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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Cal Bordeaux Whites & Reds - December 8, 2010

We tried tonight some Calif Bordeaux Whites & Reds:

  1. TheOjaiVnyd SauvBlanc McGinleyVnyd/SantaYnezVlly (14.0%) 2009: Med.yellow color; rather herbal/melony/lush/SB light mineral/earthy very light pencilly/oak lovely nose; tart ripe/melony/SB light herbal/minerally very lush/glycerined light mineraly/steely flavor; long ripe/melony/lush/SB/light herbal light mineraly/earthy finish; riper & richer than I expected; quite a lovely SB at a good price. $25.50
  2. OrinSwift Valadora SauvBlanc NapaVlly (14.5%) 2009: Med.gold color; rather strong cat pee/ herbal/grapefruity slight pungent/gunpowder/gunflint some oak nose; soft tangy/grapefruity/ herbal/ olive some pungent/oak/ gunflint flavor; med.long slightly tart herbal/grapefruity/cat pee some pungent/gunflint finish; quite a nice SauvBlanc in the NZ style. $25.00
  3. DryCreekVnyd Estate FumeBlanc DCV3/DCV (Estate; 13.5%) 2007: Med.light gold color; ripe melony/lush light grassy/SB slight honney/mead very light oak lovely nose; soft lush/melony very light herbal/grassy/SB light toasty/oak slight honneyed/mead/ripe flavor; med.long lush/melony/SB light herbal/grassy finish w/ an aftertaste that keeps going on & on; lots of ripe/lush character and not as herbal as the '08. $25.00
  4. DryCreekVnyd Estate FumeBlanc DCV3/DCV (Estate; 13.5%) 2008: Light gold color; quite spicy somewhat melony/ lush rather herbal/grassy/SB slight mineral light oak nose; tarter more herbal/ grassy/SB some melony/lush very light oak flaavor; tarter bit simpler somewhat grassy/herbal/SB light melony/lush light oak finish; a bit more simple and bit more herbal/grassy. $25.00
  5. DryCreekVnyd SauvBlanc Musque Taylor'sVnyd/DCV (14.5%; www.DryCreekVineyard.com)
    : Light gold color; slightly corked/musty/earthy slight floral/Muscat/herbal rather muted/beat down
    nose; soft light musty/corked slight floral/herbal very muted flavor; the TCA character is not that
    pervasive but it has surely gutted this wine of any character; too bad. $24.00
  6. DryCreekVnyd SauvBlanc Musque Taylor'sVnyd/DCV (13.5%) 2008: Light gold color; light herbal/SB/grassy rather floral/perfumed/almost Muscatty very fragrant/floral/almost R-like perfumed nose; soft light grassy/SB/ herbal very perfumed/fragrant almost R-like flavor; very long soft light herbal/grasso quite perfumed/ floral/aromatic finish; lovely aromatics and almost R-like in character; beautiful wine that only whispers of the herbal SB character. $24.00
  7. SierraVista CS Reserve ElDorado (EB; 13.4%) 2005: Med.color w/ slight browning; strong herbal/dusty/earthy/ mushroomy very slight oxidized/volatile slight lesser-Bdx/terroir-driven nose; soft rather herbal/earthy/mushroomy/ElDorado little fruit somewhat rustic flavor; soft/fat quite earthy/mushroomy finish w/ little tannins; rather soft & lacking in structure and very little fruit; a Mouton-Cadet of Calif. $22.00
  8. SequoiaGrove CS Rutherford/NapaVlly RutherfordBenchReserve (14.4%) 2004: Med.dark color; rather strong toasty/pencilly/oak  lovely/fragrant rather blackcurranty/Cab slight herbal very perfumed nose; soft classic NapVlly Cab/blackcurranty/plummy rather pencilly/toasty/oak rich/lush flavor; very long soft/lush/ripe strong blackcurranty/Cab strong toasty/pencilly/oak finish; lush blackcurranty Cab fruit and good balance but maybe a bit lacking in structure & tannins.
  9. Ridge Calif SantaCruzMtn Estate (56% CS/42% M/2% PV; 13.7%; Bttld: 8/08; Drk: 6/08-6/18-6/23: EB) 2006: Dark color; rather smokey/charred/pungent/oak strong licorice/blackcurranty/
    Cab some earthy/dusty slight chalky some complex nose; tart rather hard/tannic/tight dusty/earthy slight herbal some blackcurranty/Cab/licorice some charred/toasty/oak very structured flavor; med.long bit hard/tannic strong blackcurranty/Cab/licorice some earthy/dusty rather charred/toasty/oak finish; seems rather hard/tannic/tight and badly need some age. $35.00
  10. Ridge Calif SantaCruzMtn Estate (58% CS/42% Merlot/SCM; 13.3%; Bttld: 5/09; Drk: 2/09-2/17-2/19: EB) 2007: Dark color; more pungent/charred/oak less blackcurranty/Cab fruit rather dusty/
    earthy slight herbal less ripe nose; softer/smoother les hard/tannic some blackcurranty/Cab/licorice
    strong charred/toasty/pungent/oak slight herbal flavor; med.long some blackcurranty/Cab/licorice strong
    charred/toasty/oak/pungent/smokey rather earthy/dusty bit herbal finish; a bit softer & more forward than the '06 and reflective of the Ridge '07's in style; needs age. $40.00
  11. Ridge Calif MonteBello (68% CS/20% Merlot/10% PV/2% CabFranc; 13.5%; 175 tons from 103 acres; 39% Selection; Bttld: May'08; Drk: 3/08-3/33: EB) 2006: Very dark color; strong charred/smokey/toasty/pencilly/oak intense blackcurranty/Cab/chocolaty some dusty/mineral/chalky complex nose; intense Cab/blackcurranty/licorice/chocolaty very strong pungent/charred/toasty/smokey/ oak bit dusty/mineral classic SCM/dusty flavor w/ ample tannins; very long/lingering complex intense blackcurranty/Cab/licorice/pungent strong charred/smokey/toasty/oak some earthy/dusty/mineral finish; huge pungent Cab fruit w/ ample tannins underneath for the long haul; stunning (as always) Cab. $78.00
  12. Ridge Calif MonteBello/SCM (79% CS/10% Merlot/9% PetiteVerdot/2% CabFranc; 13.1%; 213 tons from 103 acres; 41% Selection; Bttld: April'09; Drk: 2/19-2/39: EB) 2007: Very dark/black color; less intense toasty/charred/smokey strong blackcurranty/Cab/licorice/pungent some herbal more complex nose; tart more hard/tannic intense blackcurranty/Cab/dusty/pungent/licorice some herbal strong toasty/charred/pungent/oak bit less ripe more dusty/SCM terroir flavor w/ ample tannins underneath; very long/lingering intense Cab/blackcurranty/Cab slight herbal strong pungent/charred/ toasty/oak bit earthy/dusty quite complex finish; needs much more age; packed w/ flavor and classic MonteBello/SCM Cab character; terrific Cab. $80.00
  13. Keating CS Beckstoffer GeorgesIII Rutherford/NapaVlly (14.2%; BV vnyd No.3 of Georges de Latour Private Reserve) 2008: Very dark color; beautiful lush/blackcurranty/Cab some licorice/
    chocolaty/ripe some vanilla/toasted coconut/smokey/pencilly/oak lovely nose; soft very lush/ blackcurranty/ Cab/licorice/mocha/chocolaty mouthfilling/rich/lush some toasty/toasted coconut/oak balanced flavor w/ fair tannins and good structure; very long/lingering lush/blackcurranty/Cab/licorice/ mocha big fruit some toasty/ toasted coconut/pencilly/smokey/oak finish w/ some tannins; lots a big Cab fruit but the tannins and structure underneath to go the distance; needs 2-3 yrs yet and should go out at least ten. $95.00
  14. MtVeederWnry CS Neibaum-CoppolaVnyd/Rutherford/NapaCnty (13.5%) 1977: Med.dark color w/ very little bricking; strong cedary/pencilly/old Cab some licorice/blackcurranty/Cab perfumed/aromatic/ complex nose that develops a slight herbal component; soft/smooth/velvety/silky rather cedary/pencilly/old Cab light licorice/curranty/Cab beautiful complex flavor; very long/lingering rather cedary/pencilly/cigar box/old Cab beautiful/complex very smooth/velvety finish w/ little tannins; amazingly youthful and has come together perfectly; stunning/mature Calif Cab. $8.40

TN of April 2, 1981: MtVeederWnry CS Neibaum-CoppolaVnyd/Rutherford/NapaCnty (13.5%) 1977: Dark color; intense minty menthol spicy some oaked nose; rich mouthfilling spicy-minty oaked flavor; long minty-menthol tannic finish; needs 4-6 yrs yet; another MtVeeder winner. $8.40

TN of April 16, 1981: MtVeederWnry CS Neibaum-CoppolaVnyd/Rutherford/NapaCnty (13.5%) 1977: Very dark color;  intense medicinal spicy minty nose; intense minty-medicinal-spicy-tannic flavors; long minty tannic hard finish; needs much age; much like the Heitz MV w/o the smoothness; should come around. $8.40

A the usual stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. Ojai: This SB was a lot different than I was expecting. Adam has been dialing back on his Chard and Riesling; harvesting earlier and lower alcohol, to the consternation of certain Monktown attourneys. Some of the recent ones have shown aan almost schreechy acidity that makes them tough to taste but also gives them greater longevity. I was expecting to see that in this SB as well. Though it had a nice/brisk acidity to it; it was richer & more lush than I was expecting.

The McGinley vnyd was formerly the WesterlyVnyd, out in the far East/Happy Canyon area of the SantaYnez Vlly. Adam has always made quite a lovely SauvBlanc from these grapes and seldom get much props for them.
2. Mt.Veeder: This was a small vnyd & wnry up on MtVeeder of Mike & Arlene Bernstein; he who had fled the attourney's life down in TheCite. They appeared on the scene from the '73 vintage w/ a Cabernet and Zinfandel that were very/very impressive. In '75, they (and FrankMahoney/ CarnerosCreek) made a PetiteSirah from the MarstonVnyd that was simply amazing, the stature of the Ridge YorkCreek '71 and FreemarkAbbey '71. They made a Chard early on from the Zelma/Bob Long vnyd that was spectacular. I seem to recall the Zins came from the EsolaVnyd/AmadorCnty. But it was always the BernsteinVnyd CS that was the star of the MtVeeder tableau. Later on, the also made a CS from the Neibaum-Coppola Vnyd. This '77 may have been the only one. It was always, to me, not nearly the stature of the BernsteinVnyd Cabernet, though.

Just for yucks, I went back into my notes and dug out the only two TN's I could find on this wine.
One should note the appalling/dreadful/simplistic lack of correct/proper puncutation in those early notes, making them so difficult/miserable/impossible/incomprehensible to read. This '77 MtVeeder was a mystery wine brought by BlairSwartz. For a 33 yr old Cab, it had a remarkable dark color w/ very little bricking. On the palate, the wine was totally all together; smooth and silky. It's rare to find a Calif Cab that's come together that well. Oftimes, high-falutin' wine writers will describe a wine's finish as "like a peacock's tail". This '77 was one of the best examples of that descriptor I ever done see'd. An amazing wine that has stood the test of time.
3. DryCreekVnyd: DaveStare was the first to start a wnry in the DryCreekVlly after prohibition. When he graduated from MIT, he took a job w/ the B&O Railroad; choo-choo trains (and sailboats) being one of his passions in life. A year in France caused him to fall in love w/ the whites of the LoireVlly, especially the SauvBlancs. When he opened his wnry in '72, SB was one of the varietals he wanted to focus upon. That first SB ('73) came from JoeRicholi grapes as I recall. The early SB's were pretty typical of Calif SB's of then; lots oof herbaceous/cat pee character. Over the last 8-10 yrs; DCV has ratcheted up their SB program a big notch. More richness, more texture, more everything; but still letting the SB varietal character come thru. Some 10 yrs ago, they started playing w/ the Sauvignon Musque clone of SB; a clone that was "discovered" lurking on the UC/Davis list by DougMeador/Ventana in the early-'80's. On a lark, he planted it down in Monterey and liked the resulting wine; a much more aromatic version of SB, almost like it has Muscat in its background.

DCV makes two top-end SB's; the DryCreekVnyd#3 vnyd, and the Taylor's (name of the older daughter) SauvignonMusque. This latter one is typically my favorite because of its more interesting aromatics. Both are two of the finest SB's produced in Calif these days, to my judgement.
4. Keating: This is EricKeating's first foray into Cabernet, I believe. I've liked his Pinots and Amador
Syrah quite a bit. This wine shows he's equally adept w/ Napa Cabernet. The name GeorgesIII refers to the Beckstoffer coming from the old BV vnyd #3 that was the heart of the old BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet. The wine is loaded w/ huge blackcurranty Cab fruit, but underneath has the structure and tannins for the long haul, I feel. Not being at all conversant w/ NapaVlly Cabs these days, like the Schrader, Colgin, et al.; I have no idea how this Cab measures up to the competition. But it's a wine that I liked quite a lot if I were drinking Napa Cabernet. This was a pre-release sample and a Spring release of this wine is scheduled I believe.
5. SequoiaGrove: This is a btl given me to try by JimAllen, SG's founder. I've followed SG from the very start. No....from before the very start. Jim was an economics/labor professor and College of SantaFe back in the early '80's. He dabbled at growing grapes on his SantaFe property off CanyonRoad. He started coming regularly to my wine tastings and got bitten by the wine bug....bad. In what I thought was a stupid move, he chucked his teaching career, moved to the NapaVlly and bought this Cabernet vnyd there on the flats in Rutherford, next to Cakebread, down the road from RobertMondavi, and right across Hwy29 from F.JustinMiller; inventor or the Millerway process for the sparkle in Sparkling wines. Jim's brother, Steve, was the vnyd manager and partner in the operation. What I thought was a stupid move turned out to be pretty smart. Jim bought into land before the NapaVlly land prices started to rocket. He eventually sold to property to Kobrand, its current owner.

Not being a fan of NapaVlly Cabernet, my following of SG Cab has been a bit spotty over the yrs. Back in the early-mid '90's, I thought they had become a bit quotidian. But things are on the upward swing there. Kobrand has determined to ratchet up the wines a notch. MikeTrujillo is the consulting winemaker. Winemaker is MollyHill; a gem of a winemaker & person if there ever was. Anybody w/ that last name you just have to like. Actually, she's Susan's niece and her parents down in Summerland are two mighty fine folk. Over the last few yrs, I've noted a distinct improvement in the SG wines. I hope it continues. Meanwhile, Jim continues to live down in Yountville and I see him from time to time. And, BTW, some of his ho-made wines Jim made in NM were pretty dreadful. But, with AndreTchelitcheff as consultant, he was a quick learn at SG.
6. Ridge: I always struggle when I taste young Ridge Cab & MonteBellos. There is so much going on in these wine that I have a very difficult time coming up w/ appropriate descriptors. Although the SCM Cabs are often called junior MonteBellos; they just didn't have the richness and texture of the MB's. They seemed rather hard/angular/taut and will probablt show more benefits from aging than the MB's themselves. The MB's are so friggen' good right out the gate that you wonder how they will go out for 20-30 yrs. But somehow they seem to do that reliably. The only Calif (or anywhere) Cab I buy yr in and yr out.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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