2016 Dr. Crane comparative blind taste-off

Saint Helena - Vice Versa cave

Tasted June 8, 2019 by csimm1161 with 397 views


Thanks to CRISTAL2000 for conspiring with me to get a 2016 Dr. Crane taste-off together. I personally find Crane to be one of the top sites in the Valley and have enjoyed different producers’ executions of the Crane fruit vintage after vintage. It really can be said that every wine we had would be a worthy buy as stand-alones, but in the company of others, it’s always interesting to see where our palates align at any given time. Who knows, on a different day the ultimate order of preference may be different. On this fabulous night, the top four of the nine wines were really out of this world. My #1 changed within the margins of the Realm, Vice Versa, Myriad, and Memento Mori multiple times throughout this exercise. However, Realm took the trophy at the end of the day for me this go-around.

Patrice Breton at Vice Versa was the most generous of hosts, offering up his cave and services for a group of us to go ga-ga over the Crane wines that we brought…not to mention the fistful of other wines that started to get popped once our little Crane experiment was over (funny how that happens). Thanks to all for their contributions and company! A great time had by all…and hopefully plans in the future to continue a tradition of honing-in on special sites across Napa and educating ourselves on where the juice jives with our palates. Fun times! Next up…?? …LPV???

Flight 1 (9 notes)

2016 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
100 points
Exquisitely balanced with richness akin to the Memento Mori, with just a little less of the bitter dark chocolate notes coming out (which I was surprised about when I later learned this was the Realm Crane, as I typically associate a strong chocolate nuance with the Ream SVDs). On the initial sample, this finished a little higher toned by comparison to the Memento Mori or Myriad, but strutted an outrageously long tail that carried the flavors on and on. On the second (and third) revisit, I was sold on this wine being the best of the bunch tonight (even though the top 4 were all #1 at some point during this exercise). Some black currant, obsidian, violets, and black licorice showed up to the dance as well, adding interest and heightening and expanding the layered complexity of the profile. Tannins and scaffolding were all in the right places. Mid-palate was stoopid awesome.

Where this wine really showed itself to be the belle of the ball was in its puurrrrfect (see what I did there?! – clever huh?!) sexy texture. Texturally, this silk sheet was so smooth and effortless. Silkily pure and absurdly dense, but able to ramp up the speed on the tail. Finished rich but with drive. A perfect wine for me and my #1 of the 9 wines. 100 points.

I originally guessed this was the Vice Versa BBS because of its Melka-esque texture and keen ability to balance both density and drive, but it was the other Frenchie that had shaped this beauty. Hats off to Benoit on crafting this champion!
2016 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
99 points
This was the richest and most concentrated of the wines sampled, with chocolate, huge blackberry and ripe black cherry, floral, and black wet soil. Like the Realm, the texture on this wine was phenomenal. Dark anise and clove spice picked up the rear, catapulting this wine even further into the flavor stratosphere. Super dark melted chocolate notes on the finish. Separated itself from the pack for its otherworldly hedonism. I guessed Ream and was clucking around the room thinking I’d called the right wine… Nope! It was the Myriad Crane. Obviously there were striking similarities for me with these two wines. Hence, the Realm and Myriad landed as my #1 and #2 wines respectively in the lineup. On any given day, these two wines (as well as the Memento Mori and Vice Versa) would be top #1 performers for my palate.

98-99 points for the Myriad Crane, with some other members in the group commenting on a faint sweetness on the finish that gave a confection aftertaste after extended exposure to air. For me, I noticed it, but didn’t give two rats a*ses about it because the yum factor was so high on this wine. Whereas some of the other wines might benefit from some time in bottle, this Crane was firing on all cylinders from the word go. Sure, some will let their bottles lie for a while to develop nuance and sophistication and all that, but I say fire up the hot tub, plaster-up Pulp Fiction on the wide-screen, and get freaky with this monkey right here, right now.
4 people found this helpful Comments (4)
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
99 points
Compelling aromatics of dark muddled fruit and a slight floral whiff. On the palate, beautifully rich blackberry and chocolate on the front end. Cassis, black cherry, blueberry skin, clove, and a little lead and black soil snake their ways into the profile and drop effortlessly on the mid-palate. Finishes long and just a tad hot on the far reaches of the delivery, but then comes back into the fold and undulates into a smooth pulsation of dark fruit and black rock, which held just the right amount on tension and overall balanced the full contour out nicely. The floral aroma never really took flight on the palate, but I didn’t miss it much, as there was plenty going on here with this phenom. This and the Myriad Crane had the best nose.

Full-bodied without being too blasted and overly powerful, though it was served a tad warm initially on PnP. It took a bit of time to cool down in the cave before it started to showcase more of its focus. As it cooled, it really came together. It was great at first sample, but the revisit an hour or two later really brought this wine up to the front of the pack, edged-out only by the Realm Crane at the end of it all. I guessed MM Crane on this wine and was correct (one of the few I was actually right about!). 99+ points. With even better service and likely another couple of years in bottle, this is rightly a three-digit scorer.

Ultimately this landed as my #3 favorite of the 9, though all of the top 4 wines (Realm, Myriad, Memento Mori, and Vice Versa) waffled back and forth for the #1 slot for me throughout this exercise.
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
98 points
Keenly focused and pure blackberry, black cherry, black river rock, and bitter dark chocolate notes fired-off in deliberate succession on the front end of the attack. A more serious wine when compared to the others, gaining traction and elevating interest with each sip. Not the hedonistic flavor-hound type, with the core pulsating with a cadence that marched across the palate. Finished as it started, with an Einstein-esque intellect that honored complexity and a purposefully layered expansion of flavors over an immediacy of full-frontal gratification.

Upon further revisits, more blackberry and some milk chocolate were unearthed, with the richness slowly rising up to help push the finish further and further into the far reaches of the back end. Focus, precision, and balance were most notable here. By far the most polished of the group. Had I not known this was a Dr. Crane taste-off, I might have guessed this as a top shelf Las Piedras. I was initially surprised this was the Vice Versa BBS (as I suppose I expected it to be more front-loaded with rich flavors), but it made more sense that this wine was crafted more with purity and laser-like focus in mind, which is why this wine made its way at times into my #1 slot, embattled with the Realm, Memento Mori, and Myriad Cranes for top dog.

98++ points for me in its current state. This settled in as my #4 of the 9 wines sampled. Give it 3-5 years in bottle and you’ll have a Meghan Duchess of Sussex on your hands (whereas, say, the Myriad was more of a Megan Fox – if staying with the whole Megan theme of course). Pick your poison.
2 people found this helpful Comment
2016 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard 'Elysian' USA, California, Napa Valley
Black cherry and red cherry cassis; not as dark or as concentrated as the Memento Mori served directly beside it. Rode higher in its tonal expressions, with some booze and glycol on the back end. A well put-together wine that seemed to be either in transition or was struggling to get its flavors in higher gear. The weight and body were solid, as were the speed-in-delivery and frame. The finish was slightly muted. The temperature of the wine was a little warm for me.

I put this in the middle of the pack because I certainly enjoyed it, but felt as though I couldn’t get a direct read on it from an “academic” standpoint. It was no surprise that this ended up being the Myriad Elysian that had a slight seepage issue. My guess is that affected the overall display of the wine, which seems fair given the fact that the standard Myriad Crane was my #2 favorite wine (and I can only imagine where the Elysian might place with the proper service). The Elysian didn’t come off as corked or flawed in any regard, but may have been stifled a little due to the possible temperature issues associated with it. I held off scoring it for CT purposes, but did put it as my #5 of the 9.
4 people found this helpful Comments (2)
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
96 points
Black cherry liqueur, initially tasting a bit like the Elysian, but with a little more swanky red cherry tones. Round and somewhat boozy; the most plush of the lineup. Finished a little chewy texture-wise. The most black and red cherry liqueur-driven of the wines, ultimately falling into middle-ish territory. A little too rounded in the black cherry department (if being overly critical – which I guess is what this little experiment is all about – did I mention “black cherry?!”). Rode high at times, and then showed more riper characteristics. A little up and down for me in terms of delivery, but I sure found it to be a tasty beverage. The richness picked up speed after some air, but it couldn’t shake a slightly hot and fuzzy finish.

My #6 of the 9 wines tasted.
2 people found this helpful Comments (28)
2016 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
94 points
The black cherry liqueur thing was jumping off crazy on this wine at first pull, but then it dropped into a more earthy, almost grainy animal, with some crunchy rock and soil notes encircling the dark fruit. Some old school characteristics rose up as well, with tobacco, currant, and grandma’s closet. I first thought this was Elysian based on its push of black cherry flavors, but then I became more centered-in on the possibility of Arrow & Branch or the Alpha Omega because of its less contemporary expression of the site. I settled on this being the Alpha Omega, and of course was wrong!

In the end, this was my #7 of the 9 wines. A fine wine to be sure, but it fell behind some of the other workhorses perhaps in part due to stylistic preferences, though I felt this lacked some refinement in its current state. Unlike some others that were open for business, this Arrow & Branch will benefit from 3-5 years in bottle.
2016 Stewart Cabernet Sauvignon Nomad Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
93 points
Like the Alpha Omega, this wandered around the palate with some misdirection and competing crunchy earth versus bitter currant notes. Registered a little high and alcohol-flat on the mid-palate. Finished with a plum/prune note that provided for ripe flavor, but didn’t necessarily deepen the concentration. A bitter chocolate note sauntered in and saved the day, but it still finished a little booze-ridden and grainy.

My #8 of the 9 wines tasted.
2016 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
93 points
Black currant and earthy minerality here on the front end of the attack. Deeply pitched black…very black…cherry, and some chocolate, pyrazine, and anise. Green peppercorn and black rock show up as well, with an almost overly-earthy Las Piedras kind of profile. So vastly different from the other wines in terms of richness. Finished a little flat, linear, and at times, kinda crunchy.

This was my #9 of the 9 wines sampled.
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