Sunday, March 19, 2023

Clark Claudon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Clark-Claudon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 1997 

Sunday night dinner, Linda prepared her delectable beef bourgogne so I pulled from the cellar this aged Napa Cabernet for pairing. This is from boutique Napa Valley producer Clark-Claudon.

We hold two decades of vintages of this label going back to their inaugural release in 1994.

Clark-Claudon are estate bottled Cabernets, sourced from their 18 acres of vineyards on the northeast side of Howell Mountain. The total estate covers 115 acres, sited between 800 and 1200 feet elevation, between Ink Grade & Howell Mountain roads.

We met Tom Clark and Laurie Claudon-Clark (middle couple on left) when we hosted them for a wine producer dinner at then trendy Pinot Blanc in St Helena during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999. I recall friend and wine-buddy Paul McDonald (left) from LA had some association with the restaurant ownership back in the day. (Yes, that's my bride, Linda on the right, circa 1999).

Clark-Claudon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 1997

I selected a 1997 vintage release which is one of the few bottles remaining from a case we acquired back during that trip. The much heralded '97 Napa Cabernets were highly rated and projected to be long lived. Twenty-five years later, we in the late chapters of tasting wines from that vintage release.

As I wrote in a previous tasting of the release back in 2014, "In earlier tastings of this vintage of Clark Claudon, I wondered if it was like Dominus (86) and some Bordeaux (89-90 Pichon Lalande) that I later learned I drank too early when they finally 'awoke' to reveal their true character and fruits years later?'

Back in 2014, "Unlike previous tastings when the Clark Claudon was somewhat closed and a bit flabby with muted fruit upon opening, tonight it seemed to be showing its age, opening to ripe raisiny black cherry and black berry fruit, with subtle tone of cigar box and leather with nicely integrated and balanced silky smooth tannins. After an hour or so the fruit closed down and it became subdued leaving a slight astringency and tones of tobacco and leather.'

Our lasted tasting of this label back in 2020, we encountered issues with the cork, when I wrote, "Due to the wax seal on the top of the bottle, I couldn't easily use my ahso two pronged cork puller, which I would normally use for an aged bottle. Despite using the 'rabbit ear' cork screw with the extra long screw, the cork pretty much disintegrated in a crumble and had to be dug out in crumbly pieces from the bottle, which was then strained and decanted."

That review at that time, :Dark ruby colored, medium bodied, bright lively, nicely balanced structured black berry fruits with notes of black cherry, hints of graphite, leather and earthy tobacco with modest smooth tannins on the finish. - RM 89 points."

Tonight, at twenty-five years, the fill level, wax seal, label, and most importantly, the cork were all in ideal condition, for their age (shown left). The cork was tight but starting to soften only so slightly. There was a significant amount of sediment for the final fifth of the bottle, definitely warranting decanting or filtering.

This was a bit funky on opening starting to show diminution from age, but that burned off after an hour and this opened up to reveal it true character and profile. This certainly will not improve from further aging, its time to consume the remaining bottles for over the next year or so. 
This was a perfect accompaniment to tonight's dinner entree, amplifying the enjoyment of both the food and the wine, as well as the artisan hand crafted toffee and chocolate after diiner treat. 

After tonight's tasting, I shaved a few years off the Cellartracker drinking window from 2018 to 2015 and I reduced my rating from 89 to 88. 

Dark ruby colored, medium bodied, bright lively acidity, balanced, structured black berry fruits with notes of black cherry, notes of graphite, leather and earthy tobacco with firm tongue puckering tannins on the finish.

RM 88 points.