Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cépages" Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

As the Coronavirus shut-in continues, our family and friends are having fun with our virtual wine tastings sharing texts and videos of our wines and dinners.

Friend and colleague Tom R texted me that he opened a 2003 vintage release (he's so proud that he has now mastered his 'ahso', two pronged cork puller) of this label and asked if he had waited too long? I replied, "absolutely not, we're still holding a dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties". So, when Linda prepared grilled tenderloin steak with mashed potatoes and green beans, I pulled from the cellar this aged vintage release from 1998 for the pairing.

Chateau St Jean is one of the premier producers in Sonoma County and their winery chateau estate is a showcase highlight of the Sonoma Valley.

Our private tastings at the 1920's chateau with views of the Grand Lawn and Estate Vineyards and in the Reserve Room have been the highlights of our trips to the region including our 2017 Sonoma Wine Experience and our Sonoma Harvest tour in 2009.

Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cépages" was one of the first classic Bordeaux Blend labels from the region and has always represented good value, high QPR relative to the top Bordeaux labels. It was the Wine Spectator #1 wine in the annual Top 100 list in 1999 with the 1996 vintage release. At that time the release price was $28, a remarkable value at the time. From then on, the label exploited its #1 legacy and notoriety and boosted the price point, but it still represents reasonable comparable value. 

Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cépages" Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

At twenty-two years of age, this 1998 vintage release was still drinking nicely and holding its own, despite being from a lackluster vintage that was expected to have a short lifespan drinking window. The color is taking on a slight opacity and grey hue and the fruits are starting to give way to non-fruit flavors so it is starting to decline and should be consumed over the next year or so.

I have written often in these pages about the 1998 vintage release of Napa and Sonoma Valley Cabernets. Jancis Robinson of Jancis wrote of the 1998 vintage, "The vintage was slammed by some critics, and shame on them, for many terrific wines came from 1998, after the rush-to-judgment were made."

This was an over-achiever for the vintage exceeding expectations on release and in the years since. 

This classic Bordeaux Blend contains the five Bordeaux varietals, hence the name Cinq Cepages for the 'five flavors'. This release is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit-Verdot.

Robert Parker awarded this release 89-91 points, and Wine Enthusiast 90 points.

There was dense sediment in the bottle. This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, firm structure, tightly wound but nicely balanced with complex black currant and black cherry fruits with sharp acidity accented by briary herb, earth, cedar, hints soy and anise with moderate tannins on the long finish.

RM 88 points.