Tasting Notes for msuwright

(1,683 notes on 1,547 wines)

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Red
4/8/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This dense and tight Cabernet needs another few years to unfold, since it's not a lot of fun right now. Inky purple in color; full in body; nose of mulberry, licorice, baking chocolate, and graphite. Tastes of boysenberry, sour cherry, menthol, and espresso, with a dry and tannic (read: teeth-staining) finish. 14.7% alcohol. I'd wait to drink until at least 2022, since there's something here - but it's not showing its cards anytime soon. 92 at present, with upside.
Red
4/8/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This open-knit and layered wine is far more floral and delicate than other wines I've tasted from Matt Morris, but it's still quite tasty. Light red in color; medium in body (like a Pinot); nose of dried strawberry, fresh herbs, and rose petal. Tastes of sour cherry, ground espresso, and fresh leather, with a wispy and tannic finish (like a Barolo). 13.5% alcohol. Drink in next few years.

This is the most Old World of the Matt Morris wines I've tasted so far, which may be a function of the vintage, the inaugural year, or other factors. I've particularly enjoyed the intensity of the 2015 and 2016 vintages - when Benoit Touquette was at the helm - but I'm also intrigued where Françoise Peschon takes this in 2017. I'm all for a little variety in Napa!
Red
4/7/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This ripe and balanced wine has finally found its groove, with incredible fruit, structure, and integration. I've followed this wine from its grippy youth (2/16 - 93 points) to its promising adolescence (4/17 - 94 points) through many other bottles (that I never wrote up)... but this tastes like maturity. I've been opening a lot of Napa 2012s lately - such a lovey vintage right now - and this is one of my favorites, especially in its price range.

Dark purple in color and full in body (2% milk), the wine offers enticing aromas of blueberry skins, cocoa beans, and dried herbs. Tastes of black currant, black cherry, thyme, and anise, with a symphonic finish that brings a rush of fruit, tannin, and acidity all at once (really: think of the fourth movement of any symphony worth its salt; this finish has that kind of rollicking, integrative, and cumulative feeling). This was more generous and silky than a 2012 Bond Matriarch tasted on the same night. Blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. 14.7% alcohol. Watch the sediment, of which there is plenty. Decant at least an hour. Drink in next few years.
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Red
4/6/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This savory and layered 100% Merlot is still going strong at the eight-year mark, especially after a few hours of air. Light red in color; medium in body; nose of mountain blueberry, tobacco, menthol, and graphite. Tastes of cherry tart, rhubarb, leather, and bay leaf, with a grainy and integrated finish. 14.5% alcohol. Drink in next few years.

I drank this at the same time as a Blankiet Rive Droite, which edged out the Kapcsandy. The Blankiet was darker in color, more floral in aroma, and more elegant in the mouth and the finish. Each offered a more Old World profile - and were made by the same hand, the late (great) Dennis Malbec - but I'd lean towards the Blankiet, which was a bit more welcoming. I'd drink sooner rather than later (especially if you like more fruit), but this has the balance to mature. Each wine had depth, class, and depth.
Red
2012 Blankiet Estate Rive Droite Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
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.
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Red
4/5/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This open-knit and savory 100% Cabernet has an elegant mouthfeel and earthy balance that are refreshing, in a laid-back, Old World kind of way. Medium red in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of black cherry, fresh leather, and baking spices (lots of them - bay leaf, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme). Tastes of dried cherry, tobacco, cedar, and graphite, with a light and dusty finish. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least an hour. A little more earthy and crunchy on second day.

Partly due to the vintage, this wine lacks the density and power of many Napa Cabernets, but it's a pleasant change of pace. At the risk of indulging recency bias, I kept thinking of a Rosso di Montalcino I had earlier in the evening. The Heitz has a similar open-knit mouthfeel with medium-ripeness and dry tannins (i.e., some fruit, but not a lot of sweetness). Enjoyable if you like this more "classic" Napa style. 93+ for me, with real aging potential.
White
4/4/2020 - msuwright wrote:
89 points
This mild and pleasant wine is enjoyable but not very memorable. Like a lighter and drier Viognier, this medium-bodied, yellow-tinged Grenache Blanc offers aromas of pear and white flavors, followed by flavors of gooseberry and honeycomb, with a viscous but dry finish. 14.1% alcohol. I think I should have opened this last year, since it needed a little more freshness.
White
4/4/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This continues to be the best of the Kistler lineup, with a depth, energy, and viscosity that are compelling. Light yellow in color; medium in body; nose of golden delicious apple, lemon grass, brioche toast, and almond. Tastes of grapefruit, lime, vanilla extract, and saltwater, with a lingering finish that has softness that balances the tension. Some more recent Kistlers can come across as too compact, but this is just right. 14.1% alcohol. Drink in next few years.
Red
2012 Nine Suns St. Helena Red Blend (view label images)
4/3/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This dark and luscious Pritchard Hill Cabernet is the rare 2012 that still needs another few years to fully integrate, but it's an incredibly tasty wine even as it makes it way to maturity. Dark purple in color; full in body; enveloping aromas of mulberry, cocoa beans, black licorice, and gravel. Tastes of boysenberry, cherry pie, graphite, and cardamon, with a round and grainy finish. Blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol.

This needs at least 2-3 hours of air, since it starts grumpy but unfolds into something powerful and promising, if not completely formed. This is still a wine in motion, with a hint of menthol on the nose, a rustic mid-palate, and a Pritchard Hill intensity that just hasn’t unfolded. But still... it's fantastic. Although I will not root for the university at which Bo Schembechler coached, he has a wonderful speech about "the team" (1983 - look it up), and I feel similarly about this wine: the tension, the tension, the tension. The fruit, the tannin, the acidity, all work together, in a way that - come 2022 - should be stunning. 95+ for now, with upside.
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Red
2012 Harlan Estate The Maiden Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
4/3/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This plush and classy Cabernet is drinking beautifully right now, especially after two hours of air. Dark red in color; medium in body; nose of black cherry, graphite, espresso, and pine needles. Tastes of boysenberry, milk chocolate, new leather, and baking spices, with a layered and elegant finish that carries some dusty tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Give this a good decant, since it starts straightforward but unfolds into something ethereal - and delicious. Drink in next few years.
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White
4/2/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This bright yet viscous Sauvignon Blanc is a real delight to drink, with the depth of the Proportion Doree but with a lightness that is quite refreshing. Light yellow in color; medium in body; nose of lemon meringue, wet grass, orange curd, and vanilla extract. Tastes of green apple, grilled peach, gooseberry, and beeswax, with a tight and lifted finish that has a pleasant creaminess (probably from the 15% Semillon). 14.9% alcohol. This is on the riper and fuller end of domestic SB, but it tastes awfully good, at least to me. 93-94 for now, with upside in another 6-12 months.
Red
2014 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
4/1/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
We opened the 2013 and 2014 Ontogeny side-by-side, in order to mark / mourn the news that our kids’ school would be out for the rest of the year (yup, that will make it all better!). My experience was more positive than csimm’s assessment of the 2014-2017 wines, but I agree with his observation that these wines lose steam over time. The 2013 was clearly better than the 2014, with more push and intensity, and both were solid. Still, each showed some wear, and I'd recommend opening each in the next year or two.

- 2013. More dark and viscous, the 2013 offers enticing aromas of cherry tart, graphite, and cocoa powder, with a freshness (e.g., bay leaf, lavender) that the 2014 lacks. The tastes are more integrated, with notes of boysenberry, anise, cedar, and thyme, followed by an integrated and pungent finish that glides through the mouth. This is still a bruiser (i.e., fruity and big), but it has a softness that is endearing. Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol. I enjoyed this more in the past (12/15 - 95 points; 6/17 - 96 points). 94 at present.

- 2014. This tastes like a wine trying to keep up with its older sibling, but not quite getting there. More red and less viscous (though plenty full-bodied), the 2014’s aromas seem more candied, with notes of sour cherry, red licorice, and gravel. The tastes are also more extracted, with flavors of boysenberry tart, black cherry, leather, and slightly burnt toast, with a raw and sweet finish. This seems to be straining at the seams; the dam hasn't burst out one way or the other, but it's a wine for the near-term. Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.9% alcohol. Again, I enjoyed this more in the past (12/17 - 94 points; 1/19 - 95 points). 93 at present.

My basic takeaway from this relatively limited tasting: the Ontogeny is still a solid wine, but it should be opened earlier rather than later (read: 3-5 years). To quote that nameless philosopher from Minnesota: life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last - so, too, with the Ontogeny. Drink up!
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Red
2013 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
4/1/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
We opened the 2013 and 2014 Ontogeny side-by-side, in order to mark / mourn the news that our kids’ school would be out for the rest of the year (yup, that will make it all better!). My experience was more positive than csimm’s assessment of the 2014-2017 wines, but I agree with his observation that these wines lose steam over time. The 2013 was clearly better than the 2014, with more push and intensity, and both were solid. Still, each showed some wear, and I'd recommend opening each in the next year or two.

- 2013. More dark and viscous, the 2013 offers enticing aromas of cherry tart, graphite, and cocoa powder, with a freshness (e.g., bay leaf, lavender) that the 2014 lacks. The tastes are more integrated, with notes of boysenberry, anise, cedar, and thyme, followed by an integrated and pungent finish that glides through the mouth. This is still a bruiser (i.e., fruity and big), but it has a softness that is endearing. Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol. I enjoyed this more in the past (12/15 - 95 points; 6/17 - 96 points). 94 at present.

- 2014. This tastes like a wine trying to keep up with its older sibling, but not quite getting there. More red and less viscous (though plenty full-bodied), the 2014’s aromas seem more candied, with notes of sour cherry, red licorice, and gravel. The tastes are also more extracted, with flavors of boysenberry tart, black cherry, leather, and slightly burnt toast, with a raw and sweet finish. This seems to be straining at the seams; the dam hasn't burst out one way or the other, but it's a wine for the near-term. Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.9% alcohol. Again, I enjoyed this more in the past (12/17 - 94 points; 1/19 - 95 points). 93 at present.

My basic takeaway from this relatively limited tasting: the Ontogeny is still a solid wine, but it should be opened earlier rather than later (read: 3-5 years). To quote that nameless philosopher from Minnesota: life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last - so, too, with the Ontogeny. Drink up!
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
3/31/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This savory and structured Cabernet is drinking fine right now, but it's a bit too reticent and green for my own palate. Dark purple in color; medium in body; nose of graphite, boysenberry, olive, and leather. Tastes of mulberry, cloves, green pepper, and cocoa powder, with a chewy, chalky, and somewhat sour finish. Blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Decant at least two hours.

This is another "classic" Napa wine producer I've sought out to inform and/or challenge my more modern leanings. Based on what I've tried so far, this had more life than a 2012 Forman, but nowhere near as much generosity as a 2012 Dominus. I understand the Togni is a mountain wine, but this was a fairly warm and generous vintage in Napa - and little of that energy or tension is apparent here. I imagine it will be better in another 2-5 years, but it's currently (and probably forever) too damp and vegetal for my own personal preference.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Dominus Estate Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/29/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This dense and savory wine is starting to enter into its drinking window, but it probably needs another year or two in order to truly show its stuff. Although this leans more earthy than my typical Napa Cabernet, it has undeniable class and depth. This vintage has also made this wine more generous and plush, which is quite charming within an Old World frame.

Garnet in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of blackberry, graphite, toasted walnut, and peppercorn. The flavors lean dark, with notes of black cherry, espresso, baking spices, and olive, with an elegant finish that carries dusty tannins but lingers pleasantly in the mouth. 14.5% alcohol. Blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. 94-95 for now, with obvious upside in 2022 or later. Decant at least two hours.
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Red
2016 Bond Matriarch Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/28/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and layered Cabernet currently needs a healthy decant, since it came across as big and linear at first but, after about three hours, become more nuanced and intriguing. This is more ripe and unformed than the 2015 was at the four-year mark, but the 2016 has perhaps more potential, once it integrates and sheds some of its baby fat. It's a tasty mouthful right now, but I'd recommend waiting another year or so to open it.

Dark red in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of boysenberry, baking spices, espresso beans, and violets. The flavors are fulsome and almost chewy, with notes of dark cherry, mulberry, graphite, and anise, followed by a finish that carries more gritty tannin than sweet fruit (though both are present). 14.8% alcohol. Better on the second day. 94+ for now, with real upside in 12-18 months (and, yeah, when it comes to timing, follow that advice of parents everywhere: do what I say, not what I do...).
White
3/28/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This tense and steely Chardonnay needs another 6-12 months to soften and broaden a bit, though the energy and depth are here in spades. Light yellow in color; medium in body; nose of lemon, brioche, and vanilla bean. Tastes of orange peel, grapefruit, green apple, and wet quartz, with a zippy and lingering finish. 14.3% alcohol.
Red
3/26/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This savory but energetic Cabernet is drinking beautifully right now, though I imagine it will be even better in another year or two. This is the kind of wine that almost (almost!) makes you forget you're sheltering in place, and instead takes you to some remote Napa vineyard where the leaves are green, the sky is blue, the sun is warm, no one needs to be home schooled, and a great bottle of Napa Cabernet only costs about a hundred bucks.

Cabin fever aside, this is a fantastic wine, occupying some middle ground between the more dusty 2014 and the more round 2016. Cherry red in color and medium in body, the wine offers evocative and wild aromas of black cherry, fresh sage, graphite, and bay leaf. Tastes of blackberry, rhubarb, eucalyptus, and black tea, with a finish that has a push of fruit and acidity, along with dusty and integrated tannins that make it go down so easily. 14.3% alcohol. Decant at least an hour.

To generalize wildly: if 2016 was a vintage of ripeness in Napa, 2015 was a vintage of tension. To me, some 2016s were too juicy, especially in the early going, and some 2015s were too austere, especially lately. True to form, this wine offers a striking balance - a happy golden mean (go Aristotle!) - that is both full and energetic, earthy but generous, and oh so pure (read: no Jolly Rancher / chocolate bar, no burnt cedar, just bottled sunshine... or poetry... or whatever). This more restrained style isn't for everyone, but - my goodness - it works for me. 95+ for now, with upside in another 2-4 years.
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Red
3/24/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This concentrated and grippy Merlot needs a good 2-3 years of bottle age, since it's currently far less enjoyable than the 2014 or 2015 were at the four-year mark. The 2016 has a dense core of fruit and tannin, so there's hope it can unwind and blossom - but, as George Harrison used to sing, it's going to take time, a whole lot of precious time...

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of graphite, new leather, raspberry stems, and pine needles. The flavors are thick, savory, and bitter, with notes of espresso, boysenberry, cooked bay leaf, and tapenade, with a dry finish dominated by tannin. (AG said this was "polished" with a certain "silkiness"... AG was very wrong.) Blend of 77% Merlot and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. 15.1% alcohol. Decant 2-3 hours. A little better on second day, with a more floral and integrated profile, but still an astringent finish. 92+ for now, with upside in 2022 or later.

This wine left me with a similar impression to the 2016 Lokoya Howell Mountain I tried a few weeks ago - bursting with potential, but nowhere near formed yet. Although the Keyes Merlot tilts Old World, it's been one of my favorite CA Merlots over the past few years. That said, the 2016 is (very much) a work in progress. Wait on this one.
Red
2014 Realm Cellars Moonracer Realm Estate Stags Leap District Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/24/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This ripe and earthy blend has become more subdued and grainy in the two years since I tasted it last (2/18 - 97 points), but it's still a tasty and layered wine. Like many 2014s, this has become more open-knit and diffuse, but it's also developed a hint of tea-bag bitterness that makes it less appealing than it once was.

Dark purple in color; medium in body; nose of boysenberry, cocoa powder, and gravel. Tastes of blueberry tart, black cherry, graphite, and leather, with a layered and dusty finish that develops a bitter taste after an hour or so. Blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. 14.6% alcohol. Drink in next year or two.
Red
3/23/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This ripe and dark wine is the third 2012 Fairchild Cabernet I've tasted in the past two months, and I do think it's my favorite. The LPV was a bit too earthy, and the Sigaro too extracted, while the GIII manages to be both ripe and restrained, with enough tannin and acidity to make it work better than the other two, at least at the moment.

Dark red in color; full in body; pungent nose of espresso, boysenberry, worn leather, and menthol. Tastes of blackberry tart, cocoa bean, graphite, and mulberry, with a sweet but grippy finish. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least an hour.

These three Fairchild wines seem to have a certain roughness - i.e., heady aromas, extracted fruit, grippy tannins - like a cowboy at a cocktail party. Yeah, I can sing every word to "Friends in Low Places" like any proud Midwesterner, but this wine should have more polish and integration at the eight-year mark, especially for such a generous vintage. It's enjoyable, yes, but it doesn't achieve the greatness it's seeking.
Red
3/21/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This wine has become more earthy and subtle than the powerhouse I tasted about two and a half years ago (9/17 - 97 points). The LPV seems to be on a savory trajectory similar to three other 2012 Carters I've had this year - Weitz, O.G. and Three Kings - that have lost the round buoyancy of their youth, but matured with plenty of class and intensity.

Dark red in color, the wine has a more mid-weight, elegant mouthfeel than the bruiser of 2017. The aromas need an hour to come alive, but the wine offers notes of black cherry, blueberry tart, dried herbs, and camphor. The flavors are more dark and earthy, with notes of boysenberry, graphite, leather, and olive, with a grippy finish that has a pleasant lift. 14.9% alcohol. Decant at least two hours. Drink in next few years, sooner if you want to taste more of that joyous Napa sunshine (read: fruit).
Red
3/20/2020 - msuwright wrote:
90 points
This rich and heavy Cabernet probably needs another year or two to settle in, but it's currently too cumbersome to be that much fun. Dark red, almost black in color; full in body; nose of cherry pie, black licorice, pencil lead, and menthol. Tastes of blueberry, anise, burnt toast, flank steak, and leather, with a grippy and meaty finish that has the acidity of whole milk (read: it sits on your tongue like a fat dog). 14.3% alcohol. Wait until 2022.
Red
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.
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Red
3/20/2020 - msuwright wrote:
89 points
This wine has faded in the 18 months since I tasted it last (9/18 - 94 points), but it still has some energy and intrigue. As might be expected for a Merlot of this age, this wine has been visited by the dreaded plum monster (the grim reaper of modern wines) - erasing what was nuance with diffuse grape juiciness. The wine still has some life, but it's like the guy about to die in a bad movie: he'll survive long enough to say a few final words, but the music is starting to play - and it's time to say goodbye.

Dark purple in color; full in body; nose of prunes, worn leather, and forest floor (read: damp, with a hint of fungi, funky but not flawed). Flavors of plum, dried raspberry, dried herbs, gravel, and graphite, with a spicy and chalky finish that offers some potpourri intrigue - but freshness has long since left the building. Blend of 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.9% alcohol. Drink yesterday.
Red
3/18/2020 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This round but sour Pinot is drinking fine right now, but it lacks the intensity or complexity that I had hoped to find at the six-year mark. Raspberry red in color; medium in body; nose of sour cherry, candied walnut, and cough medicine. Tastes of rhubarb, dried strawberry, cherry tart, and raspberry seeds, with a layered but sour finish. This seems standoffish at the moment, so maybe give it more time. Decant at least an hour. 14.1% alcohol.
White
3/17/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This lithe yet complex Sauvignon Blanc blend is drinking beautifully right now, with a depth and energy that are completely charming. Light yellow in color; medium in body; nose of grapefruit, gooseberry, lime, and saline. Tastes of orange peel, lemon curd, wet grass, and ground quartz, with a layered and lifted finish that starts zippy and, with air, becomes more briny. Blend of 94% Sauvignon Blanc and 6% Sémillon. 14.5% alcohol. One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I've ever tasted. Drink in next few years.
White
3/16/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This tart but round Chardonnay is drinking well right now, with a nice mix of ripe fruit and crisp acidity. Light gold in color; medium in body; nose of lemon peel, brioche, and toasted almond. Tastes of golden delicious apple, grapefruit, saline, and vanilla extract. 14.1% alcohol. 93+ at the moment, though it may soften (and improve) in the next year or so. More settled and enjoyable on second day.
White
3/16/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This energetic but creamy Chardonnay is incredibly promising - and oh-so tasty - in the early going. As with past vintages, Maxem manages to capture the best of both worlds in CA Chardonnay - bright and refreshing, while also ripe and layered, with a purity and balance that are impeccable. This probably needs another year or so in order to loosen up and round out, but it’s an incredible Chardonnay now - and should only get better.

Light yellow, almost clear in color; medium in body; nose of lime peel, fresh pear, lightly toasted brioche, and ocean air. The tastes at first seem linear, but they blossom after an hour of air, with notes of green apple, gooseberry, lemon meringue, and almond extract, with a nervy and briny finish that is neither too sharp nor too round (with an initial sourness that softens with air). 14.8% alcohol. Drink in 2021 or later.

I think the earlier vintages (particularly the 2016 and 2017) are more firmly in the drinking window than this one, but the 2018 shows all the signs of carrying on this tradition of excellence. I continue to be amazed about how quickly Maxem has become one of my favorite domestic CA Chardonnays. You really could serve this to anyone (e.g., acid freak, butter lover, Burgundy snob, ABC drinker) - and they would be impressed. I am none of these things, but I absolutely love this wine. 95+ for now, with huge upside in 2021 or later (if I can wait that long!).
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Red
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.
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Red
3/15/2020 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
This rich and open-knit Bordeaux Blend is drinking beautifully at the 15-year mark, with impeccable balance for such a ripe and big wine. Cherry red in color; full in body; nose of sour cherry, bay leaf, and baking spices. Tastes of boysenberry, plum (but not plummy), graphite, and mint, with a silky and integrated finish that goes on and on. Blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Petit Verdot, and 24% Merlot. 15.7% alcohol. Drink in next year or so.

Soapbox alert: Although Jon Bonne has left CA and IPOB has disbanded, some critics of the New World still maintain (if not in argument, at least in condescension) that wines above a certain ripeness and alcohol level cannot age well (especially wines not from France). This wine - 15.7% ABV and all - is an effective rebuttal. Its integration, complexity, and class are impeccable, and I (for one) do not resent the lack of dampness or funkiness. This is a fantastic mature wine, and - yes, indeed - it came from California.
Red
3/14/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This firehose of a wine should be incredible someday... but not today. It has the ingredients of a great wine - i.e., intense and layered fruit, fresh acidity, ample tannins - but each element is currently a bit too much - i.e., too juicy, too lifted, too grainy, too disjointed, too unformed. I can't wait to try it in 2022, but my recommendation is to wait: it's not worth opening up now.

Dark purple, almost black in color; full in body; enveloping aromas of boysenberry, fresh leather, eucalyptus, and cardamon. Burgeoning but unsettled tastes of blueberry, graphite, crushed rock, and pine needles, with a grippy and biting finish that still carries plenty of sweet fruit. 15% alcohol. Decant 3-4 hours, but ideally wait a few years. 93-94 for now, but huge upside when it integrates and unfolds in 2022 or later.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
3/14/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This rich and layered Cabernet probably needs another year or two to settle down, but it’s quite tasty right now. Dark red in color; full in body; enticing nose of boysenberry, dark chocolate, grilled flank steak, and olive. The tastes are a nice mix or ripe and savory, with notes of black cherry, raspberry, ground espresso, and graphite, followed by an integrated finish that gets more gravely and sour with air. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least two hours (and watch out for sediment, of which there is a lot). 94-95 for now, with upside in a few years.

Many 2012s are plush and welcoming at this point in time, but this isn’t one of them. On a journey all its own, this could integrate and blossom into something special, or remain a savory but ripe meld of flavors that aren't yet more than the sum of their parts. (It's like a high school grad who isn’t in the top 10, but might outpace all of them in a few years - or not.) Over the past year or two, I’ve tasted a lot of 2012s I thought were superior (e.g., Carter LPV, Morlet Estate, Futo OV/SL, Larkmead Solari, Memento, Continuum)… and, truth be told, cost a lot less on the secondary market.

Full disclosure: I've been on the MacDonald waiting list for five years now, so I represent somewhat of a view from the outside. If you can buy this wine direct, you don't need me to tell you to absolutely, unquestionably, completely do so; this belongs among the elite Napa wines in the $175 territory. The prices on the secondary market, though, are multiples of that amount ($500-600), where the value proposition is more tenuous. At the risk of saying something unpopular, I think the 2012 is a solid and unique wine, but I don't think it's a singular one.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
3/13/2020 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This jammy wine seems far more sweet and imbalanced than when I tasted about 16 months ago (10/18 - 94-95 points). Cherry red in color; full in body; nose of black licorice, Mocha Frappuccino, and rock candy. Tastes of cherry pie, menthol, and anise, with a sweet finish that falls flat, almost leaden, in the mouth (read: no acidity). 14.1% alcohol.

I'm not sure why this wine seems so off-kilter at the moment - maybe it's in an awkward stage (though few 2014s are), maybe it's a bad bottle (though I bought it from a respected Napa retailer and transported it home that day), maybe it's a wine meant to be opened earlier (or later - but not now). I’d wait to open for another 12 months, and hope it grows out of its current malaise.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
3/11/2020 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This nuanced and layered Cabernet is as good as a young mountain wine can be, with ripe fruit, layered tannins, and bright acidity. Like some form of mini Promontory, this wine is rustic, generous, and elegant, all at once. In other words, it is utterly delicious - and completely unique.

Cherry red in color and medium in body, the wine offers evocative aromas of mountain blueberry, allspice, rosemary, and rose petals. The tastes are savory but plush, with notes of boysenberry, raspberry, sage, ground pepper, and gravel, followed by a lifted and elegant finish that glides and lingers in the mouth. (As Buzz Lightyear would say, it doesn't fly, but it falls with style.) A little more juicy and herbal (and less precise) on second day. 14.3% alcohol. Decant at least two hours. 94-95 for now, with upside in 2021 and later.

The tension and precision here are remarkable, with none of the shortcomings of the 2017 vintage on display (e.g., thinness, tartness, imbalance). Though I haven't done any side-by-side comparisons, this is the best Montecillo I've tasted so far, with more elegance than a DuMOL, more depth than a Beta or Arnot-Roberts, and more uniqueness than a Camino. In short, this is already a fantastic wine, with only good things ahead.
5 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
3/10/2020 - msuwright wrote:
91 points
This dense and savory wine probably needs more time to come into its own, but it currently tastes backward and heavy, even after several hours of air. Although the wine has an intriguing darkness, it ultimately seemed too meaty and earthy to be that enjoyable, at least to me.

Purplish red in color; medium in body; nose of black cherry, olives (both black and green), baking spices, thyme, and peat moss. Integrated and savory flavors of under-ripe raspberry, grilled flank steak, olive tapenade, pencil shavings (like, really - both the graphite and the dryness), and bay leaf, with a rustic and grainy finish that lacked the acidity to seem even remotely fresh (i.e., the wine just sits in your mouth, like a lazy cat on a couch). More mossy and olive-driven on second day. Blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. 14.9% alcohol. 90-91 at the moment, but it may be better in 2022 or later.

I respect fans of this more "classic" style, and I sought this out in the hopes of trying something different from the typical modern Napa Cabernet. This is different, yes, but I don't think it's better, at least not to me. If anything, this wine struck me as dour and heavy, a disappointment in such an energetic and generous vintage. Of course, this could just be an awkward phase. That said - and speaking only for myself - this currently isn’t my kind of Cabernet.
3 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
3/10/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This delicate and juicy Pinot is not among the best that Morlet has produced, and I agree with Mflesh that this particular bottle wasn't worth the price. Cherry red in color; medium in body; nose of dried strawberry, rose petals, and stems. Tastes of raspberry, rhubarb, and thyme, with a silky and sour finish. 14.7% alcohol. Decant at least two hours. I'm a fan of Morlet, but this wasn't a very exciting bottle.
Red
3/9/2020 - msuwright wrote:
92 points
This juicy and unformed Cabernet may have greatness in its future, but it currently tastes too saccharine and top-heavy to be that exciting, at least to me. Cherry red in color; full in body; nose of blueberry jam, cherry liqueur, menthol, and anise. Tastes of cherry pie, black licorice, and baking spices, with a soft and tart finish. 15.2% alcohol.

This wine has a tremendous amount of fruit ("gobs" fits here), but I'm not sure if time in bottle will make it tip over or come together. I can see how some critics loved this (JS 98, WA 97+), but I have to imagine their scores are more a prediction for this wine's future than a description of its present. A little better on second day. 92 for now, with upside if it integrates, perhaps in 2022 or later.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Continuum Proprietary Red Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/8/2020 - msuwright wrote:
96 points
This rich and grainy mountain Cabernet is utterly fascinating - and delicious - right now, which just the right balance of deep, layered fruit, herbal undertone, and bright acidity. I imagine it has at least 3-5 more years of peak drinking ahead of it, but it is absolutely fantastic right now.

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers compelling and savory aromas of bay leaf, sage, and espresso, with hints of mountain blueberry and black cherry. The flavors, though, are more fulsome and modern, with notes of blackberry, mocha, leather, and graphite, with a silky finish that carries some grainy tannin but also a lifted, refreshing finish (think fresh but ripe raspberries). Blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 16% Petit Verdot. 15% alcohol. Decant at least an hour, if not two. 96+.

P.S. This outpaced a 2013 Memento Mori, which tonight came across as more creamy and straightforward in comparison. Surprisingly, the Continuum matched the Memento in terms of sheer fruit, but the Continuum - true to its origins - had enough tension to make it a touch more interesting. Both great wines, to be sure, but the Continuum was just transfixing tonight.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
3/6/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This extracted and lifted Cabernet is tasty and energetic, but it's currently too narrow and unformed to really be able to tell. Dark purple in color; medium in body (1% milk); nose of boysenberry, cardamon, and burnt embers. Tastes of blueberry pie, raspberry tart, graphite, and leather, with a silky though brief finish. 14.6% alcohol.

I agree with most everything #1WineLover said about this wine, which doesn't have that chocolatey richness that Benoit brings to the gravely LPV profile. If you want a rich but lighter wine, this is for you, but I kept hoping for more complexity and nuance. 93-94 for now, but I do think this might get better with a year or two. Decanting didn't seem to help here, since it seemed a bit more linear with air.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
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.
5 people found this helpful Comments (8)
White
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.
1 person found this helpful Comments (5)
White
2016 Morlet Family Vineyards La Proportion Doree Sonoma Coast Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend (view label images)
3/4/2020 - msuwright wrote:
93 points
This creamy and funky White Bordeaux blend veers a little too close to dessert wine for my taste, with more sweetness and less acidity than I find in its best years (e.g., 2017, 2015). I'm not sure if this is a characteristic of the 2016 vintage, since I tasted the same heaviness in both Morlet Chardonnays (including one a few days ago). Anyway, it's still tasty and unique (as always), but the 2016 currently lacks the freshness and energy of the best vintages.

Light yellow in color and full in body, the wine offers tropical notes of pear, golden delicious apple, lemon meringue, and orange curd. Tastes of gooseberry, quince, over-ripe cantaloupe, and brioche french toast, with a yeasty and nutty finish that seems a bit flat-footed. Blend of 67% Semillon, 32% Sauvignon Blanc, and 1% Muscadelle. 14.5% alcohol. 93+ for now, though I'm hoping the wine will work through this awkward phase by 2021 or later.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
3/3/2020 - msuwright wrote:
97 points
This transfixing and powerful wine is marvelous right now - rich and layered, but restrained and buoyant, Lauren is typically my favorite wine from (one of) my favorite CA Chardonnay producers, and the 2016 is a more than worthy entry (and fuller than a 2016 UV-SL I had a few weeks ago). I know some like to age Auberts more, but this seems to be in a perfect place (for me) right now.

Light yellow in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas that go on and on, with notes of pear, cantaloupe, lemon peel, vanilla bean, and brioche. The flavors are like some kind of vinous kaleidoscope, with notes of golden delicious apple, orange marmalade, gooseberry, almond, and crushed rock (and I'm sure a master sommelier candidate could add even more adjectives, as long as he thought it was a premier cru Burgundy), with a finish that is everything a CA Chardonnay should be - lively, creamy, briny (read: put yourself walking on an ocean on a cool day). 15% alcohol.

Is this French? No, not even close. Is this complex and delicious and balanced and captivating? Yes, absolutely. The combination of viscosity and energy here are just beguiling. Drink in next few years, but - especially if you have more than one - drink now.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
3/1/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and extracted Cabernet is a bit top-heavy at the moment, though it may improve in another year or so. Much more of a bruiser than the 2012 Fairchild LPV I tasted earlier this week, this wine has an abundance of fruit, with some tannin, and even less acidity. I'm not saying its unbalanced (at least for a modern Napa Cabernet), but - if anyone says this is light in the mouth - do not trust their judgment.

Dark purple in color and full (I mean heavy cream full) in body, the wine offers evocative aromas of boysenberry, bay leaf, baking spices, fresh leather, and pencil lead. Tastes of blueberry pie, crushed gravel, sage, and scraped metal, with a juicy and sweet finish. 14.5% alcohol.

I confess to not having figured out the Fairchild label yet. If the LPV I had earlier this week had too much finesse, this wine had too little. 93-94 for now, though it could be more impressive if it calms down in a year or two.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2/29/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This wine bears the markings of 2017 in the early going: more medium-bodied, more red-fruit, less deep, more floral. Still, this is a delicious and nuanced wine that should get even better in a year or two. I look forward to trying this in 2022.

Cherry red in color; medium in body (1% milk, when you're used to 2%); nose of cherry pie, menthol, mocha, and violet. Tastes of macerated blueberry, raspberry, anise, and pine needles, with a grainy yet fresh finish (read: not as dense or plush as usual). 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least two hours.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2/28/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This wine has opened, matured, and faded in the three years since I tasted it last (12/16 - 96 points). This is now a more red-fruited, earthy, and restrained wine, without the buoyant ripe and chocolatey notes of its youth. To be sure, one person's mature wine is another's aged wine, and I confess to not being sure which is which here. I like it, but not as much as I liked it in 2016 - something that may say as much about me (now or then) as it does about the wine (now or then).

The wine is less intense than I remember it, with a lighter red color and a more medium-bodied profile. The aromas now include warm gravel and rosemary, without the licorice notes from years ago. The flavors, too, are more earthy, with notes of blueberry tart, black cherry, anise, and mushroom, with a more grainy and rustic finish. 14.8% alcohol.

This has aged with balance: no alcohol or tannin or acidity poke through at the eight-year mark. Still, I think this is a few years past its sweet spot for me, though others will surely enjoy its more Old World, savory profile. I find it tasty, but too subdued. For my palate, I'd drink in the next few years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2/27/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This rich and layered Cabernet offers a ripeness seldom seen on Mt. Veeder - even at the eight-year mark. To be sure, the wine still carries that intense, red-fruit profile, and acidic uplift befitting Veeder, but the Mithra has a breadth and accessibility that are quite intriguing - and tasty.

Dark red in color, medium in body, nose of black cherry, cardamon, fresh leather, and pencil shavings. Tastes of boysenberry, strawberry rhubarb pie, gravel, and bay leaf, with a silky finish that still carries enough acidity and tannin to be from the mountains. Blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. 14.2% alcohol. Decant at least two hours. 94+ for now, but it may have more complexity in 2022 or later. Grippy and bitter on second day.

P.S. The Mithra did not benefit from being tasted at the same time as an Ovid 2012. Grown north and east across the valley on Pritchard Hill, the Ovid was clearly in another league (97+ if I'm counting). Similar in color but fuller in body, the Ovid offered more evocative aromas, deeper flavors, and a polished finish that went on and on.
Red
2013 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
2/25/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This delicious but grainy wine is more open-knit and subdued than it was in its youth (6/17 - 96 points; 12/15 - 95 points) - but it's an awfully good sub-$100 wine at the seven-year mark. Dark cherry in color; full in body; nose of boysenberry, leather, and cedar. Tastes of black cherry, graphite, gravel, and cedar, with a lingering finish that gets more dry with air. Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 14.8% alcohol. Drink in next few years.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2/24/2020 - msuwright wrote:
94 points
This earthy and open-knit Las Piedras Cabernet is quite enjoyable, but it lacks the intensity or depth that I hope for in an LPV wine from this vintage (and at this price point!). It's tasty at the moment, but - I agree with #1Winelover - I don't think it's worth it, especially after a few hours of air.

Dark purple in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of blackberry, crushed rock, warm herbs, and graphite. Tastes of blueberry, menthol, fresh leather, and crushed pine cone, with a grainy and pleasant finish. 14.5% alcohol. No rush on drinking, since this is what it is for the next 3-5 years, I think.

My first Fairchild wine, this seems to fall on the more restrained end of the LPV spectrum. It doesn't have the ripeness or intensity of, say, a Carter or Fait-Main (where my heart lies), and it instead seems more like a Hobbs or Alpha Omega - more dirt, less fruit. To each his own, of course, but - every once and a while - it's kind of relieving to find an expensive wine I don't want to buy again!
2 people found this helpful Comment
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