2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • USA
  • California
  • Napa Valley

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Community Tasting Note

  • Cristal2000 Likes this wine: 99 points

    February 6, 2021 - First opportunity to taste the 2019 vintage. My impression from this limited experience is it will be less structured and serious than 2018, but opulent, fruit forward and really enjoyable to drink. The comparison to 2014 seems appropriate.

    Blueberry liqueur, spring flowers, crushed rock and spice box dominate a slightly muted nose. Outrageous purity of fruit greets you on the first sip and makes this wine impossible to resist. Mostly blue fruit, super fine grained ripe tannins, excellent depth of flavor and exceptional layering define a wine that will surely push toward a 100pt score. An ethereal mid palate gives way to a long, mineral driven and savory finish. If this wine develops the way it should, it's going to be truly epic. 99-100

    4 people found this helpful 3,600 views


  • RayT commented:

    2/6/21, 2:41 PM - Interesting tasting note as I had previously read your strategy about buying no 2017's, a boatload of 2018's, less 2019's, and no 2020's. I pretty much subscribed to the same strategy. I had a difficult surgery and rehab and missed all my 2016's allocations and have been playing catch up ever since as 2016 may have passed 2013 as my favorite vintage because of the early accessibility. I literally bought 2 bottles of 2017 and loaded up on 2018's to make up for my lack of 2016's. As far as the 2019's my gut told me it would not be as good as 2018 and your reference to 2014 makes sense to me. The 2014's are my least favorite drought year vintage although they did drink well early similar to the 2012's. With that said your score and tasting note tell me that this is a heck of a wine. Did this tasting change your mind about the 2019's or do you think just this particular wine was amazing. The reason I ask is I have never drank Vice Versa wines but I have a tasting on March 25th. Unfortunately they release their 2019's SVD's on March 2nd. They were nice enough to let me buy a 375 of the 2018 Dr. Crane, Las Piedras, and To Kalon which I would typically wait to open but want to taste before buying any 2019's. Can you give me advice about service on the 375's and which Vice Versa single vineyards your prioritize. Also how would you compare the Vice Versa To Kalon and Las Piedras to the Carter To Kalon and Las Piedras? What about the Vice Versa Dr. Crane versus Myriad Dr. Crane? Sorry about the length. I follow both you and Csimm and some of my best tasting experiences were wines you highly recommended. I went all in on 2018's and financially I need to scale back on the 2019's and be more selective. One last question is do you think the Vice Versa Napa cab is worth the $150 or better to spend my money on the single vineyards. I would much appreciate your advice. Thanks!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/6/21, 3:17 PM - Hi RayT - all good questions and exactly why we all use CT! Let me try to address your questions:

    - This experience with 2019's, while not at all enough to be conclusive, was in line with my expectations. I think this will be a good but probably not great vintage. The wines will be way more fruity than 2018, which can make them fun if not as serious. The acidity and structure are down, but accessibility early will be up. I think my score for the Crane is simply reflective of a really amazing vineyard and excellent winemaking.

    - Regarding the 18 VV wines you now have, they are likely to be very tight. This vintage was cooler and these wines are a bit shut down. I recently had the BTK and it was just not ready. Had the Crane a couple months ago and it was still resolving the oak. I suggest when you open them, you take a sip right away and if they are open for business, don't worry about a decant. If they aren't, then give them 6 hours or so of air. Hard to know where they are going to be.

    - For VV priority, it's Crane, BTK and LPV. The LPV can be amazing, but often it's nails and shut down. The BTK is fabulous, but the Crane is the star of the show to me.

    - The comparison's you mention are to Mike Smith wines, so that is relatively easy to answer. Mike's wines are amazing to drink young. I had an 18 Myriad GIII last weekend that was incredible. They have a sweet edge to them, are built for early consumption and are usually a meal all unto themselves. They are also off putting to anyone who likes classic retrained style wines.

    VV's wines, with Melka making them, are certainly modern in style, but don't have the sweetness or early accessibility. They tend to shut down a bit after you receive them and need a couple years of age. They are incredibly well balanced and will age very well. Unlike with Mike's wines, where if you don't drink them in the first 7-10 years you worry they will be over the hill, these wines will develop nicely. They aren't just built on the fruit like Mike's.

    - I would choose to buy the SVD's and not the Napa Valley. They will be getting rid of the Napa Valley soon, and I'm not even sure they are making one for 2019. Lots of changes at VV: getting rid of BBS wines, adding a wine called "Mysterons", changing labels and they also bought an estate vineyard. Taking some fruit from what was a David Abreu site as well.

    Hope that helps. It's hard to portion out your funds with so many places making good wines these days. I will say VV has exceptional people and they focus on quality, which I really appreciate.

    Take care and cheers!

  • RayT commented:

    2/6/21, 10:58 PM - Cristal2000- Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly and well. I have a good road map of where to go from here. I didn't realize that Mike's wines were made to drink so early. I had kind of heard 3-5 years for the Carters and I have been an err on the side of time guy. Now I understand why you and others are popping these wines early. I have started to learn that based on the vintage I have done myself a disservice aging wines that never again drink as good as they did in their youth. I really feel that way about the 2012 vintage. Based on my budget I only buy 2-3 bottles of the SVD's in the $200-$300 range in a specific vintage and producer, so I have been hesitant to open one in the name of science. This is where Cellartracker has really helped me. While the power and purity of the fruit is my first consideration in buying wine I do love Phillipe Melka wines for their balance and structure. I am going to go with Carter for my Las Piedras, The 2015 Carter Las Piedras is the best wine I have drank. Sublime! Then go with VV for my Dr. Crane and To Kalon. I will heed your advice about skipping the Napa bottling and spending on the SVD's. I read a comment you wrote a while ago about someone asking you about bottles in the $100-$150 range and you said these days you kind of focus on drinking wines that really move you. I am starting to gravitate towards that way of thinking. I have enough bottles in my cellar now that I have plenty to drink but I am now looking for a wine experience that moves me like a great piece of literature, a stirring movie, or a phenomenal meal. I still like the Carter Fortuna, Bevan Ontogeny, and Realm Bard in the $100 range (found all those from yours and Csimms comments and tasting notes) but above that I am really looking for that experience. Thanks again for your expertise and helping me maximize my bang for the buck.

  • #1Winelover commented:

    2/9/21, 9:56 AM - Hey Cristal. Great reviews! Did you get a chance to try the LPV? Regarding vintages, TRB is comparing 2018 and 2019 to 2001 and 2002. For those of us who were drinking wine back then, it's a great comparison and mirrors what you wrote and the differences between '18 and '19.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/9/21, 4:23 PM - Hi WL - Sadly I didn't get a chance to try the LPV. Hopefully soon. I have had very few of the 01/02 vintage unfortunately, but that sounds like an interesting comparison from TRB. Cool vintage to a warmer one. I was thinking 18 is a bit like 10, but perhaps with a smidge more fruit. 19 definitely comes across like 14, hopefully at least a little more complete. Guess we will see. It certainly isn't a bad one, just hard with 16 and 18 so recent.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    2/23/21, 12:29 PM - Cristal- you are the most popular girl in school right now, you realize that right? Soak it in! (1) able to get to Napa, (2) tasted the 2019 vintage and (3) able to provide good intell! As always thanks for posting. I think what Melka does is consistent amazing structure, power and overall tannin development/management which I am drawn to but I digress as I have one, keeping me up all night burning Questin - did you taste mystereons and any idea what they plan to sell it for? Thorevilos is one of if not my favorite wine and curious how this compares - and Frankly surprised they would make it a blend vs SVD. Inquiring minds want to know :)

    Heading up to Napa late March early April but no plans yet.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 2:12 PM - Hi LIOF - well, I actually didn't get up to Napa to taste these, so perhaps I am just the second most popular girl...:)

    Sadly I was only able to get my hands on the Crane and BTK. No Mysterons. They are going to sell it for $250 like the SVD's. Since it has Ecotone, plus their new estate and some Beckstoffer juice in it, the blend should be interesting. I am not sure it will come close to comparing to Thorevilos, just due to all the various components, but I am very curious myself! I'll have to dig into why they aren't making an SVD out of it. If I were guessing, one thought is they want to sell their estate grapes but perhaps those are not quite yet at the level of the other sources so making a blend brings the finished product up to their standards. Total conjecture.

    It'll be interesting to watch as they roll out a number of changes. I think their model will look quite a bit like Realm. Instead of the Napa Valley wine they'll have something a bit more entry level like Bard that they can distribute around. No BBS and all the juice goes into their SVD's. M7 is like Absurd. New, more fashionable labels. Higher levels of overall production. And then maybe they eventually make an SVD out of Ecotone and their Estate Vineyard. They've picked up a bunch more Crane and BTK vines too.


  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    2/23/21, 2:32 PM - Cristal- you are still the prettiest one in my book! It all makes sense, I bought much much less and was at the point of stopping buying as I couldn’t get my head around the Mag 7 getting the best, the BBS getting the next best, the regular SVD the third best- and those were $250- not buying it and then the fourth tier was a blend of the best of the worst?

    Thanks as well for the anecdotes and/or hypothesis with Thorevilos but it doesn’t make sense to hide the unicorn... regardless of the reason... but what the heck do I know (don’t answer that)!

    Look forward to the investigative reporting updates!!!

    Be safe out there.

  • #1Winelover commented:

    2/23/21, 3:06 PM - Cristal and pretty go together well. haha and only kidding C2000! I would agree that they would not want to dilute Ecotone but who knows. I just hope that they stop raising their inflated prices. But, if they can sell out, all the power to them. It is interesting that Realm's prices -- overall -- are less than VV, with the exception of Crane. And Realm's Crane usually scores 100 points.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 3:40 PM - Thanks LIOF - that means a lot to me. I've always wanted to be the prettiest. :)

    WL - the Moonracer is also $250. The move to $300 on Realm's Crane was quite a shocker. They can do it just because the aftermarket has anointed it a $500 bottle of wine. Ironically scores wise, so far I think Bevan is the only Crane with 100 from LPB and JD. Still waiting on VV from LPB, but JD gave it 100. Then again, JD gives out 100's like candy.

    Generally, it seems like most everyone keeps raising the prices up. When I started buying Bevan in the 2012 vintage, it seemed overpriced. Now it's cheap relatively speaking because they haven't upped the fare (they can't - make too much wine and have a horrendous infrastructure). I think where VV is concerned, part of it is all the Beckstoffer juice, and part of it is they are able to sell it all so why not nudge the price? As they make more and get more lots, that model will be tested. Realm is only really cheaper on less expensive grapes and blends for the most part.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    2/23/21, 4:00 PM - It’s funny this last raise on Realm put me over the edge and I am now no longer a direct customer (why spend $300 on the good Doctor when there are equal or better versions)... but I have not tasted this vintage so I am probably wrong here. I felt the same way with Colgin this year... maybe it’s the $50 clips and no loyalty and no price decreases for average or below average vintages or I am a cranky In 2021.

    In general I feel with Realm they keep adding grapes and prices go up- but can quality hold? One example of many- I was a big Bard fan back in the day but IMO the quality has lost a step, still a good but not great bottle of wine, which one could argue is worth the price of entry or not.

    I am re energized based on the new info VV is restructuring their bottlings and if I understand it correctly I am back in as a loyal supporter. I guess we will see in a week. Hopefully they are transparent in the release and reasoning.
    -signed hopefully optimistic

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 4:28 PM - LIOF - I hear you. It is a constant struggle to decide who to keep and who to cut in Napa. Realm has gone a wee bit corporate. I understand it from a business perspective, but as an enthusiast it is underwhelming. I think most of us this passionate about wine like the places that make small amounts, don't charge too much, personally engage their client base and give great access. If that isn't the recipe for business failure I don't know what is! :)

    What you have to love about VV is Patrice and Samantha really truly LOVE the wine. They engage clients, they make visits special and they will go above and beyond for you. Patrice is exacting about quality and won't cut corners to make an extra buck. He is a true enthusiast himself. That is something I can get behind, and makes it one I won't cut out.

    Here's hoping that does not change!

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    2/23/21, 4:50 PM - Cristal- hit the nail on the head on both accounts. I have been a big supporter of VV early on and to date but this was the year I thought I might waiver due to the 4 levels of the same vineyard bottlings and therefore was torn as they are both excellent proprietors of the land, wine, service and business but just couldn’t get past the practice. Should I really buy the SVDs with all of the best and better barrels removed which means it was basically the leftovers for $250/bottle?

    Anyways glad all is right in the world and that is no longer their business model and I can continue to spend lots of money on their wine :) thank you for that I think...

  • GQG commented:

    3/2/21, 12:09 PM - LIOF, Cristal et. al., appreciated your comments and musings on this Crane and VV in general. I maxed out my VV allocation in 2019 because they quit removing the BBS barrels from the SVD wines (I got an M7 instead), because the 2020 VV is lost, and because Patrice and Samantha are excellent, quality folks that care deeply about their product. I didn't get their new label, though, which will wait until I have a chance to visit VV and try it out.

    Regarding the Realm/VV comparison, while they've both had pretty serious price creep year-over-year, the Vice Versa incredible purity of fruit in vintage after vintage continues to propel it to the top rung of Napa Cabs. I dropped Realm after 2016 because they don't deliver that same fruit purity for their increasingly higher prices, and it seems that price increases from them (or new wines with astronomical prices) are locked in for the long haul, come good or bad vintages. Realm has sunk such a boatload of capital into their new cellar and the purchase of the remaining Hartwell vineyard that it's inevitable.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    3/2/21, 1:09 PM - Good bathroom reading :)

    I dropped Realm this year but have been winding down over the past few years as the customer service and model have changed and not for the better. Absurd (and others) is still great juice but there are others at similar levels that seem to have a better focus on their customers (IMO only). The steep increase for Dr just didn’t sit right for me and was the first al straw.

  • #1Winelover commented:

    3/2/21, 1:16 PM - I must be in the minority because I think Realm is on another level and I am a huge fan of VV. Granted, some of their prices have increased; however they also make the best Farella on the planet for $175 and The Bard is much lower. Their customer service (which I have complained about multiple times) has actually improved. And Benoit is the man. Their quality shines every year.

    Just more bathroom reading, lite :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/2/21, 1:49 PM - This line of conversation gives good insight into how Napa enthusiasts think. We develop our opinions not only on the quality of the wine, but the exclusivity, personal relationships with the owners/winemakers, price point and other subjective measures. I was joking with someone the other day that we all want these wineries to be terrible businesses: Keep prices low, use your time to go out of your way to cater to us, make small amounts that consistently create exclusivity and get markups on the aftermarket and never screw up a vintage. :) That is a one way ticket to the poor house, but I can't say I don't think that way! It's why we expect really wealthy people to go to Napa and make a wine that loses them money. Those make us happy.

    I totally agree the Realm business model makes it anti-enthusiast. If they screw up a score or vintage, people are going to leave because they are a big operation that keeps raising their prices. VV is more personal and I only hope they are able to keep that up as their production rises. That said, for them to make money, they need to transition away from "enthusiasts" a bit and hit larger markets, especially overseas.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    3/2/21, 2:50 PM - #1- I am a fan of Realm as well, maybe not to where you are any more (I was) but there are only so many $$ to spread around hard decisions need to be made. Its good to hear their customer service has improved as they lost a number of folks for that reason alone (and why I stopped sending people there). Bard for me has been downhill a bit as they have increased quantities but still is a good wine for the $$. I started buying FM for BT as a smaller winery figure there is more of a need vs larger with long waiting list. I have a good amount of Realm just need minor reasons not to buy in Napa than to buy as I would be on the streets living in a tent had I not made some hard wine not-buying decisions.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    3/2/21, 3:10 PM - Cristal- Agree many times it is the intangibles that help us decide who gets what, as let's be honest, we are talking grape juice after all.

    I know you are kidding about wanting them to fail and be secret but my take is different. I want to be there early and/or a consistent loyal buyer that there is 'loyalty' back from the winery. Yes when they are successful they will raise prices and have a demand that far exceeds supply BUT it doesn't mean they shouldn't have a higher level of service to that group vs treat others as a number. There should be non material revenue impacts to this group for their buyers- first allocations (easy and a standard practice), great tastings- or send a <split (50-175ml) sized barrel sample out (x loyal buyers x negligible wine & shipping), immediate responses, willingness to make connections, discounts for poor vintages, etc that would only further create demand from outside the group. Yada Yada Yada wine... Perfect example is your favorite high demand restaurant. If you are a frequent visitor they do things that makes you feel special but don't break the bank and they could always fill your seat with someone else- but they don't.

    Regarding VV, because I standby my ethics and enthusiasm for small business and people/products/services I believe in, I have sent many many people to VV (as I did Realm previously and of course many others) while many super high demand exclusive wineries I have not (because they treat you just like a number) even when I could get them in. There is such a fine line to differences in wine (or not) and sometimes its the little things that will make the buying or willingness to help push one way or the other.

    I will never forgot my experience with Bevan Cellars- everyone should be that lucky.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/2/21, 5:15 PM - LIOF - Can't say I disagree with anything you've said. Napa is a strange place. On a certain level, you can make a good small business out of DTC. Mike Smith is a great example with Myriad, Quivet etc. You generally have to buy all your grapes, but if you get a loyal following it works. And if it works, it's because of us enthusiasts.

    However, if you aspire to a big business, the enthusiast is less important. You need to sell lots and lots of wine, and it's much less through DTC and more through distribution. Wines like Shafter HSS are in every store and restaurant out there. Dominus is 100% distribution. Most all French wine goes through layers of distribution before it gets to us. So that's a distinct decision, to get away from direct, make more wine, grab a bigger audience with mass marketing and use the distribution model more significantly.

    Most money in the wine business is made on the lower end wines. At the high end, there aren't nearly as many buyers. I find it fascinating to see vineyards in Napa sell for so much, a new buyer has little to no chance of ever making a profit selling wine from it.

    You are 1000% right on having to cut out wines for even small issues, simply because there's too much good wine out there. The small details and personal relationships make all the difference. That's why as some of our favorite labels try to grow their business, it is interesting to see if they can keep that loyalty.

    Now there's a bit more bathroom reading. :)

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    3/2/21, 5:24 PM - Cristal - spot on. Now let me bring up Bordeaux and Champagne... kidding I don’t own enough wine for that conversation.

    Great perspectives everyone - appreciate the thoughts, opinions and constructive conversation! Today was not cheap... but having this conversation made the cost of entry for today’s release a bit more palatable.

  • bsumoba commented:

    3/10/21, 8:51 PM - I'll be visiting VV for a tasting of the 19'. I bought more than I normally do considering it is my birth son year. Hoping to go in April.

    Good TN. I am optimistic of this vintage for VV.

    I am on the same boat as most. Went heavy in 16, 18 and lighter in 19.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    3/10/21, 9:21 PM - I am going pretty heavy on ‘19s after I said I wouldn’t buy much... damnit. I am headed up there in early April- will be fun .

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/10/21, 10:23 PM - The wine expensive. But I do think 2019 for VV will be very good. Hard to go wrong there. Enjoy the trips to Napa! I'm there late April, assuming no massive fires or Covid lockdowns...

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