Monday, November 6, 2017

Blind Comparison Vintage Cabs

Blind Tasting Comparison of Premier Vintage Cabs

Beth &Bill and new wine 'cellar'
Visiting wine buddy and fellow 'Pour Boy'' Bill, and Beth C, Bill pulled from his wine cellar a couple bottles that he served blind for us to evaluate and review prior to our wine dinner.

For a comparison tasting challenge, Bill presented two bottles, one in a classic brown paper bag for a tasting test. The first bottle glass was from an old favorite standby of our tastings, Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2003 vintage. The other wine presented blind provided an interesting comparison challenge.

Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied with a slight coloration on the miniscus rim, forward, bright, expressive black cherry fruits that showed some sign of age as the fruit highlights were beginning to fall off a bit, accented by a layer of non-fruit flavors, nutmeg spice with hints of tobacco leaf, leather and subtle notes of dark mocha with gripping but approachable tannins on the lingering finish.

Here are Bill's Cellartracker notes for this wine for this evening; " Garnet color with a ruby rim. Fruit forward with black raspberry, cherry and a hint of nutmeg on the palate. Full bodied and mature but still evidence of some grippy tannins still remain. This is a terrific example of a mature Cabernet at the peak of its drinking window."

WCC's rating 92-93 points.
REM rating for this evening, 90 points.

With the Sycamore serving as a benchmark the second wine showed more signs of diminution of fruit from aging indicative first by slight bricking on the rim, dark blackish garnet color and a slight brownish hue. This wine lacked the complexity, structure and backbone of the Sycamore, its black berry fruits were starting to fall off, turning slightly raisiny with tones of non-fruit flavors of leather and tobacco, and a moderate layer of tannins on the earthy finish.

When the second wine was unmasked, it turned out to be the same varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the same vintage, 2003. The similarities ended there as indicated in the tasting notes above. The second wine turned out to be another premium label, Cherryblock Reserve, from Sebastiani from the Sonoma Valley. The smaller profile of less structure and backbone, and subsequent less aging potential may have been attributable to the Sonoma fruit compared to Napa fruit, which benefits from more heat, slightly more sunshine and lower rainfall.

Bill's Cellartracker notes from this evening: "Would have given 2 more points if this had not been trending down hill. Still a fascinating taste. Medium garnet color with a bit of brick at the rim. Nose a bit musty. Nutmeg, raisin, cassis and as Eric noted, a bit of orange peel the n the palate... not sweet but similar to bitters. Still a delightful and interesting taste."

WCC rating - 89 points.
REM rating - 88 points. 

A fun, interesting tasting, indeed. Thanks for sharing and comparing, Bill.

As a transition, served with the pre-dinner hor d'oervres, shrimp and artisan cheeses, Bill served the Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne shown above.

Classic Diamond Mountain Cabs Steak Wine Dinner

Classic Diamond Mountain Cabs - Diamond Creek and Constant anchor grilled steak Wine Dinner

Visiting wine buddy fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill, and Beth in their new paradise on Seabrook Island in SC, we were treated to an elegant wine dinner featuring two classic Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernets. Our estate tastings at Diamond Creek Vineyards and Constant Diamond Mountain Estate Vineyards up on Diamond Mountain were highlights of our Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Wine Experience together back in 2011.

Following our tasting or the 2006 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon recently where it was showing so well at the apex of its drinking window, it was exciting to do this comparison tasting of two such extraordinary wines from this vintage.

This horizontal tasting of these two wines from the the same vintage and same Diamond Mountain appellation illustrates two dimensions of this wine growing district - mountain fruit from the top tier of the mountain near the summit, and fruit from the lower reaches of the mountain where the cool mountain breezes wafting over from the Pacific and the Sonoma side of the hill collide with the heat of the Napa Valley down below.

Diamond Mountain District AVA is located in towards the North end of the Mayacamas Mountain Range that separates Napa Valley to the east from Sonoma Valley to the west in the northwest corner of Napa Valley above the town of Calistoga. The location to the north end of the valley and its higher elevation than most of Napa Valley, renders it less susceptible to the cool fog that rolls up from the San Pablo Bay at the bottom of the valley, and more direct exposure to sunlight.

One of the most distinctive characteristics that make the Diamond Mountain AVA unique is its soil or range of soils. Much of the areas is comprised of highly porous volcanic rock, while the Diamond Creek that flows down the mountainside and carves out the basin that forms Diamond Creek Vineyards has the a variety of soil types. Indeed Diamond Creek is famous for its legendary single vineyard designated bottlings from four different vineyards, each with its distinctive soil type. Aptly named are the vineyard labels, Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, and this Gravelly Meadow (shown below).

The porous volcanic soil of Diamond Mountain contains minute particles of volcanic glass that give the area its name. It also allows the surface to cool down quickly despite the increased sunlight, gently soothing the grapes overnight. The elevation of the AVA at over 400 feet also keeps it cool relative to the hotter valley floor below.

The AVA is defined by the Napa-Sonoma county line on the west at the summit of the hill, Petrified Forest Road on the north, the 400 foot line of altitude running parallel to Route 29 down below to the east, and the adjacent Spring Mountain District to the south.

We visited Diamond Creek Vineyards back in 2011 and then again recently during their release open house during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience 2017 at the end of summer, the month before last.

Interesting fun facts about Diamond Mountain AVA

When the AVA was proposed in 1999, and was undergoing public review and comment, one property, Diamond Mountain Vineyards, objected to the western border being on the Napa-Sonoma county line, since it would split their property in half. This debate dragged on for
several months culminating in the decision was to keep the boundary on the Napa-Sonoma line. The controversy continued since the proposed  "Diamond Mountain AVA," actually would have been primarily sited in Sonoma County since much of Diamond Mountain including the peak. Ultimately a compromise was reached and it was called Diamond Mountain District AVA since it is a sub-appellation to Napa Valley. 

 Diamond Creek Vineyards Napa Valley Gravelly Meadow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Bill's Cellartracker tasting notes for this wine this evening: "The hit of the evening out of strong flight of Cabernet. Indigo in color. Floral nose with a hint of damp leaves. Black raspberry, tea and a bit of oak on the palate. The signature Bordeaux like earthy, mineral quality that is so typical of the Gravelly Meadow vineyard is very much in evidence. Deep, delicate, layered and complex." 

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 

The Constant estate sits high atop Diamond Mountain overlooking Sonoma to the West and Napa to east. It is one of but a handful of properties that traverse both sides of the summit with vineyards in each. We were fortunate enough to be hosted by Freddie Constant (shown left) during our tasting visit there back in 2011, before Freddie's untimely and unfortunate passing.

The higher elevation with its glass diamond reflective soil, high drainage and sun exposure gives Constant rich, concentrated highly extracted fruit - more obtuse than the more sophisticated elegance of the Diamond Creek below.

Bill's Cellartracker notes for this wine this evening- "Deep indigo in color. Nose of ripe raisin, bramble and a hint of creosote. Huge, bold and full bodied. Black and blue fruit, cola and tea on the palate with a long, lingering finish. Strong, grippy tannins and lots of life left. Need to check back in another two years."