectarine, apricot and iced tea aromas. It’s super-sweet on the palate, with tacky-textured flavors of nectarine, orange zest and iced tea pushing along right from start to finish. The acidity is fresh enough to keep it lively, but it’s still loaded, dense and sticky. It’s wonderful for those who have a sweet-tooth like I do sometimes.

1997 Pierre-Bise Quarts de Chaume. This is a gorgeous wine on the nose, showing fine botrytis cream and spice notes to go along with beautiful aromas of vanilla, apricot, caramel, fig and yellow raisin. It’s not particularly dense or heavy on the palate, but there’s a great caramel and toffee viscosity to the wine that I find quite appealing. It feels honeyed and smooth, with luscious flavors of creamy orange fruit and raisins that I can’t get enough of. The balance is right on for what it is, and I just love its style—what a great topper to a delightful evening!


-Michael

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