Mostly '96 Cabs
Got another look at some '96 Cabs at a tasting at the Wine Exchange - Saturday, March 20, 1999. Fifteen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $28. All of the wines were double decanted several hours prior to tasting.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'96 Di Stefano - Columbia Valley, WA. $29.99. Medium dark garnet
ruby color. Nose of cassis, toasty oak, anise, vanilla, and hints of leaf
and stem. Big chewy mouthfeel of bitter and somewhat sour fruit. Tannins
and oak seem very integrated, but unfortunately the fruit misses the mark.
'96 Pezzi-King - Dry Creek Valley. $18.99. Dark ruby garnet color.
Nose of semi-sweet cassis fruit, vanilla, anise, sweet oak, and pepper.
Sweet chewy fruit on the palate, excellent balance, nice toasty and peppery
finish, with just a bit of heat on the back end. Very nice wine, though
it's not quite up to Pezzi-King's '95 effort.
'96 Thunder Mountain - Santa Cruz Mtns, Bates Ranch. $31.99. Medium
dark ruby garnet color. Very funky nose! Nose initially has a woody/weedy/herbal
quality, followed by something bretty or petro-chemical like, combined
with...I dunno...something feral to the extreme. I've never smelled anything
like it. Curious, I swirled this sample off and on for several minutes,
and these aromas did seem to blow off, revealing some underlying notes
of cassis, chocolate, cocoa, anise, and redwood. The mouth initially felt
a bit "tainted" by the off-putting nose, but it too seems to come around
with swirling and time. In mouthfeel, the wine seems meaty, fleshy and
chewy, and presents a huge mouthful of sweet n' sour fruit with an herbal
and slight beet quality, and with a very nice mid-palate leading to a
long off-sweet finish. I've had no previous Thunder Mtn wines, so I'm
not sure if this is bottle aberration or what.
'96 Random Ridge - Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder. $19.99. Dark ruby
garnet color. Fabulous nose of cassis, anise, vanilla, shoe polish, and
grilled meat. Sweet fruit, and a fleshy full-bodied mouthfeel. Very nice
balance, and a long smooth finish. Nice job from people with a good rep
'96 Flora Springs, Trilogy - Napa Valley. $31.99. Dark ruby garnet
color. Nose of cassis, blackberry, spices, meat, some floral nuance, and
toasty oak. No tartness or sourness noted in this fruit; just a sweet
fleshy mouthfeel, along with mouth coating tannins, leading to a very
long and seamless finish. This is a medium-rare steak in a glass! 44%
Cab Sauv; 40% Merlot; 16% Cab Franc.
'96 Napa Wine Company - Napa Valley. $22.99. Medium-dark ruby
garnet color. Nose of sweet cassis fruit, sawdust, anise, orange peel,
with some floral notes. Fleshy fruit, with a toasty oak mouthfeel. Very
approachable, without interference from obtrusive tannins and acids. Also,
winner of the heaviest bottle contest of the day. So, who are these guys?
Aside from their uncomplicated name on the label, there is also something
familiar about the graphics. It seems to have an old Inglenook look to
'96 Franus - Napa Valley. $23.99. Very dark ruby garnet color.
Bright , slightly sharp nose of cassis, anise, and a rubbery, leafy quality.
Big mouthfeel of off-sweet fruit, with a very, very smooth and fleshy
on the palate. Very nice long finish. Absolutely delicious.
'96 Pine Ridge - Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley. $29.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Nose of cassis, anise, vanilla, and floral notes. Classy
and refined, this nose is as suave as Fred Astaire. Fleshy sweet fruit,
full and smooth mouthfeel, with a toasty fruit taste. Just delicious!
Classic SLD and a real winner!
'96 Gianni Paoletti - Napa Valley. $36.99. Very dark purple ruby
garnet color. Big nose of cassis, anise, shoe polish, and cheddar. Huge
dense and chewy mouthfeel of slightly sweet fruit, that fades smoothly
through long seamless finish. Perfectly balanced, with friendly tannins
and a toasty taste. A very nice wine, though slightly less fabulous than
'96 Robert Mondavi, Reserve - Napa Valley. $49.99. Medium-dark
garnet ruby color. Slightly sharp and muddy nose of cassis, coffee, mocha,
raspberry, charcoal, and blueberry. Nice fleshy mouthfeel, but the taste
turns a bit flat and sour at latter palate and through long finish. Disappointing...especially
'96 Harrison - Napa Valley. $39.99. Dark ruby garnet color. Sweet
smoky cassis, anise, vanilla, toasty oak and spices. Fabulous nose! Off-sweet
cassis fruit, with a lovely smooth mouthfeel, and long toasty finish.
'96 Wight-Man - Tri leopard Vnyd, Napa Valley. $44.99. Medium
ruby garnet in color; medium-light extraction. Nose of cassis, anise,
and shoe polish. Moderate body with lightly fruity mouthfeel. Very nice
balance. Smooth and long complex finish. Seeming a bit too lean at first
pass, this wine doesn't show as well when compared to its bigger and beefier
siblings. Pricey first effort.
'95 Spring Mountain - Spring Mtn, Napa Valley. $31.99. Dark ruby
garnet color. Nose of cassis, anise, shoe polish, with a leafy or celery
note. In the mouth, the wine's a little too high strung with bright acids
predominating. The wine seems a bit fruit-starved, and what fruit there
is, is just too sour or tart to bring home the bacon. A classic case of
the nose promising more than the mouth can deliver.
'95 Hess Collection - Napa Valley. $22.99. Medium-dark ruby garnet
color. Nose is very fruity and forward, with aromas of sweet cassis, toast,
and anise. Very chewy mouthfeel, with a toasty and fleshy taste, and good
fruit. There is a slightly sour aspect to the fruit, but not unduly so.
The nice long finish and toasty aftertaste shows a bit of heat.
'94 Heitz Cellars - Napa Valley. $18.99. Dark ruby garnet color.
Nose of cassis, grape, anise, toast, and portabella mushroom. Nice nose,
if a bit thin-smelling. Fleshy and toasty mouthfeel, with lots of smooth
tannins and acids. Long fruit-filled finish. Hey, remember Heitz? Everybody's
whipping boy seems to have come up with a nice wine here.
As I taste more and more of the '96s, it appears that many of the stars of the '95 vintage have made another good wine, albeit not quite as lush. For example, in this flight, both the Paoletti and the Pezzi-King were just a shade less solid than their '95 counterparts. With all the buzz about "...forget the '96s...can't wait for the '97s," I'd half expected something weak from this vintage. But, so far, so nice - except for the price, which has remained high or gotten higher. On the other hand, who know what price the '97s will come in at. This flight had an interesting and/or peculiar side to it.
The Pine Ridge was the clear winner here. Sumptuous smell, taste and texture, it was just a classy bottle of wine at what seems, by today's standards, to be a "reasonable" price. The Trilogy was a huge mouthfull of wine. Surprisingly youthful and a bit backward at this point, it should come around to be a very nice bottle. The Harrison had a really fabulous nose, and will be a very nice bottle as well.
I expected a better showing from the only Washington wine in the pack.
But I found the Di Stefano tart and sour on the palate, and not
at all representative of what I've come to expect from Washington Cabs.
The Mondavi was another disappointment. The nose was a bit muddy,
and the To-Kalon fruit just didn't seem to be there. I don't know what
to make of the Thunder Mtn. It was encouraging that the initial
aromas blew off after some time and swirling. But, when I tried the wine
again after finishing the rest of the flight, it still carried the same
profile. I do recall there can be some unusual qualities to Bates Ranch
fruit at times, but never anything quite like this. Maybe with some aging
it'll iron out in the long run. I don't know if this is atypical or typical
of this bottling or just this bottle of wine. But, at $32, I'm not going
to know, either. Finally, the Napa Wine Company's offering was
very nice; and, they walked, no make that crawled, away with the trophy
for the heaviest bottle in the flight. The Wight-Man, Tri Leopard wins
the "Are you ####ing me" title for most unusual name. I fully expected
the wine's appellation to be South Africa or Australia, but with a Napa
designation there has to be some interesting story behind the name.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Pine Ridge - Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley. $29.99
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