Saturday, September 6, 2014

2001 Vintage Napa Cab Comparison Reveals Contrasts in Terroir

2001 Vintage Napa Cab Comparison Reveals Contrasts in Terroir

Bach'ing it for the weekend, we invited Bill and son Ryan over for a grilled steak dinner and impromptu wine tasting. Following our tasting of the blockbuster 2001 Cliff Lede Cabernet recently, I suggested we try '01 Cabs as the theme for a comparison tasting. Bill brought from his cellar a HaLo, the flagship wine of Trefethen Vineyards which we visited together during out Napa Wine Experience 2013. We scoured our cellar for a similar wine to compare. While I had several '01 Napa Cabs from which to select, most were from mountain appellations reflecting our penchant for that style. Seeking the closest geographical source for a comparison tasting, we pulled from the cellar a 2001 Snowden estate bottled cab. Snowden is from the lower southern end of Oakville district in the foothills about 700 feet elevation. Halo is from the Oak Knoll District at the lower end of Napa Valley nestled up against the base of Mt Veeder. The two wines ended up being in stark contrast in terroir and style - both well suited to the grilled strip steaks.

Trefethen Halo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Befitting the flagship brand name, HaLo is named for the producer's children, Hailey and Loren, who grew up in the middle of the Hillspring Vineyard, source for the wine. Hillspring is located in the foothills tucked up against the base of Mt Veeder in the lower Mayacamas range on the western edge of Napa Valley. The estate vineyard sits west of the winery and tasting room at the entrance to Napa Valley just north of the town of Napa. The historic building on the property suffered extensive damage in last week's earthquake.

The '01 Halo was smooth, polished and elegant, a symphony of layers of fruit flavors - berry, black cherry and nuances of soft oak and delicate floral. While complex, it was sophisticated and almost soft, lacking any pretense of muscular structure or backbone on the layer of silky tannins.

RM 92 points.

Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

We discovered Snowden shortly after their inaugural release in the early nineties and still hold several vintages dating back to then. We met Scott and Randy Snowden during our early Napa Wine Experience events from that era.

The '01 was dark garnet colored with a subtle rust on the rim, full bodied, firm and a bit tight, forward black cherry, black currant and black cherry fruits, accented by tones of black tea, black olive, herb, cedar and spice, finishing with a gripping tannins.  A layer of funky earth, leather, and musty wet wood hung over the fruits and didn't dissipate until late into the night.

RM 88 points.

Flora Springs "Trilogy" Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2010

I picked this up today and wanted to try it against a couple benchmark cabs to see if I wanted to buy more. We hold numerous vintages of this wine going back to the 1991 vintage. It used to be a perennial favorite. This 2010 vintage release is as good as any in my recollection and definitely warrants being included in a cellar collection. I will most certainly go back and buy more. This release is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc. It has the best of both worlds, all the positives of a nicely crafted, balanced Bordeaux varietal blend, with the new world 'instant gratification of a full forward rich concentrated Napa Valley fruits. 

This was dark inky purple colored, full bodied, concentrated rich black berry and black raspberry fruits accented by complex layers of cassis, tobacco, dark chocolate mocha, hints of caramel and soft sweet oak on the smooth silky tannins on the long lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, 91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 

Fog Dog Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012

Prior to dinner, Linda broiled two lobster tails to serve lobster medallions with drawn butter that we served with Fog Dog Chardonnay.

FogDog is the label of Sonoma Coast wines from famed Napa producer Joseph Phelps. FogDog is the whimsical name for the expression used when there is a slight break in a fog bank, and clear skies can be seen.

This release is 100% Sonoma Coast Chardonnay sourced from the Phelps owned Freestone estate vineyards and the Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard.

Light straw colored, light bodied, bright, crisp, nicely balanced acidity, tangy citrus, stone fruit giving way to green apple tones with hints of pineapple and tangy lemon on a smooth lingering finish.

RM 90 points

Groth Reserve Napa Cabernet 2010

Groth Reserve Napa Cabernet 2010 Highlights Harbor Side Sunset Dinner

On the eve of a special tour outing to the Frank Lloyd Wright Meyer May house in Grand Rapids, we stayed in Grand Beach, MI. We dined with our hosts, friends Gayle and Mark harbor-side at Brentwood Tavern at the Marina Grand Resort in New Buffalo. From the winelist we selected Groth Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - a perfect accompaniment to the tenderloin steak with twice baked potato.

Prior to dinner we did a tasting on the rooftop deck and watched the sunset over the harbor and lake. We enjoyed a bottle of Uriah from Spring Valley Vineyard in Walla Walla that I brought BYOB from the home cellar.

Groth Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 

We first visited the Groth Vineyards Oakville Estate back in the mid-nineties during one of our Napa Wine Experience trips.  We still  hold Groth Cabernet in our cellar going back to the 1990 vintage (part of our 1990 vintage horizontal collection commemorating son Alec's birthyear). The Groth flagship Reserve bottling is sourced from the Reserve Block vineyard at the winery's 27.78-acre estate on the eastern side of the Oakville appellation. It also contains some Merlot from Groth's Hillview Vineyard. It is aged for 22 months in all new French oak.

The 2010 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was considered one of the top Napa Cabs from the 2010 vintage release. The 2010 harvest is regarded as one of the most intriguing, most difficult and may prove to be one of the best vintages of the early 21st century.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, dry, concentrated and complex yet nicely structured, balanced and polished, rich in tannins, dark fruit flavors of black currants and black raspberry accented by a moderate soft layer of sweet cassis and licorice with hints of dried herbs and toasty cedar.

RM 92 points.

Spring Valley Vineyard 'Uriah' Walla Walla Valley Red Blend 2004

Our vertical collection of this wine dates back almost a decade to the 2002 vintage, capped by the current 2010 vintage release which received rave reviews and a Top 100 wine of the year accolade. Brought from the cellar for this casual pre-dinner tasting, this Merlot based blend offered an interesting and pleasant conversational wine experience. 

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, this Merlot based Bordeaux blend is dark garnet colored with slight brownish tones, medium to full bodied, the fruits are starting to subside a bit and give way to non-fruit tones. It opened with a barnyard funkiness that dutifully burned off as predicted in less than a half hour. The black berry fruit is accented by a layer of truffles, black tea and fresh sauteed mushroom with anise tones and a layer of spicy black cherry fruits accented by subtle smoke creosote on a tangy lingering tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Barossa Old Vine Company Barossa Shiraz 2003

The following evening we did a casual tasting at the lake house of Barossa Old Vine Co '03 brought from our cellar, tasted with artisan cheeses, crackers, salami and chocolates. This is a limited release bottling produced from 109, 127, and 152 year old vineyards.

Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, big dense concentrated rich tongue coating ripe fruits of blueberry, black raspberry and currant, accented by cedar, spicy oak and hints of licorice on the full tannin finish. The ripe fruit is so forward and rich that it comes across with a slight offset of an mineral tone with an almost metallic edge.

Robert Parker 94, REM 93 points.