Cronin Cabernets and Cab Blends Blindtasted

Tom's House, Palo Alto, CA
Tasted Thursday, January 15, 2009 by Richard Jennings with 401 views

Introduction

Introductory notes by tasting organizer Ross Bott:
Most of Duane Cronin's career was spent at IBM after getting a degree in electric engineering at Iowa State in 1967. However, soon after buying a house perched in the foothills on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains near Woodside in 1975, he began making wine in his garage. After making some outstanding Chardonnays in the late seventies and winning several awards in home winemaking competitions, he decided to bond his winery in 1980 and begin production for selling to the public.

Cronin never moved his from his Woodside garage, so his production never grew beyond a thousand or two cases. He continued to work at IBM to supplement his income, but his focus and passion was increasingly on producing great wines. His wines often received critical raves. Richard Nalley of Food & Wine magazine in 1999 said of Cronin "Retired computer consultant Duane Cronin may be just the most talented small winemaker in America. His wines have Old World balance and proportion coupled with beautiful Santa Cruz Mountain fruit."

Cronin's style has always favored understated elegance over power. His wines almost never exceeded 14% alcohol, but they had a structure and depth which allowed them to age gracefully for many years. Cronin's first loves were the Burgundian varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, he experimented with many other varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Blanc, and even Rhone blends.

Beginning in the late 1990s a long time liver illness began to sap his strength, he decided after the 2000 vintage that he could no longer produce wine at the high standard that he set for himself, so that became the winery's final vintage. Las year he passed away at the age of 61. Many of us were friends of Duane's, having seen him at wine trade events and his open houses, and many others were avid followers of his wine.

Tonight, we'll have the last of our three part look at Cronin's wine legacy. In the first two parts, we covered his Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. In this part, we'll look at a collection of his Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux blends. Dwayne typically blended his Cabernets with small amounts of Merlot and sometime Cabernet Franc. He also produced a separate varietal Merlot when he ran into great sources for them. In the lineup tonight, we'll have a Cabernet and two Bordeaux blends from one of his favorite vineyards, Robinson Vineyard in the Stag's Leap area. We'll also have two Cabernets and a Cab-Merlot blend from grapes closer to his winery in the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, plus a Merlot from the San Ysidro area. Here's the lineup:

1985 Cronin "Robinson Vineyard", Napa Valley (12.5%)
1990 Cronin "Concerto - Robinson Vineyard" Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley (12.5%)
1993 Cronin "Concerto - Robinson Vineyard" Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley (12.5%)
1994 Cronin, Santa Cruz Mountains (12.5%)
1996 Cronin, Santa Cruz Mountains (12.5%)
1986 Cronin "Shaw and Cronin Cuvee", San Mateo County (12.5%)
1998 Cronin, Merlot, San Ysidro District, Santa Clara County (12.5%)
Plus there will be one additional Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon

Flight 1 - My TNs and group rankings (8 Notes)

  • 1993 Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon Concerto 89 Points

    USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District

    Group's #1 (my #5) – 22 pts; 3 firsts, 0 seconds, 2 thirds, 0 last places – bricking light garnet red color with pale meniscus; mature, tawny, mushroom, truffle, dried berry and VA nose; very tart cherry, dried plum and mineral palate; medium finish (steadily improved in the glass)

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  • 1994 Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon 88 Points

    USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains

    Group's #2 (my #2) – 25 pts.; 1, 3, 2, 0 – medium red color with pale meniscus; deep cassis and plum nose; solid cassis, red fruit palate with a tobacco edge and grip; medium finish 88+ pts.

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  • 1990 Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon Concerto 90 Points

    USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District

    Group's #3 (my #1) – 30 pts.; 2, 1, 1, 1 – medium, slightly bricking cherry red color with pale meniscus; redolent cassis and dried cherry nose; baked tart cherry, rhubarb and menthol palate; medium finish 90+ pts.

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  • 1998 Cronin Merlot 87 Points

    USA, California, San Francisco Bay, San Ysidro District

    Group's #4 (my #4) – 32 pts.; 0, 1, 1, 0 – light medium bricking red color with clear meniscus; nice mature cassis nose with a touch of leather, that deepens to more balsamic with time in the glass; solid, cassis, dried berry and menthol palate; medium finish

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  • 1983 Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 87 Points

    USA, California, Napa Valley

    Group's #5 (my #3) – 35 pts.; 1, 2, 1, 1 – bricking medium red color with pale meniscus; dried raspberry, ripe cherry, vanilla oak and VA nose; tangy, tart cherry, cassis palate with grip, breaks down after 30 minutes in the glass though; medium finish 87+ pts.

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  • 1985 Cronin Cabernet-Merlot Robinson Vineyard 83 Points

    USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District

    Group's #6 (my #8) – 44 pts.; 1, 0, 1, 1 – medium cherry red color with clear meniscus; ripe cherry, dried cherry and very tart plum nose; tart, acidic, tart cherry, from which the fruit has nearly fully drained away; short-medium finish

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  • 1996 Cronin Cabernet Sauvignon 83 Points

    USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains

    Group's #7 (my #7) – 48 pts.; 0, 1, 0, 2 – slightly bricking cherry red color with pale meniscus; dried berry, oak and herbaceous nose; very tart dried red fruit, cassis, with tart tannins, starting to dry out; medium finish

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  • 1986 Cronin Shaw & Cronin Cuvee 85 Points

    USA, California, San Francisco Bay

    Group's #8 (my #6) – 52 pts.; 0, 0, 0, 3 – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; earthy, strong beef jerky and tobacco nose; tart dried beef and tart tomato sauce and oregano palate; medium finish 85+ pts.

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