2017 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • USA
  • California
  • Napa Valley
  • Oakville

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Community Tasting Note

  • csimm1161 wrote:

    November 29, 2018 - Barrel samples of the BTK, Crane, and LPV.

    There is already much to love about these rousing wines-in-progress, as the purity of fruit and fresh, clean deliveries of flavor once again highlight the elevated attention to detail brought forward by this house.

    As one might expect, these wines are primary and somewhat temperate in their overall executions at the moment. With time in the glass and some vigorous swirling, the dark fruit and spice flavors begin to open up and reveal a more deepened mid-palate drop; acidity shows medium in grip, with a constant but subtle tannic frame tempering the full distribution of flavor currently.

    The purity and freshness of fruit here are so elevated that they shine as the primary accolades of these particular wines. The To Kalon and Crane wines showed especially pure and balanced. The LPV was a bit more demure this time around, with a back end that was showing more minerality and frame than leading with the core fruit. By comparison to the 2016s, these 2017s show less bombastic potency at the moment, but instead exhibit a balanced slow-burn that is surely alluring.

    Consumers will have to get used to the notion that the 2017 vintage may not carry the same up-front and immediate concentration and depth as the last few drought vintages. Instead, 2017 might be better appreciated through the lens of finesse and virtuosity, if not a little lighter in highfalutin weight and mouthfeel. There's an elegance to these 2017 Vice Versa wines (and other 2017s I've sampled) that do not blow over the palate with the boom-intensity and salaciousness of 2016s, but instead impress for their panache and polish, showing even more of a classical flair (a la the 2010 vintage) that makes for an even more elevated experience in some respects.

    Select top wineries who are extremely selective and meticulous in their step-by-step sculpting of their 2017s (to include dumping fruit that is either tainted or even remotely sub-standard) will indeed produce exceptional wines. Those who ultimately manage to successfully navigate through the tribulations of 2017 will have likely produced comparatively svelte wines to the 2016s, but will certainly still deliver in purity and freshness.

    I initially don't want to like 2017 as a vintage, as it is easy to sling mud in the name of the heat spike and the following wildfires. But there are wines out there that just might have found a way to be truly successful in this trying vintage. Vice Versa is without a doubt one of them. Once these are bottled, they will surely need a few years to develop and find their places among their extremely competitive and overly animated 2016 siblings.

    For me, the 2017 Beckstoffer wines from Vice Versa are classy and skillfully elevated beyond anything I’ve seen from this vintage yet. They will all eventually be high-mid to upper 90s wines without question, with building upside in the years to come.

    3 people found this helpful 3,123 views


  • TXRDW commented:

    1/27/19, 8:37 AM - Great note CSIMM! You seem to be a fan of Philippe Melka Wines, given many of your Vice Versa and Tusk notes. I’m curious if you have an opinion on Melka Vineyards, specifically Jumping Goat. I’ve had his entry level CJ and I was impressed. I’ve heard Philippe is very high on the 2016 vintage, supposedly referring to it surprisingly as “the vintage of the decade”. With that in mind I’m thinking on buying heavy on some of the Melka Vineyard offerings, specifically with Jumping Goat in mind, but there are very limited CT notes out there. I’m hoping you have some feedback.

  • csimm1161 commented:

    1/27/19, 11:00 AM - Hi TXRDW. I apologize, as I have very limited first-hand knowledge of the Melka/Metisse/Jumping Goat label specifically in terms of actually trying the 2016 wines themselves. Second-hand info from others has been generally good, but somewhat mixed. 2016 is a good vintage to experiment with for sure, and I think it's already producing some great wines from various houses, but I'm quickly starting to notice a number of wines in this category are really extracted (compared to their 2015 counterparts - so be forewarned). 2016 is more bombastic than 2015 in general, with an intensity that is crazy flavorful and accessible young, but ya gotta be careful with that so they aren't too overblown. I've had some 2016 Melka and Fayard wines that are HUGE (Purlieu for example). Some are amazing good...but need time to work through all of that oak and booze.

    I've had other Melka wines beyond Vice Versa and Tusk. To be quite honest, it's been somewhat hit and miss. I've had some decent wines from his other labels, and I've had some really unfortunate experiences. A.B. Lithology is an example of a wine I was pretty disappointed with (tasted twice on separate occasions with similar results - not sure what happened there). So like anything, there isn't one winemaker I can think of who has multiple projects where I liked every single one. Some of that is palate preference of course. Melka is spreading out a bit (and seems to be continuing that trajectory a-la TRB). Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but I wouldn't go in blind on those kinds of purchases without first trying the wine if possible (especially with the Metisse brand at that $195-225 range - that's a tough bracket to compete in). Something to also be on the lookout for with that label in particular, the wines often pop up for less at wine stores shortly after the direct release is over (a pet peeve of mine which doesn't instill the confidence of mailing list/allocation customers). But again, all of this is more academic and I haven't had that particular wine before (Jumping Goat). And I certainly don't mean to sound negative. I think Melka is a great winemaker and operates well within the top 5 best in the entire Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, VV and Tusk are his best works. Sorry, I don't mean to talk around your question; I just don't want to give you the impression I have a lot of experience with Jumping Goat when I actually do not. Looks like I'll have to check it out!! :)

  • TXRDW commented:

    1/27/19, 11:30 AM - Thanks CSIMM. Your perspective is quite interesting and most helpful. I found myself jumping down the Jumping Goat path indirectly because of you. I’m not sure if you remember, but about a year ago I asked you for suggestions on wine. One of your recommendations was Vice Versa. A few months ago I tried the 2016 and it was amazing. This led me to the Melka name (I’m still learning these things), which led me to his CJ on a wine list one evening, which was a very solid QPR. From there I found out Melka had his own label and from the very few CT reviews it seemed worth a try (the 2013 notes were exceptional)

    I’m trying to slowly build up my collection, and now that you’ve turned me on to Carter and Vice Versa, I’m branching out. Hopefully at some point I can gain access to Sine Qua Non and Tusk, but it looks like it would be easier for a guy in Texas to find a unicorn than either of these wines. My thought is that I might be better off getting on the front end of some of these up and coming vineyards rather than face a decade long wait to get on a mailing list.

  • csimm1161 commented:

    1/27/19, 11:38 AM - SQN and Tusk are rough goes for trying to get in. Both are pretty much locked-up at this point. The Metisse label seems the most promising of the Melka namesake wines; it's been on my list to try when I'm in the Valley. Pro scores and a few of the CT scores from Jumping Goat Vineyard (as well as Montbleau) are very positive. He also sources from Martinez Vineyard on Pritchard Hill. Purlieu (winemaker Julian Fayard - Melka's protege) used to source from there - Purlieu's 2014 Martinez Cab is fantastic.

  • TXRDW commented:

    1/27/19, 12:26 PM - Then Jumping Goat it is. The other two Melka wines you mentioned, sourced from Pritchard Hill and Martinez, require joining their wine club where you commit to 4 bottles each of the 3 labels at a sticker price just south of 3K for 12 bottles. Unfortunately the only wine of the 3 you can buy without joining the club is the Jumping Goat.

  • csimm1161 commented:

    1/27/19, 12:29 PM - Good call. Clubs where they have those sorts of requirements are instant turn-offs for me. Let me know how it goes!!

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