3-Day Napa Cab Taste-Off: Vice Versa, B Cellars, Memento Mori, Alpha Omega, Purlieu, Janzen, Realm, Myriad, MACDONALD, Maybach, and more...

Napa

Tasted February 7, 2018 - February 9, 2018 by csimm1161 with 1,201 views

Introduction

A great adventure with fellow CT'er Cristal2000 sampling some of Napa's best Cabernet Sauvignons (and a whole host of other fun wines from the region). A lot of focus was on the 2016 vintage (and some 2015), with even more intention on assessing barrel samples of Beckstoffer's Dr. Crane, Las Piedras, and To Kalon vineyards. Some truly epic wines were sampled.

Flight 1 - Wine Thief (6 notes)

Thanks to Andy and Mo for hooking up this great tasting. A great way to start out the festivities.

White
2016 Buoncristiani Chardonnay USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
This Chardonnay strikes a nice balance between the plushness of a domestic white and the restraint of a more classical version of the varietal. Fresh and fairly lively, with decent energy and lift to push the pleasurable (yet fairly familiar and predictable) flavors of yellow citrus, yellow pear, light honey, and some subtle minerality.

This had brief moments of being a tad pithy and linear on the back end, but otherwise a light and inviting summer-type of sipper.

91 points. Drink now and over the next year or so.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 AJ Pearce Cabernet Sauvignon Massoumi Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
92 points
Previous notes apply. This wine is certainly higher registering on the acid and structure spectrums, but has enough flavor (though somewhat restrained and classical in its delivery) to hold interest. Red and black berry and currant flavors, with some faint floral and mineral notes to provide additional lift. Not an explosive wine by any means. And next to the Purlieu wines that followed it, the AJ comes off as a totally different wine by comparison. A little Forman Cab-esque in its departure from the lower acid, modern flavor-driven profiles of Fayard’s creations. The AJ has a grip that won’t quit.

A food-friendly wine to be sure, and one that complimented the charcuterie plate that I managed to annihilate as we tasted these wines. Overall, Andy does a good job with this wine. Stylistically it is less in my wheelhouse, but a wine worth seeking out if you are more drawn to the classical Cab side of the house. This also has some definite ability to age as well. Drink now with a healthy decant or hold for a couple of years+.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon Georges III USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
93 points
Previous notes from December still apply. A beautiful display of dark fruit flavors, if not lacking just a bit on the concentration side of things. Veers toward a more simple delivery of flavors, but still provides a nice, rounded push of dark black and red berry notes. Pushes the limits on spice, but it throttled back just in time so as not to be a distraction. Seemingly lower acid, even when compared to the other Purlieu wines.

Mid-palate is more medium-bodied, softer and less deep than the other SVD Purlieus. Very good, but not a show-stopper for me personally. QPR is also a bit high when compared to other wines from this site.

93 points. This wine will hold fine for a few years, but I’d be drinking them earlier than later (for my palate preference).
Red
2015 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon Teucer Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
96 points
Much like the 2014 version of this wine, the 2015 Teucer explodes with dark, rich berry fruit and earth flavors. A full-frontal, velvet glove type of attack, with blackberry, black raspberry, red and black currant, blueberry, black soil, black licorice, wet sedimentary rock, whole clove, allspice, and hints of anise. A slight, fleeting whisper of a floral note provided a curious lift; but then the dark earth and fruit notes came rushing back over the palate ...kinda like shoveling fresh topsoil over a bed of violets.

My favorite of the Purlieu wines we tasted, even besting the BTK. I absolutely love the 2014 Teucer, and this 2015 is a worthy follow-up. It has the power and structure to go some additional distance; so it may even eclipse the 2014 at some point. For now, the 2014 is displaying much more upfront gratification and complexity. The 2015 is still holding some of its youthful cards back, which was most noticible on the back end, but not noticible enough to detract from the overall awesomeness of consumption. The 2014’s finish is just so super looooooong. The 2015 is just missing a couple of extra “o’s” in its less looong finish (splitting hairs here of course).

95-96+ points. I’d love to say I’ll revisit this in a year or so, but we all know I’m popping a cork on another one of these before then. Stupid ADHD.
Red
2015 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Previous notes apply, however I did feel like this was displaying in a way that was less concentrated and unctuous than how I had previously experienced this wine (by Purlieu BTK standards at least). A fabulous wine to be sure, filled with amazingly pure dark fruit and earth flavors, but just a bit more austere this go-around, especially given its BTK DNA. It was a PnP, so I think this would have filled out more given a more stretched-out service and some additional air.

95+ points this time around. Certainly not to make excuses for this wine, but another culprit that added a little injury to the BTK was the compelling comparative display by the ‘15 Teucer, which was firing off more complexity and concentration at the time than the BTK. Side-by-side, the Teucer lapped the BTK on a number of levels, primarily in terms of mid-palate depth of flavor.

Ideally, hold the BTK for another 12 months and allow it to fatten up a bit. It is silky, smooth, and texturally amazing without a doubt (as with all of Fayard’s Purlieu wines); it just seemed as though it could benefit from a little sleep time to eventually allow it to drop into a fuller, deeper glide. Definite upside in a year.
Red
2014 Buoncristiani Cabernet Sauvignon The Core USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Enchantingly backward and spring-loaded with massively concentrated flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, black and red licorice, Baker’s chocolate, pastille, cassis, and some earthy stone. There is some definite rocket fuel here, with a bit of booze on the back end. Still, the powerful push of flavor drives right over the palate and cascades in a crazy tumble of complex but competing flavors. A lot going on here.

Hold for a couple of years. 94-95+ points for now, with definite upside in a year.
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Flight 2 - Shafer (7 notes)

HSS was where it was at here. The others were...well...the others...

White
2015 Shafer Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
91 points
Notes of green apple, Asian pear, lemon verbena, tropical fruit, acacia, and some sea salt. The initial attack started out smooth and enveloping (characteristically as most rounded-out Nor-Cal domestic Chardonnays do), but quickly showed a fairly acidic side to it toward the finish; a little bitter on the back end, almost Viognier-esque. Somewhat biting at the back of the jaw.

Ultimately this finished a little linear for me, lacking a lot of the totality of complexity from beginning to end. 89-91+ points at the moment. Seems to need time. Some decent flavors trying to push through, but it’s overall delivery was stunted. Try again in 6-8+ months to see if it develops a less irksome personality.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Shafer TD-9 USA, California, Napa Valley
85 points
Pedestrian notes of red and black currant, black cherry, dust, and wood. Linear, thin, and lacking complexity.

I get it when houses want to have a variety of wines and price points for a diversified customer base, but this wine gets shelved in the “What’s the point?” category for me. An instant snoozer, memorable only for its symbolism as a seemingly obligatory throw-down red to fill out a tasting lineup for those who come for the breadsticks and cubed cheddar cheese.

84-85? points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
flawed
Flawed. Slight vinegar and prune on the nose; some stemmy cedar and old world barnyard Syrah funk on the palate. Flat and tasteless otherwise.

The staff disagreed, but were nice enough to open a fresh bottle, which was not flawed (though it was youthfully lacking in other ways).
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
87 points
The first pour of this wine was flawed, but the staff was nice enough to serve a freshly popped bottle for comparison. The new bottle was not flawed, but it was pretty disjointed and lacking any sort of flavor fluidity. Some currant here, some bitter blackberry there... wood, black pebbles, alcohol. Next-to-no depth mid-palate, and even less of a finish.

Cross your fingers that youth is to blame at the moment. “Needs time” is about the best I can offer for this one, but I’m not confident the core fruit will even hold up by the time this thing finds any semblance of a glide. 85-87 points at the moment. Potential upside seems uncertain to me.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Shafer Relentless USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
Wild blackberry, plum, asphalt, wood, charcuterie, and some garrigue. Some quasi-interesting flavors trying to self-identify, but overall lacking much-needed complexity and finesse. Powerful and clumsy, like a three-legged Anatolian Shepherd trying to herd sheep.

88-90 points for now. Hopefully time helps this one. I’m a huge fan of the 2010 Relentless; this 2014 doesn’t seem to be on the same career track as its older sibling. Maybe it’ll be the brother who just ends up listening to old Iron Maiden albums and working at Little Caesars.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2013 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
94 points
Classic meets modern. Tight and coiled-up, like a snake ready to strike. Pretty massive overall, but also displaying an intriguing sophistication that draws one back for another sip. Needs air! Lots and lots of air! Specific notes of black and red currant, black cherry, black (and some red Kauai) rock, tobacco leaf, and asphalt.

Currently, this wine is painfully backward, needing 7-10 years before it is even worth having the conversation. Clearly this is the flagship wine of the house, but this pissed-off bear needs to hibernate for a while before it should come back out into the world. 94+ points for now, with the stuffing to make a convincing argument for some upside after 2025.
7 people found this helpful Comments (10)
Red - Fortified
2012 Shafer Firebreak Dessert Wine USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
79 points
Nope. I don’t get this thing at all. Serves no purpose. A syrupy simpleton. One wonky note of chocolate-blackberry goofiness. This is why most wineries shouldn’t have a desert wine. 79? points.

Flight 3 - Alpha Omega (9 notes)

A great experience here, with an opportunity to dig deep into the 2016 barrel samples from AO.

Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
Barrel sample. Not atypical of the BTK site, this wine displayed hallmark black core fruit, with black raspberry, blackberry, truffle, soil, char, and spice. Plenty of push mid-palate to move the flavors forward and through the finish. Picked up speed on the back end, with a racy spice-ladened black raspberry note that added some welcomed weight and power. Soil and barrel char notes repeated as well.

Not showing a total enveloping unctuousness the way some other 2016 BTKs are flaunting at the moment, but a worthy representation of the site. Though a little deeper, this '16 AO BTK was a little less compelling than the ‘16 AO Crane.

94+ (pushing 95) points for now.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
97 points
Barrel sample. Complex and compelling, concentrated and driven, the ‘16 AO Crane was the star of the lineup. Black and red core fruit, black raspberry, blackberry, black and red licorice, anise, river rock, wild violets, rocky soil, and spice. A true plethora of flavors, all harnessed in a notable frame of massive but fine-grained tannins. The perfect level of acid to provide grip and lift worked phenomenally here.

This kicked out a tremendous amount of drive, catapulting the flavors across the palate in a bright and racy fashion. This was a little less deep than the BTK, but the Crane has an efficiency of flavor delivery that was totally captivating. 96-97+ points.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
94 points
Barrel sample. Tight and constricted, this reminded me a little of the 2013 Shafer HSS we had earlier in the day. Not surprisingly, this LPV displayed the blackest, most gravelly properties of the AO lineup. Black rock and asphalt were the notes up-front, followed by black and red currant, fig paste, gray and black pebbles, incense, and faint brush.

This is a wine that will require significant time, as the minerality rode a bit hard in front before the fruit had a chance to catch up. 93-94+ points for the moment, with certain upside in a number of years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
92 points
Barrel sample. Black core fruit, with some soil, dust, and spice to add interest. Delivery on this wine was a little flat and Simple Jack, but it still managed to offer pleasure by way of its approachable, medium-bodied personality. Not a hard edge to be found (which made it feel a little round and plush at times), lacking a little concentration, especially when compared to the other Beckstoffer wines.

A Purlieu GIII we had earlier in the day was more interesting to me. 92+ points.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Thomas Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
91 points
Barrel sample. Red and black core fruit, with some soil and spice. Medium-bodied and a little simple, the Thomas was much more subtle and reserved than I had anticipated. I did not get any of the signature Rutherford qualities this site has to offer, nor did I get a lot of drive. Soft and somewhat forgettable.

90-91 points.
1 person found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
94 points
Barrel sample. The most low-toned wine in the '16 AO line-up, with dark, black core fruit, fresh black soil, espresso, bitter chocolate, char, clove, fresh vanilla bean, and obsidian. The dark spice notes provided an interesting interplay with the soil components, adding an elevated interest. An immediate gratification type of wine, with an extremely giving push of spice and vanilla oak char on the back end. A bit rich, but not enough to be distracting; just plain hedonism here.

This bore a striking resemblance to a 2013 Mark Herold Stagecoach Cabernet, just skirting that line of being over the top and bombastic, but never crossing over. Chewy and fun, like gnawing on a Midnight Dark Milky Way bar and watching 9 1/2 Weeks.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Alpha Omega Era USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Barrel sample. Red and black core berry fruit, with a healthy dosage of spice. Higher acid provided a significant amount of tension and verve. A little wound up at the moment, but seemingly just waiting to explode with flavor once it finds its way. It had that "locked and loaded" delivery, with a balled-up, fist-full of coiled flavors yearning to be unleashed. It did drop into a more linear delivery with more air, shutting down in the glass over an hour's time.

93-94+ points for now. This will require some patience.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Alpha Omega Merlot USA, California, Napa Valley
86 points
A rush of acidity, followed by notes of black cherry, currant, and alcohol. Pretty disjointed, teetering back and forth between some higher-toned, bitter fruit flavors, and a thin boozy rush on the finish. 86-ish points for me.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
89 points
Black and red currant, black cherry, cedar, dust, and some spice. A hair better than the AO Proprietary Red, but pretty similar in most ways. The mid-palate was a little fuller, but still fairly linear overall. 88-89 points at best.

Flight 4 - Cook Restaurant - Saint Helena (4 notes)

A special thanks to Alex MacDonald for the great company and providing his amazing bottle of 2015 MACDONALD Cabernet for our little cause.

Red
2014 Realm Cellars The Absurd USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
An enormous, gushing cascade of dark core fruit encompassed by sweet vanilla bean and oak components. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, dark and milk chocolate, fresh vanilla bean, oak char, and baking spice. A huge wine that was dominated by a massive off-loading of fruit in the mouth all at once. A full-frontal attack of hedonism across the palate; my whole mouth was coated with flavor. A little more topsy-turvy overall than the more sophisticated 2013 Absurd served next to it.

At the moment, missing some nuance and delineation of flavor, but something it will hopefully acquire with time. Yet, if there's anyone out there wondering what wine epitomizes the ripe, giving nature of the 2014 vintage, this Absurd delivers that 1000-fold. A true joy to drink; fun and sexy (if not a little slutty). This Absurd is more of the "upscale" style of Vegas strip club; less of the variety that you'd find behind a pawn shop in Bakersfield.

Thanks to Cristal2000 for sacrificing this hedonistic gem for the good of the order!
Red
2013 Realm Cellars The Absurd USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
Massive but sophisticated in its overall deliver of flavor...and I mean FLAVOR. Black and dark, dark red core fruit, with blackberry, black raspberry, bitter chocolate, clove, allspice, anise, topsoil, vanilla bean, and scorched earth notes. A ton of flavor going on here, with a Formula 1 drive that roars across the palate. Such a tremendous amount of power and length on this wine.

This still has some sorting out to do, but its potential is pretty unreal. 96-98 points for now, with potential upside in a few years. I preferred this slightly over a 2014 Absurd served next to it. The 2014 was gushing with fruit all over the place, where the 2013 had a little more complexity and focus at the moment. Both were fun to try side-by-side.

97-98 points
Red
2015 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
98 points
Bam! Pow! Clench! Grip! Acid! Fruit! Rock! Spice! ...Like a Wham! Blam! comic strip page getting torn out of a magazine, crumpled up, and thrown in your face. The initial delivery of this wine was massive, grippy, and full of powerful drive; it wants to make sure you don't walk away ever forgetting the mark its leaving on your palate (in the best of ways). At first, I had that "WTF is this?!" moment. And then, with another sip, and another and another, the momentous recognition of "This is awesome!!" kicked in. I was an instant fan.

Sophisticated and powerful notes of black and red core fruit (primarily black), black currant, black licorice, cassis, black cherry, asphalt, dust, river rock, anise, dry tobacco/cigar, and hints of Herbes de Provence. Noble, fresh, and lively, with so much verve it was hard for my taste buds to keep up with all of the flavors swirling around. This will take some serious time to ultimately find its finesse, but it sure is a wild ride currently.

Give this 3-5+ years. 97-98++ points. This could easily see a perfect score if it ends up sorting itself out in the right way. So much potential here. It paired perfectly with the rich pasta dishes we had, providing a formidable and welcomed cut across the palate.

A special thanks to Alex for donating this wine to the cause. What an amazingly humble and gracious guy.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
Specific notes of dark candied black raspberry, black and red cherry, cassis, blackberry, fresh vanilla bean, dark chocolate, and some subtle grey river rock (adding a bit of cut through the otherwise massive display of fruit). This wine is all about unresolved FLAVOR right now. They are awesome flavors, but they are indeed a little Animal House right now.

Exuberant and flauntingly jubilant in its delivery of ripe, flamboyant fruit flavors. A "Whoo-Hoo!" kind of wine, reminiscent of brightly clothed drunk college girls pouring themselves out of a dive bar at 2AM, screaming for a cab and laughing at how many times they keep stumbling down the sidewalk. It's a wine I almost want to have with fried cheese sticks and marinara sauce at Denny's.

Give this debauchery of a wine a couple of years to shed the half-shirt and hot pants, and advance to a black skirt and blazer in the coming few years. Best to revisit in 2020. 94-96+ points for now.
6 people found this helpful Comments (4)

Flight 5 - Janzen (10 notes)

Kyle Janzen showed us a great tasting experience. Thanks to him for busting out all of these great wines.

White
2015 Bacio Divino Chardonnay Lucie Dutton Ranch USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
91 points
A pleasant and agreeable Chardonnay with palate-pleasing notes of refreshing yellow citrus fruit, popcorn, vanilla, pumice, and subtle grass. A “nice” short term sipper that cuts a good line between plush fruit and classical restraint. Maybe a little bit reserved for my personal tastes, but delivering enough flavor to hold a decent amount of interest. Drink now.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Bacio Divino Pinot Noir Lucie Bacigalupi Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
92 points
Bold, dark red and black fruit flavors bolt out of this Pinot as if it was getting chased by the cops. Black cherry and dark spice notes dominate. Ripe and a bit extracted (a bit heavy and plush mid-palate) but the purity of fruit from this site is evident. A fun Pinot that begs for a BBQ pork loin with an allspice rub and bacon mustard BBQ sauce... Damn I’m hungry!

Drink now and over the next year or two. The Dutton Ranch Pinot served beside this wine was displaying more of those “cooler climate” characteristics; much more reserved and deliberate. The Bacigalupi was flamboyant and full of “Take me, I’m yours!” fruit flavor.
Red
2015 Bacio Divino Pinot Noir Lucie Dutton Ranch USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
92 points
A ”night and day” type of experience when compared to its sibling, the flashy ‘15 Bacigalupi Pinot. This Dutton Ranch was all about a cool climate display of restrained and delineated flavor. Unripe wild black raspberry, black cherry, morning soil, stems, brush, and wet wood. This needs time. A few years’ time. Wait until 2021+. From the Widdoes Vineyard; 40% whole cluster (and the stem inclusion is certainly evident at this point).

Pop open the Bacigalupi at your next tailgate party. Hold the Dutton Ranch until the next Winter Olympics.
Red
2016 Bacio Divino Pazzo USA, California, Napa Valley
86 points
A bit too fruity and plumy for my taste. A fun red meat pasta at Olive Garden type of wine, but that’s about it. A red cherry note competed with an alcohol-covered spice flavor that thinned out the delivery overall.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Bacio Divino USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
An easy-going Cab that delivers some notable dark red and black core fruit flavors. Some dark spice (clove) and cedar elements provided a little extra lift. Medium-bodied overall, but a nice introductory example of the varietal. I most appreciated the fact that this wine, though a bit single-tracked, maintained a good focus of its flavor delivery, especially in a super giving vintage like 2014.

91 points (pushing 92). As Cristal2000 mentioned, this was indeed overshadowed by its Beckstoffer siblings, but a well crafted Cab in its own right. Drink now and over the next couple of years.
Red
2014 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Janzen Cloudy's Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
My favorite of the 2014 Janzen wines, notably besting its BTK and MH siblings, especially on the initial attack and with its mid-palate depth. A tremendous amount of drive and concentration, pushing the black and blue core fruit flavors across the palate with a wonderful combination of energy and unctuousness. The finish was 45+ seconds. Some blue and black river rock, asphalt, and pumice flavors intertwined with subtle dark spice notes.

The chewy tannins added to the textural pliability of the gripping flavors, beautifully harnessing the back of the jaw. This had a bit of a mountain quality to it that I found most interesting. For a 2014, this had a lot of formidability and complexity. 95 points. Drink now and over the next 3-5 years.
Red
2014 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Janzen Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
An immediate gratification push of smooth black and red/blue fruit, blackberry, black raspberry, black soil, spice, and some vanilla. A beautiful and finessed version of the site, with an super inviting flavor delivery that makes for easy-going consumption. Less about power and monstrous concentration here. I was a bit more drawn to the '14 Cloudy's complexity and drive, but this BTK was a worthy example of what this site can produce.

Hovers in that 94 point arena for me. Drink now and over the next few years.
Red
2014 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Janzen Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
93 points
Gobs of ripe black raspberry, blueberry, sweet cassis, Baker's chocolate, gray slate, river rock, soil, and spice flavors. Just a hair too much of a good thing in the rich and ripe fruit department. That said, this is still a really fun wine to drink. An IMMEDIATE rush of flavor, flavor, flavor. Missing some focus and nuance when compared to the Cloudy's and BTK offerings.

Drink now (though a little air might help smooth out some of the overt blasts of fruit that clunk on the palate at times). Maybe another year will help bring this wine into a little more of a seamless state.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Janzen Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
93 points
Barrel sample. Not surprisingly, this 2016 is essentially the 2014 MH on steroids...like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando type of steroids. Big and rich, with hefty doses of black, purple, and blue core fruit flavors. Heavy spice notes at the moment, almost overpowering the fruit at times (which is pretty impressive, given that the fruit is so ripe and powerful). Hopefully this gets a little fine-tuning when it eventually ends up in bottle, dialing down the heavy impact of ripe fruit on the initial attack. A wild ride of a wine right now. 91-93 points for the moment.
Red
2016 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Janzen Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
97 points
Barrel Sample from a Taransaud T5 barrique. An absolute bad a** example of the BTK site. Tons of power and concentration, but with a textural superiority that seldom graces such bombastic fruit flavors. Dark black and deep red core fruit flavors. Spice, fresh vanilla bean, scorched earth, and fresh turned soil add to the complexity of this wine. It feels like it is coming at you like a sledgehammer on the initial attack, but then it cascades exquisitely over the palate with mouth-coating intensity. Rounding out superbly on the back end of the jaw, the power comes back to pulsate its way through the finish.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the final product once this wine is in bottle. 95-97+ points.
1 person found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 6 - B Cellars (13 notes)

Harvey is the man! Very compelling wines across the board here at B Cellars.

White
2015 B Cellars Chardonnay Barrel Select USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley of Russian River Valley
95 points
A beautiful expression of the varietal. Captivating notes of ripe yellow citrus, poached pear, lemon curd, vanilla bean, fresh olive oil, lemon oil, and faint whispers of flint and pumice. Creamy and unctuous, with a subtle spicy tropical note that added interest. Some nutmeg spice also complimented the core fruit on this wine. Rich without ever going over the top with its weight. Still finds the ability to glide across the palate with a notable texture that draws you back in for another sip.

Drink now and over the next couple of years. 94-95+ points.
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Franc Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
Barrel sample. It's not every day that you find a 100% Cab Franc that is as utterly awesome as this '16 Dr. Crane. Yes, it is a barrel sample. Yes, barrel samples can be deceiving in terms of their abilities to woo you with their intense flavors. But hot damn if I wasn't loving this from the first sip. Powerful purple core fruit, black raspberry, cassis, ripe black cherry, and healthy dollops of spice, wet river rock, and crushed violets, which provided an ethereal lift to the vehemently effusive fruit flavors. The mid-palate concentration was exceptional, with the finish sailing on forever.

97-98+ points, with even more upside once this beast gets bottled and has a chance to truly find its calling. A noble wine that is not just some one-off experiment with an otherwise blended varietal.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 B Cellars Cabernet Franc Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Deliberate and delineated POWER is the name of the game here with this wine...but not brutish in any way. The flavors hit you with a 'skydiving without a parachute' type of velocity that grab ahold of the palate and don't let go. Blue and black/red fruit, bitter chocolate, cassis, crushed spring flowers (violets/lilacs), and river rock. A beautiful focus that delivers its shots of flavor like a sniper picking off suicide bombers in Kabul.

Hold this skilled juice for another couple of years, where it might just become even more complex and captivating. 95+ points.
Red
2015 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
For a wine that was just bottled a week ago, this showed a nice sophistication and beautiful, seamless delivery of flavor across the palate. Deep, but not exceptionally so just yet, this BTK had a graceful presence about it that felt effortless. Full without being heavy or rich. Specific flavors of black and dark red core fruit, spice, and earth. The finish was just a hair thin when compared to the initial attack. The push thinned out a little for me, with the grip creeping up quickly on the mid-palate. Nothing to get too jacked-up about, but probably the main reason I didn't score this any higher than "just" 94+ points for now. The high purity of fruit was really the most notable quality of this particular BTK.

Give this a couple of years in bottle. Certain upside by a number of points if it is able to broaden its shoulders a bit more after some time in bottle.
Red
2014 B Cellars Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
94 points
This reminded me of a more regal version of a 2014 Myriad GIII, almost what I'd imagine the Empyrean to be like if Mike Smith produced a 2014 bottling of it. Finessed, elegant, but still pumping really nice blue/black core fruit and a fair amount of spicebox on the attack. There appeared to be a pebbly component to it that wanted to desperately show its face, but the dark fruit and spice cloaked it before it had a chance to self-actualize.

Smooth through the mid-palate and on through the finish. Maybe not as complex as the '15 B Cellars BTK tasted right before it, but the GIII was much more flavorful at the moment for me. Cristal2000's "delicious" descriptor just about says it all. An enjoyable drink for sure. Likely topping out in the 94-95 points range through its life. Good to drink now, but another year in bottle might do it well. Try again after 2019.
Red
2015 B Cellars Blend 26 USA, California, Napa Valley
88 points
An easy, simple ground-pounder when you're looking for something to pair with ribs and BBQ beans. Nothing too intellectual here, and a little out of place amongst the behemoth Beckstoffer wines. Some red and black fruit; a little cedar and brush added some interest. Complexity was stunted by the linear, one-note fruity aftertaste on this wine. A forgettable finish didn't help matters. 87-88 points for me. Best to focus on B Cellars' higher end creations.

Drink now before its substitute teacher tricep gets even more flabby.
Red
2014 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Ehrlich Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
90 points
Definitely a tick or two more advanced than the Blend 26 tasted just before it, the Ehrlich displayed some nice black and blue/red core fruit that held up through the mid-palate and into the finish. Not super complex, and a wine that fell between the Blend 26 and the Saint Helena in terms of depth and delivery of tiered flavors. One step above a one-hit wonder, but not enough to make me want to buy the album. This had a similar fruity component to it that was akin to the linear attack of the Blend 26. A touch sweet, but not too cloying.

Overall, this was an "ok" wine for me. Good, not great. A little unconvincing for me. The Saint Helena (Lewelling Vineyard - which I admittedly have not been a huge fan of overall) was much more interesting. 90-ish points, depending on how much I was really paying attention to its flaws. Drink now.
Red
2014 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
92 points
"Actually quite good," was the first entry into my notes on this wine. As Cristal2000 mentioned, this was a nice surprise. As soon as our host mentioned it was Lewelling Vineyard, I instantly became a little skeptical, as I haven't been as impressed as others here on CT with that site and what has come from it (...easy people...no rocks and bottles...it just hasn't been my thing)...

Notes of red, blue, and black fruit, dark spice (clove, anise), and some minerality all worked in good harmony. This wine had some nice depth and an equally nice degree of lift, creating an experience of freshness and verve that keep it moving energy-wise across the palate. Still, this is a more medium-bodied style, and falls behind the Beckstoffer offerings on a number of fronts.

Drink now and over the next few years. 92 points max.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Barrel sample. A slap-yo-mama-silly kinda wine that hits the palate from every angle imaginable. A total stunner, with notes of blackberry, black raspberry liqueur, Amarena cherry syrup, deep cassis, blueberry pie crust, Chinese five-spice, and blue slate. One of the most powerful 2016 barrel samples I’ve had to date.

Surprisingly, I favored the ‘16 Cabernet Franc Crane barrel sample just a little more than this Cabernet Sauvignon simply because the Franc wasn’t Kung fu kicking with as much high octane force, which allowed me actually take in and process the flavors I was experiencing. Without a doubt, this is poised to be an awesome wine. It’s just SO shameless right now, it hits you like an overdue alimony check.

Looking forward to seeing what becomes of this wine once it gets into bottle next year. Don’t forget to wear your helmet and keep your hands and feet inside at all times with this wine. This sh** will take your head clean off. 96-97++ points for now.
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
99 points
Barrel sample. Of course the wine that was likely my top favorite in the whole B Cellars lineup has to be the blue-footed unicorn that is impossible to acquire...this ‘16 LPV was simply stunning. Layer upon effusive layer of gorgeously pure, black/purple fruit. Wild and grainy blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, black licorice, black asphalt, scorched earth, burnt underbrush, garrigue, blue river rock, and a slight floral hit on the very tail of the finish, adding that half-ounce of extra lift to bring all the flavors home.

Huge flavor, but an equally formidable frame to provide a beautiful, mineral and dark earth-layered scaffolding, harnessing the fruit in sublime fashion. Acid was near-perfect, even for a barrel sample. Already showing superior sophistication. I’m still tasting the finish on this wine.

Dark and gothic, gravely and grainy, but with a uniquely awesome core that could only come from this LPV site. Depending on which way this juice sways once it is in bottle, it could easily end up being a perfect wine. Cerebral and emotionally hypnotizing at the same time. It is one of those wines you try and you feel like you will always remember exactly where you were standing and what you were doing when you had it. A remarkable standout for sure. 98-99+ points.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
90 points
Barrel sample. Gobs of Bootsy Collins funkafied fruit, interwoven with a meaty, gamey core of blackberry cobbler, blackberry and raspberry liqueur, cherry syrup, absinthe salami, smoked BBQ ribs, sanguine, dried red New Mexico chilis, and oak char.

This reminded me of a rich, dark, extracted, Cayuse Cabernet-Syrah hybrid. Not a bad thing necessarily, but not really what I'd be looking for as a favorable representation of the MH site. This was more Cornas than it was Napa; more Syrah than it was Cabernet.

Hopefully once it makes its way into bottle, this juice will evolve into something a little less peculiar. Interesting indeed, but the smokey, cloying ripeness of the fruit coupled with the bloody used butchers block flavors made for more than a backward, unresolved wine. I'll be anxious to see what becomes of this in the coming years. 90-ish? points for now.
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
Barrel sample. Blasts of dark and jammy black core fruit, spice, and earth. Chewy tannins, with a boozy, jammy attack that washes over the palate like a Mavericks crashing wave of wild, soil-driven blackberry pie. Some boysenberry, black earth, and clove notes added some layers to the initial hit of ripe, black fruit. Purity and quality are indeed evident; however, at the moment, this wine is certainly showing no subtleties. It's good. I like it. But man, there's nothing restraining this epitomal Venge powerhouse of a creation. Hot, flavor-injected, and busting out at the seams. Think Jenna Jameson. Not Katharine Hepburn. 94+ points for now.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Heritage Beckstoffer USA, California
93 points
Barrel sample. Another massive creation, pumping out layers and layers of ripe black and deep red core fruit. Blackberry, black and red raspberry, black cherry, smoked meat, beef's blood, Chinese five-spice, hot blacktop pavement, freshly turned soil, and oak char.

The Missouri Hopper's smokey, meaty influence on this Frankenstein made for a bit of a gamey Cabernet blend. The initial attack rode well across the palate until the mid-palate and back end picked up waves of bloody, Cornas Syrah-like notes. An interesting wine that certainly has some resolution to undergo in the coming years. I'm optimistic this will all shake out once the wine is in bottle; for now, however, the injection of the MH juice left this sample a little disjointed. As always, purity of fruit seemed extremely high, if not a touch over-ripe. 92-93+ points for now.

Flight 7 - Vice Versa (3 notes)

Patrice and Samantha are the most gracious people in the industry. Between this tasting and the dinner at Terra Bar, the afternoon and evening were truly special. And the Vice Versa wines?!...Some of THE BEST in the Valley!!

Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
97 points
My previous notes from 10/3/2017 still apply. Wonderfull black, Oakville soil-driven core fruit; black raspberry, black and red currant, clove, espresso, black soil, and scorched earth. As noted before, this BTK has a sophistication and suaveness that presents itself in a deliberately cosmopolitan way. Cerebral meets decadently pleasurable.

This BTK was served next to a '16 VV LPV BBS and '16 VV M7, which were out-of-this-world extraordinary. Not exactly a fair fight when BBS wines are injected as part of a comparative tasting with the BTK. However, the BTK stood its ground whole-heartedly, reminding me that both the BBS and "standard" offerings (which themselves are utterly compelling) are top-notch examples of what these sites can produce when under the proper oversight and craftsmanship of stellar proprietorship and winemaking. 97+ points this go-around.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
99 points
After initially sipping on a fabulous '16 VV BTK sample, out comes this LPV BBS in all of its glory and totally captivated me with its hauntingly dark, mineral-driven core fruit flavors. Black asphalt, dark soil, Baker's chocolate, burnt underbrush, grey river rock, and an interesting herbal (thyme?) note that I had not identified with any of the LPV wines before. It might have been more like a limestone-garrigue note, but it was fleeting and beguiling. This added a touch of lift to the gravelly black fruit, enabling the efficiency of this wine's flavor delivery to energetically push on through the entire palate, encompassing the inside of the mouth and back jaw. The fine-grained tannins added wonderful texture to the finish and back-end frame.

98-99+ points. I'm becoming a believer that all of these '16 BBS/M7 wines from Vice Versa are 100 point wines. The splitting-hair differences really just boil down to a matter of preference once you are in the 98-100 point demarcations.

After having just tasted a 2016 B Cellars LPV barrel sample earlier in the day (which I also scored 99 points), I noticed the VV offered up a little more finesse and textural sophistication. The VV was a little less gothic than the B Cellars. I loved both, but the VV showed a classy side that elevated it in terms of refinement.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven USA, California, Napa Valley
100 points
The best wine I've ever had. Ever...

Of course, taking the best juice from the Crane, BTK, and LPV sites should theoretically make the best wine ever, right?! But so many times, houses who try this sort of endeavor end up creating a wine where the sum of its parts don't equal greatness, and are better off left divided and individualized, representing each site separately in its glory, rather than trying to create some Frankenstein wine that is supposed to be great simply because its parts are great. It's a gamble, because if the wines are individually great, but the blend of them is not, that speaks to a potential gap in the winemaker's ability (or inability) to craft a true work of art when given all of the proper tools. Well, the '16 VV M7 shows just how talented and skilled Melka and the VV crew can be. Here, the gamble pays off. The M7 is indeed a work of art.

Concentration and depth, drive and push, acid and frame, mouthfeel and texture, complexity and tiered flavor profile... all firing-off at their proper moments, producing a wine that grabs ahold of your palate on the initial attack, quickly crescendos up to a skyscraper push of waved flavors and weight mid-palate, and then cascades into a waterfall of intensity on the back end. The finish lingers at the back of the mouth, gliding back along the jawline, and creeping up again on the tastebuds. A cyclical undulating of flavor, concentration, and grip, all exercised with a masterful dueling of intensity and finesse.

It's always fun to be able to identify the best... The best movie I've ever seen. The best place I've ever traveled. And now, the best wine I've ever had.
5 people found this helpful Comments (4)

Flight 8 - Terra Bar Restaurant - Saint Helena (10 notes)

We had the best time with Patrice and Samantha from Vice Versa. The Dr. Crane taste-off was a success! Great company; great food; great juice!

White - Sparkling
N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée France, Champagne
94 points
A lovely bottle of Champagne, with yeasty brioche, lemon chiffon cake, Asian pear, ripe green and red apple, sea foam, toasted pignolia, and a banana nut bread note that added depth and character. Less of a mineral-driven animal, this Krug impresses for its unctuous mouthfeel and textural weightiness mid-palate. Never heavy or burdensome, the hints of saline and green apple acid latched on to the bubbly effervescence and provided the needed lift.

A special thanks to Patrice and Samantha for generously providing this Champagne. What a great way to kick-start the meal...and also a great way to end the meal (after a lot of heavy Cabs, this was a great palate reboot as the evening drew to a close).
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Vice Versa Pinot Noir Platt Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
96 points
Previous notes apply. Every time I am able to revisit this Pinot, I come to a greater appreciation for the site and the winemaking craftsmanship behind it. Black cherry, evergreen, underbrush, tobacco leaf, spicebox, and a burt ripe orange rind. A stellar example of a cooler climate Pinot, delivering concentrated fruit flavor wrapped up in a fascinating earthy frame (without being stemmy). 96+ points.

Thanks to Patrice and Samantha for providing these amazing VV Platt wines! My new favorite Pinot!
1 person found this helpful Comments (2)
White
2016 Vice Versa Chardonnay Platt Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
97 points
My previous notes apply. One of the best examples of sophistication in this varietal on a domestic level that I've experienced. Aubert look out...VV Platt Chardonnay is coming! So many fascinating zesty lemon and salty mineral-driven flavors, its hard to pin down the specific verbiage to describe them all. Wrap it up with a little hint of spice, and you're off to the races on a wine that doesn't quit.

The highlights of this Chardonnay are truly found in its overall complexity and drive. Exacting and focused, but not over-restrained or linear (the way some Burgundian-styled wines can be); this Platt religiously pumps out layers of flavors and intensity. A most impressive bottle of wine.

Thanks to Patrice and Samantha for providing these amazing VV Platt wines!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 The Debate Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
Well damn, this all but sucked a big bag of dirty diapers...An unfortunate disappointment among other wines at the table. To be fair, it wasn't a "bad" wine necessarily, but given its pedigree, it was a shameful showing this time around. I found myself not even paying too much attention to it after a couple of sips. When compared to its competition, this Debate was thinner, shorter, and even a bit bitter. Angular and clipped. The "restraint" (if that's what you want to call it) was too far left, with a simple display of black and red core fruit, cedar, and hints of spice. The depth is where it really fell short. More exposure to air could have helped a bit...but only a bit.

I've posted a number of favorable notes on this wine. However, tonight was a lesson in comparative drop-off; when you go to the Olympics, it doesn't matter how many local awards you've won back in the states. This thing got creamed and didn't even make it to the finals. Besides, why waste brain cells on this wine when I was surrounded by so many other amazing examples of high quality juice.

PS: It's always a bummer when one of the wines you bring to dinner ends up being the one that shows like a one-eyed third grader in a wheelchair...
3 people found this helpful Comments (8)
Red
2014 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
96 points
A generous delivery of black and blue core fruit. Blackberry, blueberry, ripe red raspberry, fresh vanilla bean, dark (rich) chocolate, baking spice, and some scorched earth. Less of the floral component that I sometimes associate with this wine, which is sometimes nice to have to lift up the huge fruit flavors. My sense is that the fruit was just so massive, so intense, that it drove over the palate with an elevated, uber-concentrated effort. The core fruit here is immense; I think with time, this will be an even more beautiful bottle of wine. A brilliant example of the 2014 vintage, but one I think should be opened some time after 2020 or so. It's awesome now, but I think some further integration in bottle will serve it even better.

96+ points. Try after 2020+. Thanks so much to Cristal2000 for providing this coveted juice! A true pleasure to drink.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Previous notes apply. This showed a little bit of a crunchier, rustic side when compared to some of the other wines at the table. Still wonderfully giving in the fruit department, and super powerful, but just a hair less refined than present company. The '15 Elysian served right beside it accentuated the "standard" Crane's rusticity. Time will help resolve much of this I'm thinking, as the Myriad Crane often takes the longest to find its glide in my opinion. Still, a fun ride of a wine without a doubt! 94-96+ points time go-around, with confidence this will become a more streamlined animal after 2020.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard 'Elysian' USA, California, Napa Valley
99 points
Previous notes apply. This Elysian is a textural, silky dream, with wonderful purity of fruit and a finish that really provides a long-distance running feel on the back end. What a glide! Black, red, and blue core fruit, with an enchanting array of vanilla and spice notes to compliment the inviting fruit flavors. A 98-100 point wine all day long for me, especially when you factor in QPR - it's a no-brainer every vintage. This was inched-out of the #1 slot by a 2016 Vice Versa BBS Dr. Crane, which displayed even more elevated concentration and complex flavor levels (if you can believe that!)
6 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
100 points
I remember when a 4.0 GPA actually meant a perfect "straight A" average. Now there's 4.5s, 4.8s, and even 5.0 GPAs?! A perfect of the perfect of the perfect?! Whatever a kid has to do to get into college these days I guess. Well, I'm a little old-school, and still believe not everything is a sliding scale, and not everybody gets a trophy. There are winners and losers, those who who get the job, and those who don't. Not everybody is perfect, and certainly not all of the time. However, in the case of Vice Versa, there truly are varying degrees of perfection...and well earned I might add! I scored the 2016 Vice Versa Magnificent 7 100 points. It was one of the best damn wines I've ever had. It was a 5.0 GPA and a perfect SAT score...with extra credit!

So then, along comes the 2016 VV Crane BBS, and here we are presented with yet another version of perfection. One of the singular best versions (SVD-wise) of the Dr. Crane site I've ever had. This wine was a standout, with unreal, concentrated flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry compote, bitter chocolate, vanilla bean, charred oak, and violets. I cannot begin to effectively describe the drive this wine has, coming at you like a stormtrooper on ice skates, fast and intense on the attack, but utterly seamless and effortless on its glide across the mid-palate. The finish just won't shut up, constantly beckoning you, reminding you it's the best wine on the table. It almost wasn't fair to the other awesome wines in play.

If you can find it, get it. If you can't afford it, have a garage sale get rid of all the other lame wines cluttering your closet and check this wine out. I'm all in. 100 points. Utter perfection. A special thanks to Patrice and Samantha for sharing some of the best wines on the planet.
3 people found this helpful Comments (13)
Red
2015 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Beautiful and elegant in its display of flavors, the '15 VV "standard" Crane brought a bit of romance to the party. Sexy and seductive notes of black, dark red core fruit. Blackberry, boysenberry, black raspberry, cassis, Amarena cherry, pulverized granite, soil, and faint floral notes. This wine impresses with its finesse and textural fluidity, especially on the very back end, where the finish tapers off long and delicately. The back end circles back, with the fruit flavors sauntering their way to the front of the palate again, repeating the flavors over and over again. No brute strength here; just elegance and an artful polish.

Thanks to Patrice and Samantha for bringing this wine (along with a whole host of other bottles of badassery!)
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
We killed another .375 to see if it would perform any different than the previous night. It was a bit of a futile effort, as the Vice Versa wines dominated and wouldn't let any other wine stand in their way. Nevertheless, my notes from the other day apply. There's indeed a stripper pole component to this wine at present that is in need of sacrament (in the form of sleepy time in bottle for a couple of years). I know there are those of you who will pop the cork because you just can't help it. God love ya for it. I guess it just depends on how you like to spend your evenings...stumbling back to your Vegas hotel room at 4AM, or dining at Acquerello.

This will be a great wine. Hold tight my friends!
3 people found this helpful Comments (4)

Flight 9 - Cliff Lede (6 notes)

Unfortunately, this was as disappointing as a tasting can get. Service was awkward and bush league. The wines were not prepared properly at all. No attention to detail given the elevated nature that this juice is supposedly operating at. Best forgotten.

White
2015 FEL Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
88 points
Buttered popcorn, creamy vanilla, lemon curd, and some subtle nutmeg. A little chubby around the edges. A bit of dad-bod going on with this wine. The flavors were decent and the purity of fruit seemed evident, but the finished product was missing some delineated nuances.
Red
2014 FEL Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
86 points
Red cherry, crunchy cranberry, pomegranate, light orange rind, and subtle spice. A bit alcohol-ridden and thin. Some ok flavors, but not enough to keep me from moving on to the next victim. Pass for me personally.
Red
2014 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Turning coal into a diamond is about all this wine is good for at the moment. Tight as all getup, kicking out alcohol, bitter earth notes, and unripe blackberries. Why this and the other reds received this service (or rather, lack of service) is beyond me. Why even pour this for folks? A strange experience from Cliff Lede, especially given the general accessibility of most of the other 2014s coming out of other houses. This BTK was in complete primary mode. It may very well be a sleeping beauty, but SLEEP is indeed what it needs. It’s a baby losing its mind in the back seat of the car who desperately needs a decade nap.

For those holding bottles, do just that... Hold! 5++ years at least...ideally, twice that.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Scarlet Love USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
Question #1: What is this liquid pin cushion getting raked across my palate?!?

Question #2: Why on God’s green earth would you ever serve this wine in its current condition to anyone who isn’t your enemy?!?

The first bottle of this was just brutal. It’s a grape juice embodiment of the tongue on the frozen pole scene in “A Christmas Story;” and while you’re at it, drive a rusty nail through my mouth as I’m chewing 40 grit sandpaper and steel wool.

With some “inquiry” to our host, a second bottle appeared that “might have been open longer” (though exact service was still unclear). Less of a steel wool experience; more of a running on the beach and falling on your face with a mouthful of sand...maybe a black sand beach covered in unripe blackberries and asphalt.

For those holding bottles, store them in an underground memorial to Jimmy Hoffa and wait until he is discovered. It’s unfortunate, as service is to blame here. The wine itself may be great... but at the moment it’s a sand bully. Hold and dream of a future in 10+ years where you are enjoying this wine in your self-driving car as it skims across the Pacific Ocean to Tahiti.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2014 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Poetry USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
Take a PnP 2014 Cliff Lede BTK, breed it with a PnP 2014 Cliff Lede Scarlet Love, and you’ve got yourself a 2014 Poetry. Pulverized granite meets crunchy, bitter blackberry. It kinda tastes like drinking wine. It more tastes like munching on coal dust.

Black lung aside, this Poetry needs to spend some decent time in a Minority Report halo sleep prison. It may turn out to be a totally epic wine, but it ain’t showing my palate any true love right now. All balled-up and furrowed brow at the moment.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
Unlike the BTK, Poetry, or Scarlet Love, I was fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) able to rate this wine with some semblance of disciplined inquiry and analysis, though a numeric quantifier at this point still seems premature.

Notes of unripe blackberry, unripe plum, bitter wild red raspberry, cranberry, asphalt, vanilla, and ethanol. Mid-palate was a single, one-note, center-punch shot to the tongue. The finish was quickly clipped by bitterness and astringency.

Linear, stunted, and barely just starting to peek around the corner with any sort of a nuanced flavor profile, this Cliff Lede offering will need a few years to prove if it can come around in any fashion worthy of consumption. Hold until after 2020+.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 10 - Memento Mori - Sam Kaplan (7 notes)

Thanks to Sam Kaplan and Genevieve for gracing us with this tasting experience. The wines were mind-blowing.

White
2016 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
95 points
Barrel sample. A gorgeous example of a domestic Sauvignon Blanc. Quite possibly one of the best examples of the varietal I’ve ever had. Notes of lemon and yellow citrus, tropical fruit, grass, pumice, and river rock. Just the right amount of oak treatment to provide perfect weight and concentration distributions across the palate. Lively and energetic, unctuous and flavorful, this is how an SB should deliver. Outstanding! 94-95+ points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras USA, California, Napa Valley
99 points
Barrel sample. A stunning example of LPV, and the best MM wine I’ve had. Concentrated and powerful, while simultaneously perfectly balanced and seamless. Shows a great personality, with swirling flavors of black, purple, and deeply pitched red fruit. A black core, but not overly gravelly the way some expressions of LPV can end up. Additional notes of blackberry, ripe, dark blueberry, black currant, scorched earth, dark chocolate, obsidian, road tar, clove, and charred oak. Finished with an interesting black igneous rock note that helped to provide focus and add interest on the back end.

This MM LPV SVD was very much in line with other phenomenal 2016 LPV barrel samples we had from Vice Versa and B Cellars. Top tier fruit coupled with superior winemaking. This is the wine that solidified my belief in San Kaplan’s remarkable abilities as an inspiring artist and an exacting craftsman. Add to the fact that he is an incredibly personable and humble guy, and you have the makings of a championship outfit producing some of the best wines in the Valley.

99-100 point potential here with the MM LPV SVD.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Barrel sample. Explosive notes of blackberry, blueberry, dark soil/earth, black cherry syrup, baking spices, crushed flowers, and wet cedar. Some subtle chocolate notes on the back end. Much more fruit driven than the ‘16 MM LPV SVD barrel sample. This version of Crane was exceptionally bombastic, with tons of power and “kaboom” to its delivery on the initial attack. It smoothed out to a more medium body glide on the mid-palate, with ripe fruit kicking back in on the sumptuous finish. A hair less focused than the LPV at this juncture, but delivering a boat load of upfront flavor. 97+ points.
Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
Barrel sample. This is the flagship blend from Crane, LPV, Weitz, and Oakville. Sporting a gorgeous mouthfeel, with the perfect balance of concentration and weight distribution on the palate, this juice carries an unctuous and effortless display of black core fruit flavors; Blackberry, black currant, blueberry, black raspberry, cassis, dark chocolate, subtle scorched earth, black asphalt, dark spice, clove, and some charred oak, all swirling around in a beautifully choreographed symphony.

More of a complete wine than the Dr. Crane SVD by a hair, and a little less fruit-driven as well. This blend is a near-perfect hybrid between the Crane and LPV SVD barrel samples. The LPV had a little more complexity and personality terroir-wise for my preference, but all three MM wines were truly impressive. 2016 looks to be a fantastic vintage for this house. 97-98+ points for the blend.

A special thanks to the MM crew and Cristal2000 for hooking this up! Memorable indeed.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
98 points
Barrel sample. Explosive and attention-grabbing notes of blackberry, fresh blueberry pie crust, Amarena black cherry syrup, cassis, black currant, unripe purple plum, black igneous rock, wet river rock, black asphalt, scorched earth, spice, and darting floral flavors on the periphery.

This glorious monster has mountain powerhouse written all over it. Literally pumping out complex flavors over and over, pulsating the palate with a reverberation of intensity that offers both potency and alluring sex appeal. The finish went on for over a minute.

97-98+ points. This will be an awesome wine once it sorts itself out in bottle and hits its prime stride in a number of years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2016 Maxem Chardonnay UV Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
95 points
Barrel sample. From the UV Vineyard. Fresh and lively notes of yellow citrus, Asian pear, white melon, lemon zest, lemon grass, sourdough, candied ginger, wet granite, and some spice.

A little more Burgundian and less plush than Aubert’s version of the UV Chardonnay; this Maxem maintains more of an acidic frame that cuts through the core fruit, adding energy and lift. A little jaw clenching at first (which I personally liked), and then the beautifully pure fruit rolls back and washes around with the acid, catching and releasing the strength of the grip in rhythmic perfection.

So much drive on this wine. Compelling indeed. Can’t wait to see how this plays out once it is in bottle. 94-95+ points.
Red
2016 Maxem Pinot Noir UV Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
94 points
Barrel sample. From the UV Vineyard. Notes of cranberry, red cherry (some subtle black cherry as well), brush, dried oregano, wood, and spice. Flaunting a bright, pure, and luscious red fruit core, deftly harnessed in a stemmy, acidic cradle that effortlessly saunters up on the finish and grips the back of the jaw. Hints of meatiness showed up with additional air.

The obvious comparison here is with the Aubert UV Pinot, which is more dark red/black-fruit driven. This Maxem seems to carry itself in a brighter, higher-toned red fruit fashion. The Maxem (likely because it was a barrel sample) was really kicking out wonderful energy and drive. A true shot to the palate on the initial sips. Some swirling in the glass coaxed out more of a finessed delivery, with rolling waves of red cherry and orange rind notes.

94+ points, with huge upside in the coming years. Outstanding potential here.

Flight 11 - Arrow & Branch (5 notes)

Such a great experience. Setting sun, sitting on the back of a beautiful property in Coombsville, drinking some wonderful wines.

White
2016 Arrow & Branch Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley
88 points
A friendly enough SB that kicks out light-hearted flavors of white melon and yellow citrus fruit, quince, pebbles, and some grass. Light-to-medium bodied, with a graceful glide across the palate. Finishes a bit thin and watery. A delicate grip creeps up on the back end, but quickly fades. Pumice and lemon grass notes appear with some swirling in the glass. Light concentration and depth. Drink now.
Red
2014 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
A medium-bodied, black fruit driven animal, with a decent amount of drive for such a seemingly dark wine. Blackberry, black soil/earth, bitter chocolate, black currant, cedar, and dark spice. Quite a decent Cabernet, especially considering QPR. Mid-palate was concentrated for such a mid-level wine. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this wine was behaving. It could still use another year to clean up some of its edges, but otherwise it put on a great show. 92-93+ points, with another possible point of potential after 2019.
Red
2014 Arrow & Branch USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
High-toned red berry fruit, with notes of black and red currant, red and black cherry, cassis, limestone, spice, and some alcohol. The fruit had a lot of drive initially, but was clipped by hits of vanilla-laced alcohol and cranberry on the latter half of the attack. The finish was fairly short.

I think the purity of fruit is notable here, as is the energy with which it fires off its red fruit notes. This needs some time to sort itself out. I liked it, but felt its depth wasn’t fully settled in at the moment. Hold for 2++ years and hope the fruit holds up as the grip evens out. 90-91+ point for now.
Red
2014 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
94 points
This is starting to come around nicely, especially since I had it two years ago. Not as coiled up and standoff-ish as my previous encounter. Black and blue core fruit, blueberry, blackberry, black currant, black minerality, and some subtle cedar and spice. The blueberry interacted nicely with a violet note toward the middle of the attack, making for a notable juxtaposition of mid-palate depth of flavor with the floral lift. Fairly smooth and medium-bodied, with still some promise for upside in the coming year or two. Not as powerful or concentrated as some other examples of this site, but displaying a nicely balanced elegance that brought an overall sophistication to this wine. 94+ points.
White
2014 Arrow & Branch Sauvignon Blanc Heritage Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley
87 points
A wine that offers more cerebral interest than it does any type of readily identifiable signature flavor profile associated with the varietal. This is more of a reductive sherry-Champagne hybrid than it is SB. A worthy science project to be sure, with fascinating notes of brioche, creme brulee, almond butter, lamp oil, raw pizza dough, cashew, vanilla-bourbon, and crystalized honey.

The quote going around the table was more of a, "Huh...interesting." It was indeed that... interesting the way a piece of art you don't entirely understand becomes an interesting 'conversation piece.' I had that half-cocked Scooby Doo, "Ruh roh raggy?!" response at first, but I learned to appreciate it after a few sips. Just know what you're getting into here. Something to pair with stinky cheeses and foie gras (like a Zibibbo Muscat). This is certainly not the kind of SB you'd pair with halibut ceviche or green vegetable dishes.

Flight 12 - Acacia House - Saint Helena (5 notes)

A great dinner with Patrice gracing us with his presence. A perfect way to end the 3-day event. Good times!

White
2014 Aubert Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
95 points
Exactly what I expect from Aubert's interpretation of the Hudson site. Flavorful and giving notes of luscious yellow citrus, lemon curd, pineapple, fresh vanilla bean, poached pear, ripe green apple, and hints of grass and flowers on the finish. Overall, a fairly unctuous and ripe Chardonnay (compared to the Eastside, for example), but still maintaining balance; a notable acidity was still present, enabling the fruit to stay properly in-check.

Drinking well now. This is likely one of the shorter term agers in the Aubert lineup, offering immediate accessibility and more of an upfront flavor-driven profile. A lot of pleasure here. 94-95 points as a stand-alone wine; however, when paired up against a Chassagne Montrachet served beside it, the Aubert kinda seemed like the fat kid at the table. ...I still like the fat kid though.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2008 Rudd Oakville Estate Proprietary Red USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
All of my other previous specific tasting notes on this wine apply, except that this go-around, it seemed a bit more angular and rustic, with the cedar and alcohol elements really showing up more so on the finish than I recall it ever having done in the past. A decant helped, with air knocking down the booze and allowing the beautiful black cherry and red dirt notes to emerge. Some tobacco leaf flavors also appeared. Still a little short on the finish.

Once this wine was tasted side-by-side with a couple of other wines at the table (a 2010 Araujo Eisele and a 2015 Vice Versa Crane BBS), the Rudd fell behind by a significant margin.
Red
2010 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
A stunning and utterly classy bottle of wine, with a sophisticated rolling thunder attack of exquisite red and black currant, black cherry, dark plum, earth, coffee grounds, tobacco, aged leather, bitter dark chocolate, and dark spice. Hints of burnt/singed eucalyptus leaf appeared on the finish after about an hour of air. Decanted over the course of a few hours total. This has the gusto to age much further, but it was delivering tiers and tiers of complex flavors throughout the course of the night. Tons of pleasure and cerebral satisfaction here.

This is the wine you curl up with next to a fireplace, don your vintage burgundy velvet Turkish smoking jacket, call your hounds Dionysus and Hermes to your side, and crack open a weathered copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace. ..."Stay thirsty my friends!"

An extra special thanks to Cristal2000 for supplying this gem. A very generous contribution to the dinner. 98+ points, with possible upside in another 2+ years.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
99 points
Signature notes of dark, black core fruit: blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, dark black plum, burnt embers, earth, coffee grounds, anise, black rock, and violets. This wine has an extremely dark energy, almost gothic in its delivery. The minerality and floral components provide lift so as not to complicate and burden the mid-palate with a hit of just black fruit. Levels and levels of evolving complexity and concentration here. The finish sails on forever. After a few hours of air, a purple berry jam note appeared, but was quickly carted off by nice hits of acid and minerality.

Compared to the 2016 Crane BBS, this 2015 has more of a distinct line of focus in its delivery of flavor on the back end. The mineral component was more evident, making for an exacting grip that judiciously corralled the black fruit. The 2016 was much more expressive overall, with even more concentration and flavor shooting out across the palate. This may change once the 2016 has some time in bottle; but for now, the 2016 is a "firing on all cylinders" kind of wine (a kind of flamboyance I can't help but be extra drawn to). The 2015 is starting to show some maturity by comparison. Both are essentially perfect wines as far as I'm concerned and well worth the price of admission. 98-99+ points, with upside after 2+ years.

A thousand thanks to Patrice for sacrificing this rare and gorgeous wine for the table. Epic juice!
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2015 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
94 points
A cutting and enticingly biting specimen, with white and yellow citrus, green apple, white flowers, lees, limestone, gray slate, and hints of almond dust. A lot of energy here, with a swift delivery of high-toned fruit and minerality darting across the palate. This was almost Champagne-like in its profile.

This wine was ordered after dinner, which served us well to lift up our palates from some serious Cabernet consumption throughout the earlier part of the evening. This was a lean, mean fighter when compared to a more voluptuous 2014 Aubert Hudson Chardonnay. Both whites were exceptional for different reasons. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, veresus Kate Upton in...well...whatever the hell Kate Upton does these days. ...Yes and Yes.
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