Comments on my notes

(328 comments on 246 notes)

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Red
2016 Harlan Estate The Maiden Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
2/14/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This rich and savory wine needs a few hours of air - or preferably a few years of bottle time - but it is intriguing and tasty right now. Garnet in color and medium in body, the wine offers compelling and earthy - almost pungent - aromas of bay leaf, black cherry, blueberry peel, and eucalyptus. Tastes of boysenberry, mulberry, leather, and peppercorn, with a finish that currently carries more tannin than fruit, along with a pleasant and fresh lift at the end. (The finish is not rustic; the polish and integration are on their way... they just haven't arrived yet.) Decant at least two hours. 14.8% alcohol.

The density and class here are impressive, but this is presently on the more savory and reserved end of the 2016 spectrum. I think the aromas are already world class, but the rest of the wine is catching up. I usually get an earthy undertone in Harlan wines, but here the fruit was even more reticent and the tannins more grainy than I expected. The power and balance and class are all present, though - in spades - and this wine's best days are ahead of it. A tasty mouthful now, it should be even more brilliant in 2021 or later.
  • msuwright commented:

    4/8/20, 12:03 PM - Hi Dan - That sounds like a good day! I would definitely wait on this one. I've managed to keep my hands off the 2018 Auberts so far, but patience can only last so long...

Red
2016 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon RBS Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
10/23/2019 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
This rich and dense 100% Cabernet hasn’t entered its drinking window yet, but it's likely to kick it down in style, albeit in a few years. In the meantime, this is awfully good, if you decant for a few hours and don’t mind some inky-dark fruit and teeth-staining tannins. To pick up on Cristal2000’s apt assessment, I think this will be great in 2021 or later; it has tension and structure, and such beautiful fruit, that it should be a classy marvel when it unfolds in the next few years.

Cherry red in color and full in body, the wine offers unique aromas of crushed blueberry, bay leaf, gravel, and eucalyptus. If the nose leans earthy / herbal, the tastes lean fruit / gravel. The flavors include boysenberry, sour cherry, dark (and milk) chocolate, crushed rock, and rosemary, with a silky finish that has enough fruit to finesse the dusty tannins lurking beneath. 14.9% alcohol. My hunch is that this may enter a backward period in 2020, but it has the stuffing and balance to be incredible in the long run. If drinking now, decant at least two hours. Even better on second day (something I rarely find, for what it's worth).

More generally, my early assessments of the 2016 vintage have tilted in favor of producers with a touch more restraint. I found many wines from those who specialize in up-front fruit (e.g., Carter, B Cellars) to be too juicy to be enjoyable. On the other hand, wineries that offer less up-front fruit (e.g., VHR, Di Costanzo) made irresistible bottles in the early going. This is obviously just a short-term, personal theory / experience (hey - isn't that what CT is for?!), but - in my book - this wine benefited from this 2016 dynamic in the early period. I haven’t enjoyed young Schraders in the past, but this is a glorious, delicious exception. 96 for now, with upside, even up to three digits, as time allows.
  • msuwright commented:

    4/8/20, 9:12 AM - Hi Dave - I agree with all Mark's comments above! He is a (more than) able and trustworthy guide to the world of wine. He's right that some CTers only like wine young and some only like it old (like, very old), so it's good to find someone (like Mark, and I, and others) who enjoy the spectrum.

    I think the point I was trying to make was about "baby fat" - a kind of juicy, ripe, undifferentiated fruit that some young modern wines have (think the inside of a blueberry, with no peel). In 2016, a lot of the more forward producers made wines that tasted too juicy for me in the early going. (That said, I was in the minority of CTers with that opinion at the time, and I haven't opened a 2016 in about six months - so take this for what it's worth.)

    Anyway, to answer your question, I absolutely think the 2016s will shed this baby fat with time. Producers like Carter and B Cellars made their wines with enough tannin and acidity to support the fruit, once it matures. So, the 2016s should lose the baby fat, but they will still be ripe and full wines, with just a little more tension and nuance than in their youth.

    If you're after dark fruit, it's hard to go wrong with Carter and B Cellars. I think the B Cellars are more forward, but they're all really good. You can also find this blue plushness from Thomas Rivers Brown (e.g., Maybach, Revana), Benoit Touquette (e.g., Realm, Fait-Main), or some of Mike Smith's other projects (e.g., Myriad, Quivet). My hunch is that you may want to stay on the valley floor, since the mountain fruit tends to be more red, spicy, bright (a flavor profile I like, too, but is different).

    So that's probably enough unsolicited advice to last a week! I hope Mark and I haven't talked your ear off. Cheers!

Red
2012 Blankiet Estate Rive Droite Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
4/6/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This bright and earthy Merlot is not quite as explosive as it was in its youth (4/15 - 97 points), but it is now a more mature and nuanced wine, effectively balancing New World with Old. Bright cherry in color; medium in body; nose of black cherry, graphite, fresh herbs, and white flowers. Tastes of boysenberry, leather, rosemary, and baking spices, with a fresh and layered finish that has some dusty tannins. Blend of 95.8% Merlot and 4.2% Cabernet Franc. 14.6% alcohol. Decant at least an hour. 95+.

Although some Merlots get more plummy with age, this has become more chiseled and savory. Tonight it edged out another Old World leaning Napa Merlot, a 2012 Kapcsandy's Robert Reserve, which was also crafted by the late (great) Dennis Malbec. The Blankiet had more brightness and elegance, perhaps due to the vineyard's higher elevation compared to State Lane's valley location (though both are in Yountville). I'd drink both sooner rather than later (especially if you like fruit), but each has the structure to mature. Both wines had plenty of life, class, and depth.
  • msuwright commented:

    4/7/20, 3:58 PM - Hi MJP - Ha, I was on that Zoom thing, too! It was kind of fun, though I wish we had gotten to hear more from Biagi (and Touquette). Hard to go wrong with the Keyes, which is another one of my favorite Napa Merlots (if only these were cheaper!).

    Anyway, the Roberta's is 100% Merlot, so maybe the Cab Franc gave the Blankiet a little more energy. My general sense is that Kapcsandy aims a little more Old World than Blankiet, but who knows. Thanks for the comment, and see you around (on Zoom!?).

Red
2015 Michel Rolland Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
4/2/2020 - Mark1npt Likes this wine:
96 points
First bottle of this '15...had a '12 a few weeks ago and really loved the winemaking. Pure class.....

This bottle has an enormously Napa nose right on opening and for 1-2 hours in. Gentle rose petals, pencil shavings and a certain spice/herb quality. NOTHING is overbearing in any way. If you close your eyes and sniff, you'd swear you were sitting on a veranda somewhere in Napa sipping this wine. Beautiful. One hour in, the fruit hits its stride.....a mix of red/black fruit, it's soft, it's silky, it's feminine. It has a superb front palate, mid and ending in the mouth. It is supported by a nice bead of refined acidity throughout and powdery tannins that are neither in the forefront, nor too integrated. In other words there is really nice balance to this wine. This is one classy bottle. HMC and I immediately ordered more online before calling it an afternoon.......at 3-4 hours in the fruit becomes just a tad thinner/redder, the body a tad lighter and the nose a little less present.
  • msuwright commented:

    4/2/20, 9:44 PM - Hi Mark - Thanks for the great note. I bought this wine from the same place you did. I haven't opened it yet, but I was curious how you thought it compared to Realm's wines. I think Rolland still consults there (or at least he used to, among many other wineries), and I was curious if this had a similar plushness, or a more restrained style, or something completely different. Just curious what you think - thanks again for the note!

Red
2015 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon La Verdad Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard Napa Valley
Nose: Lots of ripe, deep red fruits, some milk chocolate/vanilla, deep earth with brooding undergrowth and some dark silvery minerals.

Palate: Great blend of dark red and purple fruits with rich earth with bitter, black mulch up front. A clean lacing of oak, a nice firm spice and bright bitter river rocks throughout. The finish has a little bit of dark pencil lead and a little bit of heavily steeped tea.

Attributes: Dark ruby with some purpling. Dry with medium amounts of smooth, chewy tannin. Full body with light-plus acidity (if there's more, it's really well hidden). Good finish of about 18-20 seconds.

Thoughts: Very similar to last time, not much has changed. Was slightly bright and almost closed at the beginning but I have a feeling it might've been the cooler temperature. There is also just a tad bit of heat on the finish. Just as enjoyable as last time.

Other notes: No decant, time in glass only. Bordeaux glass. Served initially ~57° then ~67° (something to note here, the nose was initially closed but at ~64° it opened up) and consumed over 2 hours.
  • msuwright commented:

    3/28/20, 11:05 PM - Nice note, Wombat! I just realized I only have one of these left, so I have to figure out when to open it. The 2015 Carters were so good young, but the (light) acidity makes me think they may not be decade-long wines.

    I completely agree about the steeped tea and pencil lead notes, which I get from Carter LPV, too. Good advice on the temperature. Even in the era of social distancing, I can say: thanks, and cheers!

Red
2017 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The O.G. Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
3/26/2020 - Mark1npt Likes this wine:
97 points
Surprising. Had the '16 a while back and graded it at 98 if memory serves. After having a '17 zin the other night that tasted like my dad's ash tray, this is beyond beautiful. Sweet fruit, great acidity/tannins and balance, this was indeed the WOTN. Beautiful nose, great weight, awesome structure. Mike Smith took a crummy '17 crop and made a great wine out of it. Thank you, Mike!
  • msuwright commented:

    3/26/20, 11:13 PM - Hi Mark - Thanks for the great note! I don't believe in many things, but I do believe in the OG. Here's to sorting through the good and bad of the vintage - I'll need to open one of these soon. Stay safe my friend - from CA to FL, these are strange times.

Red
2014 Hundred Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon The Ark Vineyard Napa Valley
3/20/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This is my second Hundred Acre Cabernet, and I must say... I don't get it. This is rich and polished, especially for such a big wine, but there are a lot of rich and polished wines in Napa, most of which don't price themselves into the $400+ territory. Despite my best efforts, I've enjoyed, even loved, wines in this price bracket (e.g., Harlan, Tusk, Absurd, Lokoya), but these wines seemed to offer something unique, in terms of class, depth, intensity, or site. At the risk of saying something unpopular, this wine is very expensive - but not very distinctive.

Cherry red in color and medium in body (2% milk), the wine offers aromas of boysenberry, mulberry, gravel, and dried herbs. The flavors are well-balanced, with notes of blackberry, sour cherry, cocoa powder, and fresh leather, with a lingering and layered finish that has an appealing floral quality (read: light on its feet). 15.5% alcohol. Decant at least an hour.

I enjoyed this wine, but not as much as I had hoped. Like some sort of mediocre Will Ferrel movie, I kept rooting for it to be better than it was - but the punchline was fumbled, and the payoff just wasn't there. I'm docking it a point for the price, but - real talk here - this wine would be destroyed by other 2014 wines that are cheaper... and better (e.g., Tynan, Moonracer, Carter OG, Futo OV). I welcome insights from more experienced followers of the winery - and I do get a kick out of the owner - but I'm a bit underwhelmed by this wine at this moment.
  • msuwright commented:

    3/25/20, 9:56 PM - Thanks for the comments, guys. I sometimes have a hard time staying objective about these crazy expensive wines. On one hand, I want them to be great, to justify the price I paid (like, really, it's absurd) or the hype they received (I like to think winery reputations aren't random, even if they might be) or the thrill of opening a rare bottle (the hunt must have been worth it!).

    At the same time, I find it harder to forgive any shortcomings, even if whatever issue might be something entirely within my control (e.g., decant time, bottle age) or random (e.g., provenance, vintage) or a product of my irrationally high expectations (i.e., this was supposed to be perfect!). The price does - and should - raise expectations.

    Anyway, I can plainly see this being special for some people, and - when it comes to wine - I truly believe to each his own (within reason: bad and expensive wines do exist). Life is too short, and wine is too subjective, to decry what makes someone happy, especially when my only question is whether the wine is good or great. Tell the truth, as best as we can tell it, and enjoy the conversation along the way. Cheers!

Red
2013 Hartwell Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Premiere Napa Valley Distinction Stags Leap District
3/15/2020 - msuwright wrote:
97 points
This rich and layered Cabernet is among the best wines that Benoit made in the 2013 vintage - and he absolutely destroyed the 2013 vintage. I loved the 2013 Fait-Main LPV, the Hartwell T5, and most of the Realm lineup, but this is, at the moment, the best I've tasted. To make such a rich, tense, round, and complex wine is a thing to behold (and taste!).

Cherry black in color and full in body, this wine offers soft and inviting aromas of boysenberry, graphite, bay leaf, and mocha. Boisterous and integrated tastes of black cherry, blueberry tart, graphite, ground espresso, and every kind of chocolate you can imagine (e.g., dark, milk, semi-sweet, baking). Decant at least two hours. The density here should last another 3-5 years, but it’s insanely delicious right now. 14.1% alcohol.
  • msuwright commented:

    3/16/20, 7:19 AM - Thanks for the heads up. I think that 2013 is actually the only vintage of Kata I haven't tried. I will need to remedy that oversight forthwith!

  • msuwright commented:

    3/16/20, 11:46 AM - I bought it on Winebid, but it was part of Premiere Napa Valley, where wineries create special lots for auction. I think this was one of 60 bottles, so it definitely had a unicorn quality to it. I think the Hartwell T5, though, is fairly close to this wine (in terms of style and site). I think that's still on their website.

White
2011 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains
3/4/2020 - msuwright wrote:
flawed
I bought this on the recommendation of a sommelier who said it was drinking well right now, and... I think this is just a flawed bottle. (I bought it direct from the winery about a month ago, but I’ve got enough comments below to make me think this is flawed, perhaps heat damaged.) No number, but here are my comments, for what they’re worth.



This wine is more intriguing than tasty, but it’s an interesting experiment, I guess (if it hadn’t involved actually spending my own money - definitely). Despite the reputation of this wine’s ability to age, we all have a prime - and this nine-year old Chardonnay has past it. You may enjoy this if you are a fan of the more oxidized approach to Chardonnay (such as Marcassin and Kongsgaard, which offer more nuts and less fruit), but I am not one of them.

Bright yellow, almost golden in color; full in body with a nuttiness that would be stultifying if not for the zip of acidity at the finish; somewhat muted nose of pear, toasted almond, and caramel apple. Tastes of lemon curd, vanilla bean, baked banana, and dried mango, with a creamy finish that has just enough lift to let you know the wine isn’t dead yet (though, I think, it is dying). 14.5% alcohol. I bought this hoping for a sense of mystery; instead, I got a taste of mortality. Drink now.
  • msuwright commented:

    3/5/20, 2:09 PM - Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Yeah, I would usually think the same thing about heat damage, but I bought this about a month ago direct from the winery, which is about 20 miles away from where I live. It shipped in good weather, and I let it rest in the wine refrigerator for a few weeks. I'm going to try my other bottle in a few months, so I'll report back if that one tastes any different.

  • msuwright commented:

    3/7/20, 4:57 PM - Thanks, oldwines - I just switched the note to NR based on it being flawed. I’ve thankfully got another bottle, so hopefully this was the only unlucky one!

Red
2017 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium Oakville
3/4/2020 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
A story, followed by a note. Spoiler alert: this is a fantastic wine.

First the story: I wouldn’t have opened this wine, but it happened kind of by accident. I was unpacking my shipments this morning, and I picked up three bottles of the .375 Materiums. (Note to self: you can hold two of these half-bottles, but not three.) Anyway, tragedy (or at least first-first-world tragedy) struck: I dropped one of them, and it smashed. Red fluid running on concrete, me scrambling for the paper towel… but the only thing I could think was: my garage has never smelled better. Yes, I know this is some vinous equivalent of crying over split milk, but I realized I needed to try this wine soon.

And, by soon, I meant today…

This wine is fantastic. It's just as thick, juicy, and nuanced as the best of TRB wines (and I think the Materium is regularly one of the best, especially in the early going), and - 2017 or not - it is absolutely delicious. Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers rich and warm aromas of blueberry, mulberry, mocha, menthol, and baking spices. The tastes are as thick as the aromas, with notes of blackberry, milk chocolate, espresso, and anise, with a creamy and lifted finish. True to its vintage, this is more red-toned, but it so, so full - but with a depth that is more beautiful than feigned. 14.8% alcohol. Decant at least an hour, if not two.

Enemies of extraction, ripeness, winemaker magic, Napa, America… should not (and assuredly will not) buy this wine. This one is for the red-blooded domestic wine-drinker (which means everyone in the U.S., but - anyway - you know what I mean) - i.e., it's great, but not for everyone. 96+ for now, with no idea which way it goes - but it’s awesome now.
  • msuwright commented:

    3/5/20, 3:20 PM - Thanks for the sympathies, guys! It really is a distinct sound - there's that clink when it hits the ground, some hope, then the shattering that tells you get out the paper towel.

    Hi Wubai - Glad to hear you're off the waiting list. The .375s are so tempting, and so good, that they never last long. The Maybach wines (Materium in particular) are some of my favorites of the wines that TRB makes (and he makes more than a few good ones!). Here's to breakage-free drinking!

  • msuwright commented:

    3/6/20, 6:52 PM - Hi guys - thanks all for the condolences. The Moses thing is hilarious - I had completely forgotten that. I should have known CellarTracker would be a place (perhaps one of the only ones!) where this kind of thing would yield sympathy.

    In terms of decanting, I'd recommend maybe 30 minutes. I thought it tasted pretty good right away (and it definitely smelled that way when I broke it - not a recommended method!). I do think the 2017s may be a little more variable, so this advice may not fit in a few months, but a quick decant worked for me a few nights ago.

    Look forward to hearing what you guys think. I hope I didn't steer anyone wrong, but this was a pleasant surprise.

Red
2012 Ovid Red Wine Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
1/25/2019 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
This rich and integrated Cabernet has incredible depth and polish at this moment - it's expensive, but my is it good. Dark red in color and medium in body, the wine offers compelling aromas of fresh cherry, crushed rock, cocoa powder, and baking spices. Tastes of blueberry, boysenberry, graphite, dark chocolate, and bay leaves, with an integrated and lingering finish. Blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot. 14.8% alcohol. Give this at least an hour of air, if not more. This has the balance and intensity to continue improving for a few more years at least. I loved it.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/28/19, 8:39 PM - Hi sfwinelover1 - Yes, I gave this about an hour, but it probably could have used another hour. If I recall correctly, this had more reticence than many valley-floor 2012s at the moment (which makes sense for a Pritchard Hill wine, I guess). Look forward to hearing what you think!

  • msuwright commented:

    2/29/20, 10:13 PM - Hi SF - I saw your reviews of this wine the other night; it truly is special. I opened it a few nights ago, and, without apology, it blew away a Mithra 2012 (Mt. Veeder) - it has improved in the year since I tasted it last. Really glad you enjoyed it!

White
2015 Legacy Chardonnay Alexander Valley
2/25/2020 - sfwinelover1 Likes this wine:
93 points
Recent auction purchase of a lot of this and the '15 Legacy cab for $80, spurred by the excellent reviews on CT (thank you, you three!) On the nose, moderate notes of apricots, pears, pineapple and sweet citrus, with consistent notes in 1 oz taste. Opened for 30-45 minutes, and secondary notes of salted caramel peanuts, lemon rind, and light and welcoming notes of oak and vanilla. Almost silvery in color, medium bodied, light to medium legs. Medium to high acidity, light to moderate persistence, moderately complex, no heat. This wine is immaculately balanced, well-structured and was super food-friendly with seared salmon. This wine has a wonderful saline and savory quality, which would have led me to believe it came from a Fort Ross vineyard (it didn't; so much for the somm exam). At what I paid for it--considering its price vis-à-vis the cab, probably about $35--it's not just a terrific value, but a terrific wine, yet at the risk of seeming curmudgeonly, I hoped for just a bit more vibrant fruit and persistence. This wine doesn't so much remind me of the Aubert Hyde or the PMs I've had as the Ramey SVDs, maybe the Aubert UV-SL (the one I had from '13, at least), a really good standard to be sure, but I'd add a couple of points for a little more richness. Good acidity should keep this drinking well for at least a few more years. 93+
  • msuwright commented:

    2/27/20, 11:33 AM - Hi SF - Thanks for the note, and glad you enjoyed the wine (for which you got a very good price, by the way). I thought it was best two years ago, since it seemed a bit more condensed and faded when I had it last summer.

    Anyway, great note, and never fear being curmudgeonly - I always find the critical / everything-is-not-awesome reviews to be the most informative!

Red
2014 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Custom Block A Napa Valley
2/21/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This is more soft and savory than the estate wine, but it is still powerful and complex, especially after a few hours of air. Dark red in color; medium in body; enticing aromas of graphite, black cherry, spice box, and warm rosemary. Tastes of boysenberry, blueberry tart, leather, peppercorn, and gravel, with a lingering finish that is a pleasant mixture of sweet fruit and grainy tannin. 14.6% alcohol. Decant at least two hours.

This is more expressive than the bottle I opened about six months ago, but it still seems more reticent and red-fruit driven than the general estate wine. (The Block A kind of reminded me of a 2014 Larkmead Solari - earthy, dense, classy, needing of time, but ripe and pure). My understanding is that Block A sits directly above a reservoir on the property, and it presented a distinct enough profile that they bottled it separately. And distinct - and delicious - it is. This should be even better in 2021 or later. 95 for now, with upside.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/22/20, 9:34 PM - Hi blarmston - That sounds great. I haven't met Mark - we've missed each other the times I've been in Napa - but he seems great over email (and not all of them are!). The story of the label, and the quality of the wine, really make it difficult not to support them.

    The Block A is a different profile, at least to me, so I'll be curious what you think. It still has that Sam Kaplan depth / polish / character, but it's less explosive than the Vangone estate (and, for that matter, the Memento VHR I opened last week, which is from the other side of 29 in Oakville). The Block A was a one-off for their first vintage, but I obviously wouldn't oppose similar projects in the future.

    Good stuff, have fun!

Red
2017 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch Oakville
2/18/2020 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
There is magic in this world - or at least in the early drinking stages of the 2017 vintage in Napa! This is a real-deal, knock-out, delicious, and complex wine. I was not enamored with the Memento Mori 2017 blend when I tasted it three months ago, but I am enamored with this single vineyard; earthy, ripe, layered, it is a spectacular wine - in this or any year.

Dark purple, almost impenetrably black in color and medium in body, the wine's aromas pull you in and give the first real signal that this is special: ranging from the sweet (e.g., black cherry, boysenberry) to the savory (e.g., fresh leather, sautéed mushroom) to the earthy (graphite, cardamon), it's a wine that I could smell all day.

The flavors are still sorting themselves out, but this has a depth I haven't tasted in any other 2017 so far (e.g., Carter, Vice Versa, Realm, Bevan). The flavors aren't as intense as a 2013 or as plush as a 2016, but they are compelling, even if they operate at a slightly higher register (i.e., more red fruit). Tonight, this offered dense notes of blueberry tart, raspberry, gravel, cedar, and anise, with a finish that starts silky but gets more tannic and dusty after two hours of air. Just singing on the second day, with a more muted nose but incredible integration and a more silky finish. 15.3% alcohol.

I'm planning to wait to open another one until 2021 or later, but this wine clearly has the stuffing and structure to improve with age. I have no idea (yet) how this compares to the Crane or LPV selections from 2017, but the VHR is a promising and welcome newcomer to the MM portfolio. 95-96 for now, with upside in a year or two.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/19/20, 8:00 AM - Hi blarmston - Thanks for the comments. Yes, the VHR was the one I hesitated on, too, since Sam's take on LPV and Crane would be difficult to turn down in any vintage. I generally agree with the strategy of saving my pennies for 2018, but sometimes that's easier said than done.

    Anyway, this wine made me question my initial experience with the MM blend, so I've been wondering if I didn't decant it enough back then. If anything, I thought the blend would drink better early. My guess is that the MM blend didn't get enough air, or three months made a difference, or maybe I'll end up preferring the VHR's taste profile (more full, more round) this time around - hard to say.

    I do think the 2017 vintage may just take some time to settle in, with more (or at least different) bumps in the road compared to, say 2015 or 2016. Anyway, such is life, thanks for the comment.

  • msuwright commented:

    2/19/20, 9:39 PM - Yes - it is nice work if you can get it! I don't know how they do their tastings, but I'd hope some single vineyard comparison would be in order. They're so darn expensive to open all at once, but I trust they're different. Look forward to reading about your, um, due diligence (and have fun!).

Red
2015 Blankiet Estate Rive Droite Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
2/5/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This delicate and layered Merlot lacks the intensity of its predecessors, not to mention the Paradise Hills or Prince of Hearts from this vintage. Bright red in color; medium (almost Pinot-like) in body; nose of raspberry, menthol, cardamon, and bay leaf. Tastes of sour cherry, raspberry, straw, and dried pepper, with a grainy and sour finish. Blend of 93% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc. 14.3% alcohol. Followed over several hours with consistent notes, though its was better at the 1-2 hour mark than the 3-4.

When I tasted them last year, I really enjoyed the Paradise Hills and Prince of Hearts from this vintage (and many others), but this strikes me as more pointedly backwards - i.e., the fruit is not a friend, but a problem. Maybe this was the vintage, maybe it was Graeme MacDonald getting a handle on this blend, maybe it was all as intended, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. 92+ at the moment, with no real idea whether it goes up or down from here.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/6/20, 10:25 PM - Hi MJP - Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I was surprised, too, which was why I wanted to write the note. (Even if I like a winery, I think it's best to be honest when they fall short.) The Rive Droite has historically been one of my favorite Merlots in the Valley, so I was surprised the 2015 came across as so delicate (especially when the Paradise Hills and Prince of Hearts from that vintage - one I generally really liked - were so good).

    Oh well, not sure what to think, but I'm not obviously giving up on the label. I'll try my other 2015 Rive Droite in a year or two, and maybe by then what was straightforward will become ethereal, or elegant, or something like that. The 2016 version of this wine was fantastic, in my mind, so hopefully only good things are coming. Thanks again for the comment.

  • msuwright commented:

    2/17/20, 11:14 AM - Hi MJP - Sorry for the late reply here. I was not the fence for a while, but I decided to sit out the 2017 vintage at Blankiet. Where I haven't enjoyed MacDonald's Blankiet wines, it's been because there were too wispy and tight for me (2015 Rive Droite, 2016 Prince of Hearts). I've enjoyed most of the other Blankiet wines he's done, but there's definitely a dialing back going on in terms of ripeness.

    Given that the 2017 vintage is on the lighter side anyway, I'm guessing - and it is just a guess - that this would magnify the issue (at least for my palate). Anyway, it probably also makes sense to save my pennies for the 2018 vintage, where I'm hoping Blankiet (and many others) will really shine.

White
2016 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Far Coast Vineyard Sonoma Coast
2/6/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This creamy but lively Chardonnay needs another six months, but it's a tasty and reasonably priced wine. Light yellow in color; full in body; nose of lemon meringue, brioche, vanilla bean, and golden delicious apple. Tastes of orange marmalade, grapefruit, and toasted almonds, with a punchy and layered finish. 14.5% alcohol.

This was noticeably better than a Hartford RRV Chardonnay (Jennifer's) tasted at the same time. The Far Coast had more energy to cut through the oaky and ripe profile that Hartford wines seem to offer. This still doesn't have the tension or precision of my favorite CA producers (e.g., Aubert, Morlet, Maxem) or the more-dialed-in-yet-modern producers (e.g., Kistler). This is decent, but not that exciting. 92-93 for now.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/17/20, 11:07 AM - Thanks for this comment, too, srh. I always try to show my cards a bit about which producers I really like, since it can be a helpful signal if folks have had those wines. If they hate Aubert, for example, they may love a wine I don't (and vice versa). Anyway, thanks again.

White
2016 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Jennifer's Russian River Valley
2/6/2020 - msuwright wrote:
89 points
This tropical and buttery Chardonnay may need some more time in bottle, but it seems a bit blowsy at the moment. Golden yellow in color; full in body; nose of cantaloupe, brioche, almond, and beeswax. Tastes of lemon marmalade, vanilla bean, guava, and gooseberry, with a creamy and thick finish. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least an hour.

I've tried enough Hartford wines to know that they probably weren't made for me (the horror!), but I'm wondering if the issue is more their RRV wines (like this one) than their true coast sites (like the Far Coast I tasted at the same time). I like a good amount of ripeness and oak, but this RRV wine just seemed like too much for me. The Far Coast, though, had more tension to make the richness more enjoyable. As for this wine, it just wasn't for me.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/17/20, 11:05 AM - Thanks, srh. There's a saying that a politician never learns anything until they lose an election. Translated to the wine world, I often think negative reviews (as long as they are detailed enough) can be more helpful than positive ones. I know a lot of people like Hartford, though, so to each his own. Thanks again.

Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Le Petit Vice Napa Valley
2/11/2020 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
I know, I know...on the face of it, this rating for VV's entry level cab seems absurd. But this weekend proved to me this wine is showing better than most anything I've ever tasted at this price point. Quick summary: had a double blind tasting where the entrants were 16 Bulgheroni Crane, 16 Carter Verdad, 16 B Cellars To Kalon, 13 Dominus and I threw in this much less expensive wine to make things interesting. I've done that many times before, and generally it is very obvious which is the lesser specimen. Well damn if this wine didn't WIN the tasting EASILY. With 6 people all experienced tasters, this had four #1 votes and two #2.

Now, as a caveat, all the wines received about 3 hours of slow ox, but that was it. Over the few hours we sat with them, and after the initial blind, many of the more expensive wines started to pull even or ahead in a couple cases, but bottom line is this is just a spectacular value.

TN: Blueberries, violets, crushed stone and mineral driven notes dominate a terrific pure nose. Rich, powerful and fruit forward but not overdone on the palate, this show seamless integration of fine grained tannins and wonderfully pure and layered fruit. Tons of mineral driven flavors. Doesn't back down at all through the mid palate and even picks up a bit of weight, but with exceptional balance. Finishes medium length and spicy.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/11/20, 10:33 PM - Great note, Cristal2000! I applaud the lack of hesitation to score a second wine this high. You obviously did your homework during the blind tasting (fun homework!), so it's not even a cost thing. Still, I do think QPR should affect scores somehow - I mean, this cost half, if not a third, of many of the other wines in your tasting. I know it's not a math equation, but a fantastic wine at $70 is a more exciting find, to me, than a fantastic wine at $225.

    More broadly, I also think it's important not to accept the winery's quality (and pricing) hierarchy, especially when the price differentials are so high. Yes, a single vineyard LPV or Crane or BTK probably costs more to produce (and definitely costs more to buy) - but that doesn't mean it tastes better (especially in the early going?). I think wine reviewers are too polite sometimes in low-balling the second wine, as opposed to just tasting it on its own.

    Anyway, long way of saying - thanks for the great note! I'll have to open another one of these soon.

Red
2015 Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon Del Rio Alexander Valley
2/7/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and juicy Cabernet its absolutely delicious - and easily the best Cabernet I’ve had from Alexander Valley. Dark purple in color; full in body; nose of blueberry, sour cherry, menthol, and gravel. Tastes of boysenberry, dark chocolate, graphite, and espresso, with a silky and full finish (with fewer leathery and spicy notes than many Alexander Valley reds, which often seem too dry and rustic for me). 14.8% alcohol. 94+ for now, with upside in another year or two. A decent value at about $85, this is a wine I'll seek out again.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/8/20, 9:07 AM - Hi Winelover - I ordered the 2015 from Golden Gate Wine Cellars in SF - I think they ship, but not completely sure. I actually ordered the 2016 direct from the winery, so now I've got to figure out whether to open one of those anytime soon. Decisions! Anyway, look forward to hearing what you think.

White
2017 Krupp Brothers Estates Chardonnay Napa Valley
2/3/2020 - msuwright wrote:
86 points
I am a fan of modern - even indulgent - Chardonnay, but this veers well over the line into oncoming traffic. Blowsy and creamy, this wine offers a firehose of fruit, wood, and alcohol (15.7%), with only a hint of acidity and a complete absence of nuance. I usually defend CA Chardonnay against its detractors, but here the shoe fits; like some kind of bad post-post-modern art exhibit, this oaky concoction is more of a spectacle than a wine.

Golden yellow in color and full in body (like whole milk full), this wine offers aromas of lemon meringue, buttered popcorn, and toasted almond. Tastes of orange marmalade, caramel corn, vanilla extract, and candied pear, with a sweet and toasty finish. (I've had dessert wines with lighter mouthfeel and more energy.) It became less brutish with air, but maybe wait another year and hope for the best.

This came highly recommended from LPB at WA (96?!), previous home of RP's railing against the anti-flavor wine elite. I am generally sympathetic to this view (i.e., I like my wine with flavor and intensity), but too much is too much... and this wine is too much. My favorite Chardonnay producers harness the beast by offering ripeness with tension and acidity (e.g., Aubert, Morlet), but this wine just lets the beast loose - and the results aren't pretty.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/4/20, 12:23 PM - Hi Wombat - Glad you liked the review. I thought this wine was a mess, but maybe others will enjoy it.

    I think Aubert and Morlet make similar profiles (ripe, oak, tension), with the Auberts being more dense and the Morlet's a little broader. Aubert makes some appellation-level wines, but his single vineyards are really where it's at (e.g., Lauren or Eastside being my favorites). You'll see some folks prefer to age Auberts, but I'm not one of them; I think the 2016s and 2017s are great right now.

    In terms of purchasing, each sells mostly direct from the winery, with some form of waiting list. If you can get an appointment, either is worth visiting, though. For my palate, these are the best CA Chardonnays out there, but obviously results may vary! Look forward to hearing what you think.

  • msuwright commented:

    2/4/20, 12:38 PM - Yeah, sorry I wasn't clearer. I meant broader in mouthfeel, less coiled and tight, more open-knit. There's still plenty of acidity, but the Morlet's are less likely to be mouth-puckering. Again, I think Morlet and Aubert are more similar than different in style, just a small difference when I think about the two producers.

Red
2012 Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
2/2/2020 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This rich and juicy Oakville Cabernet needed at least two hours to open up, but it never became an exciting wine - tasty, yes, but kind of forgettable, something that is difficult to forgive at the $150+ price point. This Cabernet reflects the ripeness of the 2012 vintage, but it lacks the complexity, density, or nuance of wines from its neighboring vineyards on the eastern hills of Oakville. With this as my first Gallica, I'm not sure if there will be a second.

Dark purple in color; medium in body; nose of crushed blueberries, black cherry, menthol, and fresh spices. Tastes of boysenberry, cranberry relish, graphite, and leather, with a grainy and prickly finish. Blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least two hours, since it becomes less monolithic with air.

To state the obvious, there's a lot of fantastic Oakville wine at the $150-200 price point. Even excluding To Kalon, there's Vangone, Carter's Weitz, Maybach's Weitz (a/k/a Materium), Futo, VHR. None of these wines are cheap, but each of them is distinctive. Despite the price (and the impressive ratings from AG and JS), I have my doubts if Gallica belongs in such lofty company. In a word: meh.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/3/20, 12:14 PM - Hi blarmston - Sorry to drop such an unenthusiastic review! I bought this on a lark, since I'd never tried a Gallica and they kept getting great scores. (Yes, confession: I scan reviews to see if there are highly-rated producers I've never tried, but numerical ratings are evil or something.)

    Anyway, I really do look forward to hearing about your visit. I had really high hopes for this wine because of the vintage, but maybe I just hit it at the wrong time (or maybe these have gotten better since 2012). Have fun!

Red
2015 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The Grand Daddy Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
1/31/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and extracted wine isn't quite as delicious as it was 16 months ago (9/18 - 96 points). A joyride of a wine, it's a bit bumpy and excessive at times, but drinking it is an enjoyable and intriguing experience. I noticed the oak more this time around, with a more chalky and woodsy profile than I remember, but this could just be a phase where the fruit is folding into the rest of the wine.

Garnet in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of black cherry, menthol, fresh cedar, and mulberry, with less florality and expressiveness than in fall of 2018. Powerful but somewhat unruly tastes of boysenberry, macerated blueberries, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and black licorice, with a dusty and sweet finish that carries coarse tannins. 14.9% alcohol. Decant at least two hours, if not longer.

This wine suffered tonight in comparison to a 2015 Memento Mori, which had similar power but far more class and integration. You would think the BTK would be more delicate and nuanced than the blend (Crane, LPV, Oakville Ranch, and Weitz), but the opposite was the case. The Carter came across as the less polished colleague who speaks before he thinks, letting it all hang out - for better, for worse, though mostly for the good. 94+ for now, but I'd guess it will settle down (and rise again) in 2021 or later.
  • msuwright commented:

    2/1/20, 12:45 PM - Yeah, I was surprised, too. I was all ready to chalk up the Carter's chunkiness to the current state of the 2015 vintage (great early, little bumpy now, should integrate more in another few years), and then the Memento kind of blew up that theory.

    It's funny because the Memento (which, to be fair, is still about $50 more) was less convincing in the 2017-2018 time frame, when the Carter was really rocking. I do think Smith's wines tend to be more juicy and extracted than Kaplan's, but who knows. So many vineyards, so many variables...

Red
2017 Patria Cabernet Sauvignon A. Price Vineyard St. Helena
1/31/2020 - MAXIMUM SATISFACTION wrote:
88 points
Same note as before with this is overly roasted and burnt. Not appealing to me. Not sure the deal here as it’s unlike the fruit 16 and very different from other high end 17’s from other producers I’ve had.
  • msuwright commented:

    1/31/20, 10:14 PM - Thanks for the review here - I often thing negative reviews are more helpful than positive ones (or maybe that's just my wallet talking). I liked the 2016s enough, and I was tempted to buy after AG's generally positive reviews - but you've convinced me otherwise. On behalf of my kids' college fund, thank you!

Red
2016 Selah Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
1/29/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and round wine is drinking incredibly well for a young Howell Mountain Cabernet, though this clearly has TRB's fingerprints all over it (in a good way) - incredible fruit, silky package, oh so tasty. More full than an O'Shaughnessy and more polished than a La Jota, this actually reminded me a bit of Revana, except that this has a darker, deeper profile befitting a mountain estate. A big hat tip here to Mark1npt: this is delicious wine - and a real value.

Inky purple, almost black in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of crushed blueberry, dark chocolate, and graphite. Luscious tastes of boysenberry, cherry pie, milk chocolate, and gravel, with a silky finish that conceals its tannins. 14.6% alcohol. I completely agree with jenmermaidia that this needs 1-2 hours of air, since decanting makes it less monolithic and more expressive of that unique Howell Mountain character (read: crisp acidity, burly tannin, bright red fruit). That said, its primary virtue right now is plush, layered, delicious fruit. 94+ for now, with upside in 2021 or later.
  • msuwright commented:

    1/30/20, 5:31 PM - Ha! I would love to say CT has saved me money, but I think the opposite is true.

    It's strange to call a $110 wine a "value," but I guess it applies in the relative sense. This is a polished, interesting wine. Look forward to hearing what you think!

Red
2016 Checkerboard Vineyards Impetuous Calistoga Red Bordeaux Blend
1/28/2020 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
93 points
This wine is hitting way above its price point. If I had this blind, I would expect it to be in the $150+ range. Cassis fruit, black licorice, black cherry, lots of gorgeous violets and forest floor highlight a wonderfully fragrant nose. On the palate, this has really impressive depth of flavor and concentration, especially for a second wine. Some new oak that needs to integrate, but otherwise lovely and powerful blue and red fruit gives way to stark mineral driven flavors and great earthy elements. While not quite as layered and you might get from the SVD's, this still shows super fine and sweet tannins, exceptional mouthfeel and wonderful overall balance. The finish is long and pure. I could drink this wine all day long and be quite happy. Guessing this will stay excellent for 5-7 years at least, perhaps more.
  • msuwright commented:

    1/29/20, 5:27 PM - Hi Cristal2000 - Thanks for the note. I completely agree with you about the second wines in 2016; rising tide lifts all boats, etc. I picked up a bottle of this from ACME, but I haven't opened it yet.

    Is this a 2016 you'd recommend opening now? It sounds like yes, but I'm curious if you think this needs any time. Thanks again for the note.

Red
2010 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Harbison Vineyard Oakville
1/17/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This rich and plummy wine is drinking well right now, but it still tastes a bit shallow and imprecise, even after a good dose of air. I admittedly enjoy Russel’s wines on the younger side, but I've also enjoyed my fair share of his wines at the 8-10 year mark. This, I'm sad to say, is not among my favorites.

Brick in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of blueberry, raisin, and herbs. Tastes of black cherry, cocoa powder, cardamon, and graphite, with a grippy and disjointed finish. Followed over five hours with consistent notes. 14.2% alcohol.

For what it's worth, this got destroyed by a 2010 Bond Matriarch, which I drank on the same night. The Bevan was more rich, but the Bond had more energy and depth, not to mention precision (i.e., not dominated by plum). It's like the difference between good speakers and bad: the Bevan isn't a disaster (you still hear the music), but it seems muffled compared to the (cheaper!) Bond.
  • msuwright commented:

    1/18/20, 9:17 PM - Ha! Yes, whenever I use the word "plum," it's almost never a compliment. I would've thought this might have been a bad bottle, but I bought this direct from the winery a few months ago in one of their "I found this" sales. My theory is that this has just collapsed a bit on itself, but maybe my other bottle will be better (though I'm not holding my breath).

Red
2016 Teeter-Totter Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
12/30/2019 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This is more juicy and less rustic than previous Teeter-Totter wines - all in a good way, if you ask me. Dark purple in color; medium in body; nose of plum, cardamon, and graphite. Tastes of boysenberry, blueberry tart, peppercorn, and gravel, with an earthy and tannic finish. Blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remaining portions of Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. 14.1% alcohol.

This is a solid entry in a bleak portion of the market (read: there isn't a lot of impressive Napa Cabernet in the $50-75 price point). Within the 2016 vintage, a few comparative thoughts: the Teeter-Totter lacks the purity and depth of Di Costanzo's DI CO, and it doesn't have the polish of Vice Versa's Le Petit Vice. If anything, it tastes like a more lean, shallow, and funky version of Kata's Ghost Dog (read: if you want rustic Benoit, go there first). Still, it's easily the best Teeter-Totter I've tasted to date. 92-93 at the moment, and it could grow into something quite tasty in another 12-18 months.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/31/19, 12:03 PM - Hi wineotim - Thanks for the comment, and sorry if my note wasn't clear; I just revised it to clarify that the other two wines (DI CO and Le Petit Vice) were made by others (Di Costanzo and Melka, respectively). The Kata Ghost Dog is made by Benoit, though, and I think it's a real step up - just more polish and depth. Thanks again for the comment.

  • msuwright commented:

    12/31/19, 10:39 PM - I haven't had a CJ in a while, but I liked them when I did. I'll keep my eye out. Thanks again.

Red
2015 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
12/29/2019 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This dark and brooding wine currently tastes too savory and rustic to be that impressive, at least to me. I opened this one too early, since it probably needs another few years in the bottle and may have entered a closed down phase, as have many 2015s. Still, this is my second Colgin where I've been left scratching my head: these wines are supposed to be incredible (and should be given the price point), but this bottle didn't taste that incredible, at least not tonight.

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of charcoal, peppercorn, boysenberry, and rosemary. The tastes are dense but tightly coiled, with notes of blackberry, pencil lead, espresso, and ground asphalt, followed by a tannic and briary finish that softens, a bit, after a few hours of air. (If drinking now, give it at least three hours, if not more.) There is a ripe mountain intensity here, but it needs another 2-3 years to outgrow its current grumpiness. Blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, and 7% Petit Verdot. 15.1% alcohol. 93+ as of now, with near certain upside in 2022 or later.

P.S. Similar to my experience with Ridge Monte Bello, I'm genuinely surprised that I haven't enjoyed the Colgin wines more. I love the 2015 wines from Colgin's neighbors on Pritchard Hill - including Ovid, Nine Suns, and Continuum - and I enjoy other mountain wines, even in the early going (e.g., La Jota, Arkenstone, Mt. Brave, Adamvs). When it comes to Colgin, though, I've yet to find a wine that lives up to the winery's reputation (or price). More research needed, I guess...
  • msuwright commented:

    12/30/19, 10:53 PM - Thanks, LiteItOnFire - I really appreciate the advice. I had the sense that I opened it too early (a mistake I make often!). I usually can handle a mouthful of fruit and tannin, but this one just seemed less interesting than other young mountain wines I’ve tasted, even from Pritchard Hill. I’ll keep your time frame in mind, though, for my other bottle.

    Truth be told, I haven’t had an Opus in several years, so I don’t have much wisdom to add on that front. I did enjoy the 2015s - a lot - in the early going, with some incredible valley wines (Carter, Vangone, Maybach, Revana) and more than a few from the mountains as well (Ovid, Adamvs, Continuum). I’ll chalk this one up to bad timing - opening too early or just catching it at an awkward time. Thanks again!

  • msuwright commented:

    12/31/19, 8:28 AM - Agree with you on Opus. I do think the 2015s may be in a funny phase right now, but I appreciate your point on Colgin. Patience is sometimes a necessity. Thanks again!

Red
2015 Realm Cellars The Bard Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
Nose: Dark and ripe red fruit (but light) like strawberries, black plums, currants (more black than red), dark chocolate and some raisins.

Palate: Has similar notes of plums and raisins from the nose with the addition of some oak on the finish followed by bitter minerals.

Dark ruby color with a slight purpling. Dry with medium-minus amounts of fine, smooth tannin. Medium-plus body with medium acidity (well hidden). Good finish of ~20 seconds. This might just be my bottle or it might be going into some phase, but this was dominated with nothing but plums and raisins. I am so bummed out right now. I'm still unfamiliar with what linear means when it comes to wine but I imagine this is what it's like.. nothing else was really going on (this has to be just my bottle). I struggled to finish this.. was hoping it would get better with time but nope, same plums and raisins (and flat). There's no energy to this on the palate; kinda dead. Probably fair to not rate this.. but if I were to give it a score, 84-85.

Other notes: No decant, time in glass only. Bordeaux glass. Served ~57° (eventually came to ~64°) and consumed within 2 hours.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/29/19, 9:55 PM - Hi Wombat - Great note, thanks for posting. I think this is a hard wine to figure out, but here are a few thoughts:

    1) Great description of "linear" (a/k/a straightforward, simple, uninteresting); you definitely know what it means.

    2) I completely agree with LiteItOnFire about the trajectory of Realm's Bard. It was great in 2012 and 2013, less so in 2014 and 2015, and who knows going forward. You should obviously watch out for nostalgia and hindsight bias in wine tasting notes (read: your first / earlier experiences often seem like your best), but I think, unfortunately, that the Bard is a wine whose best vintages are behind it.

    3) Do you think the wine was flawed? I usually get overwhelming plum and raisin notes in a wine that's been baked or over-cooked (and not by the winemaker - just after the fact, due to heat exposure in shipping or otherwise). This is a hard question for modern wines, in particular, which intentionally dance the line of ripeness, but it's a question worth asking (and, to your credit, may have been the reason you didn't rate it).

    Anyway, great note - keep it up, love reading them!

Red
2012 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
7/20/2019 - Whisky&Wine Likes this wine:
96 points
I have tried about a dozen of the top tier 2012 cabs from napa, and the memento mori is among my two favorites. It is rich, deep, and lingering, showcasing the fruit, but most of all, it is balanced. Great concentration and not over-extracted or wobbly with fruit overshadowing the nuances and subtleties. It is elegant and silky with secondary aromas of cedar and ash beneath the pretty cab nose. The balance and elegance is what sets it apart from some of the more bombastic cab offerings in the cult space.

Decanted for 5 hours at cellar temp.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/15/19, 8:15 PM - Hi Whisky&Wine - Thanks for the great note - I was curious how this was aging. I absolutely love the 2012 vintage - and this wine - so I was just curious what was the other favorite from 2012 that you mentioned in the note. Inquiring minds want to know, I guess! Thanks again for the note.

  • msuwright commented:

    12/16/19, 5:02 PM - That's a great list - thanks for posting! I've never tried one of the Fairchild wines, but I'm a huge fan of the Piedras vineyard. I'll keep my eye out.

    In terms of the 2012s you're waiting on, the Bond Pluribus is the one that jumped out at me. I've opened a few bottles over the past year or so, and they've been truly exceptional. Thanks again.

White
2016 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Stone Côte Vineyard Sonoma Coast
12/11/2019 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This round and oaky wine is drinking fine right now, but it's a bit too diffuse for my taste. I’m never quite sure what I’ll get with a Hartford - some have been dense and layered, others (like this one) seem more woodsy and creamy. This has plenty of flavor; I just wish it had more nuance and energy.

Light yellow in color; full in body; somewhat muted nose of lemon meringue pie, brioche, and pear. Tastes of cantaloupe, marzipan, and almond, with a brief and oily finish. 14.4% alcohol. 90-91 for now; drink in next year or so. There is a high-octane, but somewhat sloppy, aspect to this wine, something that reminds me somewhat of Martinelli.

P.S. It was probably unfair to drink this at the same time as an Aubert Hyde, but the Hartford was only $20 less, same vintage, high ratings, etc. That said, the Hartford fell short. While the Aubert was precise, the Hartford seemed loose. I know Hartford wines (like this one) tend to be highly regarded, and I’ve had a few good ones - but I’m just not sure what I’m going to get any more.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/12/19, 10:55 AM - Thanks, Mark. I was probably unduly harsh (or descriptive) in my review, so I revised the note after realizing my main issue is the variation - I don’t have a good handle on the Hartford style. Some bottles have been great, some not so much. I think I need to pay closer attention to the vineyards, and maybe it will make sense.

    I’m impressed about the price limit for Chards - that’s a really good idea. (I’m starting to feel that way about Pinot, actually; the marginal cost outweighs the marginal benefit.) I do think the Auberts are special, but I’ve never been a fan of the Kongsgard style (ie, it seems silly to pay so much for a slightly oxidized wine - in other words, you’re not missing anything there). Thanks again for the comments!

Red
2015 Selah Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
8/3/2019 - Mark1npt Likes this wine:
96 points
Deep, dark, dense mountain fruit. Grippy tannins, tobacco, coffee and a hint of blueberry. This is a quality cab, from a quality vineyard and a quality winemaker. This has many, many good years ahead of it. No hurry for those of you holding these.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/11/19, 6:15 PM - Hi Mark - I just stumbled across this set of reviews, and I must say I'm intrigued. How would you say the flavor profile here compares to the La Jota wines?

  • msuwright commented:

    12/11/19, 9:36 PM - Thanks, Mark - you are quite convincing! I just ordered two of the 2016, one of the 2015. I guess $110 is the new $50 (or something), since it seemed affordable in comparison to the rest of the Napa craziness. I've had several of the TRB Howell Mountain projects (e.g., Outpost, Revana), but this one sounds like it might be a good fit.

    As you may know, I'm also a huge fan of Chris Carpenter. I wasn't excited about the price increases with La Jota, either, though I still think it's an incredible wine (even though it's no longer an incredible value). Anyway, here's to Howell Mountain, and new discoveries, and so on. Thanks again!

Red
2015 Trespass Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
12/9/2019 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This rich and concentrated Cabernet reminds me of the first time I tasted a Russ Bevan production: there is so much fruit, so much flavor, but it pulls back the reins just enough to prevent the excess from becoming too much (read: there is acidity, there is tannin, it is not just bottled grape jelly). This wine is a mouthful, but it's a heck of a ride.

Dark red in color and full in body, the wine offers pronounced aromas of black cherry, menthol, red licorice, and milk chocolate. The tastes are similarly round and luscious, with notes of blueberry pie, boysenberry tart, graphite, and vanilla, with a sweet and lingering finish ("hedonistic" would have been the word from Parker back in the day). 15.4% alcohol. Decant at least an hour, if not two. Still going strong on the second day, with a little more plum but also a spicy, mocha undertone.

I have to give the hat tip to #1Winelover, based on his description of this fantastic Napa Cabernet at the $100-ish price point - not an easy thing to find. I understand Kirk Venge consults, but this is less grainy and extracted than many of his efforts - and even more round and plush than a B Cellars. 94-95 for now, with upside in another year or two.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/10/19, 12:23 PM - Thanks for the feedback, guys. I purchased direct from the winery, Wombat - it was relatively easy.

    Yeah, GQG, it was funny that we opened it on the same night. Even if this isn't "elegant," it was pretty seamless (while being crazy rich).

    #1Winelover - I'm curious how the 2016 is different than the 2015. In other words, are all Trespass Cabs this rich, or was this just the vintage?

  • msuwright commented:

    12/10/19, 5:12 PM - Hi Wombat - Glad you're finding this useful! Those are really good questions.

    In terms of vineyards, I'd recommend doing some form of tasting side-by-side. This can be hard to do with some of the fanciest labels, but there are a number of producers that offer tastings of most / all of the Beckstoffer lineup: Carter, Stewart, Alpha Omega, B Cellars, probably others. For me, it was tasting the Piedras, Crane, and To Kalon side-by-side at Stewart a few years ago that really underlined the differences (and, spoiler alert, those three are all great, just in different ways).

    In terms of "baby fat," I agree it's a strange way to describe a liquid (like so many descriptors really - I mean, who drinks pencil lead?). Anyway, I take it to mean a plummy, jammy, sweet quality in a young wine that still has structure (read: acidity and tannin) underneath. There's a wine in there, but it's under a lot of buoyant and creamy fruit (think: fresh blueberry).

    I had issues with a lot of the 2016s because they came across as too jammy in the early going, but I think this will burn off with time in bottle (or decanting). You may want to try a 2016 and a 2015 of the same wine side-by-side, in order to see what you think. It obviously depends on the producer, etc., but my guess is that the 2016 will come across as rounder ("fatter").

    Anyway, I love reading your notes, so keep up the great work (I should probably put "work" in quotations). Cheers!

Red
2015 Caladan Cabernet Franc Napa Valley
12/7/2019 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This elegant and nuanced Cab Franc blend is drinking well right now, but it probably needs another year or two to integrate and blossom. Similar to the Cardinale, this is not a showy wine, but it wins you over with its lovely combination of intensity, subtlety, and freshness. It actually took a few hours of air to reach the level of complexity it showed at the winery, but it got there eventually - and boy was it tasty.

Dark red in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of black cherry, gravel, baked herbs, and fresh-ground pepper. Tastes of boysenberry, leather, graphite, and bay leaf, with a silky and lingering finish that leaves the mouth watering for more (read: acidity). There are still plenty of tannins, though, which need their time to resolve. A little more grippy and plummy on second day. Blend of 76.5% Cabernet Franc and 23.5% Merlot, with grapes mostly from Spring (61.5%) but also from Howell - Keyes (18.5%), Diamond (15%), and Veeder (5%). Give this another few years, and it could be quite special. 94 for now.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/8/19, 10:18 AM - Hi Mark - thanks for the comment. I think the extra year of bottle age helps this one. (Since I received this at the same time as the 2016 wines, I kept thinking it was younger.)

    I also think decanting is a must on this, since it seems kind of simple right after opening. I'm not a huge Cab Franc guy, but this occupies a nice spot on the spectrum - not gamey or peppery, more accessible than the Veeder Cab Franc, more elegant than the La Jota Cab Franc.

    Anyway, will be curious what you think!

Red
2016 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Fay Napa Valley
12/4/2019 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This classy and savory wine probably needs another year or two in order to hit its stride, but it has a compelling polish and intensity at the moment. I haven't had a wine from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in about 10 years, but this is distinct and delicious wine, albeit a touch darker and earthier than your typical Napa Cabernet.

Dark red in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of boysenberry, cocoa beans, wild thyme, and graphite. Tastes of blueberry, milk chocolate, and olive tapenade, with a round and creamy finish that carries fine-grained tannins (more polished than many Stag's Leap wines, though I guess the suppleness is a characteristic of Fay). Blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least an hour.
  • msuwright commented:

    12/4/19, 7:04 PM - Yeah, I think I last had some from the mid-2000s, and they were nothing special. I personally love the origin story of the winery - i.e., former philosophy student driving his family cross-country to start a winery in the late 60s that would win the Paris Tasting a short time later. I know the winery is corporate-owned now, but the story always stuck with me.

    Anyway, I haven't had anything else from Fay Vineyard, but I do think this wine is unique, in the sense that is has a creamy and savory profile I don't often associate with Stag's Leap. Anyway, maybe it's just the vintage, but this wine hit the right notes for me, at least tonight. I'll be curious what you (and anyone else) thinks!

Red
2016 To Kalon Vineyard Co Cabernet Sauvignon Highest Beauty Oakville
11/20/2019 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This dark and plummy Cabernet needs another 6-18 months to shed the baby fat and gain some focus. Right now, it's a mouthful - very ripe fruit, bursting viscosity, and woodsy notes (100% New French Oak). For comparison's sake, this seemed more concentrated and extracted than the Mondavi To Kalon - more forward, less restrained - but it has a lot of promise if it can calm down in the next few years.

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of blueberry pie, black licorice, and baking spices. The tastes are similarly luscious, with notes of plum, cherry liqueur, fresh cedar, and graphite, with a juicy and lingering finish that carries fine-grained tannins. Like many valley-floor 2016s, this just needs time. A little flat on second day. Blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Cabernet Franc, and 0.5% mixed varietals. 14.5% alcohol. 93+ for now, with upside in 2021 or later.
  • msuwright commented:

    11/21/19, 5:26 PM - Hi Sean - It sounds like we have a similar buying habits (read: not good ones). For what it's worth, this is a purchase I kind of regret, since the wine didn't seem terribly unique to me (and it should for the price). I hate when a new wine requires a three-pack, but it's worked out for me more times than not.

    In terms of background, this is the To Kalon project started by Constellation (insert big-bad-company reference here, if that's where you fall on this stuff; I'm all for the little guy, but I won't dismiss a wine just because it's owned by Kendall-Jackson or something). Andy Erickson is the winemaker, and they made about 500 cases of the wine.

    So, it's a solid wine, but I'd like it to be special at the $200 mark. I think there are better Oakville wines in this style and at this price point (e.g., Vangone, Maybach Materium, Schrader). Maybe it will get there, but I'm not sure if I would make that bet (if I had a chance to do it again).

  • msuwright commented:

    11/30/19, 9:41 PM - Sorry for the delay in responding, MJP. Yes, I was disappointed I didn't have the experience you had! I had high hopes for this wine, but the 2016s can be moving targets in the early going - i.e., maybe this just need time.

    In terms of the bottle number, the first bottle is long gone, but my other two are in the 3,500 range (3,561 and 3,540), so I'm guessing that is around where this was. Bottle variation would be a real surprise for such a well-funded operation, but who knows. Here's hoping I enjoy my other bottle mores (albeit in a year or two)!

Red
2014 The Mascot Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
11/13/2019 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and layered Cabernet is drinking impressively right now, with succulent, pure fruit up front and a dusty, tannic structure underneath. It's refreshing; it's delicious; and it's a value ($100) - hard to ask for more! I thought the earlier vintages of the Mascot were a bit raw, but the Bond craftsmanship is present in this wine (along, perhaps, with some Promontory fruit, which gives the wine a refreshing aspect). I wouldn't call this a second wine (that is what the Matriarch and Maiden are for), but it's an intriguing - and tasty - "third" wine for the money.

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of blueberry pie, menthol, black licorice, and pine needles. Tastes of black cherry, blackberry tart, menthol, and graphite, with a lovely finish that is both sweet and structured. 14.8% alcohol. The purity of fruit here is remarkable, with enough tannin and acidity to make it all work - in a polished but unique package. 94+ for now, with upside in another year or two.
  • msuwright commented:

    11/13/19, 9:03 PM - Ha! Yeah, hypothetically speaking, it may have arrived today, spent a few hours in the wine refrigerator, and been opened. So this could be a case of "bottle shock" helping a wine, but I doubt it: this fits with what I know (and love) about the Bond / Harlan portfolio (a place where bargain hunters go to die) - rich, restrained, balanced, classy.

    Even aside from the fancy font, though, this kind of wine helps ease my frustration with several $100-ish wines lately (e.g., Bard). The Mascot isn't cheap, but it's quite good. You're right, too, that the late release schedule gives a bit of a runway here (I will eagerly await the 2015). I'll be curious what you think, whenever you open the wine (at a more prudent time, I hope)!

  • msuwright commented:

    11/13/19, 9:20 PM - Yes, we'll descend into bankruptcy together, but at least the tasting notes will be good! I was thinking earlier today that my own personal combination of (a) lack of impulse control and (b) excess of discretionary income are a wine producers' dream.

    Anyway, on a substantive note, I've gone through the same mix of discovery / guilt regarding the Bond / Harlan / Promontory world. At times I worry if it's just the air of exclusivity / luxury / history that draws you in (and, to be fair, that's the Bordeaux game, too, though they had a few centuries' head start). Still, I think their wines offer a compelling, classy, nuanced middle ground in the world of Napa - I just wish that ground was cheaper!

    Which all brings it back to the $100 wine with a dog on label. I look forward to hearing what you think!

Red
2014 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
7/26/2018 - GQG Likes this wine:
95 points
Drinking wonderfully now, this velvety smooth and finessed wine delivers a floral and earthy nose, sharply focused, energetic and lifted black and red fruit palate, and remains focused as it beautifully rolls through the lengthy finish. The medium-full bodied flavor and nice complexity doesn't veer towards the somewhat warm and viscous lush fruit of, say, the 2014 Macauley Reserve (that I also like very much), but rather leaves an indelible impression of "silkiness, focus, and finesse with concentration."

Tasted at 55°F, which no doubt helped the exceptionally delineated focus feel like a big train rolling down the tracks, clicking off its tasty flavors of dark cherry, cassis, blueberry, and spice as the silky tannins and minerality provided the track ballast, all the way down the line. This 2014 Vice Versa Cab is like the "A" student that applies impeccable focus to the task at hand, while the the less focused and more lush 2014 Macauley Reserve is like the "C" student that "A" students eventually end up working for, and I admire both equally.

After an hour, I preferred the taste from the opened bottle as it kept the fruit a bit more lively than from a decanter (tried both.)
  • msuwright commented:

    11/13/19, 6:59 PM - Ha! I love the life lesson here about A and C students. Precision and focus aren't everything, and a little passion can go a long way. Great note.

Red
2017 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The O.G. Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
11/12/2019 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
In drinking these 2017s right now, one of the many questions is whether they are young or bad or both. I think I've had 2017s in all of these categories so far, but this one... well, this one is promising, but not there yet (so, for the record, it's young, but not bad). This has the density I expect out of the O.G., with enough tannin to support the fruit, so I'll hope / believe that it will work itself out in another year or so.

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of cherry pie, graphite, rock candy, and menthol. Tastes of blueberry peel, graphite, pine needles, and mocha, with a sweet and acidic finish that carries plenty of tannins. 14.9% alcohol. I'm going to try to wait to drink another bottle until 2021, or at least late 2020. 94+ for now, with potential (though certainly not guaranteed) upside in a few years.

I agree with Cristal2000 that this is not the O.G. of the 2012 to 2016 vintages, which - to be fair - were some of the best Napa Cabernets I've ever tasted. This 2017 has plenty of fruit - as do many wines from this vintage - but it also has enough mid-palate depth and tannic structure to integrate and develop over time. In other words, this is neither top-heavy nor green-acidic, and it's surely as good of an OG as you could make in the 2017 vintage. Here's hoping it matures into a good, maybe great wine, regardless of the vintage.

P.S. I know second-day valuations can be wildly unscientific, but this one was at least promising the next evening. Many 2017s have seemed more unsteady or juicy on the second day, but this one seemed to have dropped into the right gear - more floral, more integrated, more, just, OG (cue the Ice-T). I bumped the rating based on the second day, so - even if it's illusory - there's hope!
  • msuwright commented:

    11/13/19, 6:50 PM - Yeah, that wouldn't be the first time in Napa history that we pay for more than we get! Well, maybe it's the first time in the post-2011 history of Carter, but still... I get your point.

    I actually bumped my rating from 93-94 on the first day to 94+ on the second day. This really did switch into a good place after a night in bottle. I know the second day isn't a reliable proxy for aging, but it's different than many 2017s, which have seemed to lose their balance (instead of gain it) on the second day.

    I also agree that waiting is the best course. After all, drinking (and writing about) crappy 2017s just gets kind of old after awhile... time will tell! Take care my friend.

Red
2016 Realm Cellars The Tempest Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
11/11/2019 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This juicy but diffuse wine will hopefully integrate with time, since it seems unformed, even watery at the moment. There is a lot of fruit, but the rest hasn't caught up. Dark purple in color, medium in body (i.e., skim milk), nose of plum, herbs, and asphalt. Tastes of black cherry, cocoa beans, leather, and anise, with a chalky and wispy finish that drops through the mouth quickly. The mid-palate is hard to find, too, adding to the wine's uneven quality: fruit up front, not much to back it up. Blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.6% alcohol.

I've been a fan of the Tempest since Benoit took the reins at Realm, but this is currently a whimper of a wine. Although some 2016s can be juicy in the early going, I'm not sure if this has the intensity to improve over time. I've stopped expecting Realm to produce the concentrated blends of old (e.g., the 2012 Tempest was still going strong when I tasted it earlier this year), but this seems mailed-in even by more recent standards. Maybe I caught it on a bad night, but this tastes like a high-production wine in a high-yield year - something I mean as the opposite of a compliment. I'd hold for a year and hope for the best. 90-91 at the moment.
  • msuwright commented:

    11/12/19, 6:24 PM - I hear you! The Tempest has been one of my go-to Napa Merlot-based blends over the years, but this bottle is giving me some pause. Hopefully I just caught it on a bad night.

  • msuwright commented:

    11/12/19, 7:12 PM - I think you are on the right track - those are two of my favorite choices for Merlot in Napa! The La Jota will be a bit more rustic, but it's unique and a solid value. The Rive Droite has been a favorite of mine for years, and I think MacDonald is going to take it to good places (if only it were cheaper!).

    In the $100 or less category, I used to be a fan of Larkmead's Firebelle, but it has gotten more prickly and savory (read: less fun) in recent years. Hourglass, Pride, and Plumpjack all make agreeable Merlots in the $60-ish range, but I wouldn't call them profound. Pahlmeyer is usually reliable, too, but I think they need more age than most.

    I tried one Kapscandy, and it was lovely, but - similar to Verite - it has to be pretty amazing at that price point, and I'm just not convinced it can be. Any recommendations on your end?

Red
2014 Rhys Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill Anderson Valley
11/7/2019 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This lively and spicy Pinot delivers an incredible depth of fruit for such a lithe wine, and it should only get better over the next 3-5 years. The elegance and power here are remarkable; there are few in California that can strike this balance as well as Rhys (working here with grapes from Anderson Valley, no less!).

Cherry red in color; medium in body (with some teardrops on the glass); nose of dried cranberry, anise, baking spices, and crushed raspberry. Tastes of sour cherry, dried strawberry, rhubarb, and straw, with a layered and lively finish that must be tasted to be believed (i.e., earthy, silky, crunchy, spicy, elegant... it is everything except heavy). 13.4% alcohol.

This was a step behind a 2014 Rhys Alpine Hillside tasted at the same time, but such an observation is splitting hairs: this is California Pinot at its best, period. If anything, this has a little more meat to the bones than your typical Rhys, which may be a nice introduction for those CA Pinot drinkers who (like me) don't mind a little ripeness here and there. 95 for now, with upside in the next few years.
  • msuwright commented:

    11/7/19, 8:03 PM - Yes, thanks for the correction - all that fire talk, Alexander Valley on the mind...

Red
2016 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
11/6/2019 - msuwright wrote:
97 points
This rich yet gravelly Cabernet is absolutely delicious right now, combining ripe fruit with an earthy undertone, dusty tannins, and incredible lift. I have not been a fan of many 2016s in the early going, but this is a glorious exception - a unique wine that can be opened now without apology. I think it will be even better with the integration that 6-18 months can provide, but - my goodness - it is remarkable now.

Inky purple in color and full in body (teardrops on the glass), the wine offers compelling aromas of boysenberry, graphite, fresh leather, tree bark, and baked rosemary. Although the nose tilts savory, there is nothing damp about this wine. Instead, the flavors explode in your mouth, with notes of blueberry tart, black licorice, menthol, and crushed rock, followed by a finish containing fruity sweetness and grainy tannins, along with a refreshing acidic lift that is remarkable for such a powerful wine. 14.9% alcohol. Give it two hours of air, when it really hit its stride. Still going strong on second day, with a similar (and lovely) combination of fruit and gravel.

Of my favorite 2016s so far, the key attribute has been some form of tension - an energy to the wine - something I've incidentally found in several other 2016 Sam Kaplan productions (e.g., Arkenstone, Memento Mori Crane). Without a restraining hand, the 2016 vintage can taste sloppy and juicy, at least in the early going. This wine captures the generosity of fruit that the vintage (and Oakville) can provide, but it also has a precision and gravelliness that are utterly remarkable. No doubt, I wanted this to be good, but it's great. 97+ for now, with upside in the years to come.
  • msuwright commented:

    11/7/19, 12:44 PM - Thanks for the comments, guys. I hope I don’t unduly raise expectations, but I had high hopes for this wine - and this met them.

    Good question, Nick, about 2015 and 2016. I first drank the 2015 at the 4-year mark, and the 2016 is now at the 3-year mark. I suspect the 2016 will be better with time, as it sheds some of the baby fat that the 2015 just didn’t have (because of timing and the vintage), but both wines taste ridiculously good (at least to me).

    I look forward to reading what everyone else thinks!

Red
2016 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
11/6/2019 - blarmston wrote:
Just received my delivery of this.

Now, who is going to sacrifice a bottle, and post an updated TN, in the name of "due diligence"?

:)
  • msuwright commented:

    11/6/19, 10:53 PM - Challenge accepted! I opened a bottle tonight, and the bottle was good (better than good, actually). Just posted the note.

    I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks (good, bad, or indifferent). Thanks for the encouragement / excuse!

Red
2016 Quivet Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard Napa Valley
10/29/2019 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
I decided to taste the 2016 and 2017 Quivet Piedras next to each other, in the name of science and all that. The conclusions: neither was great; both need time; and each are as good as (and probably the only ones) you’ll get out of LPV for $125. Still, let’s not sugarcoat things: the 2016 was plainly better, with more integration, depth, and balance. The 2017 was thinner, more straightforward, and less impressive. Oh, the vintages! Here are the notes:

- 2016: Light purple in color; full in body; nose of boysenberry, graphite, and fresh embers (really, this was the one that seemed more grainy, almost smokey, like a barbecue potato chip, as opposed to the 2017, which just seemed a bit too clean). Tastes of sour cherry, pencil lead, espresso, and baking spices, with a grainy yet sweet finish. 15.1% alcohol. 93+ for now, since it still seems a bit rustic and unformed. Decant at least a few hours. Best in 2021 or later.

- 2017: Similarly light purple in color, this wine is more light in body - there are no teardrops on glass like with the 2016, and its mouthfeel is more skim as opposed to 2%. The aromas, too, are bit more diffuse, with vague notes of black cherry and cardamon (and, really, I’m straining to find those). The tastes, too, seem superficial, with notes of blueberry skins, crushed raspberries, peppercorn, and fruit cake, with a spiny and bright finish (far lighter than the 2016). 15.1% alcohol. 90-91 for now. Best in 2022 or later, though I’m not sure if it will ever quite get there.

The fruit in the 2016 was a bit chunky, and the fruit in the 2017 was a bit anemic. In other words, the 2016 needs time to lose weight, while the 2017 needs time to gain it. It was interesting how neither offered the pronounced chocolate notes that many providers (like Carter, Fait-Main, or Vice Versa) offer to go with the gravelly tastes of LPV. Maybe the 2017 will someday find its footing, but - right now - there’s no doubt the 2016 is the more promising wine.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/30/19, 10:54 PM - Thanks for the comments, guys. I've decided to put away most of my 2016s for the moment, since tasting them now seems like the definition of insanity (i.e., doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result).

    It's hard because I found some 2016s to be ridiculously good (e.g., Memento Mori Crane, Vice Versa, Arkenstone) in the early going, but many of them just seemed too juicy and unformed. Oh well, time to move on and focus on the next vintage... or, er, onward to 2018!

Red
2016 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard Rutherford
10/28/2019 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This juicy and decadent wine is not as much of an early superstar as the 2015 GIII, at least to me, though it got a lot better on the second day. Perhaps due to the more generous nature of the vintage, the 2016 starts off more plump and Port-like, in a way that makes me recommend a long decant or more bottle time (as compared to the 2015, which had a tension that I found irresistible at both the two- and three-year mark). This fits how I've experienced a lot of 2016s in the early going: good, even promising, but a little sloppy.

Dark purple in color; full in body (tear drops that stick to the glass); nose of blueberry pie, candied cherry, and menthol. (I tried several times to find any earthy, herbal, or floral notes, but I did not succeed.) Tastes of blackberry liqueur, black licorice, and cherry cola, with a sweet and candied finish. 14.8% alcohol. This seemed to settle in on the second day, when the fruit became less jammy and more integrated. I'd wait until 2021 or so, since it just may need time. 91-92 on the first day, and 92-93 on the second.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/29/19, 6:33 PM - Thanks for the comments. Jenmermaida - Yes, I did buy the Myriad 2017s (way too many of them, I suspect). Their release cycle is so early that I didn't really absorb the warning signs about the vintage until after I ordered.

    Mark - Yes, I've been a bit down on the 2016s, but I think it's fair to say that this is a short-term assessment. The fruit is amazing, if a bit fat and happy at the moment, so they could be special in a few years. I revised this note a bit because the second day was so much better - not a scientific thing, I guess, but it makes me cross my fingers that time will be kind to this vintage!

  • msuwright commented:

    10/29/19, 6:40 PM - Mark - And, yes, I completely agree there were some star 2016s out of the gates. Looking at my notes, I went a little ga-ga over the Memento Crane, Realm Moonracer, Vice Versa, Maybach Materium, and Arkenstone, to name a few. These each had a generosity and tension that I found pretty remarkable.

    The 2016s that have bugged me have been those with a lot of fruit but not much tension, energy, nuance, precision, whatever the adjective that fits. When the fruit in these wines calms down over time, then it should be an exciting vintage across the board. When that happens, who knows - I'll keep watching CT!

  • msuwright commented:

    10/29/19, 7:48 PM - Ha! We all have our words, don't we? I was so annoyed when the hipster set hijacked the word "balance" to connote Pinot at below 10.2% ABV (or something). I use it every once and while out of spite, but I don't want people to think it means watery (which, to be clear, it doesn't). Then again, precision is not usually what you expect when you mix words and alcohol.

    Yeah, I've actually come to terms with sitting out a lot of the 2017 vintage, outside of a few core producers. Aside from the fact that it might actually save me some money, it's nice to have a breather, especially if 2018 is what people say it will be. Cheers!

  • msuwright commented:

    10/30/19, 9:57 PM - Hi SF - I agree with Mark, in that it depends on the drinker and the wine. Mike can make wines that age well (especially the Carters, which I think are his best work). Then again, some of them - the 2015s in particular - drank incredibly well early.

    To answer your question on the 2015 GIII, I tasted it in 2017 (that 98 point review) and then again in 2018 (96 points). In the latter note, I addressed some of the criticism, in the sense that the wine was not as bursting and fresh as it was at the outset - but that it was still great.

    I think it would have aged well, but - then again - I didn't have the patience to hold onto them to find out. If it's great early, it's hard for me to wait around to see if it will be great later! I look forward to reading about your experiences with the wines.

Red
2016 Quivet Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard Napa Valley
7/23/2019 - TastesGoodToMe Likes this wine:
93 points
Really good wine that just needs more time. Blue and black fruits are plentiful. Just kind of one dimensional - that would be the "in your face" dimension. But so delish none the less. With time has 2 points (maybe 3) upside potential. Will try to wait a few years before revisiting.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/29/19, 10:36 PM - Great note - I think many of the 2016s specialize in the "in your face" dimension! What a great phrase.

Red
2017 Realm Cellars The Bard Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
10/25/2019 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This is a review in three parts - an analogy, a comparison, and (last but not least!) an actual tasting note...

The analogy. This is the second 2017 that reminds me of an eager but mediocre student with his hand up, sitting at the front of the classroom. He has the right attitude, work ethic, name, and background... he would get it right if he could... he would ace that test if effort was all that was required... but he just can't, no matter how hard he tries.

The comparison. I tasted this 2017 next to the 2014 Bard, and - for whatever the reason (e.g., vintage, bottle age, varietal blend, vineyard sources) - three big differences appeared:

(1) The fruit profile of the 2014 was more full and nuanced. The 2017 was as bright and perky as you would expect for a young wine, but it was far more red-fruit driven - and far more thin - than the 2014 (which I also loved young, in part because its rich fruit was bursting with potential). The 2017 is juicy, but its fruit profile resembles a duet more than a symphony: they're trying, but the results aren't overwhelming.

(2) The 2017 lacked the chocolatey notes that Benoit provides like few others. This is something I look for, and find, and love in most Benoit wines (e.g., Fait-Main, Kata, Hartwell, even Jack Quinn, Matt Morris, and Levensohn); it's some kind of modern mid-palate, a creamy interlude separating the opening from the finish. While the 2014 had notes of cocoa powder and mocha, the 2017 zips through the mouth like someone in a hurry. This thinness in the mid-palate made the wine fall through the mouth like skim milk - light, yes, but also kind of thin.

(3) The 2017 had far more acid and far less tannin. The former gave a refreshing lift to the wine - the “nerviness” that the winery notes describe - but that kind of “energy” doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead, the lack of structure (e.g., tannin, fullness, undertone) is a real question for me. Like something that has been polished down to the nub, this wine, in the early going, seems to be missing something real. It is lifted and almost silky, but it's tart and a little shallow, too.

The note. So would you like this tasting note to include some notes about the actual taste of the wine? Yeah, me, too - here goes:

Light purple in color and medium in body, the wine offers muted aromas of sour cherry, cranberry, and anise. Tastes of blueberry, pencil lead, peppercorn, and leather, with a brief and lifted finish. Blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot. 14.6% alcohol. Followed over three hours, with consistent notes. Better on second day, though still not a complete wine.

My suspicion is that this vintage has lowered the ceiling for this wine, but it’s possible this is just experiencing an awkward youth (like the 2015). My plan is to wait a few years before opening another bottle. That said, I’m not sure if this will ever become a compelling wine, and I’m fairly certain it isn’t one now. 91-92 at the moment.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/28/19, 11:32 PM - Thanks for the comments. Yes - despite the good advice of #1WineLover and others - I dipped my toe a little too far into the 2017 vintage, but I'm working on correcting that mistake. As I've tried to figure out why (a dangerous question whenever you're wondering why you buy wine!), I've come up with two reasons.

    First, I didn't like the 2016 vintage as much as others did. At least in the early going, it just seemed too juicy and unformed. In my own (acquisitive) mind, I figured that the 2017 might correct all this by being more bright and formed. Yeah - at least in the early going - it hasn't worked out that way - more acidic, yes, but not more formed. Shocker alert: the iconoclast doesn't usually win in the end.

    Second, I decided to trust the producer over the vintage. This is obviously a mantra among reviewers, but it served me wrong in 2017, at least as far as I can tell. I decided to purchase those that I generally trusted (e.g., Realm, Fait-Main, Memento Mori, Bevan). As good as these wineries are, though, I worry they were "overwhelmed by events." I do think 2017 is more likable than 2011 - more fruit, more energy - but I worry it's just not that good, especially in the long run.

    But hopefully I'm wrong! Thanks again for the comments.

Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Ehrlich Vineyard Oakville
10/20/2019 - Mark1npt Likes this wine:
94 points
Easily a 94. Sweet fruit up front....pleasant acidity. Great weight and length. Maybe the most complete vineyard that B Cellars has.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/23/19, 8:06 PM - Thanks for the encouragement in opening this one, Mark! I tasted it earlier this year at the winery, and I just opened up a bottle (see CT for my, um, lengthy ramblings).

    Wow, what a great wine. I'm impressed that the 2013 has aged as well as it did, since - as someone new to B Cellars - I wonder if they last over time. I'm going to have to do some research about this possibility! Thanks again.

Red
2015 Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
10/22/2019 - msuwright wrote:
85 points
Seeking out new wine can result in pleasant surprise (this is great - wow!), considered indifference (glad I tried it, but I won’t buy it again), or complete disaster (WTF?). This concoction of a wine, for me, falls in the last category. How it got a WE 97 is a complete mystery, but this is a ripe wine - but not much else. Sure, it’s powerful, but it’s not good, at least to me.

Ruby red in color; full in body; nose of blueberry pie, Snicker's Bar, and mocaccino with whip. Tastes of cherry crumble, plum, Jolly Rancher, and vanilla, with a brief mid-palate and a Port-like finish that coats the mouth with sugar (and little acidity). 15% alcohol. This makes wines like Caymus and Meiomi look nuanced and restrained in comparison; even they wouldn't have added this much sugar.

I hesitate to call something undrinkable, but this is awfully close. I tend to enjoy powerful and fruity wines (e.g., Bevan, B Cellars), but they need to have structure, acidity, balance, and complexity - i.e., to be more than fruit in the front and sugar in the back. Maybe wait until 2021 to drink, but the lack of tannin or acidity makes me skeptical this will improve with time.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/23/19, 5:39 PM - Thanks for the comments guys - it's interesting to think about how these numbers are supposed to (and do) work. You're right, xxquadxx, that most written standards would make an 85 a "good" wine. I just don't think most professional reviewers really follow those guidelines in practice (whether because of score inflation, need for access / advertising, being too nice, etc).

    Whatever the reason, this kind of grade inflation really changes how I read (and I guess provide) wine scores. No one advertises getting an 85 rating. Like Mark, when I see a score that low, I think it's a bad wine (or the reviewer thought it was a bad wine) - maybe not flawed, but not something I want to seek out. Maybe I'm just a softie, but the low 80s is about as low as I typically go (and only when I really dislike it).

    Regardless, this seems like another way that the words are more important than the number. The tasting note conveyed my view of the wine (and it is obviously just my view!), which is the real value of reviews, I think. The score helps ground things, but it's never the whole story.

Red
2017 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
10/17/2019 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
I know that 2017 is supposed to suck for Napa Cabernet, but... this wine doesn't suck. Not at all. In fact, I think this is the best young Ontogeny I've tasted since the 2013. This is not only a compelling value, but it's a compelling wine, full stop. Maybe this was just a good night; maybe this wine won't survive to see December; but, gosh, right now, it is tasty and delicious.

Dark purple in color and full in body, this wine offers incredible aromas of blackberry, black cherry, cocoa powder, dried leather, and sun-baked rosemary. (Really, put your nose in the glass and it takes you to a fancy tasty room, on a cool but sunny day, with no thought but "I need to buy this wine," even before you drink it.) The tastes are similarly luscious and indulgent, with notes of blueberry, milk chocolate, black licorice, baking spices, and gravel, with a silky finish that carries some grainy tannin and a pleasant acidic lift at the end (more lift than in the past few vintages). 15.2% alcohol. If drinking now, decant about an hour. Still going strong on second day, with a little less nuance.

I haven't tasted many 2017s, so this may have benefited from the bigotry of low expectations. Still, this has an integration and polish that are compelling. Who knows what happens in the future, but this has a purity and freshness that are delicious now. 94-95 at the moment, with upside if it all holds together in the next few years. Drink whenever, but it's aint no sin to be glad you're alive... or, er, to drink now.
  • msuwright commented:

    10/18/19, 12:27 PM - Hi Mark - That's an interesting point about uniformity, something that makes sense you would pick up through a bunch of tastings. I also think a test will be to taste some of these next to a 2016, something I understand doesn't help the 2017. More research!

    And, yes, the point about manipulation is a fair one. I remember tasting a bunch of 2011 wines that were just lathered with wood and sugar - just trying too hard. I'm not sure the 2017s hold up over time, but I was (pleasantly) surprised with my first bottle.

  • msuwright commented:

    10/18/19, 8:29 PM - Good points. I completely agree with you about Jeb being a little too excited about every wine he tastes. I like his enthusiasm, but I'd like it to be a bit more targeted and discerning - 5% of wines can't be perfect. Parker, for all his flaws, was also willing to trash a wine (at least in the early days), and that made his enthusiasm all the more valuable to the consumer.

    I completely agree that 2017 comes with a bunch of warning signs - fires, heat spikes, all the hallmarks of a challenging / cursed vintage. For what it's worth, I wasn't as taken with 2016 as many on CT (i.e., I found many wines too juicy and unformed in the early going). That said, I'm happy to have an excuse to not buy (as much) of the 2017s!

  • msuwright commented:

    10/19/19, 10:50 AM - Agreed. I think the 2016s have a lot of potential, but they didn't seem as worked out in the early going as, say, the 2012s or 2015s. I think they'll be really good in a few years.

    On the 2017s, it's funny because that Myriad 2017 I tasted - in addition to seeming incomplete - just seemed a bit fragile, which isn't exactly a great indicator for future aging.

    My wallet and I are enjoying passing on some of these 2017 offers. Getting to the bottom of the vintage would be a lot more fun if it didn't cost so much money! Cheers.

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