Napa Tasting

Bistro Cocotte, Haberfield

Tasted July 15, 2020 by chatters with 31 views


Lucked out enormously to score an invite to this tasting of Napa near legends (but legends on this side of the pacific where these things are rarer than hens teeth). I brought along the Monte Bello 1995...

Flight 1 (12 notes)

These were divided into brackets for ease of tasting but I've just presented them in tasting order here. Wines of the night were probably the Opus One and Stag's Leap Fay 1994 for me.

1988 Opus One USA, California, Napa Valley
Initially medium minus intensity aromas of blackcurrant, a little cedar, leather, slightly oxidised notes, a little earthy farmyard and plasticine, cassis. Opens with time to show more fruit no the nose but still 'contained'. Juicy acidity, blackcurrant, cassis, a touch of red currant, talc textured tannins dry the mid palate and gums but support the fruit. travels long with non-intrusive alcohol on the finish. Nice.
1994 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23 USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
Move obviously Napa for me, ripe but perfumed black fruits, plums, sweet spices, cedar, a little toasted note and a touch of bacon fat. And so it proves on the palate; jammy, slightly plummy fruit, an odd ripe menthol top note, soft, near resolved tannins, alcohol warmth is a little more intrusive here. With time though the fruit settles revealing blackcurrant and a touch more cedar on the nose...the the palate is still much of an alcoholic muchness. Hmm.
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1994 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Fay USA, California, Napa Valley
Plummy, jammy, but with some cassis and cedary notes, slightly oxidised, a little sweet spice, almost a little dill pickle note. Juicy and surprisingly fresh on the palate - it's still very much in the 'ripe cabernet' style though with ripe blackcurrant, some alcohol heat, cedar, textured tannins but it is balanced and rather nice. The best of the Stag's Leaps on taste for me. Nice.
1995 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Fay USA, California, Napa Valley
Dusty but baked at the same time. Slight plums, meaty notes, the mouth it's sour; sharply so in fact, tannins are present but it's all wrong - no fruit. FLAW
1995 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
Blackcurrant, touch of furniture polish, a little plum and bramble, very slightly oxidised, earthy, leathery. In the mouth it's juicy but alcoholic to the point of portiness, plummy fruit, chalky mid palate grip, ripe...too ripe for me. A bit too much.
1995 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Meadow USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
A little funky and farty initially but this blew off to show ripe plums, a little vanilla and cream, sweet spices and, with time, cassis and and blackcurrant. Medium plus intensity acidity (adjusted or possibly a smidge of VA?), tight, chalky textured tannins close down the palate beating down some muted black and red currant fruit. Bit out of whack for me.
1996 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
Slightly dusty and closed, a little musty in fact, almost a touch of cellar stink over black currant and sweet spice. Plum as well. That cellar stink note translates to the palate as well though it's not so dominant, savoury plums, quite bitter and hard tannins, blackcurrant with time. Hmm. It's drinkable so I'm not marking it as flaw.
1995 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
cream, slight vanilla, caramel, sweet spice, no skimping on the oak, blackcurrant over cassis and plum as well on the nose. Not really showing any age either. In the mouth it's soft, alcoholically warm, slightly porty, off-dry levels of residual sugar, plummy, chewy tannins, a little chocolate. It's all a bit shouty for me.
1995 Ridge Monte Bello USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Ripe blackcurrant and cherry initially with a little sweet spice and vanilla, cedar also a slightly oxidised note. With time it' starts to show volatility as well. this is reflected on the palate - a wine that initially shows fresh with similar crunchy black fruits backed by chalky drying tannins gets more and more sour and undrinkable. I've not witnessed such a rapid descent into flawdom before. How sad.
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1997 Ridge Monte Bello USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Slightly herbaceous blackcurrant and cassis, cedar, very slight vanilla, a touch of coffee and, worryingly after the 1995, a smidge of volatility. That volatile note translates to the palate with the coffee, blackcurrant, cedar and cassis, chalky textured tannins support the fruit. The volatility ascends with time in the glass though not dominating the way it did with the 1995. I'm guessing that, as this is Australia, both of these wines came from the same importer. Hmm.
2002 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
Blackcurrant, sweet spice, cream, vanilla, very slight cedar. Juicy, fleshy, blackcurrant and plum with a fair lick of alcohol underpinning, tannins are quite contained making this wine softly engaging plummy notes on the finish. it's perfectly pleasant but, after this line up, perhaps a little bland.
2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Blackcurrant, red plums and red currant underpinning, almost red berries and a tiny herbaceous note, sweet spice, vanilla, polished oak and a smidge of alcohol warmth on the nose. In the mouth it's juicy with medium plus intensity acidity, chalky tannins that coat the palate and rather dominate the blackcurrant, plums, vanilla, sweet spice and slight red currant note. Non-intrusive alcohol warmth on the finish.


I must confess my expectations were high - on paper this looked like a stellar line up of mature Napa Cabernets - unfortunately my expectations were not met. An awful lot of these wines did not show anywhere near where I expected them to be. It was hypothesised on the night that the vast majority of these wines had been bought into Australia by the same importer who has, over time, gained a reputation for not necessarily storing them in the best way possible.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, at least I know now where to buy Napa Cabernet, and where not. Mind you, I was so disappointed I went home and had a glass of Minervois.

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