Comments on my notes

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Red
2018 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
7/30/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Saw LPB finally rated the VV lineup and I was pretty surprised at the relatively low 95 given to the LPV. Given my exceptional experience recently with the 2019's, figured I would pop a bottle to give it my own evaluation. Important to note I doubled decanted, left at cellar temp for 3-4 hours and then warmed up to room temp before drinking. I think that really makes a difference with these wines.

Begins with expressive and powerful aromas of blackcurrant, baking spices, white flowers, crushed rock and hints of forest floor. Reflects the cooler vintage with extraordinary freshness and precision, showing great balance with mostly black fruit, bitter chocolate with lots of mineral driven and savory character. Super refined tannins are still very present, giving the impression it can age quite nicely for years to come. Builds powerfully in the mid palate with layers that are just emerging, and finishes for over 1 min. Really impressive and way better than 95. Perhaps I am low at 98. Definitely upside.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/31/21, 7:59 AM - WL: She definitely does! And for that matter, so does Jeb. And before that, RP...so perhaps there's a trend there? :) Nevertheless, this was excellent and what I enjoyed most was it is a good reflection of the vintage. Very different than the 2019.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/31/21, 8:01 AM - MJP: I always note the huge scores for Kapscandy Grand Vin. I remember having it one time, and it was super dry. I haven't given it enough consideration to really have a good opinion however. One thing: there are too many great cabs out there! I'm sure it's fabulous but if I'm not mistaken, it's pretty expensive as well.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/31/21, 8:57 AM - Sometimes we all get the urge to go slumming in the unsavory part of town CSIMM...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/31/21, 4:13 PM - LITE: I hear you. It is hard to know the best juice is going somewhere else. One thing for sure is the 18 vintage is a different animal from 19. Some wineries (not naming names), try to make all their wines taste the same through some form of manipulation, but I think VV does a nice job reflecting the growing season and the vineyard. 18 was a way cooler vintage, so the fruit generally is not as flashy and opulent, but the freshness, structure and balance are pretty awesome. It's definitely an age worthy vintage. Have half the bottle left today and it's even a bit better than yesterday. Good sign.

White
2017 Fairchild Estate Chardonnay Stones Russian River Perrarus Block A3 Russian River Valley
7/30/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
Another solid performance, with an all-around sophisticated mouthfeel and texture that defines high-end Chardonnay out of California. Stylistically, this has both its Burgundian moments and its California moments. At first pull, this shows a lemon juice and white melon attack, with whispers of alcohol on the finish.

With a brief amount of air, the beautifully balanced acidity takes over and its waistline fattens-up more to reveal riper citrus flavors, lemon curd, orange citrus oil, honeydew rind, and white rock. After a few hours of air, olive oil and pumice notes surface on the tail. The midsection becomes riper and fuller with time, making for the perception of succulence and even borderline exotic; but the acidity is ever-present and keeps watchful guard over the core fruit.

A top shelf Chardonnay with a matching tariff. No doubt it belongs in the elite sea of upper-end domestic whites, and not to take away anything from the wine as a stand-alone in an otherwise objective vacuum, but for any everyday consumer eyeing these wines, the sticker shock is not without a bit of a bruise to the wallet. I don't own yachts and jet myself off to Monaco on the weekends, so when any wine is at the top of the fee chart among its local peers, it's "worth" noting. Look at it this way, if you're paying $100 for the fancy glass with the artsy metallic label, then the wine itself is in the same realm as its colleagues!
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/30/21, 2:22 PM - We all know you own a jet...

Red
2015 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Oakville
5/19/2018 - csimm1161 wrote:
93 points
TRB wines (SF): Black and red core fruit, with notes of black and red raspberry, black and red cherry, vanilla liqueur, black rock, and some cedar. The mineral note shows up again on the back end (thankfully), saving it from its already overly fruity profile. Weight and balance are in check, however, it's a walk in the park kind of delivery at this stage. Flat and medium mid-palate, with a round, mellow finish.

Not a blockbuster, especially when compared amongst others in the same league...and especially for a BTK. A '15 Pulido-Walker Panek served right before the CCS had more interesting mineral notes for me personally. This CCS's complexity seemed to suffer quite a bit. It plays as a solid wine, but then kinda peters out at the end. 91-93 points depending on when you catch it on the palate. Hold for a few years in hopes it figures out what kind of wine it really wants to be. Some potential here, but...
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/20/18, 8:38 AM - You're such a Schrader hater! :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/20/18, 11:03 AM - It's interesting with Schrader. Sometimes it's overly "fruity", especially when compared to some of the beast we drink, but I also think it has nuances and complexity that sometimes out does others from those sites. Definitely depends on my mood. Obviously the critics love it (JD = 100, LPB = 99), and I think it will probably age very well, but it certainly isn't the concentrated monster that sometimes satisfies that hedonistic urge. I personally loved the 2015 RBS, but I didn't drink it next to anything else either.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/20/18, 4:14 PM - It's been hit and miss for me, but I adore the hits. I do think if the style you prefer is Bevan, Carter, B Cellars etc, it can seem pretty weak on the concentration by comparison. It was really interesting when we were at Farmstead and the GM tasted through everything we had, and Schrader again came out on top. It is true I think that it's elegance and balance win over many people. It has appeal to both the concentration junkies among us, and the more classic profile preference. I remember when we were tasting with Sam Kaplan and he was talking about when to pick, and the joke was everyone picked as soon as Schrader showed up. They certainly have the reputation. Sadly, doesn't matter any longer! No more since Constellation took over.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/12/18, 1:10 PM - Hi City Squirrel: When you combine this first vintage under Constellation and the challenging growing season it puts me out. I do have a buddy who would like it however. I think you need to assume if you skip a vintage you will be kicked off or moved to the back, which is something to consider given how good the 2018 vintage looks. That said, Schrader is legend and all, but there are tons of other houses making just as good or better wine that actually allows you to get more than one of each bottle. The aftermarket has really come down on them as well (other than Sparky), so it wouldn't be that hard to pick some up if you really wanted it. I am cutting back pretty hard on 2017's. Just not worth the huge tariff unless the juice is gonna be epic.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/15/20, 3:26 PM - Lean heavy into Vice Versa. If you have the budget, try Eisele and Promontory. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/29/21, 7:39 AM - Hi Dave - I haven't. Sorry.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/30/21, 7:16 AM - Hi Dave - they have many offerings: Dr Crane, Las Piedras, To Kalon, Stelzner, Georges III. Mysterons and their high end M7 on the cabernet side. They also have a pinot and chard, plus a new wine called "Les Cousins" coming out that is a joint venture with L'Aventure in Paso Robles. You can see notes on most all these wines from our latest tasting stories.

    They are all fantastic, but on the Cab side, I'd suggest starting with LPV and Crane if those are offered. Can't go wrong with any of them however. Also, you might want to mention CT in an email to Samantha to get the wines you want. Not sure if they've sold out of any yet.

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven Napa Valley
7/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
100 points
Vice Versa Wine Dinner: This wine is flat out amazing. It managed to take the best elements of its three parts (TK, Crane and LPV) and showcase them in one place. That is not an easy feat when you’re blending them together, so bravo to Patrice, Philippe and the wine making team.

Gorgeous notes of violets, blackberries, crème de cassis, dark chocolate and forest floor. Super sophisticated on the palate, this takes the expansive power of LPV, the gorgeous purity and flamboyance of Dr Crane plus the focus and structure of TK and magically winds it into a wine that is at once powerful and refined. It gives you all the fruit you could want without ever going over the edge of extraction, and laces in huge levels of minerality and savory character to balance it out and bring sophistication with complexity. As with the other wines in the lineup, the texture is on point and the tannins are so pixilated and fine grained it’s quite amazing. Finishes for over a min. Amazing!
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 8:41 PM - Lite: No shame in being jealous of that tasting! It took me a long time to set it up. So nice of Patrice and Sam to fly in for it and send so much incredible wine. We had a good crowd for them, so hopefully it was mutually beneficial. I was really impressed with the quality of these 2019's. One thing that was interesting - Sam wanted them at room temp for about an hour before service, and that really seemed to help them expand and develop.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 10:04 AM - Room temp in this part of the world is about 70 degrees. I think that's about right.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/29/21, 7:41 AM - Lite: That is easy - the Harlan every single time. Amongst the elites, it is the super elite.

    Thanks for the BDX info. I may give it a whirl!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/29/21, 9:30 AM - I'd definitely take you up on that!

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
7/27/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
100 points
Vice Versa weekend and dinner: This is round #2 with the 2019 LPV since my last sampling it back in April. Once again, it is unquestionably the star of the show. This is the best LPV Vice Versa has ever produced and is categorically one of the best LPVs I’ve ever had. It just does…not…let…up, with a finish that lasts longer than a Turritopsis dohrnii immortal jellyfish (It’s fer reals. Look it up… And that’s right friends, you’re always sure to score an esteemed education nugget with a rando factoid every time you read a note from your pal csimm! You’re welcome). The concentration and intensity are perfectly weighted, with an attention-grabbing entry that isn’t so ostentatious it leaves you facedown on a sticky barroom floor at 2AM. Instead, its flashiness is bracketed with honed acidity and dark, DARK minerality.

Yummy black licorice, blackberry cobbler, graphite, char, toasted spice, obsidian, creosote, and black molten lava from the biblical bowels of the underworld. It’s kinda like chewing on the Exorcist, except the ending of the LPV is WAY better. This is likely the deepest LPV I’ve encountered. Thankfully, its lift comes from propulsions of luscious tannins and acid that glaze the mouth and drench the palate with the proper ramp to hurtle the succulent black fruit and spice into flavor orbit.

100 points. If this can retain its core character throughout the course of its evolution once in-bottle, then it will surely merit continued accolades and be rightly lauded as a perfect representation of the site and of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. And what’s even better, my Cellar Tracker pal Cristall2000 has to once again face me and admit that the 2019 LPV beat out the 2019 Crane – for the second time. Victory!
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 5:39 PM - Ah CSIMM, you will regret your bragging when this shuts down so hard you can't drill through it in about 6 months. Then you'll be begging for the CRANE. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 6:08 PM - Little known wine critic Robert Parker once said of wine from Dr Crane: "This gravelly site produced a wine with notes of wet pebbles, Haut Brion-like scorched earth and volcanic notes, some smoke, dark chocolate, forest floor, and massive amounts of blueberry and blackberry fruit. If somehow Bordeaux's Haut Brion were injected with steroids, it might taste like this monumental effort from Napa." Now, I realize he has no credibility, but does that sound like a fruity wine with no mineral character? Hmmm...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 8:55 AM - My, my, my...how French of you to place your own palate above the best wine critic to ever live.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 10:02 AM - "Last I checked, the term Parkerization wasn’t referring to the phenomenon of minerality nor his egregious up-scoring of wines for their superb frame and tension. So the fact that he would consider Crane as mineral-driven is like you considering Bernie Sanders as too conservative." - Now who needs to be reminded not to disparage? Lol...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 10:06 AM - MJP: what are you referring to by MM and VH? Memento Mori and VHR? Not sure if you are asking about VV wines or others.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 4:33 PM - MJP: All the wineries you mention, VV+MM+VHR, are really standout producers in my opinion. None of them are over the top extracted or super modern. That being said, VHR is by far the most classic and old world in the way it is made, and presents great lifted acidity and structure, perhaps without as much concentrated fruit and general opulence. I think that's why the newly minted Frechie CSIMM is coming around to it. :)

    It can be a toss up between the MM and VV LPV and Crane. Often times in blind tastings the MM does very well, but the VV tends to be great with food. I'd favor the Melka product over the long term, but really it's very hard to choose.

    And clearly I prefer Crane because it's more predictably excellent no matter when you pull the cork. No doubt the LPV can be amazing, it's just harder to time. I have not had MM shut down the way the VV offering has in the past however.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/29/21, 7:39 AM - MJP: Let's just hope there's a 21 vintage. Have a couple of hairy months ahead. Napa needs a win this year.

Red
2015 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Dr. Crane St. Helena
7/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
Vice Versa Wine Dinner: What a treat to have these BBS wines. They don’t make them any longer, but one barrel of their best juice from these Beckstoffer sites was just epic while it lasted. On this occasion, the TK BBS outshined the Crane BBS, but this was still extremely tasty. Showed all the fresh and pure blueberry compote and black cherry fruit that makes this vineyard so special, while also still attempting to integrate and resolve its massive size. This is stuffed with all the goodness you could want, but it will take a little more time to reach its stride. Give it a few more years and a very long decant.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/28/21, 4:36 PM - WL: It's hard to say why the score went down a couple points. I try to evaluate wines on their own merits, but there's no doubt when you are drinking it next to a 12 Harlan and 15 Promontory, some of the relativism may sneak into it. I think the BBS wines show amazing out of the gate, but then their sheer size presents the need for age. I expect this will be a very long lived wine, and I don't generally say that about many valley floor Beckstoffer offerings.

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Les Cousins California
7/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Vice Versa Wine Dinner: Well now, it appears my friend CSIMM wrote a book about this wine, and how it meets his French sensibilities. I happen to overall agree that this wine is going to be special, just not quite at the 100pt level.

Taking Beckstoffer fruit and putting it with some of Paso's best is an interesting concept. Making it all cab is even more interesting, since traditionally that is not the best grape grown in the GSM dominant Paso region. Nevertheless, this turned out to be a fantastic first effort that will unfortunately only come with about 80 total cases split between L'Aventure and VV.

Super expressive both on the nose and palate, it starts you out with wonderful opulent fruit and is really expansive, touching all corners of your taste buds. Lots of blackberry, black licorice, loamy soil, bing cherry and really good levels of minerality framed in by strong and fine grained tannins. As it progresses, the fruit calms and makes way for significant savory character, I assume from the Paso part of the blend. With a perfect mouthfeel, great layering and already developing complexity, this has the potential to be fabulous. It's already super fun to drink.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 9:05 PM - Is Macron stepping down? :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 9:54 PM - Thank you for the nice comments. Of course I am only joking around with my friend CSIMM - he is a note posting savant! CT is a great resource for all of us, and I think for Napa in particular, it has taken the place of any big time critic. Losing Parker kind of ended the age of a pro critic dictating preference. Now we can find people who have similar palates and tastes to really find the wines that best suit us. Cheers!

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
7/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Vice Versa Wine Dinner: This is always a wow wine for me. The LPV and M7 had a slightly better showing, but this was no slouch and showed as much promise as ever. All the blueberry pie, white flowers, crushed rock and wet stone that is normally associated with this vineyard explodes from the glass. Powerfully rich and concentrated with that oh so ridiculously pure and yummy blue fruit reaching every crevasse of the palate, this is stunning. I am always taken by the unreal purity of the fruit from this site, and this vintage shows it off in spades. Perfectly integrated tannins and seamless texture frame pure opulence and hedonism in a glass. The finish is massive and has a nice mineral streak. 98+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 9:49 PM - I think you are right on with 18. While some showed well early, in general they seem to need time. It was a cool vintage and those tend to require more patience. I feel like 19 will be more accessible early from my tastings so far. That vintage is really growing on me.

Red
2015 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard (BBS) Oakville
7/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Vice Versa Wine Dinner: As expected with these super concentrated BBS wines, this still wasn’t completely ready, but it showed better than the Crane we had alongside and had all the elements of a tremendous future. With depth for days, wonderful structure, enough flavor to last decades and an off the charts finish, expect this to improve for at least another decade. The overall class of this vineyard shined.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 8:20 PM - It was pretty terrific. We actually hosted it and he and Sam flew in. Great folks.

Red
2012 Harlan Estate Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
7/27/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
100 points
Vice Versa weekend and dinner: I got all ramped-up to write about this wine and then just re-read my notes from 4/30/2021 that basically say it all (so, refer to those notes if you want to read my novella from April). This was probably my favorite wine of the weekend. It is just so perfectly balanced, smooth, and complex. The depth is extraordinary, as in EXTRA awesome. A 2015 Promontory (as well as a number of the amazing Vice Versa wines) were nipping at the heels of this Harlan, but I can’t deny my complete adoration and affection for this amazing wine. It is an emotional response for me.

When CT’er Cristal2000 said he was considering popping the cork on this bottle, I tried to play it off casually, like that would be a wine “worth exploring” or some sort of snobby academic reply that made me think I was saying something only mildly suggestive as to the merits of opening it for “the other people.” Of course, what I really meant was, “Um, I want. Me drink. Now please.”

And yes, I hear it constantly. “But is it worth it, really?” Hell, I dunno. Generally speaking, it doesn’t put a roof over my head or cure me from cancer, so in that vein, I guess it’s not worth it. It is for me. Well, is it a bummer that it is in the top price bracket that it is…as in, it’s own bracket, leaving almost all Napa Cabs in the fiscal dust for only the elite to sample? Of course it’s a bummer. But if a Ferrari was inexpensive and everyone had one, it wouldn’t be a Ferrari. Regardless, if I (meaning me…not anyone else) had to have just one wine before I die kind of thing, this is at the top of my list.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 5:36 PM - Hey CSIMM - I think you left off the note how you begged and pleaded with me to open this wine and then continued to remind me until I relented...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/27/21, 6:16 PM - Will wonders never cease? The high road from CSIMM!!

Red
2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
4/22/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Barrel sample. Definitely a bit more over the top on the fruity goodness than the MM Blend or MM LPV, this shows impeccable purity and way more blue fruit character. Black cherry, blueberry pie and huge floral is the hallmark of Crane and it's very present in this edition. The silky mouthfeel, awesome freshness and massive depth and concentration can't help but make you smile. Not for the faint of heart and not what I would call a BDX lovers wine, but thankfully Sam gives it balance and it has the structure to age and get better for at least a decade or two. Like with the LPV, seems like a blend of 12 and 16 vintages. 97-99+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/26/21, 4:03 PM - Time will tell Dave. I don't think Napa is going anywhere, but it may be harder to consistently make quality wine if the fires and drought keep up. There will definitely be less volume without the rain.

Red
2016 Bevan Cellars EE Cuvée Tench Vineyard Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
2/26/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Big fan of this wine. Shows the progression of Bevan's winemaking from over the top rich to better balanced and nuanced. Cherries, violets, plums, and tobacco on the nose. Really fresh, seamless and surprisingly nuanced, it's spicy and taut, with well integrated and fine grained tannin and lovely layering. I think I am getting this wine too early, because it is just starting to put on weight with more air, but in time I imagine it will be palate coating goodness. As it stands, it's incredibly well constructed, with lots of complexity and a great mix of fruit, earth and minerality. It's got a long finish and I think the best days are ahead.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/27/21, 2:23 PM - I'd give it 2-3 hours. I had PnP and it took a little while to hit it's stride. I don't think you can overdo the air.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/21/21, 7:08 AM - Hi Dave - seeing this a little late. Sorry to the tardiness. I think you can safely open it now with a few hours of air, but I am also pretty sure you have another 5 years or so of an excellent drinking window. Maybe longer.

    I am doing well, thanks.

Red
2016 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Estate St. Helena
6/16/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
Complex aromas of rose petals, blueberries, tobacco, eucalyptus, licorice and some light overtones of cedar. On the palate, not as overtly open and fruit driven as the 2015, but shows the same unbelievably purity and superior focus. Medium to full bodied, showing lots of black cherry fruit laced with extremely fine grained but prominent tannins and loads of complex mineral driven flavors. Structured and ready for many years in the cellar, it finishes long and super fresh. A very nuanced wine and much more feminine than most from the valley floor in St Helena. It is coiled up at present but promises to age extremely well.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/25/21, 11:56 AM - I'd say the 15 vintage is the most like the 07. So if you are going for some form of comparison, tasting a more aged version of a more fruit forward vintage beside a younger one, that would be most appropriate. If just going for a rocking vintage, although much different, the 10 is fabulous. Sounds fun! Cheers.

Red
2018 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard St. Helena
5/24/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
96 points
If you know Bevan and you know Crane, then this inaugural interpretation of the lauded site won’t come as any surprise. Big, deep, concentrated, intense, and all those other Schwarzenegger-type descriptors that have been continuously used to describe modern takes on Crane aptly apply here. Fans of this style can place this in the same bin as other Cranes before it from Elysian to B Cellars, Vice Versa to Memento Mori, Realm to, well, now Bevan, Crane followers can add this to the throngs of juicy black cherry fruitiness out on full display for all to gobble up.

As for the question about any distinct markers in which Bevan has specifically made for his representation? Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of extra flex here, a bit more mid-palate thud, and a bit more punch on the finish. So basically, a bit more of everything turned up an extra notch a-la This Is Spinal Tap. Again, those who know Bevan shouldn’t be floored by this at all. Currently there is marked acidity to counterbalance the ripe and reduced fruit, keeping it from becoming too thick or sluggish and adding the essential speed needed to keep it in-step. There is a slight tug-of-war with the banging alcohol on the finish that clatters the fruit expansion currently, but the viscosity seems to be winning the fight and I’d imagine will ultimately prove more seamless in the coming years. It will never be a subtle wine and is on the liberal end of modernity. Crane-wise, the comparative opposite pole might be Arrow & Branch’s version of Crane, with a more regimented execution and throttled-back gushing of flavor immediacy.

94-96+ points, with certain upside in 5-7+ years (and beyond), as I think the acidity (or at least the perception of acidity) here will hopefully make for a longer-lived Crane than some of the “just rich” versions that are floating around out there and have been known to collapse under the weight of their own fruit before even getting close to the decade from vintage mark.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/24/21, 2:46 PM - Let's not pretend the 14.8% is accurate. It is likely at least 1% higher. Most wineries in Napa use a lower number and are technically allowed to deviate by 1% above 14% ABV, even though my bet is over 16%. I remember one time Roy Piper showed me the lab results on his wine, and it was like 16.8% ABV. And he doesn't make them as big as Bevan.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/24/21, 3:29 PM - If they list under 14%, they can fudge by even more - 1.5% - and still be within the rules. Hard to say how each winery treats it, but I think fair to say most list lower than actual abv. Certainly the older school wines perhaps didn't have quite as much reason to hide it.

Red
2012 Harlan Estate Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
100 points
Epic wine. Doesn't get much better. I think I tasted about 70 different cabs over the span of 3 days in Napa, and this was the best (followed very closely by the 16 Harlan and 18 MacDonald). There's something unique about the Harlan wine. It's hard to put my finger on, but I know it when I taste it. The quality, depth of flavor and almost immediate complexity are second to none. It will never be a QPR winner, but if I am going to splurge this is the first place I look.

Bursts from the glass with blackberries, plums, dried herbs, tobacco, violets, cassis and forest floor. The epitome of an iron fist in a velvet glove, this is just seamless on the palate with incredible concentration and nuance. It shows amazing complexity, with fruit, earth and minerality all taking turns in the lead. The purity of fruit, bright acidity and depth for days makes this a truly magnificent achievement. Finish is off the charts. Showing amazingly right now, but still has many years left to show its best.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/3/21, 9:05 AM - LIOF: It really depends on how you like your wine to drink. The 12 was magnificent when we just had it, but Harlan is one wine I can say with confidence will continue to develop well for at least the first 20 years. So if you like a bit more concentrated power, with a bit more fruit, then now and for the next couple years. If you want those earthy, mushroom-ish tertiary notes, then give it 10+ years.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/18/21, 5:51 PM - Bsumoba - are they going to drink it when they acquire it? Or let it age? And do they like a bit more fruit or the super BDX character? From those I've had, the 2010 is fantastic and a cooler vintage, so it's got deep complexity and a bit more of everything going on. Clearly, this 2012 is utterly amazing, but it's going to have a bit more fruit. The ultimate vintage for me is 2016, but again, need to take some time. Otherwise, the 2001 vintage was killer and 2002 wasn't far behind. And in the middle, 2007. I have never had a bad Harlan, so you can't really go wrong. I had an amazing 2008 about a year ago from a Mag.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/18/21, 7:53 PM - Harlan isn't 100% Cab. His profile sounds like a 2010 or 2013 would likely work out best. That or the new 2018.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/18/21, 8:24 PM - They've got something called a "founders list" where you get 3 bottles every year. Do you want me to ask them about openings for you to join? I've had some success with other friends recently, but I don't know what they will say. They can be a bit strange in the way they do business.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/19/21, 10:20 AM - BSU: I will reach out to them and see what they say. If it's possible, I will connect you.

Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon BBS Beckstoffer Dr. Crane St. Helena
5/17/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
98 points
I've written quite a bit here already, so I won't go too in-depth specifically on this wine. This was full of depth and flavor expansion from the very beginning. Ripe and rich, but not too sweet (which I very much appreciate), with a texture that gorgeously coats the palate, the BBS Crane is indeed a top shelf representation of the site. This was ready to go on PnP, and even more compelling after an hour or so of slow O2 and some swirling in the glass. Phenomenal stuff.

Served next to a 2015 VV LPV (not BBS) that was much more linear and reserved - perhaps a product of the vintage and the site. The LPV is a solid performer, but needs more time. The Crane is splayed with fruit flavor.

My man Cristal2000 keeps trying to sell me on the notion that Crane is the superior site over LPV. I'm reluctant to acquiesce and surrender on this just yet, as I have become sensitive to how plush and "fruity" Cranes can become sometimes. The LPV can be more mulish indeed, but when it shines, it's exactly what I'm looking for. Interestingly, the 2019 VV LPV was an absolute shining rock star compared to the 2019 VV Crane at the time of our recent tasting of the VV barrel samples. So, once again it depends on hitting these wines at the right time. The LPV certainly does seem to have more of a "shut down" period (or whatever the hip term is for it these days) than the Crane generally speaking. As far as this comparison between the 2016 Crane BBS and 2015 LPV (maybe not a fair fight), I will say this: Cristal2000 - You've won the battle, but not the war...
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/17/21, 10:37 AM - Like the Japanese after Peal Harbor, you've lost the war, you just don't know it yet...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/17/21, 11:13 AM - I mean the Japan that bit off more than it could chew and bowed down in defeat to the USA...much the same as the LPV to the Crane. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/17/21, 11:25 AM - LPV is the one who took an uncivilized cheap shot while Crane wasn't looking...Crane only defended itself, and summarily crushed LPV

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/17/21, 11:56 AM - Well now, LPV is certainly no Frenchie juice. Plenty of fruit from that site. I have no issue with LPV, just can't see it being relatively better than the good Doctor, even if Crane is a bit more sultry and the skirt is a bit shorter...

Red
2018 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
5/14/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Well, well...this wine has been staring at me for a while from the cellar window. I have previously looked the other way, not giving into its sultry stare, but tonight I felt the time was right to indulge.

I popped the cork, decanted and then back in the bottle about 4 hours before dinner. At dinner, I had some and it was still tight. About 30 mins later it started to unfurl in the glass.

Heavenly nose of blackberries, anise, violets and cassis fruit. The palate is hitting all the right notes right now: gorgeous pure mostly blue fruit, seamless pixilated tannins, excellent acidity and significant structure frame a very well integrated young wine. This is firm, not the least bit too forward and comes across in the most lovely fresh way, with the interplay of fruit, crushed stone and mineral driven flavors interchanging from the front to mid to finish. There is very good concentration, but nothing at all heavy about it. A fabulous effort that will continue to get better for a number of years. This will easily compete with the 16.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/15/21, 7:47 AM - Like with the 18 Realm Crane, there's no reason you "need" to open one early. Both start super tight and then come around with air. But they are not nails where you can't enjoy them. I personally find it fun to drink them young to get a sense of the wine. This is right with the vintage, in that it has got exceptional freshness, a firm backbone and excellent but not overwhelming fruit.

Red
2015 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
5/14/2021 - Shellswinescript Likes this wine:
99 points
If the name of this wine is to remind us that we all die, it also reminds us that we have now died tasting an amazing wine. This is a rich cab blooming with fantastic tannins. I smell crushed violets, vanilla and blueberry pie. The finish is amazing and balanced on the tongue. If you love Crane cabs, you will love this wine.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/14/21, 10:00 PM - We should all die together with great things on our tongue. Thank you for noting it...

Red
2015 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Estate St. Helena
5/14/2021 - Geaux Tigers Likes this wine:
97 points
From a 375 with no decant. Elegance shown best—a good mix of Napa and BDX with the best of both worlds, no specific notes, other than Wow! Mrs Geaux loved it! Easily kicked ass over a 2012 Gargiulo OVX, which was excellent in its own right!
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/14/21, 8:13 PM - Love it. That's how I felt about the 15 two years ago. Need to pop another soon. Nice note!

Red
2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras Napa Valley
4/22/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
This was the first barrel sample pulled on the trip, and it did not disappoint! Super fresh mostly black fruit jumps out of the glass with lovely opulence and energy. Refined tannins and a suave mouthfeel even at this early stage, this was just a blast to sample. The fruit leads, but it has plenty of earthy and mineral driven flavors that emerge around the mid-palate and take it right though the finish. The vintage comparison that comes to mind is like mixing 12 with 16. Great potential here and surely will continue with a long line of great MM LPV's. 96-98+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/14/21, 8:10 PM - Hi Blarmston - Sadly we didn't get to the 19 VHR or 18 RTL. Honestly, I wish I had remembered about the RTL and would've asked.

Red
2018 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch Oakville
8/1/2020 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Arrow and Branch Tasting 2016-2018 Vintages: Flat out amazing and perhaps the best wine AB has ever produced. Cassis fruit, dark cherry, hints of char, herbs, tobacco and baking spices on a compelling nose. Shows the hallmark extremely fresh and vibrant style of AB wines with epic concentrated and pure fruit, to go along with a savory character that sets the complexity apart from other offerings. Full bodied, incredibly well layered and showing the "it" factor many of us enthusiasts are trying to find. Refined but prominent tannic structure will give this a long life. Excellent acidity and balance. Super long and satisfying finish. This is one you buy without any reservations.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/4/20, 11:17 AM - Haha. Generally Blarmston is correct, but I don't believe in this case the winery minds if I post on their future release. I was fortunate to get a nice preview of the 2018's next to 2016/2017 for most of their offerings. The VHR is $225 on release, which will be in about a year for the 2018. Only the second year they are buying grapes from that source. Jennifer Williams is starting to work a little magic at AB.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/27/21, 11:02 AM - Hi MJP: I was able to get it a little while back and have a bunch. I haven't had it recently, but I was clearly very impressed. They are also great people and Josh will help you out if you need anything.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/1/21, 7:41 AM - bsumoba: I really love the VHR Estate. I just had the 18 (no notes yet, but CSIMM got some up), and it was really good, if overshadowed by the 18 MacDonald during the tasting. From memory, the VHR is not quite as full bodied or concentrated as the AB edition. The VHR's strength is focus, precision, complexity and balance, which gives it the ability to age extremely well. It's more old world than most wines coming out of the region IMO. The AB has a lot of those traits, albeit with a bit more new world flair (only comparing against the VHR, since generally AB is a bit more restrained than others). The AB has a tad more of a silky mouthfeel and the tannins are slightly riper. The VHR tannin profile is nearly perfectly fine grained and pixilated, so I'd say it outshines the AB a little there. Both have excellent structure. Just like the VHR, I expect the AB won't truly show its best for a number of years, but I do think it'll be in its prime a little earlier.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/11/21, 3:52 PM - Bsumoba: VHR was block 4 (and clone 4) for 2017 and 2018. In 2019, they are adding block 3B. I am not sure about MM. I'll have to ask Sam next time I have the chance.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/11/21, 9:09 PM - Sam K just told me MM VHR is block 4 and 7. So lots of block 4 around these parts.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/12/21, 10:27 AM - Vine Hill is in a ton of wines. Accendo is another one that sources part of its blend from there. And of course, the most famous is Bond Vecina.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/12/21, 11:26 AM - Accendo is a blend, partially from VHR. Vecina is 100% sourced from VHR, but they will not tell you that explicitly.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/12/21, 12:43 PM - Bsumoba: it depends on how many AB VHR's you have. They definitely beg for some age, but when I had it last year it was still really enjoyable. If you've got a bunch, don't think there's any harm in giving one a run with air.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/13/21, 1:15 PM - For me on Lail, I am not buying the futures because I can modify the club wine to get 3 at the futures price next February. If it was still $175 like last year, I would definitely be adding more, but don't need to at the $225 level.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/13/21, 1:44 PM - So MJP, are they making a 2020? And if so, do you intend to maintain the Robin's Nest status? I was new to Lail last year. I like their wine, although I don't see any separation from wines like Vice Versa etc. Their club pricing was compelling.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/13/21, 3:24 PM - MJP: have they said they won't be releasing a 2020 wine then? I have not heard. That is the only thing that scares me about clubs.

    Bsumoba - it depended on the relationship with the grower and if the grapes were harvested from what I understand. For example, I know Vice Versa didn't have to pay for the grapes because they hadn't been picked. Was a bit shocked Beckstoffer actually ate the cost, but I'm sure he has good insurance. I know others that shared the cost with the grower to maintain a good relationship.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/13/21, 4:10 PM - MJP: Good info, thanks! Hopefully they will not use library pricing, which is my biggest pet peeve in the industry.

Red
2012 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo Napa Valley
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Getting a chance to taste this wine was a real treat. Chris' wines are so built for age that it can be hard to get a real good read on them early. This showed without a doubt that these are going to age gracefully and gain significant complexity over time.

What I found unique and interesting about this wine was its ability to show off really massive levels of concentration without it being dominated by fruit. Reminded me a bit of Harlan in that respect, although I am not ready to put this wine at that level.

TN: Blackberries, forest floor, loamy soil and hints on smoked meat and char on the nose. Concentrated and super savory on the palate, this is a bigger version of a nicely aged BDX. Showing super complexity, deftly integrated tannins and plenty of freshness, it's still a baby in the lifecycle. I expect it to get better for another decade, and that's not common in Napa.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/13/21, 10:01 AM - Thanks. I think these wines are a bit polarizing. LPB can't seem to give it more than a 93, which I think is kind of insane. But it's very different than most Napa cabs. Way more old world.

Red
2018 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
Fortunate to get an early preview of this wine. Obviously Bella Oaks has a storied history with Heitz and then Staglin, so I was super curious to see what Nigel and company was able to produce. Despite making some wine in 2016 and 2017, this was the first vintage that met the high standard necessary for release, and it's a knockout.

I was able to follow this over two days, and it kept getting better and better with more air. Clearly the sign of a very good wine. A blend of mostly cabernet with little parts cab franc and petit verdot, the nose shows red cherries, violets, tobacco and loamy soil. Showing bright acidity and seamless freshness, this rides a bit higher on the palate than the Kinsman wines, but over time continues to put on weight and shows compelling levels of concentration and depth of flavor. The fruit is mostly blue and red, and the acidity and structure really shine. There's a nice mineral driven streak that shows on a long finish. This is another crazy good first vintage like Kinsman La Voleuse.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 8:01 PM - I didn't ask - probably should have. I would love if it were under $200, but that seems doubtful.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:46 AM - Yeah, it was a nice little compilation of wines that gave me excellent insight into what they are doing. I also brought CSIMM1161 along for the ride, so I'm sure he's going to post about them all and give more information. He's much better at taking notes than I am during events like that.

    Trying to get up everything from this trip is going to be exhausting. I've got VV, Fairchild, Accendo, Harlan, Arkenstone, Maxem, Memento Mori (Barrel), Tynan etc etc to come.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 8:08 AM - You're exactly right, which is why I pumped out the Kinsman reviews the day I returned. Some will surely not make it up. I try to hit the newest and most interesting first.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 5:41 PM - I'll be buying it so long as they don't go crazy with pricing.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/11/21, 11:15 AM - Thanks. It's always nice when we get a chance to try the wines before the release, and especially so for a first vintage. This wine was a bit disappointing initially while having it next to some of the Kinsman offerings, but over the course of the next day it just got better and better. I think it'll be worth buying, assuming the price point isn't too high.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/11/21, 1:25 PM - MJP: No doubt the relative comparison likely hurt Bella Oaks in this case. But it is nice to have the bar set so high for a new wine, so you know you aren't just wanting it to be good in a vacuum. I always feel like relative comparisons can short change a wine, because there's always a best wine and it outshines the rest. But in this instance, it was a good yard marker.

Red
2018 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard St. Helena
5/6/2021 - #1Winelover wrote:
Has anyone had this yet? I am very excited to try it but I don't want to waste a bottle and I no longer have confidence in my Coravin!
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/6/21, 2:47 PM - I had one the other night. It was very good after about 10 hours of air. I was disappointed in a 13 vintage I had on a recent trip to Napa, so I wanted this to talk me back into being enthusiastic about the wine. It did by the end of the night. Don't open it unless you can let it breathe for a long time.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/6/21, 4:47 PM - The 18 was super tight when I opened it. Took a sip. So it certainly wouldn't be the first one to grab, but it did finally come around nicely after all that time. I will say, I had a bit left over next day and it wasn't nearly as good.

Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon La Voleuse Du Chagrin Calistoga
4/30/2021 - csimm1161 wrote:
98 points
3 days in Napa: Arkenstone, Memento Mori, Maxem, The French Laundry, Christopher Tynan, Kinsman, Harlan, Vice Versa, Accendo, Fairchild, Macdonald, and a truckload of others (Napa): You want an Eisele that went on a major Miami Vice bender, pararescued its way out of an Apache AH-64 on to Pablo Escobar’s zooming SCARAB, tripped on 60 kilos of Bolivian marching powder, speedboated its way to Bordeaux, returned to the states with a jug of crazy St. Emilion juice in its hands, detoured to Coachella to watch Flea do a 60-minute bass solo, and finally land back at the motherland in the Valley to spit blackberry motor oil all over a blissful little plot in Calistoga? Well then, you’re in luck, because the 2018 La Voleuse is the answer to all of your prayers.

Signature black cherry, blackberry, cassis, dry tobacco, pulverized granite, and double espresso notes pop and lock with an unreal grip-speed-grip-go momentum to keep it all buzzing within and around its core. Super grippy (did I mention grip?) with popping (did I mention popping?) acidity. With air, an elegance and controlled depth emerges, providing insight that this party animal has sophistication and class that is undoubtedly on the cusp of blossoming if given some short-term cellaring. How can a wine have both excitement and refinement working conjointly, a pairing none have seen the likes of since Crockett and Tubbs? I dunno. Just drink it and let me know how that works out for ya. Signs point to awesome. 97-98++ points.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/1/21, 6:16 PM - Don't worry, CSIMM can stock the room high with French coward juice. You'll pop the 3L Kinsman and he'll saunter in with a Grand Cru Chablis and think he just made everyone's day. Not speaking from experience...:) Kidding...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/2/21, 10:10 AM - When you cheated on Napa with the slutty French temptress, you broke my heart...:)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/2/21, 10:24 AM - Check your email CSIMM...once again, I hooked you up, even after you went turncoat. Unrequited love creates such sorrow...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/2/21, 11:09 AM - Lol. I am glad you came back from the dark side, at least a little bit CSIMM. We'll have to expand the group on one of these Napa visits. Make the wineries really sweat with a bunch of amateur wine critics and big buyers circling the wagons at the same time...

Red
2018 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
5/1/2021 - scballfan Likes this wine:
94 points
If you’re a little patient, I mean like no less than a 1.5 hour decant, you’ll get past the strong oak overtones of vanilla that Chris notes. The nose becomes increasingly floral. I get dried violets. It’s a huge wine through and through - not for the classical palate. It shows nice dark fruit up front with good acid - boysenberry maybe. The tannins only soften slightly after decant, and it has floral notes and chalk in the long, long finish.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/1/21, 5:25 PM - What's this?!?!? You're now posting notes? Have we entered an alternate universe? :)

Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Amoenus Napa Valley
4/22/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
As others have noted, this is a new wine from Arkenstone. Maybach also makes a wine from here, and it is right next to Vice Versa's new home vineyard in Calistoga. I sometimes think Maybach is over the top extracted, so I was excited to see what Sam could do with it. Turned out to be my favorite red poured during this tasting from Arkenstone.

Nicely fragrant nose of dark cherries, black currant, spring flowers, wet stone and hints of asian spice. Shows great concentration and nice balance, not going over the top with extracted fruit, but also displaying the freshness and purity of the vintage and vineyard. As always with Sam's wine, the tannin management and overall mouthfeel is impeccable, and the wine gains weight from the mid palate to a long finish. This is a great first effort for this vineyard. I have become more and more interested in the Arkenstone Estate Cab, and this now gives me a second wine to enjoy from them in a "Napa reasonable" price range. Just don't spend much time looking at the ridiculously bad labels they threw on these. :)
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 4:56 PM - Yeah, I'm not comparing to the barrel samples we did afterward. That wouldn't be fair....

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/30/21, 7:08 AM - Yes, I tasted at Arkenstone last week. I generally meet up with Sam K when I come to town, and he always goes through the Ark wines first. They are all high quality.

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Mysterons Napa Valley
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Barrel sample. Finally got to taste the mysterious new entry into the VV lineup. This is a blend from their newly sourced site Ecotone (of Abreu fame), their new home vineyard in Calistoga (near Amoenus - Maybach & Arkenstone) and some other parts from the Beckstoffer lineup that I can't recall offhand. Again, I mention that I had this with around 20 wines at the end of a day of tasting, so my palate may not have been 100%. Nevertheless, I want to provide some feedback.

Summing it up, this was fantastic. Showed dark cherries, cassis, raspberry, spice box and lots of floral on the nose. This is full bodied, but with a great spine of freshness and acidity that makes it a bit more taut than the Beckstoffer offerings, along with a slightly redder fruit profile. Refined tannins and a silky mouthfeel are coupled with nice pure fruit and a lot of earth driven flavors. There is a deep mineral streak that emerges around the mid palate and carries it to a long and satisfying finish. Overall, I feel like this is a bit less opulent, but more structured and brighter than most of the other VV wines. I love them all, and this is a great new entry.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 4:55 PM - Yeah, I would imagine they didn't want to go straight to an SVD on the home vineyard. The Ecotone can cover up for any issues, since it is awesome. A little surprised they didn't turn that into an SVD right away, but I am sure they have their reasons.

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
Barrel sample. Always one of my favorite wines, we caught this one in a shut down phase. My last note would be a better indication of my thoughts on this wine, since it wasn't giving up much on this occasion.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 4:53 PM - LIOF: No doubt. I had this a couple months previously, and it was rocking. Who knows what this issue was on this night, but both CSIMM and I noticed it immediately.

Red
2013 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
4/22/2021 - LiteItOnFire Likes this wine:
96 points
Not notes as it was a big lineup only impressions more around the decanting then the high complexity this wine delivers in spades. 1 of 7 wines tasted with a very good diverse lineup of Cabernet, Grenache, Merlot and represented by Napa, Washington, Italy.

This is a monster! I have never personally decanted a wine this long and was a bit nervous as I have always always preferred for wines to open up in my glass (when time is not an issue) if I am unfamiliar with the vintage, winemaker or wine or (in this case the later) as I feel a tight wine’s structure will benefit (tannins soften) and perhaps the wine opens much more but at the same time you lose some fruit plus other primary components and many times can cause the acidity and tannins to become more pronounced instead of better integrated.

This wine needed it big time. It wasn’t until at least five hours in that it started to budge and shows it’s goods. The ‘18 we had a couple weeks prior I am sure went through a similar transition. We started drinking it at the 9 hour mark and finished the last sip around 12 hours. It has amazing purity with impeccable balance that allows you to effortlessly pick out the individual flavor components as it glides to a very long enjoyable finish. Blackberry, blueberry, dark raspberry with a mineral and clay component that seems to hit a symphony of pleasure. So well done! For me, as good as this is, I will go against the grain and state for my palate the 2018 is the winner by a nose.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 9:01 AM - Nice note! The 13 from them needs so much time. It's fabulous, but it really is a 50 year wine that probably drinks best in 25. I personally don't think you touch one for 7-10 years. Very different from 16 or 18 IMO, which are still monsters, but you can get at them.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 11:21 AM - Agree LIOF, the chances of waiting that long are slim to none. The reason we are buying Napa and not BDX wines. That being said, this is one of a very few that I think will continue to get better that many years in the future. Most Napa wines are starting a downhill descent after about 10.

Red
2016 Harlan Estate Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
100 points
See my previous notes for just how in love I am with this bottle of wine. Having it right next to a 12 showed its youth, with a bit more alcohol to integrate while waiting on some of those secondary and tertiary flavors to emerge. Nevertheless, this is simply a stunning achievement that sets it apart even in perhaps the best vintage in recent memory in Napa. The only thing that will make it more perfect is bottle age, so if you don't have many $1000 bottles to experiment with, then I'd say hold off 4-5 more years at least.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/27/21, 8:11 PM - Hi MJP: I've actually spent some time considering this question, especially after visiting Harlan last week. The order is how you would think: Harlan, Promontory and then Bond.

    Harlan has been cultivated over 40 years, and it has something extremely special going on. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is, but the wine itself shows a character I haven't identified in any other wine I've ever had from Napa. There is almost an instant complexity with a weightless power that sets it apart.

    Promontory is amazing, but it's still fairly young. It has more earth and especially mineral driven character. It's fantastic, but not quite yet with Harlan overall. That said, it is unique, based on the Austrian Casks and it's super rough and rocky vineyard source, which gives it a lot of character. I'd expect this to be where Harlan is in a decade or so.

    Bond is sourced from across the valley. It's fabulous, but isn't in the "first growth" quality conversation most vintages. That said, Vecina from VHR vines and St Eden can get in that territory from time to time.

    Hope that helps!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 7:51 PM - Hi IRBDW: As luck would have it, I don't rate wine point in time. I try to rate it based on the quality in the bottle and use the notes to explain how it was drinking in that moment. But, yeah, probably 127pts in 10 years :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 8:59 AM - IRBDW: I hear you and that makes a lot of sense. I drank these at the winery, so thankfully I didn't have to pop my own super expensive bottle! One of just a few wines that I am quite sure continue to improve at least through the 20 year mark. Cheers!

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven Napa Valley
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Barrel sample and disclaimer: I had this after a full day of tasting plus alongside about 20 wines. So, you know, my palate may not have been 100%. That being said, is there an easier winery to trust on quality than VV? I'd put Patrice and Sam right there with Alex MacDonald for absolute confidence they will turn out the best wine possible. Seems like Kinsman has started down this path as well, and time will tell as they earn the confidence of us enthusiasts. But bottom line is these wines are awesome and I never question the quality.

Even amongst many great wines, this was stunning. I believe it was 99% of the final blend, so we can have confidence this is what will be in the bottle. Wonderfully expressive nose of blueberries, black currant, violets, spice box and forest floor. Super full bodied but not showing any real weight, this is notable for its depth of flavor, ripe but refined tannins and ethereal mouthfeel. Suave, energetic, with wonderful balance and acidity, this hits all the right notes. Shows pure black and blue fruit combined with great minerality. Finish is super long and satisfying. Right up there in the top 5 wines tasted on a trip with 70+ cabs. Much rather buy this than Realm Absurd or other wines of similar pedigree. More confident in the people.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 9:17 PM - LIOF: Totally agree. VV would be amongst the last to go if I were paring down wines to buy. Of everyone making the Beckstoffer wines, I trust them the most.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 10:37 PM - LIOF: A few thoughts. Barrel samples are always more fruity and expressive, so they naturally seem a bit more approachable. That said, I do think 19 will show more fruit than 18, but still has the overall structure and acidity to be fairly long lived.

    The M7 is likely to be one of the better candidates for age. It has the best, most concentrated juice from Crane, BTK and LPV. It almost always takes the longest to come around, and the blend here gives it more age worthy character, especially the LPV. While I'd say the 18 probably has a longer overall life, I'd also expect the 19 to drink better in the first 5-7 years or so. Total conjecture, but that is the way I look at it. Oh, and I had the 18 right next to this one, and the 19 was definitely showing better.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/29/21, 7:14 AM - MJP: Notes are coming on the Mysterons...

Red
2019 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Anjea Sleeping Lady Vineyard Yountville
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
I'm not exactly sure how close to the finished product this is, but boy is it good. Like most all barrel samples, it was showing a lot of fleshy fruit, but it also showcased excellent acidity, powerful concentration and tons of potential. Compared to the 16, it appeared to have a bit more fruit and opulence, without quite the massive depth and concentration. That could change as it evolves, but it is going to be a wine you want to buy if you can. 95-97
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 5:42 PM - You do! But I have to say, I tasted so many wines and had to spit most of the day - it made the experience less enjoyable than when I can sit with a bottle or two.

Red
2018 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
4/24/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Alex and Graeme knock it out of the park once again. As I always say, the easiest wine purchase I make all year. They refuse to cave into pressure to jack up their prices alongside most everyone in Napa, and therefore have one of the most loyal and appreciative client bases anywhere. The wine will compete with any cab in the country, and they have a real waiting list, which hardly anyone has these days. Bravo!

Thanks to Alex for always being so generous with their wine. My initial impression is this will be right up there with 13 and 16 as the best vintages I have tasted. Decanted around 12 hours, this sprung from the glass with notes of creme de cassis, tobacco, violets, crushed rock and savory character. The front end gives you a hint of gorgeous pure black fruit before giving way to a massive core of minerality and earthy elements. That incredible flavor and density is done without any weight, making it both huge and elegant at the same time. The tannins are super fine and well integrated, while also robust and create the structure to keep this wine aging for a very long time. Acidity is bright and keeps everything fresh and lively. The finish is off the charts long.

As with all MacDonald wines, give them a ton of air if you plan to open them within 10-15 years. These are built to last.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:47 AM - I had 13-16 in a vertical about 2 years ago now. That was epic. Next time 13-18, trying to vet out your theory. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 8:06 AM - When you open that many MacDonald's, the more participants (and contributors) the better! :) That would be a great one to schedule.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 6:42 PM - I think the biggest takeaway is the 19 vintage is better than I thought it was going to be. The vintage comparison I had in mind was 14 before this trip, but I think it'll be a lot better (maybe 12 mixed with 16 is a good comparison). There's a little more fruit in the 19's vs the 18's, but it still has great acidity and plenty of structure. I feel like 18 will be one of the better vintages to age in recent times, but it really does need years in the bottle to show well. Think 19 will show better straight away.

    16 is still the benchmark as far I am concerned (since 2005 - really can't opine on older vintages). Can't beat the freshness, depth of flavor, balanced acidity and overall personality of the vintage. Definitely possible that 18 or 19 could eclipse it however.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:34 PM - Now if you want to really stir the pot a little, just discuss 2020 with the folks in Napa. Holy hell is that a divisive topic. Growers hate winemakers for saying it is a total loss, because they don't have skin in the game and it's easier to just discard and vintage than try to make a decent wine from it.

    Most wineries are passing on 2020, but many more than I thought put wine in barrel and are following it to see if it's worthy of release. Arkenstone, MacDonald, Harlan etc are all doing this...but you talk to a Chris Tynan, and he says the vintage was a total loss as early as August. There were some very animated conversations on the topic, that is for sure.

    One thing about being a consumer, for the vast majority of wines there's no reason to risk it and buy a $250 cab in 2020. Hardly any have a true waiting list and treat clients to a better price than retail. The few that do, like MacDonald, deserve to be supported since they have earned trust and loyalty. So IMO, I'd be passing on almost everything, but there will certainly be exceptions if necessary.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 5:41 PM - MJP: I haven't had Blankiet since Graeme became the winemaker. I wasn't real impressed previously, but it'd be a good one to try.

Red
2016 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Anjea Sleeping Lady Vineyard Yountville
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Kinsman gets way more concentration and depth out of this vineyard source than other producers I've tasted. From what Nigel says, they drop 20% of the juice to get it to this level and it shows. He also uses clone 22, which I had never heard of before, but clearly it's all working!

Blackberries, dark cherry, forest floor and hints of floral show on the nose. The palate is just packed and stacked with intensity. Depth for days, with fine grained but super prominent tannins, big time earthy notes and a huge structure. This is mostly black fruited with excellent purity. As others have noted, this wine is meant for age and it's a beast. Still showing some oak and needs time to come together a bit more, but wow, the potential is super impressive. Extremely long finish.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:48 AM - They were all open at various points apparently. I did get to follow this over two days and it was still super tight even at the end of that period. Seems like it needs many years.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 9:56 AM - MJP: Thanks. I tend to rate wines not as they are drinking, but the overall quality I see in the wine. I know that is different than some who rate them moment in time. For me, the notes are where you determine more about timing and how they are showing now, but everyone has their own style. Just an FYI. This is definitely a long term wine, not to be touched for a while.

Red
2017 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Rhadamanthus Diamond Mountain
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Kinsman goes 2 for 2 on the very challenging 2017 vintage. LPB's 89+ with the much feared ? after it to indicate potential smoke taint gave me pause on release, but I can definitely say there was no trace of it in this bottle. As with the Anjea, this was one of the top 2017's I've had to date.

Lovely aromas on the nose are driven by black olives, black cherries, rose petals, crushed rock and earthy notions. On the palate, this has a serious mineral streak running through it, with exceptional freshness and tension. The tannins are still quite prominent, but you can get at this wine much more than the 16 Anjea I had alongside. It's fairly high toned with red and blue fruit per the Diamond Mtn source and vintage. The finish is long and satisfying.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 3:54 PM - Hi LIOF: Actually just returned from a whirlwind 3 day trip. Not sure how I will possibly get to all the wines we tasted, but thought I would put together my notes on Kinsman while they are fresh. It's definitely awesome stuff!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 4:31 PM - Thanks man! It really was an epic trip and one that will be hard to top. After the past year of Covid and fires, it was just that much sweeter!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:49 AM - It was open beforehand, although I can't say for how long. Another one I was able to follow over 2 days, and it definitely continued to improve.

Red
2017 Tusk Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
3/28/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
93 points
Just arrived, but wanted to see what I'm working with here in this difficult vintage. Decanted 5 hours before consumption. Must say, this is the least interesting Tusk I've had. It's young, so hopefully it'll come around.

Starts with a lot of alcohol on the nose, but also shows nice floral, blackberry and earthy aromas. The palate is pretty indicative of the vintage - higher toned red berry, with above average acidity and not nearly the depth or well rounded flavor profile of recent vintages. The texture is excellent and there's no hint of smoke taint or other issues that plagued the vintage, but generally it is just unremarkable for the price point. Gets pretty sharp on a medium length finish.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/28/21, 7:54 PM - Tusk is a bit unique, as they make very little wine and have quite a line to get it. When I got on the list, the only way on was if you knew someone at Tusk or a customer already receiving their wine. Not sure if that is still the case today. That still doesn't make spending $400 for a 2017 that's just "okay" feel better, but it's certainly why I gave it a run hoping for the best. And aftermarket is higher of course. This is more a pet project where they likely make no money on it, so very unusual in the world of Napa. Heck, the parties they throw probably cost about 25% of their total revenue from Tusk sales. It's an oddity. I've always found their wine to be very good although it's a bit of a mystery as to where they source their grapes.

    Funny to watch the higher production high end wineries pull some annoying tactics, like Spottswoode making you buy 2017 if you want 2018. Now that's just plain taking advantage of your list, especially since they distribute so much wine you will almost certainly find 2018 for release price at many different stores.

    Anyhow, yeah, I think there's the potential for this wine to get better, but in my estimation it'll never be a 2012-2016 wine. But hey, 2018 is on the horizon...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:43 AM - I can't argue on value for the money. I've enjoyed some great times at Tusk, so there's a sentimental value. But strictly on price to quality, it rarely makes sense to spend this much.

Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon La Voleuse Du Chagrin Calistoga
4/23/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
This new wine is absolutely dynamite. Formerly block 1B that went into Araujo's Eisele (and is now owned by Chateau Latour), the quality of this site is undeniable and an absolute home run for Kinsman. There are probably not more than a couple vineyards that could be considered better than Eisele in all of Napa Valley, so if this wine can even come close to that quality it will be a massive hit. And since Nigel made Eisele for many years, the transition here appears to be somewhat seamless.

The nose shows violets, creme de cassis, cigar box and crushed stone. The palate is pure class, with fine grained ripe tannins, a silky mouthfeel, excellent depth of flavor and insane purity of fruit. This is the most elegant, refined and sophisticated wine I've tasted from Kinsman. It also shows the most Bordeaux like character. The fruit is super expressive, with a full mid palate and crazy long finish. I found this be enthralling and super fun to drink. 98++
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 6:43 PM - And Inaugural Vintage to boot...

Red
2015 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Estate St. Helena
8/31/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Wow, this is such a great wine, even at this early stage. If you could take the best of Bordeaux and meld it with the best of Napa, this would be the outcome. Showing great notes of blueberries, mint, tobacco, fresh cut flowers and earthy notions on the nose. On the pallet this is nearly perfect, deftly balancing a ton of gorgeous fruit with exceptional acid and tannin management. The fruit is there, very present, really lovely, but it's restrained and structured to last a long time. Absolutely tremendous purity, terrific layers and epic persistence. This is so fresh, gorgeous and long. Just fantastic. 99+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/31/18, 6:49 PM - Maybe the best ever. This is an epic vintage for them. You can even drink one young and not waste it.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    9/1/18, 3:32 PM - I haven’t opened a 2014, but I wouldn’t expect it to be as good as the 2015. It seems like they really hit the sweet spot in this vintage. Best I’ve had since 2010. Much more opulence in 2015.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 2:12 PM - Hi BB707: For the last couple vintages, I bought from the list. However, I avoided this latest release because they pulled the "you need to buy 17 if you want 18" thing and the 18 will surely show up at list price all over. Previously, I had bought some at a local wine store called Armand's Cellar. I've also purchased a few older vintages through KL auction. Cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/25/21, 3:11 PM - Glad to hear they waived it, but I agree, especially now at $230/bottle it'll likely be cheaper in the aftermarket.

    I've been mostly fortunate with KL auctions. Only once can I remember a bad bottle. That said, it's not like they do much provenance investigation. They pretty much take you at your word. But also, unless you're buying a current release wine at many of these retailers, they are also buying them from people and reselling, so you take your chances either way.

Red
2016 Alejandro Bulgheroni Cabernet Sauvignon Lithology Dr. Crane Napa Valley
7/19/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Tasting at Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate (St Helena near Meadowood): This was my favorite wine of the AB tasting, which is saying something because I thought many were spectacular. Stunning purple in the glass, showing super pure and gorgeous violets, ripe black cherry, cassis, chocolate, wet stone, herbal notes and hints of tobacco. On the palate, a perfect silky mouthfeel frames opulent mostly blue fruit that cascades over the pallet in wonderful waves of flavor. True to the site, this also has excellent mineral driven notes and shows a nice sturdy backbone and fine grained tannins. The finish is long a absolutely satisfying. This is ready to compete with the top tier of Dr Crane producers.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/12/21, 8:30 PM - I like the wine, but dislike their prices. I think they're up to $325/bottle for the Crane/BTK/LPV wines. Since I can get Vice Versa for $250, which is probably slightly better and also Melka made from the same Beckstoffer vineyard sources, it seems ludicrous that they keep upping the price. I suspect it will be cheaper aftermarket with a little digging. I've already seen under the table deals, indicating they are distributing it and it isn't moving at full retail. If price isn't an issue, then you'll certainly enjoy the wine. Especially Crane and BTK.

Red
2017 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Estate St. Helena
8/30/2020 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
I had this blind alongside the 12 and 13 vintages. Wanted to get rid of any bias I might have against the 17 vintage. I had previously doubled decanted this bottle and it received about 4 hours or air before the first sip. The evolution from hour 4 to hour 7 was pretty amazing. Blind, it was more muted on the nose than the other two. Gorgeous deep purple in the glass, it displayed floral notes intermixed with lots of earthy notions, black fruit, menthol and tobacco. Not surprisingly, it tasted really young. There was good freshness but it was a bit austere and the mid palate had not developed while the fruit was still hiding behind tannins. It was pretty clear this was the 17. I felt it was the least interesting of the three wines, but still was very good with upside potential.

Now fast forward a few hours and wow, the fruit really started to emerge, showing beautifully pure and ripe, with excellent concentration and youthful exuberance. The mid palate had filled in completely, and it was a totally different animal. Very expressive and easily one of the best 2017's I've had to date. In the end, this was just as good if not better than the other two vintages. As usual, Spottswoode made a great wine irrespective of the challenges of the growing season. This wine is always a winner.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/24/20, 8:22 AM - Thanks and Cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/23/21, 2:41 PM - MJP: I was so annoyed with them tying the 18 to the 17 I didn't buy. That was a jerk move. Especially since it will show retail for about the same price. I did think the 17 was good, but I hate when wineries do that to clients. And in this case, they distribute so much wine it is literally a big FU to us.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/1/21, 10:47 PM - I'm with you Geaux - when I saw the offer I was shocked. Bumper crop vineyard, price raise of $25 a bottle and now you are forced to buy 2017 to get 2018? If that's not desperate and lays bare how difficult it was for them to sell 2017 I what is...

    It will show up all over the place for the same price as list (without the 17). They make too much wine for it to be a big markup. I've had offers at $175 for the 17, so I think they're fooling themselves and screwing over loyal buyers. That's how you lose DTC.

Red
2016 Tusk Estates L'Orange Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
9/14/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Tusk Vertical 2011-2015 plus 2016 L'Orange - W/CSIMM1161; 9/13/2019-9/14/2019 (Seven Hills Restaurant, SF & Tusk Party): As CSIMM pointed out in his note, this is a limited edition offering that will be a "gift" to list members at $150. I talked to Michael about it for a little bit and it should be released by the end of the year. Seems like it's a one time deal. Unique for Tusk by adding the 20% PV component, and I have to assume the Cab portion is juice that didn't make it into the final blend of the flagship. That said, you certainly couldn't tell it was a step down during this tasting.

Consumed right after 2015 Tusk, this was more immediately ready to drink and was super expressive, powerful and plush. Dark fruit, forest floor, bit of smoke and char, this showed opulence without being over the top or fruity. Well structured and delineated, it has great depth of flavor and is full bodied with ultra fine grained tannins. As per usual with Melka made wines, the texture is near perfection and the finish lingers for well over 45 seconds. This will be rare and awesome.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/23/21, 9:42 AM - Yep, just saw the price. Color me shocked :) They always get you on price.

Red
2018 Julien Fayard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley
3/12/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
93 points
Clearly very early on this wine. Notes after 24 hours of air. Aromas of fragrant earth, blackberries, tobacco, menthol and spice box. Fresh, with big tannins and lots of deeply mineral driven flavors. This is certainly not an extracted, fruit driven wine. Exceptional tension and structure, this begs for more time in the bottle, but alas, I am not that patient. A dry wine, with a very long lingering and fairly astringent finish at the moment. Overall, this is excellent at the price point, but don't think of it as an early drinker like others in this price range. Built for time in the bottle and very classic in its appeal (i.e. this is not Myriad or Bevan folks!).
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/13/21, 7:37 AM - Hi MJP: I grabbed a few Sleeping Lady's and a Martinez. I've never been a huge Fayard fan, but AG's 100 for SL compelled me to take the plunge. He doesn't give them out too often. This one experience seems to show they are way more restrained then Purlieu and older world, which is what I expected with AG loving them so much.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/13/21, 9:50 AM - I have definitely gravitated to more classically styled wines the longer I’ve been in the game. AG used to hate on Napa so much you’d never see a 100pt score, but he’s become more well rounded in my view. Now depending on the critic, you can basically understand their style preference and know what you’re likely to get. The day AG lays 100 on a Mike Smith, Russell Bevan or Kirk Venge wine I’ll know the world is really flat.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/13/21, 7:26 PM - Hi NR - yeah, I've noticed his scores coming around. When AG first took over for RP back in the day, man it was ugly. He had his Italian wine palate and gave perennial 99-100 wines like 92-93. Lol. RP had to take it back from him. He was persona non grata in Napa. Almost but not quite as bad as Tanzer.

    JD understands how the game is played, and is Mr. Wonderful in the valley - hanging out at BBQ's and giving everyone 96+ while handing out 100's like candy. Many wineries aren't even submitting to WA or V anymore. I think where AG has evolved to is a good place. His palate is more discriminating and I know what to expect when he rates a wine highly. With JD, no one really cares do they? I also appreciate LPB's palate. Most closely aligns with mine.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/13/21, 8:05 PM - No doubt amateur reviews are becoming more influential, especially in a place like Napa with so much direct business and often times, very few cases made relative to French wines etc. RP used to completely move the market, and auction values would ride his scores. Now, there's no one reviewer out that that has that cache. Some in Napa really understand this dynamic with CT etc and use it to their advantage; others are still in the stone age.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/14/21, 8:49 AM - I like JD's descriptions, but he lost me last year when he gave crazy high scores to 2017 wines that were just nowhere close to being deserved. That was galling. I like Bevan and all, but 97pts for the 17 Ontogeny is laughable (as one example).

    Interesting on the maps. I'll have to check that out.

Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
2/6/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
First opportunity to taste the 2019 vintage. My impression from this limited experience is it will be less structured and serious than 2018, but opulent, fruit forward and really enjoyable to drink. The comparison to 2014 seems appropriate.

Blueberry liqueur, spring flowers, crushed rock and spice box dominate a slightly muted nose. Outrageous purity of fruit greets you on the first sip and makes this wine impossible to resist. Mostly blue fruit, super fine grained ripe tannins, excellent depth of flavor and exceptional layering define a wine that will surely push toward a 100pt score. An ethereal mid palate gives way to a long, mineral driven and savory finish. If this wine develops the way it should, it's going to be truly epic. 99-100
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/6/21, 3:17 PM - Hi RayT - all good questions and exactly why we all use CT! Let me try to address your questions:

    - This experience with 2019's, while not at all enough to be conclusive, was in line with my expectations. I think this will be a good but probably not great vintage. The wines will be way more fruity than 2018, which can make them fun if not as serious. The acidity and structure are down, but accessibility early will be up. I think my score for the Crane is simply reflective of a really amazing vineyard and excellent winemaking.

    - Regarding the 18 VV wines you now have, they are likely to be very tight. This vintage was cooler and these wines are a bit shut down. I recently had the BTK and it was just not ready. Had the Crane a couple months ago and it was still resolving the oak. I suggest when you open them, you take a sip right away and if they are open for business, don't worry about a decant. If they aren't, then give them 6 hours or so of air. Hard to know where they are going to be.

    - For VV priority, it's Crane, BTK and LPV. The LPV can be amazing, but often it's nails and shut down. The BTK is fabulous, but the Crane is the star of the show to me.

    - The comparison's you mention are to Mike Smith wines, so that is relatively easy to answer. Mike's wines are amazing to drink young. I had an 18 Myriad GIII last weekend that was incredible. They have a sweet edge to them, are built for early consumption and are usually a meal all unto themselves. They are also off putting to anyone who likes classic retrained style wines.

    VV's wines, with Melka making them, are certainly modern in style, but don't have the sweetness or early accessibility. They tend to shut down a bit after you receive them and need a couple years of age. They are incredibly well balanced and will age very well. Unlike with Mike's wines, where if you don't drink them in the first 7-10 years you worry they will be over the hill, these wines will develop nicely. They aren't just built on the fruit like Mike's.

    - I would choose to buy the SVD's and not the Napa Valley. They will be getting rid of the Napa Valley soon, and I'm not even sure they are making one for 2019. Lots of changes at VV: getting rid of BBS wines, adding a wine called "Mysterons", changing labels and they also bought an estate vineyard. Taking some fruit from what was a David Abreu site as well.

    Hope that helps. It's hard to portion out your funds with so many places making good wines these days. I will say VV has exceptional people and they focus on quality, which I really appreciate.

    Take care and cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/9/21, 4:23 PM - Hi WL - Sadly I didn't get a chance to try the LPV. Hopefully soon. I have had very few of the 01/02 vintage unfortunately, but that sounds like an interesting comparison from TRB. Cool vintage to a warmer one. I was thinking 18 is a bit like 10, but perhaps with a smidge more fruit. 19 definitely comes across like 14, hopefully at least a little more complete. Guess we will see. It certainly isn't a bad one, just hard with 16 and 18 so recent.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 2:12 PM - Hi LIOF - well, I actually didn't get up to Napa to taste these, so perhaps I am just the second most popular girl...:)

    Sadly I was only able to get my hands on the Crane and BTK. No Mysterons. They are going to sell it for $250 like the SVD's. Since it has Ecotone, plus their new estate and some Beckstoffer juice in it, the blend should be interesting. I am not sure it will come close to comparing to Thorevilos, just due to all the various components, but I am very curious myself! I'll have to dig into why they aren't making an SVD out of it. If I were guessing, one thought is they want to sell their estate grapes but perhaps those are not quite yet at the level of the other sources so making a blend brings the finished product up to their standards. Total conjecture.

    It'll be interesting to watch as they roll out a number of changes. I think their model will look quite a bit like Realm. Instead of the Napa Valley wine they'll have something a bit more entry level like Bard that they can distribute around. No BBS and all the juice goes into their SVD's. M7 is like Absurd. New, more fashionable labels. Higher levels of overall production. And then maybe they eventually make an SVD out of Ecotone and their Estate Vineyard. They've picked up a bunch more Crane and BTK vines too.

    Cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 3:40 PM - Thanks LIOF - that means a lot to me. I've always wanted to be the prettiest. :)

    WL - the Moonracer is also $250. The move to $300 on Realm's Crane was quite a shocker. They can do it just because the aftermarket has anointed it a $500 bottle of wine. Ironically scores wise, so far I think Bevan is the only Crane with 100 from LPB and JD. Still waiting on VV from LPB, but JD gave it 100. Then again, JD gives out 100's like candy.

    Generally, it seems like most everyone keeps raising the prices up. When I started buying Bevan in the 2012 vintage, it seemed overpriced. Now it's cheap relatively speaking because they haven't upped the fare (they can't - make too much wine and have a horrendous infrastructure). I think where VV is concerned, part of it is all the Beckstoffer juice, and part of it is they are able to sell it all so why not nudge the price? As they make more and get more lots, that model will be tested. Realm is only really cheaper on less expensive grapes and blends for the most part.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/23/21, 4:28 PM - LIOF - I hear you. It is a constant struggle to decide who to keep and who to cut in Napa. Realm has gone a wee bit corporate. I understand it from a business perspective, but as an enthusiast it is underwhelming. I think most of us this passionate about wine like the places that make small amounts, don't charge too much, personally engage their client base and give great access. If that isn't the recipe for business failure I don't know what is! :)

    What you have to love about VV is Patrice and Samantha really truly LOVE the wine. They engage clients, they make visits special and they will go above and beyond for you. Patrice is exacting about quality and won't cut corners to make an extra buck. He is a true enthusiast himself. That is something I can get behind, and makes it one I won't cut out.

    Here's hoping that does not change!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/2/21, 1:49 PM - This line of conversation gives good insight into how Napa enthusiasts think. We develop our opinions not only on the quality of the wine, but the exclusivity, personal relationships with the owners/winemakers, price point and other subjective measures. I was joking with someone the other day that we all want these wineries to be terrible businesses: Keep prices low, use your time to go out of your way to cater to us, make small amounts that consistently create exclusivity and get markups on the aftermarket and never screw up a vintage. :) That is a one way ticket to the poor house, but I can't say I don't think that way! It's why we expect really wealthy people to go to Napa and make a wine that loses them money. Those make us happy.

    I totally agree the Realm business model makes it anti-enthusiast. If they screw up a score or vintage, people are going to leave because they are a big operation that keeps raising their prices. VV is more personal and I only hope they are able to keep that up as their production rises. That said, for them to make money, they need to transition away from "enthusiasts" a bit and hit larger markets, especially overseas.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/2/21, 5:15 PM - LIOF - Can't say I disagree with anything you've said. Napa is a strange place. On a certain level, you can make a good small business out of DTC. Mike Smith is a great example with Myriad, Quivet etc. You generally have to buy all your grapes, but if you get a loyal following it works. And if it works, it's because of us enthusiasts.

    However, if you aspire to a big business, the enthusiast is less important. You need to sell lots and lots of wine, and it's much less through DTC and more through distribution. Wines like Shafter HSS are in every store and restaurant out there. Dominus is 100% distribution. Most all French wine goes through layers of distribution before it gets to us. So that's a distinct decision, to get away from direct, make more wine, grab a bigger audience with mass marketing and use the distribution model more significantly.

    Most money in the wine business is made on the lower end wines. At the high end, there aren't nearly as many buyers. I find it fascinating to see vineyards in Napa sell for so much, a new buyer has little to no chance of ever making a profit selling wine from it.

    You are 1000% right on having to cut out wines for even small issues, simply because there's too much good wine out there. The small details and personal relationships make all the difference. That's why as some of our favorite labels try to grow their business, it is interesting to see if they can keep that loyalty.

    Now there's a bit more bathroom reading. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/10/21, 10:23 PM - The wine habit...so expensive. But I do think 2019 for VV will be very good. Hard to go wrong there. Enjoy the trips to Napa! I'm there late April, assuming no massive fires or Covid lockdowns...

Red
2017 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Anjea Sleeping Lady Vineyard Yountville
2/27/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
This is a world beating 2017. It is right there with the 17 MacDonald as the best wine I've had from the vintage. First Kinsman, and it's just an utterly unique wine. There is a personalized stamp on it. The nose is off the hook amazing, with huge floral notes complimented by flirty dark fruit and lots of amazing deep earthy elements. Impossible to fully describe. I've had plenty of 17's where the aromas were great and the palate fell flat, but thankfully this was not one of them. It is magically seamless and rich at the same time, with sweet fully integrated tannins, a ridiculous interplay of earth, fruit and mineral driven flavors that allows it to dance around and truly envelope you in the experience. There is so much dang flavor involved with this wine. Unbelievable given the challenges of 2017. The key word here is personality, because this wine has it in spades. She ain't just gorgeous, but fun, captivating and makes you feel better about yourself. Enjoy it if you can get it.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 8:38 AM - Well, well, seems there's a lot of interest in these wines! I actually knew nothing about Kinsman until Patrice from VV mentioned them when I asked what some of his favorite Napa Cabs were right now (other than VV) early last year. I naturally then noticed the ridiculous auction pricing on the 16's and figured I was a bit late to the party. But hey, I can be the fashionably late one once in a while!

    I must also say I was hesitant to have my first vintage of theirs be 17. And when I was going to buy and saw LPB put an 89? on the 17 Rhadamanthus, I just couldn't buy it because that is her indication of smoke taint. So I just went with the Anjea and glad I did!

    So on to MSU's questions: 1) I opened the bottle, decanted and put back in the bottle about 5 hours before I had it at dinner. Took a sip at that point and it was already good. I kind of expected the wine to be really tannic based on what I had heard, but it wasn't. 2) Hell yes open a bottle now! You won't regret it. Most 17's I've had have been so forgettable but this was just outrageous. The aromas were spectacular and it was such an energetic and fun wine. I doubt it'll be quite as good as the 2016, but it's showing fantastic. I tend to think drinking 17 earlier rather than later is a good idea anyway.

    Great commentary on the rest of their projects. I signed up for Bella Oaks earlier this year and look forward to their first release. Just amazing terrior for a new project. I had gone back and forth over Accendo, but this experience will probably lead me there when I head up to Napa towards the end of April. And now Impensata...well...guess I am slipping. Going to have to get that lineup on here just to make LIOF jealous.:)

    Cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 8:41 AM - Oh and MJP, good on you being one of their first clients! Of the seemingly hundreds of new projects popping up in Napa, it's not easy to find the diamond in the rough!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 9:20 AM - You're right LIOF - I am now blocking MJP from all social media and I will hit the "unhelpful" button on all his tasting notes!

    I'd love to change my trip, but we've got these three kids that make scheduling nearly impossible! Nevertheless, I will try to fly up there for a day, taste Impensata and post notes before you go just to get your reaction. It'll be fun. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 5:01 PM - MJP - you see the ? after the 89? In her Napa commentary she basically said she uses that if she thinks there could be smoke taint.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 5:26 PM - MJP - I’d certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. But for your first bottles ever from a producer, you certainly don’t want to see that little ? indicating even the potential of taint. Not to mention the 89+ for the price. But again, that’s with no other knowledge of the producer.

    Smoke taint is a hard thing. It’s evidence can come and go. I’ll never forget Patrice giving me a taste of the 17 Houyi he had to throw out for taint, and it was really just the bitterness that stood out. Other times, it’s ash tray etc. 17 was a hard one.

    At any rate, I get the desire to defend Kinsman and the good folks there. AG didn’t pick up taint, so who knows?!? I imagine it’s great.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/1/21, 7:55 AM - MJP - Sadly I haven't had the 16's. Hoping 18 is similarly well regarded. There's obviously a lot of enthusiasm on CT for Kinsman. Can't wait to get better acquainted with their wines!

Red
2018 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
2/27/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
2018 LPV Blind Tasting: VV, Carter, Fait Main, Quivet and B Cellars (Lang's): 2018 LPV blind tasting. Wines: Vice Versa, Carter La Verdad, Quivet, Fait Main and B Cellars. Six total tasters. All wines decanted 3+ hours.

The VV tied for first with Verdad. It was a little closed to start but started putting on weight as it was exposed to more and more air. I'd say this is the most classically made and well balanced wine of the group. The acidity was a bit crisper and the focus a bit better. While they all begged for more time in the bottle, this one seems the clear longer term ager of the group. Overall, while not as ripe or powerful as the Verdad, it was my favorite by a hair.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/27/21, 3:51 PM - Hi MJP - VV's LPV is awesome when it's open for business. My only issue is it's the most fickle with shutting down. But it was clearly great during this tasting.

    Sadly FM came in last. I was shocked. Maybe just the bottle. I will wrap these into a story to make it easier to see the notes. Order was 1T) VV 1T) Verdad 3) B Cellars 4) Quivet 5) FM

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/28/21, 8:43 AM - I sadly haven't had the finished 18 MM LPV. I'd have loved to throw it in this tasting. When I've had MM in blinds before, it almost always ranks in the top 1/3, often times coming in second if memory serves.

Red
2018 Fait-Main Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras St. Helena
2/27/2021 - Cristal2000 wrote:
93 points
2018 LPV Blind Tasting: VV, Carter, Fait Main, Quivet and B Cellars (Lang's): 2018 LPV blind tasting. Wines: Vice Versa, Carter La Verdad, Quivet, Fait Main and B Cellars. Six total tasters. All wines decanted 3+ hours.

The FM came in last. It was last for 5 out of 6 of us, including me. I actually thought this was probably the Quivet. I was really disappointed, as I figured the FM would be close to the top. The nose was muted, the acidity was high toned, the depth was lacking and overall it was the least interesting. I've had so many great bottles of FM I am willing to say this may have just been a bad bottle or opened at the wrong time. There was no doubt however that on this night, it was the worst of the group. Even had some left over the next day and it was still uninteresting.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/27/21, 5:00 PM - Hi LIOF - I'd give Benoit the benefit of the doubt here. I remember having a really bad experience early with a 13 and then later is was terrific. I think 18 can be hard to access early, so time will almost certainly be its friend.

    For some reason most of these great winemakers seem to struggle more with their own labels (Melka, Mike Smith, TRB etc). I don't know if it's their personal preference for the European style, or that they aren't accessing the same quality of grapes, equipment, barrels or maybe they struggle with quality control in some cases due to lack of staffing.

    For me, I didn't enjoy the 15 vintage of FM but love the 16. They were worlds apart in my mind. I feel like FM is a wine I really need to taste before buying. Sometimes it's a world beater for $175; other times it just doesn't hit my palate right.

Red
2018 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
2/27/2021 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
2018 LPV Blind Tasting: VV, Carter, Fait Main, Quivet and B Cellars (Lang's): 2018 LPV blind tasting. Wines: Vice Versa, Carter La Verdad, Quivet, Fait Main and B Cellars. Six total tasters. All wines decanted 3+ hours.

The B Cellars came in 3rd. Lord almighty you better love vanilla and oak to enjoy this wine. Easily the most polarizing of the group. Some loved the oak, and others (like me), struggled with how it overwhelmed the rest of the wine. This is super full bodied with lots of depth of flavor and a huge finish. It loses some points for lack of balance and overall focus. Some of the oak will likely integrate and blow off over time.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/27/21, 2:03 PM - I hope you're right. In general, these B Cellars wine show more oak, but this was overwhelming. But again, some people enjoy that. One thing for sure, you better be after the high octane power. These are not nuanced wines. :)

Red
2018 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon Monsieur Ètain Rutherford
12/14/2020 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
94 points
Coravin pour. Slightly reserved nose of cassis fruit, spice box, coffee grounds, dark flowers and forest floor. Starts really tight on the palate and picks up weight and expression with air. As is typical with Scarecrow, this is well balanced, masterfully layered and pure. Definitely young right now, but not as discombobulated as its 2016 older sibling when I had it a while back. Shows medium to full bodied, with strong tannins, good levels of acid and a long if slightly astringent finish. Love the darker fruit profile. This is going to need a little time to fill in the gaps and come together.

As a separate matter re: Scarecrow, it seems like their production and price increases have made the list a lot less exclusive these days. I can see where you can buy this wine online for release price all over. That means it can probably be had for less somewhere. At near 2500 cases, that's a lot of wine to move. Not quite as pronounced on the regular Scarecrow, but they are creeping toward list irrelevance it seems.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/14/20, 8:09 PM - Yep, Covid has added just a bit more to the "F it" quotient. Just suggest you give it some air.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/27/21, 10:49 AM - It's definitely all relative to palate preference. I found it to be super young, tight and in need of a lot of time. I think most of us view Napa wines like they should be ready as soon as we get them, but I think the 18's especially need time. This wine was certainly not ready when I had it.

Red
2018 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard St. Helena
12/30/2020 - Jazz Nut wrote:
Like many single vineyard 2018 Napa Cabernets, WAIT! Or decant. I opened this wine late in the evening with friends, after several other bottles. I don’t have many notes, except to say very young, oak, vanilla, dark fruit. I’ll be holding my remaining bottles for some time! Very similar impressions to other high end 2018s. I think I’ve been spoiled with the openness, opulence, and structure of the 2016 vintage, and my hurry to drink through most 2017s due to the tough vintage. I think when the higher end 2018s come together, they will be impressive. Many people have said 2018 will be one for the record books due to the length and quality of the growing season, and we may need to treat this vintage a bit differently than most Napa vintages.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/30/20, 1:27 PM - I tend to agree with your assessment. I think the 18's are going to need more time than most recent vintages. Tons of potential, but they have a lot of unfurling to do, more acidity in general and are structured for a long life. I was sipping on an 18 Tench EE last night and had similar thoughts. Thanks for the note!

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