Saturday, June 15, 2019

Snowden Vineyards Lost Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Snowden Vineyards Lost Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - 

Buy/by the case! The challenges, delights, and learnings from tasting/exploring one's investment in one label over time.

With roast beef sandwiches and artisan cheeses, nuts and fruits, I pulled from the cellar this aged 1997 vintage Napa Cab. The 1997 vintage was hailed at the time as a stellar vintage projected to be long lived and age-worthy. It's high accolades and ratings overshadowed the much pooh-poohed 98 vintage so as to drive down prices of that vintage, and escalate prices of the already vaulted '97. 

Paradoxically, for many years to follow, many '98 Napa Cabs offered affordable pleasant drinking, while their more expensive '97 counterparts underwhelmed, were closed and tight. 

Alas, tonight, this 1997 vintage release second label single vineyard designated release from Snowden Vineyards, at 22 years of age, was more impressive, expressive, complex and fruitful than I recall from the many previous tastings of this wine when it was younger, from the case that I acquired upon release. 

My records for this wine record tastings dating back to 2000 with notations in 03, 04, 05, 07, 09 and 2011 - Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - May 15, '03. June 30, '00, Nov 14, '04 July 18, 2005, December 25, 2007, January 6, 2009, Nov 12, 2011.

Having been tasting and recording my perceptions and experiences in tasting notes for over two decades, with over 10000 citations published, I am on the record of preferences and perspectives on wines. And, I have a track record of comparisons to calibrate and measure my palate and tasting discrimination, so I have a good sense of my consistency over time. That said, I rated this wine 90 points in the early years, then reduced my rating to 88 points for several years, at which time I started referring to the wine as 'tight' or closed. Notably, not all tastings are recorded and subsequently published.

On July 18, 2005 , I wrote - Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - RM 90 - Firm tight subtle smoky earthy leather blends well with dark berry fruit and very subtle mocha on the full fragrant finish. Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot tastes true to form like a lower left bank Bordeaux!  

My January 6, 2009 tasted referred to the return of the fruit from earlier tastings - Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - RM 90 - Firm, structured, black raspberry, black cherry and currant on a balanced, finely integrated tannin finish. More fruit and lacking leather and earth of previous tastings. Tasted w/ L at Angeli's Restaurant, our favorite neighborhood bistro.

In 2011 I wrote; "Down to the last few bottles of a case acquired upon release in the late nineties. Consistent with earlier tasting notes taking into account the evolution of this aging wine. Starting to show its age a bit as the dark garnet color starts to take on a slight brownish rust hew and the fruit is starting to fall off a bit and give way to the smoke and leather nose and flavor. Still firm and tight with the smoky leather predominating over the dark berry and black cherry fruit, with forward pronounced cedar and a hint of cassis and a full fragrant firm tannin lingering finish with a bit of tight high alcohol heat. Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot tastes true to form like a lower left bank Bordeaux!"

RM 89 points.

Of course there are also bottle variations from one bottle to another, but this is the truest form of comparison since all these bottles were acquired at the same time and experienced the same storage and handing over the years.  

This is the fun and joy of having a wine cellar, to experience a wine over time and witness its aging effects. I write often in these pages about how a particular label is showing the effects of aging and where it stands in its 'drinking window'. Indeed, a benefit of having multiple bottles of the same wine is to compare them over time. And, the risk of misplacing a bottle, or just overlooking it and keeping it too long so as to miss the prime or apex of its drinkability. Hence effective cellar management is required of one's collection. 

Tonight this wine was delightful, reflecting the best attributes of this wine, without the adverse affects of diminution from its age, exceeding expectations of the the evening's tasting experience, and perhaps also showing what promise this vintage was projected to deliver!

Pizzini Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

Pizzini Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi pleasant white wine available BTG at Italian Village Chicago

For antipasta pre-dinner starter at Italian Village Chicago, I had a BTG (One of Wine Director Jared Gelband's By The Glass selections) Verdicchio, a pleasant refreshing grape varietal from central Italy ideal with my caprese mozzarello with heirloom tomatos. I mentioned this wine when I wrote about that dinner a separate blogpost.

Barone Pizzini Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva San Paolo Pievalta DOC 2013

The long name identifying this wine exemplifies a reason many are intimidated or overwhelmed in learning about wines, especially Italian wines. Even I, a fairly knowledgable enophile (wine geek), get wound up trying to parse or decipher all the designations, words and syllables of such, (hence this wine blog to help 'unwindwine'!). The variables of this wine name are parsed and explained below, hopefully making sense of it and providing a basis for better understanding this label, or Italian wines generally. 

Verdicchio is a very popular grape varietal grown throughout central Italy with an estimated 65,000 hectares planted which makes Verdicchio the 15th most planted variety of any grape in the world, ahead of better-known popular varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese. Verdicchio is widely grown throughout the Marche, Umbria and Lazio regions of Italy, mostly in the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata - quality control regulations) wines of Verdicchio di Matelica and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi in the commune of Jesi in the Ancona province. 

The Pievalta winery is located in Maiolati Spontini township, Ancona province, in the Marches (Marche region of central Italy), in the heart of the commune of Castelli di Jesi. The area is known for production of wines made from Verdicchio grapes.

Pievalta was founded in 2002 through the vision of the Barone Pizzini winery of Franciacorta. CEO, Silvano Brescianini, had already recognized the great potential of Verdicchio as one of Italy’s most important indigenous grape varieties. Barone Pizzini tapped enologist, Alessandro Fenino, from Franciacorta to manage the Castelli di Jesi appellation project.

Pievalta farms 26.5 hectares of estate-owned vineyards with two principal growing sites on either end of the Esino River Valley. The vines were originally planted in the 1970s. Another vineyard is on the right bank of the Esino in San Paolo di Jesi in the hamlet of Follonica considered one of the best subzones in Castelli di Jesi which produces wines that are austere, rich in flavor and known for their power.

This label is sourced from the right bank of the Esino River made exclusively with grapes from the San Paolo vineyard. Locals point to San Paolo hamlet as one of the best areas for growing Verdicchio. Winemaker notes: "On the nose, this wine has delicate notes of yellow fruit, aromatic herbs, citrus, and almond. In the mouth, it is multi-layered and intensely mineral".

Straw colored with a gold hue, light medium bodied, 100% Veridcchio at five years, is starting to show a little age, floral aromas, notes of pear, apple, and hints of lime, stone fruit and almonds, dry, with medium to medium acidity, medium alcohol and nice flavor intensity.  

RM 90 points.