3 days in Napa: Arkenstone, Memento Mori, Maxem, The French Laundry, Christopher Tynan, Kinsman, Harlan, Vice Versa, Accendo, Fairchild, Macdonald, and a truckload of others

Napa

Tasted April 30, 2021 by csimm1161 with 1,044 views

Introduction

An amazing three days of fun-filling Napa tasting adventures. A special shout-out to CT’ers Cristal2000 and scballfan for spearheading an unbelievable weekend. Thanks gents! And of course, THANK YOU to those winemakers and proprietors who graciously hosted us.

Flight 1 (73 notes)

White
2019 Maxem Chardonnay UV Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
95 points
Juicy yellow citrus flavors are complimented by a nice touch of oak that offer measured succulence and an excellent mouthfeel. This stays in a very nice lane, with focus and the delineation of its layers cadenced-out to deliberate effect. This offers the perfect amount of lemony fun to match the academics of its acid, structure, and overall thoughtful execution. A bit fresher and speedier than its 2019 Maxem Lucky Well sibling, as the UV’s conveyance of wood appears less than that of the Lucky Well in its current state (at least by perception – as the wood treatments between the two Maxem Chardonnays are technically the same). Drink the UV now and over the next 5+ years.
3 people found this helpful Comment
White
2019 Maxem Chardonnay Lucky Well USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
94 points
Lemon curd, pie crust, vanilla bean, and a touch of dried apricot notes make for an affable delivery of flavor that kick-out mouthwatering essences drawing you in for another sip. Though the wood influences on both Maxem wines were crafted the same, the perception of vanilla oak is currently more prominent with the Lucky Well when directly compared to the slightly more enticingly nervy UV. Drink the Lucky Well now and over the next 3-4+ years.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Maxem Pinot Noir UV Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
94 points
Deep black cherry dominates, with a broad push of full berry fruit flavors washing over the palate. Finishes with a plush feel on the back end, with a “hug me like a teddy bear” demeanor enticing for its overall giving character. This is firing-off quite well in its current state and is notably more forwardly luscious than the driven 2019 Maxem Silver Eagle Pinot. Drink the UV Pinot now and over the next 4-5+ years.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Maxem Pinot Noir Silver Eagle USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
95 points
An intensely scented nose foreshadows a correspondingly floral entry on the palate, with penetrating notes of violets, deep cranberry, crunchy black cherry, and slight citrus and mineral notes. There is excellent focus and direction here. A more pungent profile when compared to the cuddlier and plusher UV Pinot. A noteworthy representation of the Silver Eagle site. Worth holding another year, but I am personally drawn to the extra tension in its current constitution. Likely to hit its peak after some short-term cellaring. Very well executed.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon NVD USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Higher-toned and red-fruited on entry, with cranberry puckering the tip of the tongue on the first flash of the initial entry, quickly giving way to an instantly easy-going fruity mid-palate. Finishes with a slight bite of alcohol. Give this some air or another year or so in the cellar to smooth out. An agreeable NVD that should provide trouble-free pleasure for the next decade. 92-93 points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Heimark Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Instantly yummy, with an added dark and serious streak that is certainly attention-grabbing. A textural masterpiece, with fine-grained tannins offering the perfect frame and speed by which to carry the alluring unripe blackberry, black cherry, wet soil, and subtle spice notes. Complexity and intensity are elevated by the superb semi-chewy grip. Sumptuous and deep while also holding wonderful freshness, especially for being a darker-profiled wine. Extra tension on the back end pushes the finish on and on. This was the clear standout in the lineup. Drink now with some air or follow it over the next decade to track its evolution. 95-97+ point potential. Excellent.

It’s worth noting that the nose on this wine gave off a bit of funky earth and feral berry aromas, which sparked a brief discussion at the table among those of us noticing it. I wasn’t personally put off by it and found that the palate, which was completely unphased by the earthy scents in terms of having any question about purity or soundness, rolled right on into exhibited quality characteristics from the front end of the attack to the back.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Amoenus USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
A TON of fruit roars on to the palate with gobs of black cherry and plum flavors. Succulent and flamboyant, suffused with black raspberry liqueur and fruity mixed berry elements that create a powerfully deluxe profile. This presents as an uber fresh bag o’ Skittles; somewhat of a contrast to, for example, the often raisiny-ripe Maybach exemplars of Amoenus. I recommend giving the Arkenstone Amoenus a few years to get into its glide and tame some of its razzleberry conduct. There is no doubt a definite yum factor here. 95+ point potential.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2017 Arkenstone Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
94 points
Rooti-Tooti-Fresh-And-Fruity, the 2017 Estate pops out of the fold with blossoming red and black cherry flavors that shake out plump money-maker-rump-shaker berry fruit. Veers more toward the red fruit spectrum, with a posh posture and a party-ready delivery of flavor. Medium expansion on the palate, with a moderate degree of depth in proportion to the super fruity profile. Drink or hold for a handful of years to best see how the fruit elements ultimately start to align with the existing scaffolding.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2018 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
95 points
FRESH GRAPEFRUIT! ...with lemon-lime, guava, clementine, white flowers, and dry grass notes all making for a compelling Sauvignon Blanc. Year in and year out, Sam Kaplan crafts an exceptional representation of this varietal. There is a beautifully balanced flavor expansion here, finishing fresh and slightly creamy on the tail. Drink now and over the next few years to best harness its true brilliance, though I suspect these will last for longer than most folks normally lend credit and expect from domestic Sauvignon Blanc. Well done! 95 points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
A barrel sample, showing some heavy reduction on the nose, but quickly giving way to gobs of powerful fruit. A massive mouthful. Dark berries and oak char dominate at the moment, with the sense that authority and flex will be a hallmark of this vintage for Memento Mori. This is a biggin’.

As with all of Sam Kaplan’s creations, brawn is controlled by a measured skill that keeps the profile in perfect check. Though this barrel sample was fairly boozy at first pass, exposure to air in the glass suggests that the components of this wine will ultimately work themselves out into an awesome expression of what the Memento Mori blend has become. There is great energy here. Using my Magic 8 Ball, I would expect buyers to think of 2019 similarly to 2016, except that the 2019 may find a pathway to even more heightened brightness and freshness. Time will tell, but this 2019 is a decent sized monster in its current state. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this develops once in bottle. 95-96+ points.
5 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
A barrel sample, with ripe, black fruit dominating here. A chiseled minerality is already able to shine through the periphery of the massive dark core. This LPV was somewhat similar to the initial Memento Mori barrel sample we tasted, but the Piedras displayed more focus and purposeful direction in its profile. There is a serious side that I am especially drawn to; it’s what typically pulls me to favor LPV generally (so full disclosure there).

It’s worth noting that a couple of days later we had a 2016 Memento Mori LPV, which shared similarities with the 2019 barrel sample. Again, the bridge between 2019 and 2016 seems evident to me with the Memento Mori wines, which is obviously a great thing. I do think the 2019s will be a bit more approachable than the 2016s in general, as the 2019’s freshness is already inviting and works well at taming some of the overt power. The LPV was my personal favorite of the samples tasted. 97-98+ points.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
A barrel sample, and one that is all about yummy Crane goodness. If you’re a fan of this site, then this will not disappoint. Flamboyant and chewy-sweet fruit wash over the palate with notes of saturated black raspberry, black cherry liqueur, plum, and an intense floral element that instantly lifts the entire profile. Like the other Memento Mori barrel samples, this shows a decent hit of power and dominance on the palate. With this Crane specifically, the ripe fruit does well to absorb that sheer authority here and keeps the force in check. Gorgeous potency and vigor. 96+ points.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Arkenstone Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
97 points
A barrel sample, carrying firm and fine tannins that showcase blackberry, black licorice, and violet notes with cleverness and class. The floral component becomes more intense with air, racing through the nose and the back of the mouth, finishing deeply pitched, but with a flowery smelling salt inhalant response that wakes up all the senses. A fascinating mix of verve and gravity.

Less overtly flamboyant than the Memento Mori wines, the 2019 Arkenstone Estate impresses for its keen sense of concentrated focus and swanky measured panache. It tastes expensive. For me, this is quintessential Sam Kaplan. Intense and concentrated while simultaneously holding an elegance and grade that demonstrates skillful winemaking and a specific attention to keen flavor detail. Well done! 96-97+ points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
A barrel sample. Open your arms up super wide because here comes a big slathery fruit hug that might initially suffocate the senses with its wrap-around Lennie Smalls-like power. But without worry should be you young Jedi, because the grip backs off just in time to let the floodgates open right up for a barrage of massive black fruit, freshly turned black earth, and black oak char. Did I mention black? Super dark and concentrated, the Vangone barrel sample expectations are met and exceeded here. I’ve frankly found that Vangone from barrel never, ever disappoints. They are just sooooo striking.

If you’re looking for red fruit and tobacco leaf, best wander down the street to Clos du Val with your bachelorette bus and enjoy it with a cheeseboard or something. If you’re a cave dweller like me, get on the Vangone party train and spelunk your way into these intense black berried beauties. 96-97+ points.
5 people found this helpful Comments (2)
White - Sparkling
2010 Dom Pérignon Champagne France, Champagne
92 points
At the French Laundry. A starter for the table, this bottle of 2010 Dom is a typical expression of the house, if but seemingly a little more advanced and gentler than other tauter vintages. Bruised lemon rind, quince, banana leaf, ripe yellow pear skin, and chalk notes round out the profile in an agreeable and semi-succulent delivery of flavor. Finishes with a slight bite on the tail. 91-92 points depending on your style preference, as I would have personally liked a tad more cut and verve here.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)
White
2016 Melka Sauvignon Blanc Mekerra USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
96 points
At the French Laundry. An invigorating and lively example of Sauvignon Blanc. I have enjoyed this wine on a number of previous occasions and each time it delivers a complex and captivating array of kiwi, guava, Squirt, and fresh cut grass flavors. I love this wine… though I gotta say, the lingering bedroom eyes on the label make for a peculiar encounter. I typically don’t like my wine bottles watching me drink them.

This paired fantastically with a number of the fish and shellfish dishes in the initial courses of the meal. I could’ve had this wine with each one of the 20+ dishes. This was at its best during the Big Island Abalone “Rockefeller” and Marinated Watsonville Artichokes dishes.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2018 Domaine Larue Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Sous le Puits France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
91 points
At the French Laundry. Lemon seed, yellow and white citrus, and chalk flavors dart from the glass, with a linear, Pinot Grigio-esque profile that is leaner than what I typically want from a 1er P-M. That said, this was very refreshing and had a nice bite to it which worked well with the fare. Not a wine I’d personally seek out in the future, but a fine accompaniment to some of our dishes.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2017 Domaine François Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
95 points
At the French Laundry. A solid producer from a solid site makes for a worthy Meursault and a perfect complement to the food. Succulent yellow citrus, spritely green, yellow, and white stone fruit, chalk, and hints of tangy unripe orange, this Mikulski delivers on multiple fronts and pleases for its fuller ride along the palate but with all the acidic grip and tension one would expect from a 1er cru from this address.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
94 points
At the French Laundry. A mouthful of ripe fruit illustrative of what one might expect from this house and this site. A whopping wine from a big vintage from a vineyard that often produces succulent fruit-driven wines.

So then, this is one of those moments when I have to augment my notes with, “Hey I’m just keeping it real here folks,” which undoubtedly means I have some feedback I want to impart that I’m not necessarily super stoked to be sharing at this time about this wine. Ok, to the point… The showing on this wine highlighted a ton of sweet vanilla bean and alcohol that made it hard to tear into the fruit behind the curtain of heat and booze. Tannic is ok with me, but a straight cocktail lounge act performance isn’t what I signed up for with this wine. I know… “Just give it time,” and all that. Well…

The fruit seems pure and fashioned with skill and talent, but it was especially difficult to get into a groove here. The fruit is certainly ripe, like, really ripe. It has a yum-yum, color bounty anime flavor thing that any ground-pounder would slather over. If you are a Crane fan, you’ll get your dose of ripe black cherry fruit, and then some. But for the coveted nature to which I often attribute to these wines, I want more focus; I want more sophistication; I want less alcohol (which unfortunately isn’t something that necessarily “integrates” with time in bottle). I want to like this more, but I struggle here. And to be clear, this was not a bad wine. It just didn’t meet expectations for me based on the aforementioned. Good, bad, or indifferent, this was just my experience. It was decanted for a total of a few hours. As it came to room temperature, its grip collapsed quite a bit under the weight of the fruit.

For those holding bottles, I do suggest waiting for a few years. If attempting to open now, I recommend keeping/serving it at a much cooler cellar temperature and giving it a significant decant. Try again after 2025.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Promontory Red Wine USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
At the French Laundry. Red berry fruit, unsmoked cigar, leather, and additional deeper plum notes make for a more sophisticated delivery of flavor, especially when served side-by-side with the bombastic 2013 Realm Crane. The Promontory clearly has a redder fruit profile, less perception of alcohol, more cut and nerve, and better scaffolding overall. The sophistication is evident, though at times I thought it was somewhat taut and reserved (which was actually a HUGE benefit when it came to pairing it with the food). Finishes with class and refinement.

I think this wine could use another 5+ years minimum in bottle to fill out and come into its optimum form. Decanting helped to expand and deepen its flavors, but it didn’t budge a ton over the course of a few hours. Bringing it to room temperature didn’t help to improve its delivery. In fact, for anyone considering popping this now, I’d certainly recommend service at continued cellar temperature. Hold for now. 95-96+ points, with certain upside after 2026+.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
100 points
Two years since I've last sampled this juice. One of the most phenomenal wines I’ve had all year, the 2012 Tynan MG absolutely soars from the glass with aromas of ripe blackberries and earth. On the palate, this is a stunning expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. Unreal levels of concentration and intensity expand and drive massive but controlled flavors of blackberry, earth, campfire, pencil lead, and spice. Loaded with so much complex flavorings undulating repeatedly, with a mid-palate drop that lingers on and on, cruising through to a finish that lasts even longer. The density and concentration is matched only by the complete drive and concerted speed by which the flavors are executed.

This is exceptional winemaking my friends and it just goes to show with a few years of bottle age what Tynan is able to produce with the MG. If you happen to have this vintage of MG, consider yourself extremely lucky. If you have more than one, then slap yourself and thank your lucky stars you scored on these when you did. I would encourage those to muster up a bit of courage and pop the cork and see what’s under the hood on one of these bad boys because it is absolutely without question one of the wines the vintage. It’s just starting to come into its optimum drinking window now and will drink exceptionally for decades. 99-100 points.

During this trip, I was continually impressed with all of the wines we were fortunate enough to drink. I will say also that there were three wines in particular for me that totally crushed my cranium with their unbelievable representations of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2012 Harlan, 2012 Tynan MG, and 2018 Macdonald were next-level juice that dominated the landscape even among their otherwise remarkable peers.
5 people found this helpful Comments (6)
Red
2017 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
My second time trying this wine (since 12/07/2019), the 2017 MG carries interesting plum and muddled blackberry flavors complimented by red/purple licorice, vanillin black cherry, and some dark spice notes. On the final sips, an herbal tinge added interest. This is a notably complex 2017 in the making that needs (like all MGs) time in bottle to fully come together. Displaying a more red/purple fruit profile (compared to previous vintages), the 2017 maintains its freshness with poise and channeled penetration. This is one of the few 2017s coming out of Napa that I will actually be looking forward to adding to my cellar. 95+ points. A wine to lay down for another 7-10+ years, though it does show an approachable side to it with some extended swirling in the glass. An especially worthy food wine indeed.
5 people found this helpful Comments (9)
Red
2018 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
Electric and fresh, exhibiting matching sparkle akin to the 2019 MG barrel sample, the 2018 MG is locked-and-loaded with acidic vitality and dynamism. With notable structure and acidic speed, this is a spritely infant that still manages to push out blackberry and black cherry skin flavors illustrative of heightened purity of fruit and budding complexity. The tension is unreal, as is the stacked mid-palate that is itching to explode after a decade of sleep. Leave this alone and be rewarded later on down the road, these MGs are built for something special in mind as long as the end user can remain ever-patient. Another successful addition to the MG roster. 98+ points.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
99 points
Barrel sample. Outstanding acid and beautifully defined fine-grained tannins fashion a gorgeously fresh and grippy MG. Blackberry seed and freshly popped pomegranate seeds lead the charge, with the speed and palate endurance that launch the flavors from front to back with both precision and commanding gusto. Unripe plum and river rock notes add to the already vibrant and complex wine. This has a wild side to it that I am instantly drawn to. An infant of a sample, but one of amazing promise. A wine that may exceed my numerical range and top out at the very top of the scales once given a decade in bottle to integrate and develop its ultimate identity. Through the lens of this wine, there is a sense that Tynan is trying to make something very special here, even historical. Fresh and enchanting. 97-99 points.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Christopher Tynan Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
96 points
Barrel sample. A Cote Rotie lookalike, the 2019 Syrah is bursting with bunches of violets mixed with unripe blackberry, blackberry seeds, Chambord, red raspberry, purple licorice, freshly washed raspberries, and some vanilla liqueur. This is a young and flashy showing, with uber fresh and popping acidity.

This 2019 sample is an interesting contrast to the 2015 Syrah sampled next to it. The 2015 was a dead-lock for a topflight Hermitage, whereas the 2019’s floral components made for a higher register demeanor and less of the beefy profile displayed by the 2015. The 2019 is an exciting and vibrant example of the varietal, whether you’re a Northern Rhone or a Northern California fan. A wine to watch out for! 96+ points.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Christopher Tynan Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
96 points
I’ve written a few times on this wine and am always impressed with the wonderful balance between unctuous flavor expansion and cooler climate restraint and focus that ultimately make this wine so beautiful. Its complexity comes from the sanguine and roast beef notes that complement the core blackberry and black raspberry fruit core. It is Hermitage in style, especially emphasized and contrasted by the Cote Rotie character firing-off from the 2019 Syrah barrel sample.

This bottle of the 2015 Syrah indicates it is still in the beginning of its optimum drinking window. With air, it really starts to fill out and become deeper and more concentrated. Try again in 2025.
5 people found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
N.V. Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Grand Cellier Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
90 points
Unripe pear dominant, with additional yeasty/bready notes battling with a steely-meets-chalky frame. Somewhat simple and abrasive on the appendages. Missing some nuance. This is fine as an aperitif or palate cleanser, but not a ton of personality or complexity to speak of here. A Champagne I brought that underperformed in my book. Disgorged October 2017.
2 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2017 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Rhadamanthus USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
97 points
Well now party people, you can add me to the list of Cellar Trackers who are all about trumpeting the Kinsman label. The hype is real my friends. I know you don’t need me to convince you otherwise, but I cannot help but throw in my two cents on the wine, the style, and the people behind it.

The dynamic duo of Nigel and Shae Kinsman have pulled off what is likely one of the few 2017 wines from Napa that have the ability to crush other top shelf competitors’ creations even from stronger vintages (ok, I know it’s not a competition, but it kinda is, right?!...anyway…). I’m sorry, because I know we are supposed to be generally forgiving of 2017s and how “they just need time,” are “just going through awkward phases,” and “will just be more nuanced examples of the varietal” in ten years. Thanks but I heard all that in 2011. And hey, that’s all fine and good, but I’m gonna go ahead and all but dismiss 2017… except (now you see, my hypocrisy knows no bounds already, eh?!)… except…with a handful of wines – as in, I can count them on one hand, which now includes this good ‘ol Kinsman Rhadamanthus. Are there other successes in 2017 from other producers? Yes, of course; I’ve had a few of them. But when you stack them up against some of the others in-play, it becomes painfully evident where the shortcomings are.

So, I’m no swamy of vintages nor am I a blind tasting guru that can pinpoint a particular wine’s DNA and trace back its berry-by-berry familial history, but I can tell you that when I first took a sip of this wine, I would have NEVER called it out as the 2017 vintage. Napa? Check. Mountain fruit? Check. Diamond Mountain? Check-ish…maaaaaaybe on a really good day of baby Jesus-like clarity I might have been able to check that). 2017? Um…No. But yet, here I am. Face to face with a wine that makes me look like an instant vintage hater. Being humbled is always such an emasculating experience. Fun times.

In any event…

The wine: Red and black cherry, wild red raspberry, plum skin, asphalt, ash (like the kind that circles around your nose when you kick the dust in front of you as you’re hiking on Mount Lassen in the dead of summer), salt rock, and an interesting stemmy (pyrazine? – in a great way) character that barely tickles the back of the palate on the tail. Tannic and backward in the best of ways, locking up on the rear and bucking an awesome grip and nervy tension. Finishes perfectly dry, but allowing the succulence to keep peeking through, elongating the drive and extending the execution of flavor. Mountain tannins and acidity are very Margaux-esque in profile. Unbelievable tension.

Give this a number of years to settle into itself, though I have to say I love the wild vivacity flavor-uppercutting throughout its delivery. 96-97 points. A true testament to the finest winemaking around. This wine is baller!
6 people found this helpful Comments (16)
Red
2016 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Anjea Sleeping Lady Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
96 points
The best wine I’ve had from the Sleeping Lady site. I’ve honestly never been wholly impressed with that vineyard nor convinced it had the ultimate potential to compete with some of the big boys in Napa. Well, color me stupid (again). With blackberry and black-berry fruits spinning around in the core, this rendition of Sleeping Lady shows the power of the 2016 vintage and marries it with a hauntingly brooding sense of character. Just when you think it’ll dip down into an even deeper chasm of dark, dark fruit, a subtly dry cedar finish inserts itself into the equation and lifts the whole wine up. Finishes aptly grippy but ever-long. Earth and judicious wood influence add interest, which will ultimately elevate this wine more once it further integrates.

The mid-palate here is unlike anything I’ve experienced from this site. I suppose dropping 20% of the juice to steer concentration and intensity in the right direction helps. Perhaps it’s the Clone 22, which I can say I’ve never called out or identified before. But hey, when the stars align, this is what you get. 96+ points, with certain upside after a decent amount of cellaring (think 5-6+ years minimum). This has definite flex and frame to match it’s dark, almost gothic, profile. Excellent.
5 people found this helpful Comments (6)
Red
2019 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Anjea Sleeping Lady Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
97 points
A barrel sample to be sure, with all the succulence and flamboyance you’d want from a burst of astound-me juice rocketing to the back of your throat. But again, even with a barrel sample like this, the master refinement kicks into gear and shows its ability to level its power and intensity with class and focus. It will be fascinating to see how this 2019 behaves in relation to the 2016 Anjea, as the 2019 behaves like what I’d expect a fired-up younger version of the 2016 would behave like. A ton of power here, but also a ton of exacting delineation of flavor just waiting to show its full worth in due time. 95-97+ points.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon La Voleuse Du Chagrin USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
98 points
You want an Eisele that went on a major Miami Vice bender, pararescued its way out of an Apache AH-64 on to Pablo Escobar’s zooming SCARAB, tripped on 60 kilos of Bolivian marching powder, speedboated its way to Bordeaux, returned to the states with a jug of crazy St. Emilion juice in its hands, detoured to Coachella to watch Flea do a 60-minute bass solo, and finally land back at the motherland in the Valley to spit blackberry motor oil all over a blissful little plot in Calistoga? Well then, you’re in luck, because the 2018 La Voleuse is the answer to all of your prayers.

Signature black cherry, blackberry, cassis, dry tobacco, pulverized granite, and double espresso notes pop and lock with an unreal grip-speed-grip-go momentum to keep it all buzzing within and around its core. Super grippy (did I mention grip?) with popping (did I mention popping?) acidity. With air, an elegance and controlled depth emerges, providing insight that this party animal has sophistication and class that is undoubtedly on the cusp of blossoming if given some short-term cellaring. How can a wine have both excitement and refinement working conjointly, a pairing none have seen the likes of since Crockett and Tubbs? I dunno. Just drink it and let me know how that works out for ya. Signs point to awesome. 97-98++ points.
10 people found this helpful Comments (37)
Red
2018 Impensata Cabernet Sauvignon Engelhard Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
A fun and fruity entry pushes forward with ripe and dark berry fruit that saturates the palate and finishes with a lingering tinge of youthful booze. Less nervy and acidic on initial entry than the Kinsman namesake wines sampled before, this wine still displays the hallmark sophistication and complexity that give Nigel’s wines such allure. This seems like it will be more approachable and affable relatively earlier in its lifespan. Still, a handful of years in bottle is recommended. Nicely done. 95 points.
4 people found this helpful Comments (6)
Red
2018 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
95 points
This wine zips by the front end and rushes straight into mid-palate pleasure, with deep and dark plum and red and black cherry flavors complimented by earth and subtle spice notes. Stays ever-juicy until it hits the finish, drying up on the tail just enough to beautifully marry the tannins with the fruit into a crescendo that elongates the semi-serious finish. Again, a juxtaposition of sophistication and party-rockin’ flavor appear to be a hallmark of the winemaker here.

Give the Bella Oaks 3+ years of cellar time minimum before tearing into a bottle. Ideally, I’d hold this for even longer to really get a sense of where it’s headed (5-7 years), but really who’s waiting that long to try their first bottle?! 95+ points.
5 people found this helpful Comments (21)
White - Sparkling
N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée Edition 166eme France, Champagne
92 points
Of course, you always must start out a Harlan tasting with a nice glass of Krug to best assist you with sauntering around a Napa legend’s property in style. This Champagne behaves just as most other Krugs I’ve had. I like it. It’s good. It may get an honorable mention in a Champagne congeniality contest, but it’s hopefully not trying to win any spelling bees or compete for star athlete of the year. Friendly and pleasant, if but a bit predictable. Style-wise, this level of Krug always presents tinges of oxidative qualities, with a funky banana peel note that infiltrates the profile. Some people dig this; others may not. With air and with warmth, it exaggerates this phenomenon. Drink now and drink cold.
3 people found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2012 Harlan Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
100 points
One of the best wines I’ve ever had.

Not just that day. Not just that trip. Not just this year. Not encapsulated with disclaimers, exceptions, and statistical flim-flammery in order to put it into a special box for just that moment in time. Not like when someone running for Congress tells you he is the first, never-before person in the world to sit on a Congressional seat who is 53% Hungarian, 22% Austrian, and 25% Israeli, has two dogs, lives in Manteca California, and has a scar on his right cheek, and therefore is THE unique and special candidate for the position…

This was just simply and unequivocally one of the best wines…ever.

Blackberry, the deepest pitched black cherry known to the human race (and when I say deep, I mean deep – not overripe or sluggish), plum skin, soft mulch (like being under a redwood tree when nearly silent beneath your feet), charcoal, graphite, creosote, and black gravel. There are hints of unsmoked cigar and leather that also peek through the profile. The mid-palate is so saturated but also so controlled. There is a deliberateness slowly expanding the unadulterated flavors with a cadence that is unmatched in the western wine world. The finish not only lingers, it also progresses and advances, evolving on the back end of the palate and creating new memories in the recycling of flavors over and over again. A wine that can change and develop in the mouth within a single sip is certainly one that defines captivation and majesty.

There is an absolute uniqueness with the Harlan wines. I honestly didn’t want them to be unique or special. I wanted to normalize them and dismiss them off as good or even great wines that just cost too much, so I’d subsequently not “need” them in my cellar. Well, that little mind experiment didn’t work as soon as I took a sample of the 2019 from barrel. Then the 2016. Then this 2012. So yep, it’s officially all over for me on this front. I like Harlan. I want to drink more Harlan. And I’ll be buying Harlan. The addiction is terrifyingly real (If anyone has a couch in a 600-square-foot apartment for rent, let me know).

The 2012 is a pristine example of what a little bottle age can do for Harlan. Compared to the 2016, which was also amazing but a bit unresolved and wild in its current state, the 2012 has found a pathway to a gorgeous glide. A wine-life changing wine for me. And yes, I’m sure you vinegary Harlan members who have been tossing back these wines for years are reading this with healthy doses of long eyerolls and, “Gee whiz kid, tell us something we don’t know.” So, my apologies for being a drive-by tourist in the Harlan world up until now, but I admittedly don’t have a twenty-year resume with this producer. Hopefully ya’ll will let me into the secret illuminati club one day! Until then, I’ll simply say, “Thank you for the opportunity to try this amazing juice and thanks to our host Francois for sharing this gem.” And an especially singular thank you to CT’er Cristal2000 for being the Harlan sauce-boss that he is, setting up this whole thing, and allowing my petty tagalong peasantry.

During this trip, I was continually impressed with all of the wines we were fortunate enough to drink. I will say also that there were three wines in particular for me that totally crushed my cranium with their unbelievable representations of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2012 Harlan, 2012 Tynan MG, and 2018 Macdonald were next-level juice that dominated the landscape even among their otherwise remarkable peers.
4 people found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2016 Harlan Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
99 points
Essentially a younger and more rambunctious version of the 2012, which is a great sign of things to come. Powerful and heady on entry, with blackberry liqueur, charcoal, graphite, and black raspberry notes drop solidly mid-palate, further complimented by tobacco and currant flavors. With a girthy push, the core is catapulted hurriedly to the back end, finishing with a thrust of blackberry, earth, and alcohol. The booze washes over the profile with persistence but does not ultimately distract from the experience of enjoying the striking fruit.

A very intense and brawny sample that will need at least a decade to get into full stride. It has the draw of the 2016 vintage and a saturating depth that is unmatched among other houses in the neighborhood, but I do wonder if it will go through a bit of a shutdown period at some point. I always hate using those ‘shut down’ and ‘awkward phase’ terminologies, especially when describing what MIGHT happen to a wine down the road, but this particular wine, as awesome as it is, also evokes a sense of having to work a few things out before it develops into the stallion I am confident it will ultimately become. It may lap the 2012 in the long haul, if it’s possible to lap a wine I already gave 100 points to. 98-99+ points for the 2016.
2 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2019 Harlan Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
99 points
Barrel sample. Fresh berries and charcoal, as if you took the best made blackberry pie and fired it up on an old school open-flame Weber BBQ. Texturally this is a complete dream, with fine grained tannins that swirl wildly in the mouth before settling into a deep and penetrating melting of darker berry juiciness. Intense and lively, with the concentration continuing to unfold layer after layer. Finishing loooong, as if the tail flipped a U-Turn and decided to revisit its way back to the mid-palate and hang out there for a minute, or five. Taking one sip was like taking multiple sips. Ridiculous length here.

Ironically this was displaying less of an exhibition of alcohol than the 2016 in its current state. The 2019 will be such a fun wine to watch in terms of its evolution, as I suspect it will reward with some nearer term drinking appeal, but of course will cellar for decades. A beautiful barrel sample with endless potential. 99+ points, with an easy perfect score on the horizon in 5-7 years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2018 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
A gorgeous wine. For me, my experience here is best explained by a comparison some might find unfair. Nevertheless, here goes nuthin’….. Take all of your favorite things about Aubert’s best Chardonnays; now throw out all the nonsense heavy vanilla oak and saccharine slathering that has often plagued those wines when young and ultimately forbidden the purity of fruit from totally shining through; finally, ratchet-up the perception of tension and acidity a tick or two…and you’ll have the glorious 2018 Judge.

Fresh lemon juice, pear, unripe peach, lemon confit, unripe mango, and the slightest touch of vanilla (but not sweet). The Judge strikes a nice divide between California and Burgundy. It is notably not Burgundian in its total profile, but it steers completely clear of domestic popcorn butter bombing as well. It avoids the confection saccharinity of fat fruit and heavy oak but doesn’t sacrifice concentration to do it. It reminds me of a top Meursault 1er with a little extra California flex. A beautiful wine. 95-97 points. Drink now and over the next 3-5 years.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
98 points
Barrel sample. Anyone who knows me knows that LPV is directly in my wheelhouse, and based on the performance of this LPV, it should be in your wheelhouse, too. Aside from the 2019 M7 (which was just off-the-charts impressive on so many levels), this rendition of LPV was one of the main showstoppers of the evening. It not only thrusts out its perfect marriage of dark black fruit and hallmark terroir-driven minerality, but also shows off flashy acidity that really launches this thing into orbit. Saturated and also joyously punchy, the blackberry cobbler, black cherry, cassis, pencil lead, river rock, and spice notes all fan out on the front end and never stop expanding throughout the entire delivery. Finishes with the fruit reverberating for minutes on end.

It is indeed true that LPV wines in general can be a bit capricious during their evolutions in bottle, with their moments of shutting down being especially prickly for a bit. But when they are in flash mode, they always present as some of the best wines in the Valley for my palate. This 2019 is especially encouraging given its elevated freshness and tension. Less of a tannic spear the way some LPVs can start out. I personally feel as though 2019 will be a special vintage for Vice Versa and LPV. The stars certainly aligned well here. 98+ points, with the anticipation that a perfect score isn’t out of the question come 3-5 years from now. Stunning!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Mysterons USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Barrel sample. This new blend from Vice Versa showcases luscious black fruit on the front end that is instantly swept away by a wash of fabulous acidity and drive. A wave of rolling power pushes the flamboyant fruit right on to the mid-palate with authority. Note though that the brawn here is controlled and is not so flashy that is distracts from finding its balance, even in its juvenile state. Finishes with a slightly furry coating on the palate, providing texture and chewiness.

Overall, I found this to be a distinctive barrel sample not just for its succulence but also for its punchy side. A higher-toned hit flashes on the higher register mark just long enough to perk the senses before rolling its way back to juiciness. A very swanky wine indeed. Once in bottle, I’ll be very curious to see if it continues to distinguish itself among its siblings in similar fashion.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley
Barrel sample. On the nose, this was notably more austere and muted compared to the others sampled. On the palate, the reservation of flavor parroted the nose, with an overly measured delivery of black cherry and some vanilla notes. With air, it begins to posture as though it will erupt with the typical gobs of Crane fruit juiciness one is accustomed to, but then it closes back up and turtles its way into its shell.

All the stuffing made for greatness is lurking, but tonight it preferred to be coyer (that is, ‘coy’ from a Vice Versa Dr. Crane standpoint). The profile still shows decidedly Crane, but the expression and expansion of flavors are held at bay. Luckily, Cristal2000 had this not too long ago when it was giving up all the goods. So, I look forward to revisiting this in the future.
3 people found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2019 Vice Versa Beatrix Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
95 points
Barrel sample. Immediately recognizable as Valley Floor/Oakville fruit. Big, warm, fruity, and earthy, this specimen is a To Kalon mullet on the palate: Cab Franc on the front end, Cab Sauv on the back. The initial attack is a big push of red berry fruit, cassis, and floral elements, while the rolling delivery toward the tail tenses up and becomes a hair less fruity, finding an adequate lane and kicking out more dark black currant and earth notes. Black and red fruits plastic-sword-fight each other for attention, with a playful energy that brings lift and excitement.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven USA, California, Napa Valley
99 points
So this didn’t suck at all. Holy Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, what is this concentrated showboater of a jammin’ juice to which you have put before me good sir?! You want a standout? Here it is. You want next-level above the rest of the Beckstoffer creations? The M7 is it. You want the answer to the question, “Why bother with the M7 when I can just get more of the others?” Well, try it and then see if you ask that question again. I know, I know. Don’t hype it up if you don’t mean it. But I do mean it my friends. Sometimes top “reserve” wine (or whatever you want to call them) aren’t that much more distinguishable than their SVD or supposedly “not as special” counterparts. (Realm Crane is sometimes/often better than Absurd in my opinion, for example). In this case, however, in this vintage, in this house, the 2019 M7 achieves in making itself a notable tick or two (or four) higher in qualitative performance.

A BASKET full of BLACKBERRIES and dark earth flavors wind up for a line drive pitch rocketing across the launchpad. And then…it pauses, waiting, almost sniping the mid-palate for that perfect moment, like a slow-motion Matrix scene, until… Boom! Allow me to land my concentrated and intense deliciousness right about dead-center on your palate for a few minutes. Commanding attention, and getting it, the 2019 M7 will perhaps become one of the best Vice Versa wines I’ve ever had. I’m still chewing on the finish. Extremely impressive, and a wine that will likely hit a perfect score once it sorts out some of its peripheral wildness after several years in bottle. It’ll be fresh and bangin’ as a youngster, but I suspect with 7+ years in bottle, this will truly be liquid magic. Loved it. 98-99+ points.
4 people found this helpful Comments (9)
Red
2018 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven USA, California, Napa Valley
Locked and loaded is most apropos here. Packed, stacked, but not yet cracked, this 2018 M7 is fortified with tense and quivering black cherry, bitter chocolate, and rock notes that stubbornly tell you they are still building their empire and don’t want any company now and for a while. The hints of promise are so enticing, but they stop halfway through and halt their march right at the precipice of the mid-palate cliff.

Notably darker that the 2019 M7, this 2018 was akin to some of the LPVs I’ve had in the past that are so spun up that even though you know there is greatness beneath the covers, it’s lights out for a while until it gets the requisite sleepy time. Revisit in 2026+.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2006 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
96 points
Earthy and funky black cherry flavors dolphin their way in and out of waves of furry tannins, further warming the palate with plum, allspice, and faint burnt orange rind notes. Finishes slightly chewy and wooly until the fruit returns into play and reverberates back on the palate, reoffering the core fruit again and extending the flavor. This really hit its stride after about thirty minutes of having been open. This window lasted about an hour or so before extended air and slightly warmer temperatures started to shut it down. 95-96 points.

Hand-to-God I have no idea how to gauge where the optimum drinking window is for a wine like this. My experience here with this producer is so limited, I am even hesitant to author a tasting note. For you big baller DRC freaks who can play in the big sandbox while the rest of us kiddies watch on the sidelines, hats off to you. This is the kind of wine that humbles us novice wannabe wine devotees and makes me want to continue to learn more (a lot more), and also reminds me how even more I don’t know. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed it with a little bit of air and some swirling. I did prefer it at a cooler service temperature, but that is often a general preference I have for red wines, especially reds with some age. A very special bottle of wine popped by our hosts. A thousand thank yous to Patrice and Samantha Breton for their continued graciousness and generosity.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2016 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
96 points
I truly dig this wine. I love the electricity and the supreme focus here. It is chiseled and detailed without being sterile and continues to offer so much zippy pleasure. Squirt, lemon-lime juice and zest, sea salt, and a hunk of chalk, this sprinter matches an uber pure and clean contour with a peppy vigor that makes for a flawless execution of citrusy wowness. Excellent acidity. This is exactly my jam for Chablis. Gotta find more of this! As I often say, drink now for the dynamism, or hold with confidence for additional complexity. Pick your pleasure and you’ll win either way.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Tusk Estates Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
This bottle is all about power right now. Black fruit and booze dominate the entry, finally relaxing after an hour or so of air. In fact, I revisited this bottle 24 hours later and it wasn’t until then that it was finally starting to calm down and show some of the otherwise tremendous core fruit elements this wine has displayed with previous bottles I’ve had. Sit on these for a while, as they are seemingly starting to get into a grumpy phase where the integration and evolution of its elements still have a bit of sorting out to do. Hold for 6+ years minimum.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon SongBook USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Though knowing Tynan is the winemaker here might have influenced my mindset, upon first sip of the Songbook, I was instantly reminded of the Tynan MGs we had sampled earlier that morning (of course, that seemed like eons ago since it was something like 50 wines we’d plowed through that day). The Songbook was tight and tannic, with a reluctance in flavor expansion until a few hours into its service. In fact, it was absolutely singing the next day (24 hours open in bottle). Blackberry seed and crunchy minerality on the first pass, finally opening into an awesome and skillfully fashioned push of dark berry, gothic wet cave rock, and subtle spice flavors.

Day 1 was in that 94-95+ range for me. Day 2 jumped into the 96-97+ point range. I sensed there was something special on the first day, but by day two I was in love with this wine.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
Blackberry skin, bitter chocolate, black rock, and anise notes leap from the glass with nervy tension and a firm acidic clamp that instantly grips the palate and the jaw with skillful might. Finishes wonderfully dry and focused, this was an amazing accompaniment with food. Reminding me of a 2016 Harlan, but without the extra booze the Harlan was displaying, the Bryant is surely a youngster, but shows its youth with nerve and acid and not with unresolved overt alcohol. The controlled intensity is noteworthy. Profile-wise, I loved this wine’s black fruit and dark minerality, with the cacao notes adding even more interest.

Revisiting this bottle 24 later proved that this thing can go the real distance. It was preforming beautifully, exhibiting even more expansion of black cherry and plum flavors, with some developed earthy-spice elements also showing especially well after the one-day mark. A wine to hold for sure. Try again in a decade and be rewarded. 98+ points.

This was served next to a 2018 Macdonald, sharing similar profiles generally, but I did find it interesting (as much as I loved the Bryant) how the Macdonald possessed that true “it” factor that secured its dominance among all of the wines we were fortunate enough to have tried. For those Bryant followers, this is a phenomenal wine worthy of continued cellar time. Hold for a decade+.
2 people found this helpful Comments (11)
Red
2015 Realm Cellars The Absurd USA, California, Napa Valley
A chocolate cream and vanilla bean dream that saturates the entire mouth with creamy oak, massively luscious dark fruit, chocolate syrup, and alcohol. This behaved very much like the Realm Crane we had the evening prior at TFL. Gobs of really ripe fruit hammering away at the palate with so much excess that it becomes overwhelming for me. It’s an Applebee’s Long Island Iced tea of wine, with so much going on that it is hard to keep track of what to actually focus on. If anything, this needs a handful of years to hopefully sort itself out.

24 hours later, a revisit on this bottle certainly showed its ability to relax on the booze a bit more, but it had essentially collapsed under the weight of its own fruit. It was heavy and sluggish. Perhaps there was a window of excellence that occurred between when we opened it the night before and then after 24 hours, but I surely missed it somewhere along the line. For those holding bottles, continue to do so. Opening the Absurd at this stage seems exceptionally hasty. Give it 5+ years and hope its ripeness doesn’t hold the rest of the wine hostage forever.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2018 Château Lafleur Les Perrières France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
90 points
Painfully young, with acid, booze, and crunchy black cherry making for a formidable profile that didn’t seem to want to play with the rest of the wines of food one bit that night. Hold… like, for a decade.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Domaine Henri Boillot Volnay 1er Cru Les Fremiets France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
Boy was thing this spun up. A high rider that refused to come down off the ledge. This particular bottle was screaming, “Get bent and piss off.” Vanilla booze, bright red cherry water, and raw rhubarb flavors are about all I could distinguish here. This is a far cry from the 2016 in its current state. Leave the 2017 alone for 5+ years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
N.V. Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve France, Champagne
87 points
Lemon seed and yeast. Rides high and angular, finishing sharp. Would pair well with oyster shells on the half shell, with more shells, topped with shells.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2019 Accendo Cellars Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Kiwi and lime notes lead the charge, with a secondary rush of lemon and quince flavors rounding-out the profile. A very suave rendition of Sauvignon Blanc, with notable texture and a silky mouthfeel. Less of a punchy stand-alone style and one geared more for food pairing and summer porch treat-popping pleasantries. Not especially deep or penetrating; elegance over flamboyance here. Certainly enjoyable!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Laurea USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Ripe plum, deep red and black cherry, and cedar ride the crest of the flavor wave, almost immediately skipping over the mid-palate and skirting into an exceptionally dry finish. This wine desperately wants to find its depth, which is currently postponed by the higher register fruit and cedar-dry tail (a tail that whips back and ends up dominating the whole animal). As with all of the Accendo wines, the Laurie needs time to develop. It will always be a classically crafted Napa Cabernet is stature. Give this time and be rewarded. A wine I imagine would pair brilliantly with a fatty rib eye or a hunk o’ bacon. 93-94+ points.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Red and black cherry dominant, with a dry but concentrated flavor profile that begs for time in bottle (and food). There is power here, especially when compared next to the Laurea, with the Estate offering extra intensity and permeation on the palate that broadens the execution and expansion of flavor. Finishes dry and slightly bitter (throwing off considerable sediment on the final sips). Hold for 6-7+ years (and probably more like 10 years) before truly starting to reap the rewards this wine has to offer. Skillfully crafted and built for the long haul. 95+ points.

In general, the Accendo wines absolutely beg for food. As stand-alone animals, they can come off increasingly dry and direct. That said, they are exquisitely crafted and constructed in a style that will please those drawn to classicism. Don’t be quick to rush through these wines, as one does not want to miss the precision and exactness by which they have been assembled. For me, it is impossible to sever the likening of these wines to young Bordeaux (St. Julien comes to mind).

For those curious about the Kinsman connection, I would simply say the Kinsman namesake labels offered up more personality and wow factor for me, whereas the Accendos are, as mentioned, a more traditional take on what is often referred to as classical Napa Cabernet. Pick your style and either way (or both ways) you won’t be disappointed. The only real word of caution for the Accendo wines is to wait a decade before you jump into them.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Similar in profile to the 2016, this 2017 exhibited the driest of demeanors when compared to its siblings. Mid-palate was a tad hollow initially but began to fill in nicely as air penetrated the glass (vigorous swirling helped). Decidedly less intense than its year-older sibling, instead harnessing grace and elegance.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Sigaro USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
96 points
Bright red mountain fruit, with beaming acidity that makes for a fresh and brightly styled profile. Finishes with a cedar-meets-spice flavor that dries the back of the palate and keeps the fruit from becoming to overpowering. There is a controlled grace that brings everything into focus. A redder fruit presentation, though with air the core becomes saturated with additional purple berry characteristics. A classical style with a flair for modernity. Beautifully crafted. Give this 3-5 years in bottle before popping corks. A wine made for food. (think stinky cheeses, fatty steaks, or a fistful of soppressata).
Red
2018 Fairchild Estate Stones Longitude - Latitude USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Red and black fruits, with the red berry and currant notes ultimately elbowing their ways ahead of the overall march of flavors, this offers slightly more depth than the Sigaro initially, but then races in with its acids and tannins to quickly clamp down on the fruit and keep everything in strict line. Surprisingly, the finish relaxes and softens the edges, though the tail stretches and elongates on the back end and keeps the flavors pumping. The speed is well-defined despite the forgiving thresholds that hint at a pliable periphery. It’s like riding a magic carpet at 120 MPH, except that the carpet is 4-inch Shag and covered in puppy fur.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Stones No. 1 Perrarus Block 1 USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
Dark berry fruit with a gravelly Las Piedras-type of demeanor. In fact, I would have guessed this Stones 1 was still carrying the LPV site in its profile. Blackberry, black currant, river rock, pencil lead, and purple plum skin notes. Finishes with a bit of booze but is otherwise unyielding in its heavy metal black obsidian demeanor. I’m way into it! An undulating wine that kicks molten rock juice right in your face. Picture Gene Simmons ripping bass with Kilauea blasting lava in the background. So ya, something like that….
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Stones No. 2 Pritchard Hill USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Pritchard Hill berries baby! Unripe red raspberries, cranberry, red and black cherry, cassis, and iron all culminate to push out higher register tones, finishing youthfully fuzzy and grippy. Treble tones in the front, with a deeper dive toward the mid and back ends, before scurrying off into a fur on your teeth, palate scraping conclusion. Hold this little monkey for 7++ years before even thinking of coming back to it. It’s a yummy bumpkin, but it’s years away from showing its full potential.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Stones No. 3 Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Decidedly Tench, with red and purple fruit and a sack of booze to boot upfront, as a wave of cassis and freshly washed berries play catch-me-if-you-can with a bouquet of dried flowers. The power and alcohol are prominent, but with some coaxing and vigorous swirling, the cocktail profile dissipates, and one is left with a little less Vegas and a little more New York. There is a sexy kitten lurking under all of the authoritative flexing currently going on here. Fans of Tench will not be disappointed. This isn’t as party bus as Bevan’s iterations of this site, but it’s certainly got flair. Hold for 5+ years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2018 Fairchild Estate Chardonnay Stones Russian River Perrarus Block A3 USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
97 points
On the nose, you think you are in for a creamy and succulent California Chardonnay just waiting to slather your palate with lemon curd gooeyness. But surprise on you silly domestic switcheroo boy, this is a Burgundian lookalike through and through. On entry, the palate is welcomed by lemon seed and lemon juice flavors that burst from the seams and jet out all sorts of asteroidal speediness; acid, zest, tension, freshness, clarity, and purity. A Puligny-Montrachet with an extra slice of dynamism. The powerful lemon zest (NOT lemon curd) notes bring extra punch and help to keep the finish in perfect form. Style, speed, and sophistication I have not experienced from the Ritchie site before. 96-97 points.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2017 Fairchild Estate Chardonnay Stones Russian River Perrarus Block A3 USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
99 points
Take all the notes I just wrote on the 2018 Chardonnay and add an extra layer of delectableness – without sacrificing all of the harmonious zing and energy brought about by the otherwise Burgundian style these Fairchild Chardonnays seem to bring to the forefront. Yellow citrus and wet white travertine, with a ripe clementine note that adds extra interest. Outstanding texture and a deep concentration of flavor, all the while maintaining a controlled rapidity that invigorates the entire mouth and continues thrusting out bright acidity. Succulent and nervy. The 2017 is likely a decent marker to where the 2018 will ultimately end up. Again, I am shocked at the level of complexity and polish that Fairchild is able to achieve from this Ritchie site. Absolutely outstanding. 97-99 points.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2018 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
100 points
A perfect wine in the making, the 2018 Macdonald is undoubtedly going to be one of the top wines of the vintage. For those familiar with the Macdonald lineage, the 2018 will be no surprise as a qualitative conqueror and stunning phenom for the region and the vintage. Blackberry seed, soil, charcoal, graphite, and striking minerality all make for a complex and loaded wine that is just waiting for the next decade to come around and blossom into its fullest form.

This bottle was double decanted for nearly half a day. So, it’s no secret that the Macdonald pedigree of these wines requires a good 7-10+ years before optimum drinking will be had. That said, this thing was off the charts with reverberating fruit flavors and massive tension that the controlled power was utterly vibrating on the palate. Over the next few hours of following this wine with dinner, it became even more expressive. As one could imagine, it was one of those experiences where you just wanna stick your face in your glass and leave it there for an hour. I didn’t want to play nice around others with this bottle, as the three-year-old in me was caught up in the, “Mine, mine, mine” syndrome. It was honestly a little difficult to pay attention to the other amazing wines on the table once the Macdonald came into play.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to process these wines every vintage with this producer. The Macdonalds are always on point. ALWAYS. They are always quality. They are always one of the most exceptional wines to come out of Napa year in and year out. One can try to explain it away all day long and go into all the details as to how and why this seems to occur, but the bottom line is that these are special wines and they continue to be special with the meticulous thought and passion that goes into every step of these wines’ constructions. They are special. Very special. Some wines make you smile. Some wine write history. This phenom does both. Sound the trumpets and release the hounds folks! If you’re able to hunt these down when they come out you’ll be a lucky chap indeed. This is liquid awesomeness and simply captivating. 100 points.

During this trip, I was continually impressed with all of the wines we were fortunate enough to drink. I will say also that there were three wines in particular for me that totally crushed my cranium with their unbelievable representations of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2012 Harlan, 2012 Tynan MG, and 2018 Macdonald were next-level juice that dominated the landscape even among their otherwise remarkable peers.
3 people found this helpful Comments (6)
Rosé - Sparkling
2016 Ultramarine Rosé Heintz Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
92 points
A taut and refreshing Rose, with higher and lighter expressions of cranberry water, lemon pith, citrus spray, chalk, and Himalayan salt rock notes popping from the glass and nipping at the palate. Finishes lithe and tense, with an ocean spray effervescence that begs for caviar. A great way to end a heavy Napa Cab day…and, well, start right back into a heavy Cab dinner. An aperitif sparkler in its truest form.
5 people found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
2016 Nicolas Maillart Champagne Premier Cru Mont Martin France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
A steelier showing this time around. It either didn’t like the stemware it was crowded in, which disabled it from spreading its wings and offering up the depth I’ve come accustomed to enjoying from this wine, or it was just in a more furrowed-brow mood. This was a quick pour and I had less time to evaluate it before moving on to the stockpile of other wines we were throwing around that night. Perhaps careless service on my part. I’ll have to report back after the next at-home test.
White
2014 Morlet Family Vineyards La Proportion Dorée USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
A much more poised and refreshing bottle than the last visit I had with this wine. Depth and bass tone penetration is achieved successfully in part because it has the upper elevation citrus zest and juice to counterbalance it and make for a lovely combination of weight and speed. An athletic showing this go-around. Drink now and over the next few years.
Red
2016 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc Force de la Nature Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
95 points
Hot and ripe on the first pop, but then it gets right into a nice stride, inviting another sip (and another bite of food). Plump black cherry, black and red currant, red and black licorice, and wilted violet notes. I had to revisit this a few times before I was able to dive deeper into what it was trying to convey. The booze continued on the back end, slightly distracting from the core fruit. Focus was a bit compromised as a result. Nevertheless, this offers gobs of enjoyment and will likely perform even more unified once it has a chance to sleep for a number of years. I’ve found that Morlet’s big reds often take 8-10 years from vintage before they truly find their finest glide. Try again after 2026+.
White
2018 Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
I’ve spat out a bunch of information on this wine already, but I continue to go back to it every time even though I know it needs time to become even more complex. Still, this is a refreshing Chablis that holds its Grand Cru density with style and purpose. 2018 as a vintage may not be as nervy and invigorating as 2017 for Chablis, but I continue to be a fan of Droin’s continued commitment to excellence. Well done. I’m a loyal fan.
Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras USA, California, Napa Valley
I've written quite a bit on this wine already. Strikingly similar to the 2019 barrel sample we had two days earlier, the 2016 LPV from Memento Mori busts out of its seams with powerfully ripe black fruit and dominating black rock elements. More overt brawn here than the 2019, but the 2016 found a pathway to fuller and more seamless flavor expansion with a considerable amount of air. The serious mineral side is layered with the equally serious black fruit core that I continue to be especially drawn to. As previously mentioned, the bridge between 2019 and 2016 seems evident to me with the Memento Mori wines, which is obviously a great thing. I think the 2019s will be a bit more approachable than the 2016s in general, as the 2019’s freshness is already inviting and work well at taming some of the explicit power. This 2016 is a staple wine for LPV and a fine representation of Napa Cabernet. Give it 5+ years to shed some of its superflex.
1 person found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2018 Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon VHR USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
97 points
Young, driven, and really, really determined in its energy and thrust, this wine was off to the racetracks with a super thrilling acidic frame that was spinning its essences in the mouth with so much vibration that I had trouble pinning down the specific flavors at first. Red and black cherry, cassis, red raspberry, purple licorice (I always wonder if there really is such a thing), and unripe plum skin. There is an herbal/stem hit that whips up and snaps its energy into the core fruit, electrifying it even further. With air (decanted), it began to unfold beautifully, but it never lost some of its steroidal jittering of multiplicative flavor jumping. I dig it. As with many of these wines, the VHR needs a great deal of time. Drink it now if you wanna spaz out for fun (I mean, it’s super delicious), or best to wait 7+ years to see what sorts of cultured nuances can be gleaned in the future.
7 people found this helpful Comments (26)
Red
2016 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
Similar to my previous notes, with black cherry, cedar, spice, fresh mulch, and subtle minerality present in a medium-bodied chassis that does well to express a more controlled and classic version of the Crane site. I very much appreciate the ability of this wine to not flagrantly flaunt the fruit right in front of your face; there is precision to go along with the ripe (but not demonstratively bodacious) fruit. Hold until after 2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
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