Tasted Saturday, April 22, 2006 during one of our dinner group monthly gatherings where there is good fun, food and wines. Given these conditions, my notes are not 'scientific' nor extremely complete.
We started the evening with several sparkling wines and a few still whites (including an interesting <B>'91 Trimbach Clos St. Hune Riesling</B> - my first Hune that I can recall, which I found to be quite 'petrolly' with good depth and some minerality under the nice fruit tones. Fairly full-bodied and reasonably balanced; the finish was a little muted but very tasty nonetheless.).
The following cult wines were decanted several hours before tasting. The non-cults I'll note as I type.
This is the order I tasted the wines... (and note, I did not really note the colors to the wines - the younger bottles were all purple-ish while the Mondavi was still a good crimson to the edge with no lightening at the edge - ALSO, I didn't write down everything from the labels, so any mistakes are mine alone).
2000 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley Red Wine
$165.00 winery release 55% cab sauv, 35% merlot, 5% cab franc and 5% petit verdot Winery link http://www.colgincellars.com/commerce/viewproduct.php?id=13
A very full and open nose upon first swirling. Dark berry flavors with a smidge of blueberry evident. Some oak, but well dominated by the fruit. Maybe a smidge of alcohol too. On the palate, shows just a lot of concentrated fruit compote and more fruit. Very concentrated but not over-ripe. Seems lacking in acidity although has some tannins buried under the fruit. Certainly a big brute that is a bit fuzzy. Finish is not terribly long. Did I mention the big fruit?
2001 Araujo Altagracia Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
($ I don't recall) 80% cab sauv, 12 % merlot, 8% Petit Verdot (all Eisele vyd) Winery link http://www.araujoestate.com/content/pages/products.html
(click on wine, then Altagracia, then 2001)
This was slightly less purplish and more crimson in the glass. A bit less open than the Colgin, this showed more cherry and cassis in the nose with only a hint of oak/cedar (and more a component than a separate flavor). This was very pleasing on the palate after the Colgin... less excess in the fruit but more "flavorful" if that makes sense. Good berry flavors that was more harmonious and showed pretty good balancing acidity. Grew a bit deeper as the wine opened more in the glass. There were some slight tannins but they were not at all intrusive. A reasonable finish with mostly tasty cab fruit flavors. As I finished my sample after going through some of the other wines, I wrote 'restrained' on my pad - a far cry from the previous wine, as well as most of the latter bottles. Certainly not inexpensive (can't remember but I think like $80 or $85 from the winery), but a wine that fits with my palate preferences.
2001 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch Vineyard Napa Valley
($ I think $225 from winery) (don't have the blend info, nor a winery link)
At first, almost nothing on the nose. With vigorous swirling, a deep nose of cassis fruit starts to show then deepen over a minute or two. Almost pure fruit flavors on the nose although some hints of oak present but well in the background. A very pleasing feel in the mouth, even though it is extremely concentrated. Very big fruit compote flavors with almost no sense of oak present. Better acidity to help lift this through the mouth. What tannins are present are completely under the fruit. The finish is fairly lengthy with lots of fruit. Class of the cults (for first time through the wines).
But, an hour or so later, I was able to secure another pour, and although nothing on the nose or mouth really changed, my overall impression began to find this wine (as well as the others except Altagracia) tiring to drink on its own, and they were a bit too big for anything that we had to eat with it - even our course that had elk tenderloin with a light sezchuan pepper crusting [not my choice for how to serve elk, but I wasn't in charge]. Although I would be interested to try this wine again in 8-10 years, I wonder what will become of it.
2001 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa
(no info handy on the wine)
A nice nose of rich and ripe fruits (cassis), with a smidge of oak and a slight herbal component. On the palate, a pleasing mixture of fruit and some spice that is fairly fruit driven, but showing reasonable acidity and some tannins that show on the finish. While concentrated, it doesn't seem as 'packed' and 'stacked' as the Abreu. A reasonable finish of fruit even with the tannins. Very nice.
2000 Peter Michael Winery 'Les Pavots' Red Proprietary Wine Napa
$ unknown, 73% cab sauv, 16% cab franc, 12% merlot Winery link http://www.petermichaelwinery.com/PMW/wmnotes/00lespavots.html
A very super deep berry nose showing cassis and perhaps blueberry as well as some oak notes. On the palate, very concentrated dark berry fruit flavors that are very ripe (but not overripe). Seems to lack a bit of acidity so it seems a bit flabby. Some tannins show towards the short-ish finish. While not the fruit bomb the Colgin was, this does seem a little flabby. Nice fruit flavors while in the mouth.
So much for the cult wines. On to a few others that I took notes on (2 of the next three I brought so my notes may be a smidge biased).
1987 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa
(specific wine info unknown)
Briefly decanted at the table a short time before we started pouring. A good red ruby/crimson color out to the edge of the glass. A striked difference in this nose to the previous wines. While showing good berry and cherry fruit on the nose, also has more earth, cedar and the beginnings of leather components. On the palate, very good flavors that are not super concentrated; well balanced with good acidity. Shows no discernable tannins. Finish is mostly fruit (cherry and some cassis) with just hints of earth and cedar, and is of good length. A very tasty CA cab that seems to be entering its peak drinking period. Wish I owned a few!
1995 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma
(price around $35-40-ish on release, although I got a steal as wine shop mis-priced these at $19) 100% cab sauv Winery info http://www.laurelglen.com/index.html
Decanted out of bottle and back about 2 hours before tasting. A rather open-fruited nose showing mostly cab fruit flavor (cassis mostly) with hints of berry and just a smidge of oak for flavor. Coats the palate with terrific fruit flavors of great depth and almost pin-point precision balance with its acid and a little bit of tannins on towards the finish. Already singing on the palate, it promises much more with another 4-6 years in the cellar. Finish is flavorful and of good length even with the slight tannins. An interesting comparison to the cults, and the Mondavi as this is obviously between the two in its evolution (and this 100% cab sauv unlike the previous wines).
2000 Scherrer Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
appx $30 winery release price 100% cab sauv from the Scherrer Vineyard Winery link http://www.scherrerwinery.com/wines/cab.htm
Decanted out of bottle and back about 2 hours before tasting. An interesting turn from the last wine. Showing a bit 'younger' cassis and cabernet sauvignon nose with a hint of oak well in the background. More restrained on the palate but still showing good fruit flavors that almost seem 'creamy' (in a good way). Nicely balanced with reasonable acidity and just a hint of tannins as you get into the tasty finish. A very nice pleasing wine that has a good future in store over the next 6-8+ years.
So, what to draw from this tasting?
1.) I was very glad for this opportunity to taste the cults and compare them to wines that I own. I'm on the mailing list of all but the Peter Michael and recently the Araujo (they pissed me off by changing their list policy, but that is another matter altogether and not for this thread), but been too poor to purchase for my cellar. Luckily a good friend has purchased the last several vintages, but I think he too will likely give up buying these pricey wines.
2.) I thought the Colgin and Peter Michael quite flabby. That said, they still have some interest although more as a stand alone glass than wines to match with any food.
3.) The Bryant and the Abreu were my favorites of the true cults but again, they are very big and highly concentrated wines that for the next few years are best drunk by themselves. Not sure what 8 to 10 years will bring these to be, as I have no comparisons in my tasting experience (even having tasted the '89 Haut Brion fresh off the boat gives me no clue as to how these will age).
4.) The Altagracia (baby cult) really surprised me as being a very flavorful wine without the heaviness (is that a word?) of the cults. Much better food wine. But, that said, it certainly wasn't better than the Laurel Glen, and was close to the Scherrer for comparison (not good to compare to the Mondavi with its 13 additional years...). The Scherrer certainly fits my wallet better.
5.) Although I'm probably a bit biased towards the Laurel Glen and Scherrer (I brought them), I found these as pleasing to my palate as the big guns. If money were no object, I would like to have a handful of the Abreus and Bryants just as 'conversation pieces' and interesting things to throw into future tastings, but I would also have a case or two of the LGs and Scherrers in the cellar knowing these would do much better on the dinner table. But, as it is, I have bottles of the LG and Scherrers and no cults (except a few examples from the mid-late nineties when I had more cash to spend on wine than now).
Thanks for reading along.