Tasting the Cult: Napa Valley 1994- 98

It was one of the very few chances to taste and compare some of the most legendary wines from Napa Valley from 1994- 98 together with other critics and lovers of Californian wine.
The idea was to taste the wines of five wineries – Harlan Estate, Abreu Vineyards, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin and Dalla Valle – side by side and vintage by vintage. Additionally a reference wine from Bordeaux from the same vintage was served blind to get an impression about the benchmark from the region that has always been the role model for great Napa Valley wines.
All wines were double-decanted and served from the original bottle.


1998, the El Nino vintage, with abnormally cold temperatures and modest ripeness the vintners were forced to reduce their yields and to select fruit strictly:
As David Abreu declassified his 1998 Madrona Ranch, because it didn´t meet his personal standards, we consequently tasted the 1999 Madrona Ranch instead. It comes with dark and powerful aromas of black fruit, glyceric notes, some road tar and leather. While smooth and dense on the palate with ripe fruit and drive, it finishes long with cool, black fruit and peppery spiciness. Still young.

Surprisingly little fruit showed Araujo´s 1998 Eisele Vineyard, which had to step in for a flawed 1998 Bryant Family Vineyard.
The wine is still youthful and even a little edgy, but full of herbs, pencil lead, traces of walnut and little earth. Robust, yet approachable, harmonious and already glorious!
1998 Herb Lamb Vineyard by Colgin was the first vintage made by Mark Aubert and comes from a tiny total production of only 300 cases.
It is a fine, fresh and beautiful wine with aromas of delicious fruit (mostly blackcurrant), perfume and ethereal notes of fresh herbs and menthol. Cool, black fruits on the palate. Great depth, complexity and length.

Rather controversial is Dalla Valle`s 1998 Maya. With, as always, about 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc in the blend, 1998 is driven by lovage and a mix of herbs and vegetables, smoke and traces of raisins. Yet, the wine is fresh and alive.
Smooth and soft, but present on the palate. Dark herbs dominate the taste and make it a
distinct and special wine marching to a different drummer.
Right from the start the 1998 Harlan showed what is possible – even in a complicated vintage. Strictly low yields resulted in a tiny production of only 1100 cases in that vintage, but created a wine of darkness, coolness and elegance.
Concentrated aromas of black fruit, leather, forest floor, lovage and cool minerality. Tight, yet approachable on the palate with more black fruits and herbal notes. It might be lacking some juice, but finishes long and focused with licorice spiciness.
1998 Chateau Haut Brion delivered the benchmark from Bordeaux in this first flight. Ripe, dark fruit, earth, dried herbs, some licorice and little pepper on the nose. Furthermore, rustic and tightly structured on the palate, very fruit-driven and long. Youthful, robust tannins and fine acidity. Even though pleasurable to drink, it´s still way to young. Keep this tight power package from Graves for 10+ years.


After an early budbreak the 1997 growing season provided generally moderate temperatures, with the exception of one hot week in August, and light rains in September and resulted in a huge crop of exceptional quality. Many of the great 1997s are already legends today. Consequently, our expectations were high.

The mixed soils of red, weathered volcanic rock, white tufa and dark clay of Abreu´s Madrona Ranch created an exceptional wine of sweet, ripe fruit, cool freshness and perfect structure. Aromas of red fruits, licorice, smoky notes, cassis, little barnyard and vanilla.
Lush and present on the palate with substance and young, yet approachable tannins. Elegant, harmonious and sophisticated!
Bryant Family Vineyard`s 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon welcomes you with open arms and gives you a never-ending, comforting hug with bold, ripe fruits (mostly cherries), fine sweetness, baking spices and florals. Fruit-driven, lush and juicy, the wine is dense and present on the palate. A perfect wine without any flaws.
Here are the fresh herbs and the lightness again. Yes, that´s the Colgin 1997 Herb Lamb Vineyard. It shows a lot of ripe, red fruits, fresh herbs (mint!), some coffee, vegetal notes and finest minerality. A deep, cool, elegant and present wine of great precision and fascination!
Dalla Valle`s 1997 Maya doesn´t hide its origin either. Lovage, kitchen vegetables, fruit in rum and cassis represent the distinct, always special style of Maya.
Juicy and of great midpalate density the wine is shining brightly on the palate as well. Dark fruits, caramel and a mix of herbs are packed in fine acidity and delicate, dusty tannins. Delicious and full of character!
1997 Harlan is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With a production of about 2500 cases in 1997 there were more than twice as much bottles produced than in 1998. Lots of concentrated, ripe and sweet fruits of cassis, black cherry and plum push the wine forward. It shows very dark with leather, road tar, graphite and delicate smoky notes. Very pure, powerful and focused on the palate, where the dark fruit dominates as well. Perfect and good for decades to come.
The 1997 Chateau Mouton Rothschild couldn´t win this battle – it was just outnumbered by legends. Still, nice with red fruits, animalistic notes, earth, leather, florals and leafy hints. Very elegant with good balance and harmony. Drink soon.


1996 produced rather rustic wines of lower acidity in Napa Valley. Yields very reduced due to rain during flowering and at the early stage of the growing season. After that, the season was warm with occasional heat spices and, by that, delivered ripe, tannic wines of great potential.
Abreu´s 1996 Madrona Ranch shows cool, even a little green and straight forward with red fruits, fresh herbs, wet forest, espresso and animalistic notes. A powerful, young and solid structured wine.
Polished, ripe and surprisingly open showed the 1996 Bryant Family Vineyard. As always, fruit-driven, sweet and ripe, but still very fine and elegant with, furthermore, traces of perfume, licorice and little smoke. Smooth and delicious now!
Colgin´s 1996 Herb Lamb Vineyard really shows the characteristics of the vintage with black fruits, violets, fresh herbs, pepper and earth. Dense, concentrated and focused on the palate. Dark fruits, graphite, mineral notes, spiciness and bitter (metallic) notes characterize the palate.
Maybe not a perfect bottle, but still a bulky and scraggy wine with lots of grip and character.
A fresh monster that´ll live forever.
1996 Maya is dark, dense and approachable. Lovage, of course, exotic spices, tobacco as well as black fruits and pruns show character and excitement. Though, the wine is on the point right now. It´s dense, but juicy and smooth.
1996 Harlan is a real monument of ripe and concentrated fruit, sweetness, character and structure. It´s fine and ripe, but also dense and almost austere. Nevertheless, layers of forest floor, graphite, burnt toast, clove and green pepper show its flavor complexity.
Young and massive after 20 years.
1996 Chateau Lafite joined the game and showed a rather rustic than elegant face.
Concentrated and cool aromas of little black fruit, earth, mushrooms and barnyard. Edgy, dense and a little leafy on the palate with hardly any (black) fruit, dark minerality, barnyard and bitter notes. This wine doesn´t allow to be consumed now. I´m curious, yet skeptical, to see what this wine will turn into.


1995 was a relatively cool year with a long growing season creating elegant and rich wines of firm tannins and present acidity. Results were generally heterogeneous.

Little dark fruit, earth, truffle, herbal notes (thyme!) and traces of barnyard represent the nose of Abreu´s 1995 Madrona Ranch. A wine in perfect balance that is open and ripe now. Yet, not a perfectly clean bottle, but still fascinating to drink.
Flawless and fruit-driven shows the 1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet…once again. Aromas of sweet, ripe fruit, cedar and vanilla describe the classic style, while some traces of leather and burnt rubber add character and facets. Juicy and full of substance on the palate, where minerality and herbal spiciness join the play of red and black fruits.
Elegant and a pure joy to drink.
Colgin´s 1995 Herb Lamb Vineyard explodes with fruit, freshness and character!
With aromas of dark fruit, dried and fresh herbs, tons of lovage and mint, some cinnamon, smoke and decent oak it´s fine, ultimately complex and fascinating.
Very alive, dense and focused on the palate very ripe, sweet fruit, minty freshness and fine minerality. Perfectly structured with a core of ripe, approachable tannins and integrated, delicate acidity and an endless finish. Among the best wines of the night!
1995 is a typical Maya and a wine that divides the opinions. However, I really like the herbal, distinct style of lovage, vegetables and dark fruit. 1995 comes with peppery spiciness, licorice and malty notes and shows robust on the palate, while not lacking sweetness and balance. A challenging and special wine.
With aromas of black cassis, tobacco, exotic spices, earth and licorice the 1995 Harlan is stylistically not that far away from the Medoc. Black, deep, but ripe and sweet on the palate. An elegant, silky and open wine. Out of the five vintages tasted, this is probably the candidate to drink soonest.
A true competitor was the 1995 Chateau Margaux. Brightly shining with aromas of red and black fruits, violets, tobacco, iron and minerality. All packed in an elegant, feminine and multi-layered ensemble. While approachable, the wine is still young, dense and very long.
Distinct Margaux and, by far, the best from Bordeaux this night.

After some rains in mid May, 1994 provided a warm, yet long and great Napa Valley growing season with good yields and ripeness.

Abreu´s 1994 Madrona Ranch opened the flight with delicate, yet ripe and dark fruit, pencil lead, dried herbs and animalistic notes. Youthful, concentrated and present, yet elegant and sophisticated on the palate with fine, sweet fruit, opulence and dusty tannins.
Pure perfection in a deep, complex and very long wine!
The 1994 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon jumps with massive fruit and sweetness out of the glass. Aromas of chocolate, autumn leaves and coffee play in the background. Very fruit-driven wine of juicy ripeness, immense concentration, density and drive with all pieces in perfect harmony.
Concentrated, red fruits and freshness of green herbs and lovage describe the nose of Colgin´s 1994 Herb Lamb Vineyard. With cool, almost ethereal layers of menthol and herbs, the distinct fingerprint of the rocky hillside vineyard shines through.
It`s still youthful on the palate combining concentration with finesse, freshness and simply delicious fruit, which now starts to show a little sweetness. Stunning!
Dalla Valle´s 1994 Maya comes with black currant, tons of lovage, herbal spiciness and balmy notes. Fascinating and intriguing! On the palate the wine shows ripe and dense with lots of substance, little fruit and some leather and cigar.
Round and juicy wine of good length.
1994 Harlan is elegant, pure and full of character with cassis, black cherries, little leather, espresso, minerality and some vanilla sweetness. Concentrated, rich and deep, but elegant and of cool freshness. Powdery, approachable tannins, delicate acidity and alcohol in perfect harmony. Endless finish.
Hard to imagine that this wine gets any better, but it´ll certainly last forever.
1994 Chateau Latour took the brave challenge to compete with these wines.
Aromas of black fruits, some raspberry, traces of barnyard, graphite and leather. Open and smooth in the mouth with mostly fruit, good complexity and medium density.
Refined, but open and good to be consumed now.


A memorable tasting proving, once again, the greatness of many of the so-called “Cult Wines” from Napa Valley, where concentration and ripeness meet elegance, freshness and sophistication like in no other wine region on the planet.

None of the wines showed fat, jammy or tired. Instead, almost all wines just start to open and promise a very long future.
Furthermore, with characteristics of site and vintage shining through, the consistency in quality and character is simply remarkable. Even in supposedly weaker vintages, as 1998, the quality level is extremely high.

It was fascinating to see the different styles of wineries and vineyards and to follow the consistency of these styles through the vintages.
My personal favorites:
Harlan Estate for its consistency in style, quality and simple greatness and Colgin´s Herb Lamb Vineyard for combining concentration of fruit and extract with freshness and focus like no other.


Tasting Australia


Tyrrell`s 2009 VAT 1
Fresh, racy lemon and citrus aromatics. Decent herbal spiciness and freshly cut grass join in. Thanks to the vintage, the wine is softer than usual, but still vibrant, fresh and structured for long term cellaring. A great Hunter Valley classic! Keep.

Clarendon Hills 1997 Norton Summit
Far developed, past its prime with oxidative aromatics, orange zest, dried herbs and oaky sweetness. Rather thin, yet alive and harmonious on the palate. Drink up.

Kalleske 2013 Fordson
Yes, this is a Zinfandel from Barossa Valley and it´s a beautiful one! Quite a powerhouse with great concentration of fruit and freshness. Dark aromatics of berry fruit, spices, fruit jam, minerals and earth. Inky and rich on the palate, but of cool depth and freshness. Distinct Kalleske. From a vineyard planted in 2007 this is a promising early-drinking wine.

Torbreck 1998 The Steading
Intriguing aromatics of black cherry, plums, cigar box, road tar, oriental spices and violets. Beautifully integrated tannins and delicate acidity in a smooth, but fresh and super-elegant wine. Great stuff, which is probably still at its peak. Drink soon.


Balnaves 2008 The Tally
From an excellent Coonawarra vintage comes this dense and rather robust Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of Petit Verdot (4%). Cassis, plum, green pepper, tobacco, earth and oak describe the nose, while the palate is youthful and dark with black fruits and spices. Still looking for balance while compact tannins keep the wine tight. This is nice, but not there yet. Keep 5+ years.

Leeuwin Estate 2007 Art Series
This was the only wine from the gravelly loam soils of Western Australia´s Margaret River region. Compared to Balnaves` Tally, this wine showed rather elegant and light-weight with beautiful aromatics of cassis, stewed fruit, peppery spiciness and present oak. Rather bumpy on the palate with present acidity, while lacking density and length. Still 13% Malbec provide a dark core. Maybe caught in a bad time…

Henschke 1995 Cyril Henschke
One of two wines of the night that could have been taken for Old World if tasted blind. Even though the wine is little past its prime now, the 1995 Cyril shows very elegant, harmonious and complex. Fascinating aromas of cassis, earth, leather, little barnyard, forest floor, smoke and pepper- anise spiciness arrive vital and perfectly integrated on the palate. The tannins have softened and only little acidity shows and provides drive. Good length with dark layers and peppery spiciness. Excellent! Drink soon.

Wynns 1994 John Riddoch
Dark aromatics of blackberries and some fruit in rum, leather, tobacco, earth and violets. Sweet vanilla and present oak. Dense and dark on the palate with flavors of blackberries, cedar, dried herbs, anise and black olive. Youthful with firm tannins, while not lacking juicyness. Very good length with more black fruits and peppery spiciness. It seems that the wine is just opening up. Keep 5+ years.

Briar Ridge 2010 Dairy Hill
From Terra Rossa clays and sandy clay soils comes this Hunter Valley Shiraz. Aromas of blackberry, plums, spices, olives, road tar and fresh herbs. Arrives with cool elegance and smoothness on the palate. Finishes medium-long. Well made, but lacking fascination, yet delicious and very drinkable.

Rockford 2009 Basket Press
Ripe and sweet aromas of red and black berries, plums, cooked fruit, little herbal spiciness and present oak. Ripe, juicy and of present alcohol on the palate. Fairly broad, while lacking structure and focus. A rather disappointing classic.

Henschke 2008 Mount Edelstone
Rich, fruit-driven and spicy wine from a legendary vineyard planted in 1912 by Ronald Angas. 16ha of deep sandy loam over gravelly medium-red clay, overlying laminated siltstone create a special wine, which is always more expressive than its famous big brother Hill of Grace. The 2008 is still in its early fruity stage, but still delicious and fascinating to drink with aromatics of blackberries, plums, oriental spices, dried and fresh herbs, sage and some road tar. It´s perfectly structured dense, deep and concentrated, while fresh and long. Velvety tannins and fine acidity guarantee a long future. Fantastic!


Penfolds 2004 Grange
From a great vintage comes this elegant, fresh and complex Grange full of finesse with fascinating aromas of red and black berries, spices, delicate sweetness, some chocolate and minerality(!). Multi-layered, fine, but solid structured and of perfect balance on the palate with dark fruit, herbal freshness, little oak and mocha. Finishes very long. A beauty in its youth.

D` Arenberg 2001 Dead Arm
The Dead Arm brought us back to reality after two exceptional wines. Nevertheless, a very good wine, but by far not as special as Mount Edelstone or Grange. Still youthful, it´s opening with aromas of ripe, dark berries, lilac, chocolate and a mix of spices. Balanced and delicious, but lacking excitement and fascination. Yet, a beautiful, distinct McLaren Vale Shiraz. Drink now or keep.

Wendouree 2000 Shiraz Mataro
Does the best always come at the end? In our case, absolutely yes! From the tiny 11,3ha of AP Birks Wendouree Cellars came the winner of the night. Starting off quite funky and taking its time to open up, the wine presented itself different than I remembered it from out last encounter. Back in June 2012 the wine was wide open, rich, deep and dark. But this time it was even better: Fresh, red fruits, a lot of cherries, ethereal freshness of herbs and pinewood, eucalypt, some licorice and wet earth. Pure perfection on the palate with density, freshness and elegance. Mostly driven by dark fruit, fresh herbs and spices, the wine is still youthful and structured for a long future. Finishes long and focused with dark berries, some spiciness as well as sweetness. An exceptional wine at an early stage of its life with finesse, depth and complexity!



Tasting Note: Dunn Vineyards 1986 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


1. Introduction:
There are few wineries in the world that are surrounded by true individuality, authenticity and originality like Dunn Vineyards.
Located in the Napa Valley appellation east of St. Helena on Howell Mountain in the town of Angwin, the estate was established with the first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes by Randy and Lori Dunn in 1979. At that time Randy was still winemaker at Caymus Vineyards.
After a healthy evolution, Dunn Vineyards produces about 5000 cases of their two labels, “Howell Mountain” and “Napa Valley” (both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon), at present.
In 2000, Mike Dunn, Randy´s son, joined the winemaking and took over more responsibilities over the years to be in full charge of winemaking today.
While the “Howell Mountain” Cabernet always contains 100% Howell Mountain fruit, the “Napa Valley” wines usually include little Napa Valley floor fruit (~15%) with the remainder of the fruit coming from Howell Mountain. In recent vintages the “Napa Valley” was often made from 100% Napa Valley fruit as well.
The wines are famous for their ageing potential and moderate alcohol levels.
This is already our third full tasting note of a Dunn wine in this Blog.

Bottle and cork of our 1986 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon are in perfect condition. 13% alc.

2. Appearance:
Velvet to Dark, Blood-red and vital, but decent brightening.

3. Nose:
Integrated, finely spun, almost homogeneous aromatics Fresh Red Fruit with Red Currant, Cedar and Raspberry (!) Decent Stewed Fruit.
Ashes and Forrest Floor plus inviting Herbs (Sage!), Florals (Violets) and Dark Chocolate.
Little Vanilla and Minty Freshness.
Reluctant and elegant, but highly complex and intriguing!

4. Taste:
Harmonious, round and with Darker Fruit on the palate with Ripe, Dark Berries and Fruit in Rum. Mocha, Earthiness and Dark Chocolate.
Fresh and smooth mouthfeel with ultra-fine acidity and little, easy tannins.
Finishes medium-long with decent Bitterness (Crushed Peach Stone), drive, Ripe Fruit and Anise spiciness.
Vitality, amazing elegance and complexity!

5. Opinion:
Medium-bodied, alive and fresh, but fully integrated wine showing impressively what Old School Napa Valley Cabernet is capable of – after 28 years!
There are no bold, excessive attributes, no screaming for attention, but sophistication and silent fascination in a great wine!
Drink now.

1986 Napa Valley Cabernet shining in the glass.

Tasting Note: Joseph Phelps 1987 Backus Vineyard


1. Introduction:
You don´t need many words to explain Joseph Phelps Vineyards, who created the first proprietary Bordeaux-style blend in California back in 1974. They were also the first winery giving their flagship wine a distinct name, “Insignia”.
Today, their Insignia is recognized as one of the world’s great wines.
Besides this wine, Joseph Phelps is also famous for its single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Backus Vineyard in Napa Valley´s Oakville appellation. This steeply-terraced 22 acre hillside vineyard, with its gravelly, well-drained, rust-red loam and rhyolite soils receives almost ten hours of sunlight per day and was planted in 1975.
From an average vintage, our 1987 bottle and cork are flawless. 12,8% alc.

2. Appearance:
Velvet and vital, but light with slightly orange/ brown rim.

3. Nose:
Elegant and light-weight aromatics of Red and Dark fruit with mostly Red Currant and Cherry. Traces of Earthy and Leathery characteristics.
Fresh Herbs and (Kitchen) Vegetables. Later also some Licorice and generally broader.
Intriguing coolness in a minty freshness with decent scents of oak.
Fascinating elegance with fine, multi-layered complexity!

4. Taste:
Fine, Dark Fruit of Cassis and Blackberry comes with a play of Dried Herbs and Spices.
Subtle minerality and tannins as well as filigree acidity.
Soft and light mouthfeel- no weakness (!)
Finishes medium-long with velvet Red Fruit, Anise and Peppery Spiciness.
Beautifully integrated, complex and smooth on the palate.

5. Opinion:
Even though the 1987 Backus Vineyard Cabernet seems to be past its prime, it still shows its distinct virtues. Yet, on a more quiet, but fascinating level!
Nice complexity and great elegance in a very harmonious, medium-bodied wine, which should be enjoyed now or within the next years.

@ Joseph Phelps Vineyard, 2012
While the Backus Vineyard is located in Napa´s Oakville Appellation, the winery sits a few miles outside of St. Helena.

Tasting Note: Henschke 2010 Mount Edelstone


1. Introduction:
Mount Edelstone comes from 100% old vine Shiraz in Henschke´s iconic vineyard in the Eden Valley.
First bottled as a single-vineyard wine in 1952, it is one of Australia´s most famous Shiraz bottlings today.
2010 was a variable year weatherwise, with several heat spikes and cool periods;
it was the wettest year since 2005. Luckily, the ripening season was steady dry and mild and led to an exceptional vintage with ideal concentrated fruit with decent acidity.
Our 2010 Mount Edelstone is in perfect condition with flawless bottle and Vino-Lok.
14,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark crimson.
Clear, vital & bright.

3. Nose:
Concentrated aromas of Red and Dark Fruit, with mostly Red Currant, Blackberry, Cherry and some Plum. Peppery and Exotic Spices. Perfumy.
Smoky notes (in the beginning), Dark Chocolate, little Earth and Tobacco.
“Green” traces with intriguing cool- and freshness.
Present oak with fine Vanilla and some Eucalypt.
Surprisingly cool and elegant, while rich and inviting!

4. Taste:
Focused Dark Red and Black Fruit (Berries, Plum and Black Cherry).
Great play of Herbs and Spices (decent Licorice!).
Structured for eternity with vital acidity and smooth, but firm and precise, tannins.
Finishes very long and layered with rich Dark Fruit, drive and Herbal as well as Peppery Spiciness.
Fresh mouthfeel, amazing complexity and harmony.

5. Opinion:
A great wine made for the long road!
To me, mostly due to its vital acidity and coolness, the freshest Mount Edelstone for years. Medium-bodied, complex and concentrated, but with fine elegance and harmony.

Stephen Henschke´s cork substitute: The Vino-Lok

Tasting Note: Turkey Flat Vineyards 2007 Shiraz


1. Introduction:
Located in the center of Australia´s Barossa Valley, Turkey Flat Vineyards still uses the, now low-yielding (2to/hectar), original vines planted by Johann Frederick August Fiedler back in 1847 for this Shiraz bottling.
The 2007 vintage saw some of the smallest yields on record and produced lower bunch weights and small berry sizes which resulted in notably juicy, densely coloured red wines with expressive flavours.
Our Turkey Flat 2007 Shiraz is in perfect condition. Bottle and screwcap are flawless.
100% Shiraz/ 14,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark purple.
Dense and vital.

3. Nose:
Intense Fruit aromas of Ripe, Dark Berries (mostly Blackberry & Cedar), Black Cherry and Plum. Exotic and Peppery Spices.
Wild play of Leather, Earth and Tobacco. Some Florals (Lavender & Violet).
Oak characters of (sweet) Vanilla and little minty Freshness.
Forward, complex and inviting!

4. Taste:
Dense and powerful Fruit flavors of Cherry, Black Currant and Cedar.
Nutmeg and Herbal Spiciness with Fresh Mint.
Finely grained, chewy tannins and fine acidity packed in a dense structure.
Finishes long and comforting with Dark Fruit and Anise (spiciness).
Concentrated and rich with depth.

5. Opinion:
Classical Barossa Valley style in a generous, full-bodied and powerful wine with medium complexity. While it might be a little excessive right now, it is still very young and will definitely improve and gain harmony and elegance after some more years in the cellar. Drink after 2017.

Old Vines at Turkey Flat Vineyards

Tasting Note: 1997 PARADIGM Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


1. Introduction:
Heidi Peterson Barrett , the winemaker of Paradigm Winery since their first vintage in 1991, is (was) also responsible for several other Napa Valley cult wines like the early vintages of Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle. Robert Parker once called her “the first lady of wine.” In spite of Heidi´s great reputation and experience especially in Napa Valley Cabernet and, furthermore, Paradigm Winery´s relatively small annual production of about 6000 cases, the winery managed to keep the wines affordable and fairly priced.
Today the vineyard located in the Oakville District of Napa Valley is planted to 37 acres (15 ha) of Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 acres (4,9 ha) of Merlot, 4 acres (1,6 ha) of Cabernet Franc, 1 acre (0,4 ha) of Zinfandel and 1 acre of Petite Verdot.
As expected, the Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon is a typical, Cabernet Sauvignon dominated, Bordeaux blend with usually more than 90% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our 1997 PARADIGM is flawless. Perfect bottle & cork. 14,1% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark- velvet.
Slightly orange to brown rim, but still vibrant and alive!

3. Nose:
Little, but fine Fruit with Cedar, Black Cherries and other Dark Berry- Fruit.
Some Raisins and mostly tertiary characteristics of Mocha, Leather and Earth.
Nicely integrated and complex nose with harmony and vitality.

4. Taste:
Again, decent Dark, Ripe Fruit and some Fruit in Rum.
Softly textured, with healthy, vital acidity and finely grained tannins.
Intriguing mixture of Tobacco, Leather and Earth. Dark Chocolate.
Finishes long and smooth with Earthy and Herbal notes and some Spiciness.
Round and harmonious, while complex and exciting!

5. Opinion:
This wine has reached a perfect drinking window right now and gives perfect example of what Napa Valley Cabernet can be capable of!
It shows very harmonious without lacking any power or vibrancy.
Beautiful complexity comes in a great play of dynamics!


Tasting Note: Wynns 1994 John Riddoch


1. Introduction:
Wynns` flagship wine is named after John Riddoch, the man responsible for the first vineyard plantings in Coonawarra in 1891. Samuel Wynn and his son David continued this legacy from 1951.
The “John Riddoch” Cabernet Sauvignon was first made in 1982. Since then, it has only been made in years when grapes of extraordinarily high quality are available- less than one per cent of the top Cabernet grapes are used to make it.
It´s a perfect example for concentrated and rich Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
From a very good vintage, the 1994 John Riddoch consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our bottle and cork are flawless. 13,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark velvet with an almost black core.
Inky, dense and vibrant.

3. Nose:
Dark Red Berries. Little Fruit in Rum.
Florals (Violets!). Leather, Tobacco Leaf and Earthy Notes.
Decent traces of Petrol and Road Tar with an intriguing Cool Intensity.
Eucalypt with Soft, Sweet Vanilla and present Oak aromatics.
Concentrated, ripe and harmonious!

4. Taste:
Ripe and concentrated Red and Black Fruit (Blue- and Blackberry, Cassis, Black Cherry and some Cedar) come with Dried Herbs, Exotic Spices, Black Olive and little Licorice.
Juicy, velvety mouthfeel with fine, but firm tannins.
Long and intense finish with powerful fruit, fresh and fine acidity, proper spiciness and powdery tannins.
Rich, multilayered and forward!

5. Opinion:
The 1994 John Riddoch has evolved gracefully. While showing beautiful secondary and tertiary characteristics, it´s still youthful and concentrated with a lot of potential left.
A concentrated and ripe wine with vital fruit notes, complexity, power and harmony.

Tasting Note: Penfolds 1996 BIN 389 Cabernet Shiraz


1. Introduction:
First made by Max Schubert in 1960, Penfolds` BIN 389 is a multi-regional blend from several South Australian appellations and, thereby, like the famous Grange a traditional South Australian wine. While the Grange is strongly dominated by Shiraz in the blend or in rare vintages even 100% Shiraz, the “Baby Grange” – that´s how the BIN 389 is often called – tends to be Cabernet Sauvignon (~60%) driven with an (almost) equal part of Shiraz in the blend. The name “Baby Grange” results from time spent maturing in oak hogsheads used by the previous Grange vintage.
From a stellar vintage, the 1996 BIN 389 consists of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Our bottle and cork are flawless. 14% alc.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark purple with an almost black core.
Very dense, but vibrant.

3. Nose:
Dark, Ripe Fruit. Blackberry, Cassis, Cedar and Black Cherry.
Graphite, Leather and Earthy Characteristics. Some Licorice.
Present influence of Oak with Eucalypt and (sweet) Vanilla.
Beautiful aroma package! Energetic, complex and harmonious.

4. Taste:
More Dark Berries and Black Cherry.
Dark Chocolate, Leather and Earth. Little Sweetness.
Inky and soft texture in a round, juicy mouthfeel with fine acidity.
Finishes long with Powerful, Dark Fruit, Finely- Grained Tannins and the Warmth of Intense Peppery Spiciness.
Dense, rich and generous without lacking finesse!

5. Opinion:
The Penfolds 1996 BIN 389 has entered a great drinking window now.
After an amazing evolution, the wine still shines young and powerful.
Great balance, complexity and structure.
An Australian classic to drink now or to keep for another 5+ more years.

1996 BIN 389 sitting in the glass beautifully.

– Wine of the Week –

We make weekly suggestions about (mostly) widely available, fairly-priced and enjoyable wines in our Facebook-exclusive “Wine of the Week” section.
Thereby, we cover wines of all kind and style and, furthermore, pinpoint new trends, upcoming regions, winemakers or varietals. Simply fresh and exciting stuff!
Whereas, the tasting notes in this Blog are very detailed and usually picture a great drinking experience, our “Wine of the Week” gets to the point quickly 🙂
To find the “Wine of the Week” section, please visit us on FB: http://www.facebook.com/cellartv