We were back at Zach’s for our monthly poker game, and as usual he put together a great lineup of wines for us to drink blind while we played.
2001 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay Napa Valley. Our first wine of the day presents fine aromas of chalk, lemon zest, minerals, nutmeg, butterscotch candy and soft oak that are fresh, inviting and elegant. In the mouth, it demonstrates excellent tension and grip to go along with a languid flow. I’m a fan of the lemon cream, butterscotch candy, hazelnut, and fine herb flavor profile. Overall, it’s energetic and persistent, yet very easy to sip and enjoy right now. I like it a lot.
2002 Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay Napa Valley. This one is a bit darker and richer in tone on the nose, with densely concentrated aromas of baked peach, poached apples, burnished nectarines and butterscotch that are expansive and penetrating. However, in the mouth, it’s squeaky-clean, with a decided acidic edging to it. The flavors veer more to green apple and pear, with a direct and driven personality. It feels taut and puckering, which seems odd after the more exotically-styled nose. Some oak notes start to emerge toward the back end after it sits in the glass awhile, but that actually seems to help the wine and bring it into better overall harmony. In the end, I like it, but the performance is more up and down than it is for the more consistent 2001, in my opinion.
1979 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon Napa Valley. This is pretty darned nice on the nose, featuring earthy, savory aromas of dark cherries, plums, toasted spices, carob nut, tobacco leaf, bacon fat and a bit of bretty funk character down low that works well with the overall profile. It’s dark and smoky on a medium-weighted frame in the mouth, still showing a bit of tannic structure to go with a lot of savory, leathery flavors that feel old-fashioned and rustic, with a bit of dirty funk in there as well. It’s not a wine of pleasure, but there’s a good amount of Old World-styled interest in it.
1982 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley. The nose here is a bit bigger and bolder, delivering plush scents of plum, dark fig, hoisin sauce, black earth, menthol, shoe leather and brimstone. In the mouth, the tannins feel a bit gritty to me, and it’s a bit chewy and fudgy in texture, but it delivers rather nice fruit flavors of plums and sweet wild berries at its core.
2006 Le Cadeau Pinot Noir Côte Est Willamette Valley. The nose here is fresh and bright in tone, with tons of sweet blue and purple berry fruit aromas to go with background notes of cola and balsa wood. In the mouth, it’s woody and woodsy, with sassafras, oak spice and crunchy leaf sensations in support of overtly sweet purple berry fruit. It’s big and overt and obvious, with way too much sweetness for my taste and also way too much bitter stem and smoke tones on the finish. I just can’t seem to warm up to it at all, and it’s by far my least favorite in this flight.
2006 Le Cadeau Pinot Noir Diversite Willamette Valley. This is more controlled on the nose, with nice aromas of lilac, baked cherries, mixed berries, chocolate, dried sweat and green forest. On the palate, it’s tight-knit and a bit linear, but I definitely enjoy the flavor profile of mountain berry fruit, pumpkin spices and charred wood.
2006 Le Cadeau Pinot Noir Équinoxe Willamette Valley. This wine really pops out of the glass with lots of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry fruit scents leading the way, followed by supporting aromas of Brazil nut, almond cookie, soft oak and powdered sugar. In the mouth, it’s the tangiest, juiciest wine of the three, with a grippy core of cranberry and raspberry fruit flavors and fun spices. It seems holistic and concentrated, yet medium-weighted and balanced by fleshy acidity. I tended to enjoy the fruit in the Diversite more, but I think this is the most holistic and complete of the trio.
1998 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. I thought that both of these 1998 Napa Valley Cabernets showed surprisingly well this afternoon. The nose here is very nice, presenting fine aromas of tobacco leaf, leather, soft funk, fireplace ash and menthol underpinning layers of cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruit. I really enjoy drinking it, as it has a really relaxed and easy-flowing sensibility to it, but also plenty of creamy red fruit stuffing that’s juicy and refreshing. It’s smooth, finely-contained and entirely gulpable right now.
1998 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. The nose here is full of charred meat, fireplace ash and creosote aromas to go along with nice bits of menthol and woodsy greenery. It’s not nearly as savory in tone on the palate, where in fact it comes across as flavored with rather nice baked cherry fruit flavors allied to tangy acidity. Although it is decidedly pasty and sappy in texture, it just has an effortless balance to it, and I definitely like the fun chocolate and mole sauce sorts of undertones it shows off on the pleasing and surprisingly open finish. I was definitely surprised to see it was a Seavey when the wines were revealed at the end of the day—this is one vintage of that producer that I think you can enjoy now.
1999 Viader Proprietary Red Napa Valley. This blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Cabernet Franc presents a lifted, classy and well-defined bouquet of black currants, cooled bacon fat, fresh tobacco leaves and cooled campfire embers. In the mouth, it’s utterly seamless in texture, with a great concentration of slinky flavors. Creamy sensations of black currant, black cherry, chocolate and earth flavors are delicious and plush, with an easy flow and quiet balancing acidity. The finish is long and lasting and lifted, with fine cedary notes. It’s an elegant, regal wine that’s just really impressive all around.
1999 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Cinq Cépages Sonoma County. This one’s a bit earthier on the nose, with appealing aromas of baked cherries, scorched earth, singed iron and toasted oak. In the mouth, it has a rather lactic, creamy feel to it—with flavors of chocolate, red currant and raspberry that are youthfully direct and fairly intense. My impression is that it’s still a bit formative at this stage, but the milky texture and fine flavors make it just fine to drink now, too.
2001 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino. Here one finds aromas of cherry and dark raspberry fruit, scorched earth, dark smoke and melted chocolate that are still pretty tightly-coiled. In the mouth, it also seems like it needs some time to unwind and release its full personality. The tannins are right up front, but the wine also feels pretty loaded with cherry, raspberry, currant and cocoa flavors that are dense and thickly pasty. I suspect there’s more to this wine that will emerge with a few more years in the cellar.
2001 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino. This wine smells quite nice to me, with interesting and inviting aromas of tobacco leaf, limestone, bacon fat, dark cherry fruit and a little twinge of funk. In the mouth, it’s very sunny and warm in profile--with sensations of hot brick, baked cherry, licorice rope and fine red floral notes welcoming you right in. The wine has a solid but refined backbone and a good acidic core that brings everything together quite nicely. I like this one.
2011 Gino Pedrotti Schiava Nera Vigneti Delle Dolomiti. After the formal tasting, a few additional corks were popped and a few wines were served non-blind. The only one I tried was this interesting red that actually looks more like a rose when you pour it into the glass. Indeed, it sort of smells more like a rose, as well, showing aromas of peach, liquid cherry, pomegranate, honeysuckle, white pepper and fresh paper that are fun and different. It’s light and airy on the palate, with peach and light strawberry fruit flavors and a flowery mouth perfume to it. It’s exceptionally easy-drinking and just seems ideally made for summer sipping.
2002 Mongeard-Mugneret Savigny-lès-Beaune. Sadly, I never got around to trying this wine…
2004 Bounty Hunter Cabernet Sauvignon Frontier Justice Beckstoffer Napa Valley. …and I just wasn’t up for trying this one.