Mostly Cabernet Tasting
Saturday, June 6, 1998
Results from a Cabernet tasting at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Sixteen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $34.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'96 L'Ecole #41 Merlot - Columbia Valley, WA. $21.99. Garnet color, with hint of purple. Nose of vanilla, black cherry, coconut, and shoe polish. Very fat and fleshy nose. Full mouthfeel of plummy and black cherry fruit. Just delicious. Aroma score: A- Taste score: A- Overall score: A-
'95 Waterbrook Merlot Reserve - Columbia Valley, WA. $29.99. Purple garnet color. Nose of shoe polish, black cherry, orange zest, and tar. Slightly tart young fruit, good mouthfeel, bit of stem, and long finish. Either the fruit is still evolving or this wine is just too tight. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B Overall score: B+
'95 Cafaro - Napa Valley. $27.99. Dark garnet purple color. Big dense nose of shoe polish and black raspberry, with a touch of oak. Big and chewy mouthfeel, with yet-developed tannins. Major young fruit and acids, yet this wine seems way too open and accessible. I'm betting that this baby shuts down for hibernation soon, and comes back big time. Joe Cafaro is also the winemaker at Lewis Vineyards. Aroma score: A- Taste score: B+ Overall score: A-
'95 Hedges 3 Vnyd- Columbia Valley, WA. approx $17.99. Purple-black ruby color. Huge nose of shoe polish and sweet black cherry fruit. What a big fruity mouthfeel of wine! Young, but very polished fruit, soft tannins, and a long fruit-filled finish. Aroma score: A- Taste score: A- Overall score: A-
'95 Mount Veeder - Napa Valley. $20.99. Dark garnet color. Nose of sawdust, cheddar cheese, and black cherry fruit.. Sort of like a cheese/fruit plate that'd been dropped on the floor. Good core of moderate fruit, with a medium-long finish. Good balance and an overall decent wine, but still a little shy on fruit. Oh, and they haven't forgotten the cheese, Gromit. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B Overall score: B
'95 Larkmead - Napa Valley. $23.99. Medium garnet color. Nose of sweet black cherry, anise, tar, vanilla, and shoe polish. Very young and fresh tasting, without excessive acids. Sweet blackraspberry fruit, good mid-palate, and very nice finish. Where'd these guys come from? Nice job Aroma score: A- Taste score: A- Overall score: A-
'95 Gianni Paoletti - Napa Valley. $35.99. Dark ruby color with purple overtones. Very concentrated nose of black fruits and shoe polish. Mouthfeel of huge young fruit, with just the right balance of acids. Smooth, and exceedingly long finish. Soft, but apparent tannins. Just fabulous! From the former Napa Creek property, this wine was commissioned by the new owner, a SF restauranteur, and deftly blessed by Nils Venge's capable winemaking. Aroma score: A Taste score: A Overall score: A
'95 Robert Mondavi - SLD, Napa Valley. $22.99. Dark garnet ruby color, with touch of purple. Nose of cassis, shoe polish, cheese, and sweet black cherry. Smooth delectible fruit, polished mouthfeel with just that same hint of cheese. Medium-long finish. Fruit is from the former Vichon SLD vineyards. Aroma score: A- Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'95 Karl Lawrence - Napa Valley. $24.99. Dark ruby ruby garnet color. Nose of sweet black cherry fruit, shoe polish, touch of oak, and even a cola syrup quality. My notes don't do it justice - it was just beautiful! Big entry of sweet blackraspberry and blueberry fruit, shoe polish, and a hint of cedar. Excellent balance and very long finish. From the Sequoia Grove winemaker. Aroma score: A Taste score: A- Overall score: A-
'95 Forman - Napa Valley. $33.99. Medium dark ruby-garnet, with a bit of purple. Lush nose of sweet cassis and black cherry fruit, shoe polish, and vanilla. Just lovely! Very nice mouthfeel of fleshy fruit. Lond slightly sweet finish, with very soft tannins. Smooth and beautifully done. Aroma score: A Taste score: A Overall score: A
'95 Murphy-Goode Reserve - Brenda Block, Alexander Valley. $24.99. Dark ruby color. Deep nose of shoe polish, bacon, cassis and vanilla. There's also an earthy or slightly veggie streak that hidden down deep. Cassis and bacon, with additional flavors of pine and oak. A bit narrowly focussed with it's slightly bitter fruit. Touch of heat on medium-long finish. I suppose it's the power of suggestion, but this might go great with a BLT. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'95 Lancaster Reserve - Alexander Valley. $41.99. Purple ruby color. Nose of shoe polish and cassis. Very young and tannic, but also loaded with nice sweet chewy fruit that shows well through the wine's very long finish. This is the first vintage for this wine, and it's a nice start - just a little pricey for its pedigree. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'95 Stonestreet Legacy - Alexander Valley. $42.99. Dark ruby garnet color. Nose of chocolate, cheese, molasses and shoe polish. Wow, what a mouthfeel. Bittersweet chocolate/raspberry souffle. Big and chewy mouthfeel, with long finish, and tasty after-palate, if a tad dry and dusty. A nice and interesting wine, but stratosphericly priced. Do the regular bottling instead - it's a real gem, and half the price. Aroma score: A- Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'94 Jordan - Alexander Valley. $25.99. Medium purple garnet color, but light extraction. Nose of cassis, with some sourness and a hint of bell. This seems to blow off with a little swirling. Light cassis fruit on medium body. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'94 Farella-Park - Napa Valley. $23.99. Ruby garnet with tinge of purple color. Very nice nose of cassis, shoe polish, and a hint of beet. Good sweet fruit, but a sense of tartness pervades toward medium-long finish. Aroma score: B+ Taste score: B+ Overall score: B+
'94 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon - Rutherford, Napa Valley. $52.99. Medium purple garnet color. Nose of cassis and shoe polish, with hints of beet and tomato. Very nice chewy mouthfeel. Smooth sweet finish. Excellent balance, and fabulous fruit. Absolutely delicious! Aroma score: A- Taste score: A Overall score: A
Overall impressions: this was a solid flight of wines that contained many of special merit. Though nearly all of these wines are priced above $20 (the Hedges being the only exception), and with a few in the $40-50 range, I really wasn't sure that I'd find many bargains in the group. But, relatively speaking, I was wrong.
Besides the Hedges, which is an excellent value, I felt the Karl Lawrence and Larkmead presented the best bargains in the bunch. Next, I'd rate the Cafaro as a pretty good buy for an ager. Arguably, the Paoletti and Forman may still represent bargains, but in any event certainly ought to be considered must have's.
Let downs or surprises? A few. The Waterbrook Merlot just seemed a little hard right now and may ultimately improve. But, following the lushness of the L'Ecole, almost anything would suffer. The Hedges was a real sleeper. I had it out of the intended pouring sequence, and it was still a standout. Among the let downs has to be counted the Mount Veeder and Stonestreet. Earthy streaks and/or dried out fruit on the palate were disappointing results for wines that have shown better. Finally, I'll go out on a limb and state that I think Vichon did a better job with the SLD fruit than this Mondavi showing.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'95 Gianni Paoletti - Napa Valley. $35.99
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