A couple of friends came over one evening, so I decided to treat myself and them to a vertical tasting of several vintages of the Castel Grand Vin, that I had on hand. In addition, I decided to make things interesting by mixing in one bottle that was not a Castel. All the bottles were placed in bags, and my guests had no idea what was being served. The vintages of the Grand Vin were: 2004, 2006 and 2007, and the fourth bottle was an Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Unfortunately, the color of the neck showed, and the Hagafen stood out for it bottle's color is brown compared to the green of the Castel's, tipping them off to the fact that one bottle was different. My friend amazed me, by nailing the vintage years of the '04 and the '07, and by saying that the third bottle is between the two, not being sure whether it is an '05 or '06. However, even though they figured that they are Bordeaux blends, they thought they were French, commenting that they definitely were not Californian or Israeli. We all rated the Castel's in the following order '06, '07, '04, placing the Hagafen ahead of all three. That the Californian show well might not be surprising given that the wines were tasted without food. I'll also add, that the oak level on all the wines were considered nice, with everyone commenting on how well the tannins were integrated. At the end of the evening the Castel '06 had the least left in the bottle. This is a measure I like to look at, as it shows what wine was of most interest to those around the table.
Castel Grand Vin 2004 - We all felt that it showed a nice earthiness, and that it was mature, but not over the hill.
Castel Grand Vin 2007 - We found it bolder than the '04, but overall in the same style, exhibiting earthiness. We felt that with another year or two in the bottle, it will show better.
Castel Grand Vin 2006 - This was closer to a Californian Cab in the brightness of its fruit, and with a more subdued earthiness than the other Castels.
Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - This wine showcases bright fruit with velvet tannins. My friend commented that it is an iron fist in a velvet glove. The consensus was that it is in its middle stage, and that it could stay in it for another ten years.