Comments on my notes

(823 comments on 357 notes)

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Red
2015 Sine Qua Non Syrah "M" Eleven Confessions Vineyard Central Coast
12/2/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
This is a very special wine. Super intense, deep and powerful, yet somehow seamless with very little weight. Starts with a nose of smoked meat, black olives, violets, black licorice and spice box. A powerhouse on the palate, it shows huge mostly black fruit, backed up by earthy and mineral driven flavors. The tannins are amazingly integrated and refined, with wonderful layering and a super sophisticated mouthfeel. Maybe the most amazing quality here is there is nothing flabby at all despite endless fruit intensity. The wine remains focused and firm, with purity and amazing persistence. Better with more air and certainly early for this wine, but fun to experience. Many thanks to CSIMM1161 for providing this beauty at dinner.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/2/19, 3:00 PM - Certainly fun to try this early, even with a super long life ahead of it. You will not be disappointed!

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

Dark purple in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of blueberry pie, menthol, black licorice, and pine needles. Tastes of black cherry, blackberry tart, menthol, and graphite, with a lovely finish that is both sweet and structured. 14.8% alcohol. The purity of fruit here is remarkable, with enough tannin and acidity to make it all work - in a polished but unique package. 94+ for now, with upside in another year or two.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/13/19, 8:55 PM - Man, you dug right in! Good on you. Happy to hear it is showing well. Finding a "deal" in the Harlan world is well, normally impossible, but I've become more and more compelled by Mascot. They make a shit ton of it, but given the craftsmanship and attention to quality, I find it to be a super opportunity. Now consider they give it a lot of age before release, and we have 15 and 16 to look forward to, and it's setup pretty damn well for a couple years here.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/13/19, 9:09 PM - Lol. I honestly thought heavily about popping a bottle myself, but have a 15 Smith Haut Lafitte on day 2 and had to finish it up. I absolutely love having all this new wine to dive into and my patience is about as good as yours. I bought 16 Bond, 13-14 Promontory and 16 Harlan, so I am definitely starting to become a massive idiot with wine spending. :) But seriously, this Mascot is damn good and like you said, for $100 it can really kick the shit of out of supposedly 98pt blends out there (cough Realm...). I am looking forward to getting into one. If it's good, gotta go SUPER deep on 15 and 16. The new House Wine? :)

Red
2015 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend
11/12/2019 - Cristal2000 wrote:
Egged on to try this by my friend CSIMM's other worldly review. Sadly for me, I am not finding this to be near as open for business as he did. The tannins are taking center stage right now, really putting the clamps down on any flavor trying to leak through an almost impregnable wall.

Hints of blackberry, stark minerality, loads of forest floor, white pepper, loamy soil and violets on the nose. First sip is fairly cringe-worthy just from the tannic bite, but quite clearly this is put together with excellent structure and great balance. Nice layering and terrific length, this is going to need a number of years before it is really approachable if this bottle is any indication. Can't really rate it easily right now, but pressed I'd say 93-94.

Day 2: Felt compelled to report back after 24 hours of air. The tannins have loosened up quite a bit, and it is showing SO much better than yesterday. The tension and purity are notable, as is the energy crossing the palate. This shows massive potential and upside. Scoring now would be more in the 95-96+ range.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/13/19, 9:04 PM - Hi Anthroman - this sucker was a ball of tannins yesterday, but damn, today they have given way to a hell of a wine. This should be fairly amazing down the line. Cheers!

Red
2016 Realm Cellars The Absurd Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
11/9/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Double blind tasting of four Napa Cabs, all 2016 vintage. Entries were Vice Versa BTK BBS, Realm Absurd, Memento Mori LPV and Arrow & Branch Dr Crane. All wines were given approximately 3 hours of slow-ox, and all were served at cellar temperatures. There were six of us tasting.

I didn't take formal tasting notes, but figured I would post the results. The Vice Versa BTK BBS & Memento Mori LPV were in a dead heat for the #1 spot. The VV had the most #1 votes (3 to 2), but the MM was the most consistent, being ranked either #1 or #2 on every scorecard but one. Overall they produced the same number of points. For what it's worth, I had the MM slightly higher this time around. It was absolutely bursting with flavor and showed amazingly well. The VV would ideally get some more time in bottle, but showed even more potential.

Of the other two wines, the Absurd was clearly #3 and the AB was #4. If this wasn't blind, I would have expected the Absurd to show a bit better. It was a bit primary, more red fruited than other wines (and previous vintages) and didn't have as amazing a flavor profile at the top two wines here. While all the wines showed extremely well, the AB was clearly sucking wind trying to catch up. It's going to need some time in bottle and even then, while great, still may have been a bit out of its league with these heavy hitters.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 4:36 PM - Hi Jen - Well, I will start by saying that this definitely can use a few years to come together. It has great "stuffing", and will surely show amazingly well at some point. The main other deciding factor is how you like your wine of course. If you're looking for more complexity, tertiary flavors and total integration, I'd say you're like 15 years away. If you're like me, and like seamlessness but still want the fruit and concentrated power, I would say 4-7 years is probably right.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/11/19, 8:22 AM - It is probably the best looking label in the business, so you can just gawk at it from time to time...

Red
2016 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon La Verdad Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard Napa Valley
11/10/2019 - csimm1161 wrote:
97 points
Given all of the xenophobic ribbing and hate emails I’ve been receiving about my recent espionage and shadow surveillance into Bordeaux and other Eurocentric wine regions, I finally succumbed to wino-peer pressure and thought I’d spend some time back in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. (cue patriotic music and slow motion History Channel footage of troops storming the beaches of Normandy). And what better way to wave the flag and honor our upcoming Veterans Day than with the red, white (label), and blue (berry flavors) of the epitome of Napa Nationalism: the 2016 Carter Verdad!

Stand proud Mike Smith and Mark Carter, as your wine has bravely brought joy to this Great America (...And no, not the ghetto Six Flags/Marriott’s Great America amusement park where gaggles of gang urchins and jersey-wearing scattered-kin families tend to flock). With proud and primary Bruce Springsteen-esque notes of bold cassis, black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, and black slate, the Verdad proves that there’s no place like home when your palate has a hankering for gobs of fruit and liberation from the constraints of Frenchie formalities.

Not exactly ‘walking on air’ initially, this Greatest American Hero started off formation-linear, with a soldier’s stance of cassis and alcohol. Given four hours of scrubbing grout lines with a toothbrush in the latrine (aka: decanter), it started to spread its eagle wings and cried the freedom screech of a thousand loyalists. Once the rolling flavor-thunder came over the horizon, exalted concentration and militaristic power started to shine from both strength and flavor expansion positionings. Delivery always stayed a bit primary and in lock-step, but the pride of consumption still caught the attention of this loyalist citizen. Finishes with a tinge of Tom Cruise Top Gun heat and Jack Daniels booze on the tail, which just reminds you that you’re in ‘Merica God dammit.

“You want the Verdad? You can’t handle the Verdad!”

So to truly honor this symbol of hope and freedom, best to wait until July 4, 2023 to experience the glorious Stars and Stripes of the Verdad. 96-97+ points.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/11/19, 8:21 AM - Well Roman Polanski, since this is the lowest score you've ever given this wine, it is fair to assume your newfound AFWE Presidency is going quite well...:)

Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras Napa Valley
11/9/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Double blind tasting of four Napa Cabs, all 2016 vintage. Entries were Vice Versa BTK BBS, Realm Absurd, Memento Mori LPV and Arrow & Branch Dr Crane. All wines were given approximately 3 hours of slow-ox, and all were served at cellar temperatures. There were six of us tasting.

I didn't take formal tasting notes, but figured I would post the results. The Vice Versa BTK BBS & Memento Mori LPV were in a dead heat for the #1 spot. The VV had the most #1 votes (3 to 2), but the MM was the most consistent, being ranked either #1 or #2 on every scorecard but one. Overall they produced the same number of points. For what it's worth, I had the MM slightly higher this time around. It was absolutely bursting with flavor and showed amazingly well. The VV would ideally get some more time in bottle, but showed even more potential.

Of the other two wines, the Absurd was clearly #3 and the AB was #4. If this wasn't blind, I would have expected the Absurd to show a bit better. It was a bit primary, more red fruited than other wines (and previous vintages) and didn't have as amazing a flavor profile at the top two wines here. While all the wines showed extremely well, the AB was clearly sucking wind trying to catch up. It's going to need some time in bottle and even then, while great, still may have been a bit out of its league with these heavy hitters.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 10:56 AM - Well hi there my AFWE French friend! I would suggest you don't go near these wines - waaaaay too much flavor. If you do drink them, please make sure to grab a handful of dirt and mix it in so it tastes more like your esteemed BDX wines. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 4:33 PM - Well now my white flag raising friend, as per usual, the USA is here to help. If you happen to find yourself on the Silverado Trail, driving North through the Napa Valley, there is an old oak tree off to your left as you round the corner toward Zinfandel drive. About 40 years ago I placed a bottle of 1977 Beringer Pinot Noir in an old satchel under a rock marked "lightweights only". Go to that rock and you shall find what you desire...

Red
2016 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
11/8/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Super excited to try this wine after having it from barrel almost a year ago. It was so amazing back then, I really wondered how it would be from bottle. While not quite as open and insanely expressive as it was then (which was expected), this is still delivering the goods in spades. Distinguishes itself from the 2015 vintage with not as much chocolate and baking spices, but rather more tension, energy and complexity.

Somewhat similar tasting notes to MSUWRIGHT, who did a nice job capturing the experience. Creme de cassis, hints of boysenberry, embers, pencil lead, sweet tobacco and cedar on a really intoxicating nose. Palate is a bit tight, showing seamless freshness and tension, with pure fruit and wonderfully powerful yet integrated tannins. In the mid palate it gets a touch chalky, and tells you this is clearly a bit (or a lot) early to be popping the cork. Powerfully concentrated red and blue fruit predominate, backed up with loamy soil, crushed wet stone and lots of mineral driven elements. The finish is incredibly long and really amazing. A wonderfully focused wine. I think my 97 is probably selling it short, as the future is very bright.

Day 2: Little update. No falloff at all with 24 hours of air. The chalky qualities have mostly subsided, and the wine is taking on a more LPV like profile. Lots of burnt embers, scorched earth, deep mineral driven flavors and still insane length. Big time concentration persists.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 10:54 AM - Hi LOF - I PnP'd this wine and then followed over the course of the next three hours. It definitely got better and more expressive with more air. I still have half a bottle for tonight to see what comes of it. I am hoping some of the chalky-ness goes away.

    I would most definitely expect the Absurd to get better. What was interesting about this blind tasting is each of us only knew the bottle we brought, and the rest were blind to us. The only criteria was 2016 vintage and at least $225. So it was kind of crazy to see the Absurd emerge from the brown bag. That said, I think at this point for my palate, the Realm Crane is the best wine made from that producer. Actually perhaps my overall favorite wine period. Otherwise, the MM SVD's from 2016 and also the 2016 VV Crane and BTK are hard to beat.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 2:34 PM - LOF: I think your point is valid with Realm, especially the blends as they have ramped up production by 4-5x in only a few years. I still feel the Crane is absolutely exceptional, and love the BTK as well. But the overall feel from them is a high production winery now, and it certainly does push the enthusiast away. What is good for business is not always good for the consumer. Certainly MM Crane/LPV are absolutely top notch.

Red
2017 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The O.G. Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
8/26/2019 - Cristal2000 wrote:
94 points
See my previous review for more descriptors, but I popped this bottle at home to be sure I wasn't misreading it (followed over 3 days), and at least right now it isn't near as strong as 2012-2016. In short, the nose is excellent, it starts nicely and powerfully, but in the mid palate and through the finish there is serious bitterness that takes away from the experience. I am attributing this to being a bit underripe, although you could make other arguments for why this is occurring. Definitely holding out some hope this will moderate over time and perhaps integrate better. My gut tells me it won't happen, but it's wine and there's no doubt I could be wrong. Can use the standard line "it needs time!" :) Never fear, JD will surely make it 99-100.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/26/19, 9:06 PM - I am with you. From what I have tasted so far, 2017 in Napa is the weakest vintage since 2011. I recognize many on CT (including me) know the owners or winemakers and struggle to give anything but accolades for fear of offending, but I think when all is said and done 2017 will go down as a subpar vintage, especially relative to 12-16. I definitely could be proven wrong, but I've tasted so many Napa wines over the past 7 years, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of it. And also, I absolutely adore Carter and especially the OG, so it isn't a style issue. A difficult vintage is just going to happen every once in a while. You will see very few 2017's in my cellar.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/9/19, 7:45 AM - Hi Dave - since I'm in CA, it's usually easier for me. While we always get some delays because of the heat, they get it here in Oct/Nov. Sorry it sounds like such a challenge for you. For what it's worth, Dan is usually pretty good about accommodating requests, so next time you may be able to get the wine shipped earlier when it makes more sense weather-wise.

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

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

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

The fruit in the 2016 was a bit chunky, and the fruit in the 2017 was a bit anemic. In other words, the 2016 needs time to lose weight, while the 2017 needs time to gain it. It was interesting how neither offered the pronounced chocolate notes that many providers (like Carter, Fait-Main, or Vice Versa) offer to go with the gravelly tastes of LPV. Maybe the 2017 will someday find its footing, but - right now - there’s no doubt the 2016 is the more promising wine.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/30/19, 7:34 AM - Disappointing about the 2016. It has showed very well for me in the past; hopefully in a "phase". 2017 is unsurprising unfortunately. Thanks for the nice review!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/31/19, 8:30 AM - This thread has hit on the biggest question mark about very fruit forward and opulent Napa Cabs (Bevan, Mike Smith, Venge..): Will they age, or do they turn into mush once the fruit dissipates? As far as I'm concerned, the jury is out. I know I personally don't expect a good drinking window after 7-10 years. The micro-oxidation used to get them ready early would seemingly be a big liability over the long haul. Time will tell!

Red
2016 Bevan Cellars Ontogeny Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
10/19/2019 - csimm1161 wrote:
93 points
Bordeaux vs. Tuscany vs. USA:

2015 Troplong Mondot, 2015 Pavie Macquin, 2016 Oreno, 2016 Bevan Ontogeny.

The Bevan was similar to my previous notes, but with an overly cocktail finish that really enhances the alcohol and extracted fruit. A ton of brash power. Luckily the flavor profile shows promise, but it’s going to be a bit before one should venture back into this wine. Overall a bit disjointed right now. The Frenchies schooled this wine in its current state.

The Pavie Macquin was the most energetic of the wines, and the most focused. The Troplong was the smoothest, with a bit of a darker, earthier profile than the Pavie. The Oreno started off similar to the Troplong in terms of flavor, but finished fairly angular and a tad hollow. The Troplong lapped the Oreno by a long shot. The Oreno was good, but it came off like a pizza wine overall. After an hour in the decanter, the Oreno completely shut down, overrun with acid and bitterness. The Bevan behaved as many young Bevans do: super ripe, extracted fruit, super loud alcohol, and a stripper cocktail profile (especially when compared to the Europeans in the room).

For this Ontogeny, hold for 3-4 years to at least let the stripper oil melt off its party-boy body. 91-93+ points, with potential to hit the 95 point range after 2023+.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/19/19, 5:53 PM - Oh my...Mr. Rocket Fuel turned Frenchie is now comparing across worlds...Lord help us all!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/20/19, 7:07 PM - LOL - Hilarious!

Red
2017 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard 'Elysian' Napa Valley
10/18/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Aromatic and expressive nose of blackberries, raspberries, black cherries, violets, hints of char and scorched earth. This needs some time to work through the alcohol, as at present that is somewhat dominating. Displays fine, silky and solid tannin structure, with excellent layering, especially for this vintage. As has become a signature of 2017, it's a bit more red fruited, more acidic and goes higher on the register than 2012-2016. There's lot of minerality and earthy notions that give it excellent character. The fruit is nevertheless pure and vibrant, without the harsh and bitter mid-palate that has felled some higher end valley floor cabs from this vintage (and may very well be not just underripe, but the taboo smoke taint in some). Nice, medium length finish. All in all, this is a winner for the vintage but needs some time in bottle to bring the elements together.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/18/19, 11:02 AM - M1N - I've absolutely noticed more raspberry and red fruit throughout the 17 vintage Cabs I've tasted. I think it's just a signature of the vintage. So far I have yet to taste one that would compare to a 12-16 of the same wine, but I'm sure there are going to be some out there. It's just not a vintage you can blindly buy and expect to be happy IMO. And those that pick up a 17 from a grocery store have a good chance of getting bulk wine with smoke taint. At any rate, this was pretty good. Nowhere the 16, but I didn't expect it to be.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/18/19, 11:02 AM - DrBad - Yup, just ripped one right from the box to see what I was dealing with...thankfully, no bottle shock of note.

Red
2015 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
8/11/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Had this at the same time as a 15 Bevan EE, 12 Shafer HSS, 15 Memento Mori LPV and 15 Carter OG. While it was hard to distinguish between the top 3 (Carter, MM and Schrader) as best for me, many thought this was it.

The CCS has a bit more red fruit than the others, but definitely a mix of blue and red. The nose is pretty amazing, with tons of blackberry, black cherry, fresh cut flowers and a bit of forest floor. On the palate, what stood out the most in comparison to the rest of the wines was the amazing mouthfeel and texture. Just pure silk. This wine is incredibly well balanced, showing good concentrated fruit, excellent layering and notable purity. Nothing about it is over the top. Someone said this tastes like the Lafite of Napa and I'm sure that's appropriate. It finishes long and very true.

I think there's a reason Schrader always scores super high among very different critics (WA, WS, V...etc). It has both new and old world qualities. It's not nearly as high octane as say a Carter OG, but it also has significant fruit and concentration. It isn't as old world as say a Forman cab, but there's still great balance, good mineral driven elements and a lot of structure and complexity for aging. On this night, I found it to be very, very good.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/22/19, 8:04 AM - Great! I'm glad it showed well for you. Appreciate the positive feedback.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/25/19, 8:17 PM - Hi Dave - My note is from about a year ago, so hard to say exactly how it is showing currently. I've noticed some 2015's closing down a little over the past six months, so it might be best to give it another year. That said, there's still probably a good chance it shows well now.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/27/19, 8:10 AM - Schrader tends to age quite well, so 2025 should be fine.

Red
2016 Maxem Pinot Noir UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast
8/2/2019 - csimm1161 wrote:
95 points
A Coravin pour on day one was a lot of big black cherry fruit and a significant amount of alcohol swirling around in a whirlwind of flavors and varying levels of tug-of-war power and shifting weight distribution. At times it was rich and viscous, at others it was a bit boozy and awkward. AIR!! Unfortunately in this case, the more air it was exposed to, the warmer it became, adding to the imbalance. A Coravin’d Aubert UV-SL Pinot served next to it behaved similarly.

Day two. I was able to give this better service, with a decent amount of air and significant swirling in the glass in a cooler environment (and keeping the bottle cool throughout service), it maintained more poise and performed more in line with how I’ve experienced this in the past. The black cherry became incredibly rich toward the end, but much more balanced and expanding on the palate. Deeeeep mid-palate, with a slightly reduced (but very tasty) finish.

What started out as a rough first date ended up with some sparks by the second go-around. I’d let remaining bottles sit for a couple of years.

Full disclosure... I’ve been playing around with some mid-level Burgundy reds and whites lately, so I’ve become a little more sensitive to higher alcohol domestic animals. The Aubert UV-SL I had the same day was super booze-ridden (which I’ve experienced with a number of Auberts recently coming off kinda hot and bothered).
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/4/19, 9:25 AM - Oh Lord, the fruit and power junkie is turning French! :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/4/19, 9:44 AM - Yeah, I'm sticking to WHITE Burgundy as my French dalliance until someone can convince me Red Burgundy is actually worth it! I just don't get the prices...on anything Burgundy really. If I want low alcohol, I can just go grab some Ojai Vineyard Chard for $40. Hey, JD's getting it up there to 95+. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/4/19, 1:54 PM - I don't think JD allows himself a score under 95...so it's a total unknown :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/24/19, 6:57 AM - Hi LIOF - I don't count Laube and WS as a source for Napa. He just seems to hate the region. The best bottles I've ever had are rated like 93. For me, it's not even worth reading.

    JS is all over the board. These days he's actually giving out a lot of 90 & 91 scores to go along with some super high marks. If I'm not mistaken, he rated a lot of 2016 Carter wines super low. Hard to get a read on him.

    Although I'm giving less and less credence to professional raters these days, I have to say I think LPB's palate from WA is the best in Napa at the moment. She isn't in bed with all the wineries and winemakers trying to make friends and get access, so it seems she has more room to be critical, but still fair.

    I still enjoy looking at CT reviews the best, but clearly many people want to please their "friends" behind the winery (owner, winemaker etc), so everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. As long as I'm familiar with the rater and how they write things up, it works for me.

    On the BDX front, I'm staying away from that game for now! For French wine, give me a great White Burg any day, but I still don't feel like eating dirt. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/24/19, 1:20 PM - Sounds good LIOF!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/25/19, 8:30 AM - Oh goodness, look at this monster I helped create in CSIMM...It seems like only yesterday when I was trying to persuade him that 20% alcohol and complete extraction of fruit wasn't a legitimate aspiration for Napa Cabs, and here he is experimenting with BDX?!?! From B Cellars to Chateau Palmer? What the hell happened? All I can figure is this extreme shift is a result of the endless shaming he endured from me over his inability to decipher elegance, nuance and complexity :) So sorry CSIMM for causing you to overreact and spend the precious years you have left eating dirt. :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/25/19, 10:12 AM - Sometimes tough love is the only answer to seemingly insurmountable problems...

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/25/19, 8:19 PM - I suggest Brene Brown to deal with the shame CSIMM :)

Red
2017 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard 'Elysian' Napa Valley
8/24/2019 - csimm1161 wrote:
96 points
Mike Smith 2018s & 2017s - Myriad, Quivet, Scarlett, Becklyn, and others (Saint Helena): Structure and tannins lead the attack here, with some hot-off-the-presses, racy red and black fruit flavors that are pushed rapidly over the palate with significant heft and energy. Stops in time to throw down a nice mid-palate dollop of fruit before taking off again to the finish. Structure and grip butt-in and arrest the fruit on the back end.

95-96+ points. Great potential here. Let it be until after 2023+.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/24/19, 2:59 PM - Yep, 2017 will need about say 40 years to come around :)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/25/19, 8:32 AM - Exactly - take me to a tasting window when I'll either be in the ground or have no taste buds left! THAT is when 2017 will come around....:)

Red
2016 Quivet Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Kenefick Ranch Napa Valley
8/24/2019 - jenmermaidia wrote:
I had a completely different experience than any of the previous reviewers for this wine. There was consensus from all who tasted my bottle that ‘rich, bold, or sweet’ would not be descriptors you would use for what we were drinking. Another reviewer said Caymus-like and it was nowhere near an approximation of that (and I am not a Caymus fan, but it was another marker that we seemed to have a bottle difference). This was not a flawed bottle, just very closed, thin, unremarkable. Decanted for about an hour and it did get a tiny bit better with air, some typical Napa cab aromas. It tasted like it had hit that dumb phase and is going to need a whole bunch of time to sit in the cellar. Disappointed to have missed the drinking window others seem to have found. 89 right now but the potential is clearly there so I won’t confuse things with my outlier rating
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/24/19, 7:14 AM - The way you described it makes me think it was just a bad bottle. Sometimes although not obviously "flawed" it manages to get a bit oxidized during bottling. I've sent a few back to the winery with this issue. If a Quivet Kenefick isn't rich, it definitely isn't reflective of the style. Hopefully your next one is all good.

Red
2016 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Three Kings Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
8/23/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Fellow Carter wine lovers, do yourself a big favor and don't have a 2016 vintage wine next to 2017 - it will not be good for the latter. I had a rather mediocre (at best) experience with a 17 OG the past couple days, and now this is just blowing its doors off.

The violets, creme de cassis, asian spices and blackberries jump from the glass with awesome aromatics. While not quite showing the depth and structure of the 16 OG, this is still absolutely loaded with flavor intensity. Wonderful sweet and fine grained but powerful tannins surround opulent blue and red fruit, filling the palate with extraordinary concentration backed by spicy and earth driven elements. Huge but still fresh, it shows full bodied and powerful all the way to a really long and lasting finish. Great vintage for this wine.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/23/19, 9:06 PM - You've got some time, but there's really no reason to wait if you enjoy the forward, plush and opulent style of Carter wines. IMO, the 16 OG and Verdad are easily the best of the bunch (other than the GTO of course), but 3K is close behind. Such a tremendous vintage, certainly happy to have a bunch more 16's. Enjoy!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/23/19, 9:33 PM - Hey MSU - oh gosh, a bit of a controversial topic these 2017's from top producers. Let's just say my 95, given a little while back, was a bit aspirational. Long story short, nose is nice and it starts out well and not terribly different than previous vintages, but the mid pallet to the finish comes across as very bitter and perhaps under ripe. Not something I'm used to from Carter, so I would like to think it'll get better with time, but honestly it's just not going to be as good as 12-16 IMO. I know some folks on here are Mike Smith to the end and will rate it super high, but not me...at least so far. Oh and the OG was the best of the 17 Carters...

    It's fairly reflective of the vintage, with the heat spike and the challenge to get ripening started up again. Mark says it was picked after the fire, which seems to make sense; although the bitterness is indicative of some smoke taint, there's no ash tray.

    Oh well, 2018 is likely to be spectacular, so we have that to look forward to next year!

Red
2016 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Steltzner Vineyard Stags Leap District
8/10/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Wow is this wine packed and stacked. Left it open for 36 hours and it was still a massive beast. I'd suggest putting this is in the back of the cellar for a few years. On to the TN:

Expressive nose of violets, blueberries, herbs, roasted coffee and black licorice. Densely packed on the palate; even slightly backward and cloying at the moment. Shows immense potential with lots of earthy and savory character to go along with the signature Mike Smith twinge of sweetness. The tannins are a touch rough around the edges but the super black fruit is bold and quite pure. This is still in the neanderthal stage but there's loads of pent up potential lurking after it sorts itself out a bit with time. The finish is really long and expressive. This certainly has upside, but I am accounting for some of it with the 95 rating. 95-96.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/11/19, 12:59 PM - I certainly agree with the sentiment on the 2016 vintage - it's spectacular. The best I have tasted. I do wonder how some of the more extracted and sweet wines from Venge and Mike Smith will fare with age. I am quite a bit more concerned with Venge's style over the long run, but time will tell. This Stelzner certainly appears to have the stuffing to be stunning in 3-5 years. I don't think any of them are 20+ year wines myself.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/11/19, 1:23 PM - Well, a top notch BDX of course has nowhere near the extraction of these Napa Cabs. They are lower alcohol, picked earlier and are usually a walled up ball of tannins in their youth. I too have no desire to wait decades before being able to enjoy a wine, but stylistically, I think these totally fruit driven wines may lose their edge after 8-10 years, without the underlying structure to go the distance. No worries though, I will have all mine popped by then!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/11/19, 2:00 PM - It seems to me that the popularity of specifically Napa Valley wines, with their higher alcohol and earlier accessibility, is finally starting to influence BDX. I doubt they are going to be 50-60 year wines any longer, but then again, who wants to wait for their generational hand down to drink a good bottle of wine? And it kind of lets the producer off the hook if you can always say "it just needs time". Not to mention, you're never getting your money back on a bad bottle! I've always been skeptical of needing to wait 25-30 years for a good drinking window.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/19/19, 8:48 AM - 2018 will definitely be a worthwhile vintage to go all in on!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/19/19, 9:40 AM - Smart move M1N. In my opinion, 2016 is perhaps the best vintage ever in Napa. Be nice if 2018 gives it a run for its money. 2017 isn't going to be close.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/19/19, 12:05 PM - M1N - If you listen to winemakers, basically every new vintage is "biblical" :) I never trust it until I taste it myself!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/20/19, 1:17 PM - My 2c - never go with JD scores. He seems to inflate everything on the rating scale. Based on what I've heard, no way the 16 Riverain is 98 and at $195, I'd probably avoid the reserve. That said, I haven't tried it, only have friends who have.

Red
2017 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The O.G. Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
6/8/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
2017 Carter Wines (Envy Wines): This and the GTO were my overall favorites in this tasting. While this isn't going to be as epic as the 2016 version of this wine, it is the most put together and shows the best concentration of the SVD's. Blueberries, cassis fruit, red cherries and spice box highlight an excellent nose. Nice layered blue and red fruit (perhaps slightly underripe) , this shows good depth on the mid palate, really fine tannins and a solid if really bitter finish at the moment. Lots and lots of alcohol to work through and a bit concerned about notes of unripe fruit. Rides higher than previous vintages. The most complex of the BTK offerings. This should get better...and let's hope so. Right now not close to 2012-2016 vintages. 95 based on upside. Probably 93-94 currently.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/5/19, 8:29 AM - Unlike many vintages of Carter wines that tend to sing right out of the bottle, this one is very dysfunctional right now. I would give it at least 5 years to come together. Hopefully all the parts eventually meld.

Red
2016 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
6/16/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Expressive aromas of cassis fruit, blueberries, black cherries, spice box, cedar, red licorice and pencil lead. This is very young and super primary, but wow does it have tremendous potential. Super concentrated and pure dark black and blue fruit hit the palate with enough restraint to keep the wine very focused. Full bodied, the tannins are profound yet not harsh and the structure is fantastic for a valley floor wine. There are layers and layers of flavor with lots of earthy character. It finishes very long. Excellent representation of BTK. Definitely give this a ton of air if opening now.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/3/19, 12:29 PM - Hi Dave - I think it really depends on how you like your cabs. If you enjoy it full throttled, fruit driven and opulent, you could drink it now with a 5hr+ decant or over the next few years. If you like a bit more restraint, increased complexity and the development of tertiary flavors like leather and tobacco, then 10 years or more. It's going to be great no matter when you open it (within 20 years), but surely a lot of when you should pop the cork depends on your personal preference.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    8/3/19, 1:38 PM - Hey, it's your life, do it your way! Just hope you don't mind chewing through some tannin when you do open those babies up. They are making BDX a bit more accessible these days, so perhaps they'll already be showing well. Enjoy!

Red
2016 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
5/16/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Coravin pour. Stunningly gorgeous purple in the glass. Serious and striking nose of blackcurrant, black cherry, blueberries, violets, cigar box, asian spices, cedar and hints of scorched earth. Very powerfully built full bodied wine, but with tremendous elegance and weightlessness - a beast in a velvet robe. Hugely concentrated black and blue fruit ensconced within wonderful fine grained powerful tannins with a huge backbone of structure. Earthy and mineral notions abound inside layers of complexity, finishing ridiculously long and pure. This is a very age worthy and wonderful expression of BTK. Optimum drinking window is nowhere close, so hold it unless you feel like experimenting a little.

On a side note, I find it interesting that this wine which is very critically acclaimed (nearly always 98-100) and from perhaps the most famous site in Napa sits for so long direct from the winery. All the while Tynan's own label sells his cab for $50 more with similar or lesser scores and it not only sells out right away, but gets a huge markup in the aftermarket. Many less cases I realize, but still interesting.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/16/19, 7:59 PM - I think scarcity and perceived exclusivity is likely it. I buy them both as well.

    I really loved the 2015 CL BTK, but I think the 16 edition might have it by a nose. Perhaps showing slightly more delineation of flavor and a bit more energy. Gonna be hard to beat it for $185 anywhere.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/16/19, 8:25 PM - I am always confounded as to why this doesn't sell better. It is right there with Vice Versa, Carter, Realm etc in quality. Perhaps just because it's from a bigger wine operation. I'll be getting more.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/17/19, 4:07 PM - Hi GQG: Good on you! I hope you enjoy it.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/30/19, 2:42 PM - Interestingly, as BTK wines go, it is just about the cheapest (other than some lower end labels like Stewart), now that Carter prices have risen. No reason for it to sit. Tynan should just take all the juice and put it under his own label - it will sellout immediately for $250/bottle :)

Red
2016 Stewart Cabernet Sauvignon Nomad Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Napa Valley
7/19/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Stewart NOMAD Tasting (Yountville): Fresh off a blind 2016 Dr Crane tasting where this came in 8 out of 9, it was interesting to have it again without the crazy relative comparison. It certainly fared better for me. Nose of cherries, violets, loamy earth and wet stone. The overall freshest of the 16 Nomad lineup, this hits the palate with a terrific flavor profile of pure rich blue fruit with well integrated tannins and a nice spine holding it all together. Great mineral driven elements leading to good complexity and overall multi-dimensional character. Vibrant and fairly long finish.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/22/19, 10:04 PM - Hi MSU - As Dr Crane wines go, this is definitely in the lower tier as shown by the blind tasting results of a couple months ago. That being said, this is DR CRANE we are talking about, so even the lower tier is very good. If you're lucky enough to have access to everything, I am not sure this merits buying regularly for the price advantage unless you are getting it for $150 - and of course, that means you are in the club buying the entire portfolio of NOMAD wines, which isn't something I would be interested in myself. If you are after something a bit redder, that shows more acidity and a bit less of the full bodied opulent concentration, than perhaps this fits the bill quite nicely.

    Now on this trip I also had the 2016 A Bulgheroni Dr Crane for the first time, and I think that would fall into the top tier of Dr Crane wines for the vintage. Wish we had it for the blind tasting as I believe it would have fared quite well. Of course, it is $250/bottle, so that's the rub.

Red
2016 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard Oakville
2/7/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Similar to my tasting note on 1/12/19. If you could ever say Bevan made a "restrained" or a bit more "earthy" wine this would be it - especially when consumed next to some of his other offerings.

Showing blackberry, scorched earth, black pepper, asian spices and spring flowers. Medium+ bodied, it is showing some rustic and savory characteristics, with loamy soil intermixed with dark fruit layering on the pallet. As usual with Bevan, this is concentrated and showing great potential. Finish is long, but a bit astringent presently.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/16/19, 8:51 AM - Hi Dave - generally Bevan wines are ready to drink immediately with his very forward, lush style. That said, this particular bottle was more restrained and slightly more "old world". You could open it now and I'm sure it will be quite good with a little air, but I'd suggest giving it another couple years to really come together.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    7/17/19, 7:32 AM - Hi Dave - I believe the term "fruit forward" is not a reference to the type of fruit (i.e. red, blue etc), but more about the fruit taking a dominant position in the taste of the wine, especially on the front of the palate. Generally this is also indicates a lower acid wine and shows a richer profile. Also, this would be wines that are less about their "terroir" and overall balance, instead emphasizing the fruity characteristic of the grape itself.

Red
2016 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard 'Elysian' Napa Valley
6/8/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
2016 Dr Crane Blind Wine Comparison (Vice Versa Cave): #6 of 9 on my card and #5 of 9 overall. The cork was soaked thru on the Elysian, and while it seemed okay, I can't discount that it may have been affected. It was also served warmer than all the others except Memento Mori.

Nose of blueberries, black cherries, violets, wet pebbles, dank earth and pencil lead. Came out the hottest and most boozy of the wines in the lineup, while still displaying the Myriad trademark silky mouthfeel and refined tannins. Hugely concentrated with a sweet edge to it, it is definitely a hedonistic and in your face version of Crane. Lots of layers, revealing mineral and earthy flavors to go with tons of mostly blue fruit. Finishes very long.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/12/19, 11:48 AM - Agreed, which is why I pointed out the soaked thru cork. I'd guess it affected it. That said, blind is really a great exercise to test what you think of wines without the influence of the producer coloring it.

Red
2017 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch Oakville
6/10/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Tasted from barrel (final blend). This will be bottled shortly. First year from this vineyard for MM, and it certainly has the makings of a winner.

In comparison with the 17 Crane, this came across darker, with more chocolate and really dusty tannins. It's LPV-like, but isn't showing quite as much dense minerality. There's huge black core of fruit that is nicely ripe, with a seamless mouthfeel and really fine tannins. This should turn out to be a very nice entry into VHR for MM, especially given the tough vintage. 94-96
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/11/19, 10:05 AM - Hi Blarmson - I am really impressed with this wine given the vintage. It's always hard when they are in barrel, since I don't feel it is as easy to get a full handle on the wine (see 2017 Carter). That said, I think this will be one of the better 2017's out there.

Red
2016 Bevan Cellars EE Cuvée Tench Vineyard Oakville Red Bordeaux Blend
2/7/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
A step up from the regular Tench bottling and always one of Bevan's better bottles of wine. The Cab Franc here seems to assist with a really lovely nose of rose petals, violets, spice box, blueberries and plenty of earthy notions. Shows firm tannins and a strong backbone, with excellent purity and lots of working itself out to do in bottle. Strong levels of concentrated fruit give way to mineral notes and a bit of cedar. It is super powerful and finishes long. This needs a bit of time but will no doubt get better down the line.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/11/19, 7:04 AM - Dave - Bevan wines are definitely more black/blue than Schrader in general. They are also bigger and more forward.

Red
2016 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard Oakville
1/12/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
Spring flowers, smoked meat, spice box, embers, char, blackberry and deep earthy notions on a very fragrant nose. On the pallet, full bodied, very concentrated, but not quite a forward as what I've come to expect from Bevan wines. Lots of really deep earth driven flavors, backed up by great layers of mostly black fruit and a lot of that LPV-like scorched earth. Energetic and pallet enveloping, this continues to build from mid pallet through to a very long finish. This is very good.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    6/11/19, 7:02 AM - Hi Dave - good catch; you are completely accurate. I messed that up. Sadly will be hard to go back and fix them all, but appreciate the heads up.

Red
2014 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
5/9/2019 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This wine inspires two reactions in me: (1) this is outstanding; and (2) this isn’t as outstanding as I had hoped. Expectations are funny things, which shouldn’t obscure the reality of the wine (for better or worse), but they shouldn’t be ignored, either (especially with a wine this rare and, at least on the secondary market, expensive). On the one hand, this is an impressive and tasty wine that is delicious to drink, period. At the same time, it lacks the intensity and depth I have found in truly spectacular wines. My suspicion is that this is a result of the loose-knit nature of the 2014 vintage (likable yet not profound). Whatever the reason, though, I ended up thinking this is a very good - but not a great - wine. I was hoping for Springsteen; I got Mellencamp.

Cherry red in color and medium in body, the wine offers aromas of blueberry, fresh herbs, sandalwood, and pencil lead. Tastes of black cherry, espresso, anise, and leather, with a grainy and lingering finish. I agree with Burgundy Al's fantastic description of the wine as being "slightly modest in the middle," an airiness in the mid-palate that was an issue in some 2014s. 14.5% alcohol. Decant at least a few hours. My guess is this will be better in another year or two.

When I taste a wine for the first time, I reach for comparators. My first thought was Cardinale, which has a similar core of pure and classy fruit, along with a woodsy mouthfeel, medium body, bright acidity, and dusty finish. The MacDonald's savory yet modern profile also seems like a softer version of the 2014 Larkmead Solari or Blankiet Paradise Hills. To be sure, these comparators make exceptional company, but none of them inspire the following (or require the waiting list patience) of a MacDonald. My sense is that other vintages might have offered a more concentrated profile, but we can only taste what's in front of us: the 2014 left me intrigued, but not converted (at least not yet!). 94-95 for now.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/10/19, 7:22 AM - Nice note MSU. I think MacDonald's style takes a little coming around to for those of us used to the huge, bombastic and super concentrated Napa cabs built on fruit intensity (Mike Smith, Bevan..etc). MacDonald is obviously constructed more like either old school Napa or BDX wines, in that they unfold over time. I can say for sure the 2013, 2015 and 2016 editions are larger and more concentrated, but they will require many years to start drinking near their potential. I did have the 2014 as my lowest scored vintage of 13-16; but it is damn tasty, balanced and elegant. I'd say keep drinking them and you will end up a believer!

Red
2016 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
7/27/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
Carter Tasting - 2016 Vintage (Envy Wines): Really terrific complex nose of blackberries, black licorice and crushed rock. This is a blend of their high end cabernet, and a lot of the LPV site seems to shine through with some of those wonderful scorched earth and gravelly mineral driven qualities. The texture here stood out over the Weitz tasted right before it, and this showed beautifully integrated, firm and refined tannins to go with lovely chewy dark fruit in a medium to full bodied package. I agree with CSIMM that this is a step up over 2015. 95 with lots of upside.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/12/19, 7:07 AM - Hey there Dave - that is a tough pill to swallow, leaving CA weather for Wisconsin. At least it appears you have been doing a lot of good drinking! This Carter wine probably needs the most time in the lineup. There's good potential, but it's tightly wound. Hard to go wrong with Carter no matter what you pull.

Red
2015 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon RBS Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
3/9/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
99 points
Oh boy, this is special! It needs a little air, but man, just a perfect BTK nose of really rich blueberry compote, black currant, chocolate, Rutherford Dust and hints of vanilla and cedar. The way TRB pulls off the balance between lovely plush fruit and total and complete integrated balance is amazing. This is really everything I look for in a wine. Beautiful, full and perfectly pure round fruit, elegant and silky texture, unreal sophistication and layer after layer of a nearly perfect valley floor flavor profile. No part of this wine is overdone and there is not a hard edge to be found. A super long, deep and amazing finish. This is the kind of wine that reminds you why you love Napa Cabernet so much. Nearly perfect, and drinking very well with a couple hours of air. This will age well, but if you enjoy young, vibrant, plush and concentrated Cabs, it won't hurt to open it now.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/10/18, 7:42 AM - Well, 2016 is the last vintage for me, if only because of the sale. As we've seen, at times these can come off more red and fruity, but then there are other times like this when they just rock. I do think they may be more age worthy than a very similar wine like Carter due to their overall balance and perhaps a bit less alcohol. This bottle was more of a "whew" moment, since I went deep on 2016.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/6/19, 4:37 PM - Dave - that's great! I sometimes regret my spur of the moment handle, but that's some damn good champagne. Enjoy!

Red
2016 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Cœur de Vallée Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
4/3/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
96 points
What happens when you open a super young vintage cab from a french winemaker known for making long lived wine? Yep, tannins. Tons and tons of tannins. And acid, lots and lots of acid.

The nose on this wine gives a hint of its promise, with lovely rich notes of violets, creme de cassis, black currant, dark cherries, baking spices and freshly tilled soil. The pallet is fresh, incredibly taut, medium to full bodied and wrapped with tannins plus higher than normal levels of acid from this vineyard. Lots super condensed, powerful fruit build like a brick house. This is very pure and the finish outrageously long and persistent - over 1 min...maybe even 2 min. Crazy long. Once this baby starts to unwind it could be epic, but it will need 3-5 years in the cellar at least. 96+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/3/19, 9:11 PM - msuwright: Yep, I knew it was infanticide, but I wanted to get an idea of what to expect from this vintage of Morlet. I always try to rate wines based on the totality of my experience: Fruit quality, structure, tannin, purity, length, texture, elegance etc etc. So while I don't think anyone should touch it right now, I expect I would rate it about the same even if it were singing. None of us are going to be Parker predicting what a coiled up ball of BDX tannins are going to be like 30 years in the future, but I always try to be as consistent as possible, otherwise it kind of does a wine like this a disservice. For example, if I said this was a 92 today with potential, and I also gave a Myriad NV the same rating because it was showing well, it wouldn't communicate that the Morlet is a far superior wine. At any rate, that is my long winded soap box answer. :)

Red
2016 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium Oakville
3/29/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Side by side of the 15 & 16 Materium from 375mls. This was a shocking comparison, in that these two wines are so different. For my pallet at least, the 16 absolutely obliterates the 15. While the 15 seems slightly overripe and not quite as fresh as you would hope in a 100pt rated wine, the 16 is wonderfully pure and fresh, with amazing precision and a finish that goes on about 3x longer than the 15. One whiff of the aroma on these wines tells you all you need to know. It is one of the more stark contrasts I can remember from the same wine over two good vintages.

Amazing classic nose on this wine. Creme de cassis, black currant, violets, licorice and forest floor. Full bodied, ripe but not overdone, with really strong but fine grained tannins, good acid level, exceptionally precise and great concentrated fruit intensity. As this makes its way from mid pallet to the finish, it seems to literally explode with power. It finishes over min. Texture is perfect as always with this label, and this wine is definitely a candidate for perfection in the future. This vintage seems like it has excellent aging potential. 98++
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/30/19, 7:31 AM - HowellMountainCru: I would definitely let it rest for a while. I found it enjoyable this young, but the tannin was strong and I think it will certainly get better. Not sure I can say the same for the 15 edition.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/30/19, 7:32 AM - LiteItOnFire: Those little half bottles are too tempting...:)

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/30/19, 10:47 AM - TXRDW: I am not sure if anyone has made the comparison. I haven't been a buyer of the Amoenus, but I know my friend CSIMM really liked the 2015 edition.

Red
2015 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium Oakville
3/29/2019 - Cristal2000 wrote:
94 points
Side by side of the 15 & 16 Materium from 375mls. This was a shocking comparison, in that these two wines are so different. For my pallet at least, the 16 absolutely obliterates the 15. While the 15 seems slightly overripe and not quite as fresh as you would hope in a 100pt rated wine, the 16 is wonderfully pure and fresh, with amazing precision and a finish that goes on about 3x longer than the 15. One whiff of the aroma on these wines tells you all you need to know. It is one of the more stark contrasts I can remember from the same wine over two good vintages.

Very ripe nose, with lots of jam, black liqueur, forest floor and a bit of port. This is super concentrated, dense and slightly clunky on the pallet, albeit with exceptional texture and super fine grained tannins. Really pushing the boundaries of ripeness. It's full bodied, chock full of big time black and blue fruit and has good layering. Not a terribly precise wine, it finishes in about 20 secs, and seems to fall off a cliff at the end. Certainly can't complain drinking a wine like this, but leaves a lot to be desired when compared to the 16 edition. Perhaps they let this one hang a little long.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/30/19, 7:37 AM - LiteItOnFire: I've been skeptical of this Materium vintage since I first had one. There is good tannin quality here, so I don't necessarily see it falling off a cliff, but because of its ripeness and low acid level I would expect the best days to drink it are in the near (3-4 yrs) and not extended future. Like I mentioned, it's not a "bad" wine by any means, but it certainly doesn't live up to some of the other great vintages of this wine.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/30/19, 10:45 AM - My tendency is to think Materium's best and most age worthy vintages are in slightly less fruit forward years. That would make 2010, 2013 and 2016 seem like good bets. I am pretty sure the 16 is going to age very well. A lot more acid and overall structure than the 15 and even 14. Would be fun to compare to the 13.

Red
2014 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium Oakville
3/24/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
Had this next to a 16 Vice Versa Dr Crane BBS and 16 Purlieu BTK. The nose on this 100% Cabernet wine is super unique and unusual. Not very Cab like at all. We were all trying to get a handle on it, and we could not quite describe it, but will give it a shot. Aromas of pine needles, Hungarian oak, iron, boysenberry and tilled soil. On the pallet this wine is texturally perfect, with an absolutely seamless delivery of opulent and unctuous mostly blue/red fruit with the most polished and integrated tannins you can imagine. Totally weightless. Shows solid structure and a nice full mid pallet with lots of spice and mineral driven notes. The finish is where this didn't quite live up to the VV BBS, as it was about 30 secs, but super enjoyable. Ahead of the Purlieu but behind the VV in this tasting.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/25/19, 2:15 PM - That's possible, but I don' think so. Even with the nose that way, a couple of people had it #1 for a while and it showed quite well. And I noticed the same thing on the 2015 nose. Possibly a site characteristic but totally unique. At first I had it pegged as almost port-like, but that wasn't 100% accurate.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/28/19, 2:02 PM - HowellMountainCru: As much as I love Carter, I've always found the Materium to be a better overall wine then their Weitz. I think perhaps Maybach should pick slightly earlier to avoid some of the overripe almost port-like qualities at times, but otherwise, hard to find much fault in it - especially the 13-14 editions. Just got the 16, so will have to test out one of those little baby half bottles soon. :)

Red
2016 Realm Cellars The Bard Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
3/25/2019 - ageverett Likes this wine:
93 points
Got maybe 30 minutes of air before we dove in. Drank over 3 hours.

We enjoyed this wine - but it's just not as interesting or "excellent" as Realm's other offerings. Or what this wine used to be in past vintages.

This is solid juice that is coming from great vineyards, and in great hands with the Realm team. Maybe it just needs time to "come together" but right now it's just a solid 92-93 wine.

I will likely try another one in the relative near future, and (i) give it more air and (ii) open another wine for direct comparison purposes.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/26/19, 4:53 PM - Totally agree with you. Good but not great any longer, despite the somewhat comically high ratings from WA and JD.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/27/19, 9:04 AM - I did that with the 2015 vintage and as you might expect, the Falstaff absolutely destroyed it. Given they make north of 2000 cases of Bard now from a variety of vineyards, and still only make about 300 cases of Falstaff, I suppose it makes sense. That is a lot of blending on the Bard, and a lot of different terroir.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/27/19, 9:24 AM - Well the professionals think it is better than most of the single vineyard wines from Realm, but I think they are nuts. Not sure what they are drinking...or smoking.

    Given the massive scale of wine price increases in Napa, I don't feel it's bad for $110/bottle, but it is nothing close to the quality of the 2012-2013 wine. I am not sure it has the fruit quality or overall stuffing to ever become close to a 97-98pt wine for me, but definitely could see it moving towards the 94pt range, especially in a vintage like 2016. It's now widely distributed, albeit generally for about $20-30 more, so I don't feel pressure to buy, especially in lesser vintages like 2017.

    Bard, Moonracer and to a lesser extent Farella are now the Realm moneymakers, and I am sure they need it given their investors and the huge expenses associated with the estate property and all the upgrades.

Red
2015 Scarlett Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Rutherford
3/21/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
"Forced" into opening this bottle with my buddy CSIMM lavishing praise all over it. Would have really enjoyed having it at like a 92, just for the sake of messing with him, but this is definitely showing extremely well. Quality wise, it reminds me of the 2016 Myriad GIII from Mike Smith. Just extremely well constructed and a bargain at $125 on release. Too bad from what I hear the 2016 edition is not following in its footsteps.

Cassis, black currant, dark cherry, spice box and spring flowers emanating from the glass on PnP. First sip and I am really happy, because this has lost some of the jammy and sweet characteristics it showed a bit earlier in its life. Still, this is super full bodied and wonderfully integrated, cascading waves of dark chocolate and blackberry fruit over the pallet in wonderful layers. The fruit is pure, the structure is quite impressive and it is showing more complexity than I would ever rightly expect from this wine. What was mainly a wonderful fruit bomb has become a bit more cerebral. The mid pallet is full and plush, and it transitions quickly to a very, very long and satisfying finish that even manages a lot of mineral like qualities. Not a hard edge to be found. Not quite a perfect wine for my pallet, but definitely a real treat.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/21/19, 10:51 PM - Oh how I would have loved to give this baby a 92..or 89 :) I was actually very pleasantly surprised that it contained its size very well. May as well drink them now!

    LIOF - A 12 case wine luggage! Love it!

Red
2016 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Oakville
3/14/2019 - Reefsog1 Likes this wine:
100 points
This wine changed the way I feel about cab. I grew up up in Howell mountain with Venge family. Kirks dad Nils was to be reckoned with and if you know anything about this family heirloom, you will recognize that the fruit has hasn’t fallen far from the vine. This cab has time to rest, but with patience, you will buckle. Unless you grew up with Howell mountain fruit at your footsteps, you will never understand what true mountain appellation cab is. Have you picked fruit, have you found rock, have you trecked soil on a foggy fall morning. So that, and you will appreciate that Kirk has done. He makes with wine with passion, memory of lost loved family and who he is; as a man, winemaker and friend. I love you Kirk and I am proud to be family. You are so talented and deserve to follow your dad with 100+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/15/19, 7:51 AM - Just FYI, Missouri Hopper isn't a mountain appellation vineyard. It is on the valley floor in Oakville, just north of Yountville.

Red
2016 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Oakville
3/7/2019 - Cristal2000 wrote:
93 points
First vintage of this wine. Didn't expect to open so soon but had a dinner right after work and this was the box in the car! Therefore, take this all with a grain of salt since no time for the bottle to settle.

For perspective, I think Venge's best work is B Cellars wines. Likely because a few of the vineyards, namely Crane, BTK and LPV, are just about the best sites you can source. B Cellars also has a Missouri Hopper made by Venge that is $200 retail and $160 in the club, so at least $40 more expensive than his own label. I've always found it to be good, but a bit too gamey for me. Figured it would be fun to try this and see how it stacked up.

Nose shows violets, blackberries and cassis, along with a fair amount of BBQ, salami and lots of mineral notes. Also getting a little bit of sulphur here. The pallet is rich, decadent and a tad bit grape-y or fruity at the moment. Full bodied, with a nice mouthfeel, great concentration and a bit more of a spine than I would normally expect for this label. Showing dark blue fruit, with lots of spice and a hint of smoked meat. It has a very full mid pallet and super long and mineral driven finish. Turns out it is very similar to the B Cellars version. I think ideally you want to let this sit for a while to let it integrate more and hopefully lose the sulphur and grape-y qualities. Lots of potential. 93+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 9:36 PM - Hi HowellmountainCru: This was definitely opened too early, so I do believe it is a good idea to wait for a while before popping the cork. It seems like B Cellars always get a bit more out of their wines, perhaps because of the equipment they use, coopers, assistant winemaker, proprietor input etc. I have always found them to be a cut above the rest of Venge's work. As a fan of the B Cellars MH, I will be curious to hear what you think of this wine in comparison. I suspect it will not show quite as well, but not sure since it isn't really my ideal profile to start. Cheers!

Red
2015 Vangone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
3/7/2019 - msuwright Likes this wine:
98 points
This is modern Napa Cabernet at its best: ripe, dense, balanced, and complex, with an insane intensity and complete deliciousness that California can deliver like few others. I had high hopes upon opening this - thank you csimm and Cristal2000 for the recommendation! - but this wine exceeded them. There are only a handful of wineries that have impressed me this much from the first bottle (e.g., Carter LPV, Realm’s Bard 2013, Bond Pluribus 2012, Memento Mori 2012). This is such a memorable - and exceptional - wine.

Dark red in color and full in body, the wine offers enticing aromas of blackberry, cocoa powder, new asphalt, baking spices, and fresh cedar, along with a hint of eucalyptus. The tastes are concentrated but nuanced: blueberry, sweet cherry, milk chocolate, warm gravel, and bay leaf, with a finish that goes on and on. 14.7% alcohol. Decant at least an hour or two, though more air wouldn’t hurt.

In terms of other wines, two comparisons come to mind. The first is the Revana Block 6, a similarly dense, almost saturated wine made by TRB. The Vangone is more enjoyable right now, but it has a similarly mind-blowing concentration: it's almost like listening to Springsteen’s Rosalita or Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (or insert your favorite piece of noisy and complex music) at full blast on fantastic speakers - so loud, so precise, so immersive, so stunning. The second comparator would be Kaplan’s Memento Mori, a wine that seems restrained compared to the Vangone. This wine has more fullness, ripeness, roundness, chocolate, depth - in a word, Oakville - and that, done right, can be a glorious thing. The Vangone may be the more obvious wine - but in the very best way.

So chalk a win up for CellarTracker (and, again, csimm and Cristal2000!); this is, to me, a genuine discovery. I need another way to spend money on wine like I need a whole in the head, but it’s kind of like an unexpected gift that you secretly really wanted: you might not have asked for it, but now you can't imagine the world without it. Bottom line, this wine is the real deal (and I just ordered more). Drink now, drink in another few years, but drink it. If you love modern Napa Cabernet, you'll love this wine - it’s just incredible. 98+.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 7:27 AM - Nice review MSUWRIGHT! I am really happy you liked it so much. Both CSIMM and I had our minds blown out of nowhere with that 2016 and 2018 barrel sample. It's quite a little hidden gem, although those days of obscurity may be over now. :) It rivals the MM SVD's as his best work IMO.

    And iamandyc, can't wait to hear what you think of it!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 9:56 AM - Although I haven't been there, from what I understand it is a little vineyard with a bit of elevation in Oakville near Weitz, overlooking Oakville Cross Rd. Prime time location if there ever was one.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 3:40 PM - iamandyc: The MM LPV needs more time than the Crane. So if you have to pop one, suggest you go Crane...which is glorious!

Red
2016 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon True Vineyard Howell Mountain
3/2/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
Stunning floral notes on the nose. Spring flowers, violets and a hint of rose petals just soar from the glass. These aromas are complemented by blackberries, blueberries, licorice, spice box and forest floor. For this mountain wine, which at times can be insanely coiled up (see 2013 vintage), this vintage is rather accessible early. Nicely concentrated but with great delineation here, really showing the nuance, complexity and tremendous structure of the vineyard. This is fresh and lively on the pallet, with fine grained but very prominent tannins. The purity is exceptional and this is deftly balanced and totally focused. One of the more precise wines I have had so far this year. It finishes super long at over 1 min. A bit of alcohol showing but should easily dissipate with a bit more time. Clearly no hurry here as this is going to last a long time, but unlike with some other vintages, you can get at it early. I decanted for only an hour and it showed quite well (assuming you are not an old world wine guy/gal, and if so wait...and wait some more).
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 9:58 AM - Thanks! I haven't had the chance to try to estate cab yet. I am sure given the vintage and quality of wine from Outpost it is going to be good however. Unfortunately that is one wine I had to cut, simply because there's just too much wine out there to buy!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/8/19, 10:58 AM - Well, hmmm...not many under $100 anymore are there? I used to have that price target and it was always Realm Bard, Bevan Ontogeny, Myriad GIII, Carter Fortuna and Outpost Cab. Now the only ones under $100 aside from the Outpost are the Bevan and Carter Fortuna, and I generally find those to be the best wines at the price point. I am also able to gobble up some good deals here and there for wines with a higher retail price.

    These days, I have the Mike Smith and TRB NV's around for the crowds and then I try to focus on the wines that really make me smile. I've kind of cut out the "just okay" wines that hover in that $100-$125 space. I will likely even stop buying the Realm Bard here shortly which is $110. For 2016 at least, the Myriad GIII is exponentially more enjoyable at $125.

    So I guess the long winded answer is there really aren't many wines better than Outpost under $100. I just have so many cabs that I am trying to buy stuff that makes me go WOW when I pop the cork. I think especially in this vintage, it would be hard to go wrong with the Outpost, as long as you enjoy the mountain wine profile. For sure you should try out the 16 Ontogeny if you don't have it already - it is great at $95.

Red
2016 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard St. Helena
3/7/2019 - blarmston Likes this wine:
95 points
To me, this is rated about a 95 (with a three hour decant). But the potential here is for much more with time in the cellar.

After a two hour decant with vigorous aeration, this was still showing a lot of "heat". An hour later, and much of the alcohol nose and finish was gone, replaced by a balanced, concentrated and plush wine.

Typical LPV notes- blackberry, crushed rock, blueberry, etc. Other TN's can give more detailed descriptors. Never been my thing, probably will never have the ability to decipher the individual components. All good, I know when for me a wine is excellent, and while I like this wine, I will most likely love it in 5 years.

If you only have a couple of these, resist the urge to pop the cork. If you have several, take one out for a test drive and put the rest in the back of the cellar for some more ZZZ's
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    3/7/19, 2:35 PM - Nice note. I think the LPV from VV is one of the more challenging wines to figure out. I have had it when it showed unbelievably well early, and then just a few days later was totally shut down. Apparently that has been an issue for critics as well. I found the same issue with the Melka made Fairchild Stones 1 that is also from LPV. Hopefully with some years on it that is no longer an issue, because when it's hitting, it is amazingly good.

Red
2015 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
2/20/2019 - msuwright wrote:
95 points
This explosive and dense Cabernet is probably a year from its prime drinking window, but - like many B Cellars Cabernets - it's a real trip to drink in the early going. I absolutely loved the fruit, power, and intensity. My head questioned the ripeness, chocolate, and viscosity, but my heart learned to love it as the night went on. This has all the subtlety of a candy bar, but candy bars have their place in this world; if you crave one, there's nothing quite like it. In other words, this is a bit decadent, but quite delicious.

Ruby red in color and full in body, this offers incredible, almost pungent aromas of blueberry, tar, dark chocolate, and fresh herbs. Tastes of blackberry, graphite, milk chocolate, menthol, and cedar, with a sweet, almost saccharine finish that still carries a hint of alcohol (14.9%) that dissipates with air. Decant at least two hours, if you can't wait for 2020, when it should be hitting its stride.

I share Cristal2000's ambivalence about these wines; even as a fan, I think these can - and should - be polarizing. There is incredible richness and density, but they dance on, and sometimes step over, the edge of excess. That said, there is sophistication to go with all the noise; these wines have acidity, tannin, and (at least something resembling) balance. Ultimately, for me, this wine approaches sensory overload, but it escapes with the best of all worlds; it is Icarus, but it hasn't flown too close to the sun (at least to me!). 95+ for now, with upside.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/21/19, 6:48 AM - Nice note MSUWRIGHT! I am glad someone is on this B Cellars train with me!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/21/19, 7:19 AM - Oh and BTW, I had the 15 BTK next to the 16 BTK, and the 16 is better...so you have that to look forward to if you have some.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/21/19, 10:17 AM - Totally agree! When you're in the mood for them, hard to get a better wine. But I understand why wine traditionalists would have nothing to do with them. They are definitely not food wines by any stretch!

Red
2016 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Napa Valley
2/14/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
95 points
These are such amazingly polarizing wines. When it comes to pushing the line on alcohol, extraction and overall bombastic opulence, the B Cellars wines lead the way. If you are even moderately interested in restrained, terrior driven wines these are going to totally turn you off. I can see someone thinking this is a 98-99pt wine and someone with an equally great appreciation for wine thinking it is 90-91.

For me personally, I think it depends on when you catch me. This is an absolute monster, with all the epic fruit goodness of the Dr Crane vineyard (my favorite) and a really amazingly rich in your face style. It is not a food wine by any means and has low acid. It shows itself to be wonderfully layered, hedonistic and totally intense in every way. The blueberry compote, black currant, herbs, forest floor jump right from the glass and as soon as it hits your pallet, whatever else you have been eating or drinking fades to black. It is utterly pure and in this vintage also has some big time tannins and a mineral driven streak that set it apart from 2015. It is a meal unto itself.

As you can see from my previous notes and giving it a 95 now instead of 98, even I am vexed by it. It delivers everything you could want if that is massive pure fruit with deep wonderful concentration and amazing flavors. But more recently I have been looking for a bit more finesse, elegance and site/vineyard specific characteristics. Less of a monolith. So today it is a 95, but for someone looking for this style LPB's 98-100 is right on.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/15/19, 7:54 AM - It can definitely be when you catch the wine (and certainly from barrel was showing a bit better), but I think a lot has to do with what you are in the mood to drink. This is never going to be a wine of grace and finesse - it's top trait to me is the super powerful and gorgeous fruit. I also doubt these will age real well, so would guess they need to be had in the first 5-8 years or so. All that said, there are days when this is just amazing juice to me. But I would imagine it would we scoffed at by a lot of old world wine folks.

Red
2016 Realm Cellars Moonracer Realm Estate Stags Leap District Red Bordeaux Blend
2/8/2019 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
This is easily the best Moonracer of the three vintages so far. Significantly more depth of flavor and concentration. Dark purple in the glass, showing loads of blueberry and plums to go along with charcoal, pencil lead and hints of smoked meat. Dense and rich on the pallet, this is very well layered and shows terrific mouthfeel. Full bodied, there are deep layers of fruit, earth and mineral driven flavors with lots of energy and freshness. Finishes long. Very good and better than expected. 97+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/11/19, 10:46 AM - Hi LiteItOnFire - Of the 2016's, I also had the Bard and Farella. I had a barrel sample of the 2017 Dr Crane and some 2017 Fidelio. The Moonracer was drinking the best of the bunch IMO, but given the price difference, the Farella is a no brainer as it is always a very good offering. The Bard these days is always criminally overrated by the critics. It is good no doubt, but easily the least compelling of the wines I had on this day. Hope that helps!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/11/19, 10:54 AM - The Dr Crane you should absolutely scoop up if you have an allocation. It is definitely on par with MM Crane and one of the more coveted wines in the valley. I don't buy the Houyi, mostly because Pritchard Hill is not my AVA of choice. I generally avoid the Moonracer too, but this year it is worth purchasing IMO.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    2/11/19, 11:32 AM - Hi Rockyii - The Fidelio is a nice, fresh, tropical and well concentrated Sauv Blanc. It is a bit pricey for the varietal, but I enjoy it on a summer day. Certainly one of the better ones in the valley, but can't touch labels like Arkenstone that are also much more expensive.

Red
2016 Fait-Main St Emilion Todeschini Asteria St. Émilion Grand Cru Red Bordeaux Blend
11/30/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
94 points
Admittedly, I don't really enjoy BDX wines very much. There is just something about the earthy profile and white pepper thing that isn't ideal for me. That said, this was a really good wine.

The blend here I believe is 50% Cab Franc and 50% Merlot. This is deep purple, with notes of lilacs, blackcurrant, black raspberry, tobacco, pencil shavings, wet earth, wet stone and licorice. Very fresh, firm and energetic on the pallet, this is medium to full bodied with lots of promise as it develops over time. Finishes long and perfumed. It is definitely a bit more "new world" of a BDX style, and for that I am thankful.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    1/30/19, 8:20 PM - Thanks for the info LiteItOnFire! I am usually loathe to engage with BDX, but I may have to give it a shot.

Red
2015 Torrin Akasha Paso Robles Syrah
10/26/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
98 points
First time trying Torrin and for my palate, I don't think Syrah can get much better. Super deep dark purple and black in the glass, with wonderful notes of blackberry, blueberry, black licorice, wet stone and earthy notions. Not much of the typical smoked meat element. First sip and man oh man is this pure, deep, rich, outrageously layered and totally weightless at the same time. The mouthfeel is akin to the best Napa has to offer. The tannins are super fine and well integrated and the finish goes on forever. I tasted through the top houses in Paso over the weekend, had about 50 different wines and this stood out as the best of the bunch. Absolutely tremendous. 98+
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    10/30/18, 9:40 AM - Hi Michigan Dogs - I think it would be safe to say I don't put much if any stock into "drinking windows". So someone can project themselves 6 years ahead and say that's the best time to start drinking it? Maybe Parker in his heyday with BDX. This is a very modern style wine that will no doubt age well (since I had an 09 at the winery at it tasted like a 16), but if you like big, rich, luxurious and a bit hedonistic, now wouldn't be a bad time to crack one assuming you give it minimum 5-6 hours of air first. That's my 2c at least. Cheers!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    1/26/19, 12:20 PM - Hi dson: Although my first wine love was a 2004 Saxum, these days I am much more a Napafile. That said, I really enjoy many of the wines Paso has to offer, and the quality seems to be getting better and better. I had never had Torrin before and was blown away by the quality. I had it with the Scott the owner, but don't remember asking him how long it had been open. Whether you open it now I would say depends on how you like your wine - if you don't mind some alcohol in order to get super concentrated, pure and rich layered fruit, than I would say have at the 2015 with a good amount of time in the decanter. If you prefer your wine to be a little more complex, hitting secondary and tertiary flavors, with less punch, than I would say go for the 2010 (although I have not had it).

    For me, I still think Saxum makes some of the best wine in Paso. Specifically their James Berry and Bone Rock. I also really enjoy L'Aventure for a bit more old world, age worthy and classically refined wine. But no doubt Torrin blew me away the most during my trip. Especially as it relates price to quality, they seem to be where it is at right now. For just straight hedonistic juice, Booker also can hit some high notes for me.

    Cheers!

Red
2015 B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Oakville
5/2/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
97 points
As you typically find with Venge as the winemaker, this a big, super modern, rich and powerful cabernet. I would not expect a Francophile to go near this wine. So that's the disclaimer - if you don't appreciate this style of wine, stay far away.

For me, this is pushing the line on extraction, but it works very well due to the purity of fruit. This is big, lush and powerful, with tremendous depth of fruit and serious length. Tons of creme de cassis, black licorice, black fruit and forest floor. Wonderfully round and very well balanced, showing seemingly limitless layers of flavor with a huge finish. It's interesting because for a big and rich as this is, it doesn't taste at all overripe. The fruit quality is just amazing. I am enjoying it right now, but I expect age to tame the monster quite a bit. Drink or hold, depending on your preferred style (or your mood on any particular day).
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    5/4/18, 7:01 AM - I don't think you need any help draining your wallet!

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    1/11/19, 4:13 PM - I wouldn't be too afraid...but I would give it a lot of air beforehand.

Red
2016 Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
10/16/2018 - Cristal2000 wrote:
Given how much I enjoyed the 2015 version of this wine, I'm going to to hold out hope this 2016 version gets a lot better than it is currently. Right now I am quite disappointed. It's basically a jammy, oaky, rather harsh, unbalanced and unintegrated wine that actually got worse the longer I had it open. Obviously it is super young, and it has a long way to go. This is generally a really high quality offering, so crossing fingers on my other bottles. If rating this would not crack 90.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/20/18, 10:57 PM - Hi srh - Well you and I are certainly different in that I expect a lot out of a good Napa wine. It's been a while since I had this one, but I think quite obviously it has some R.S, the question I imagine is how much and whether that is causing the wine to be totally out of balance. No doubt to me something is amiss with this vintage of Lewis, but not sure I can pinpoint it off my last tasting.

Red
2016 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon La Verdad Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard Napa Valley
11/12/2018 - Cristal2000 Likes this wine:
100 points
Escaped fires in my area and decided to have some fun. No formal notes and will just summarize my thoughts and conclusions from having the 2015 Realm Absurd, 2016 Myriad Elysian, 2016 Carter La Verdad and 2016 Quivet LPV all back to back.

My order: Carter La Verdad barely over Myriad Elysian, followed by Realm Absurd and then Quivet LPV. The Verdad showed even better than when I had it a few months ago, and is easily 99-100 all day long. It's a bit more tightly coiled and structured than the 2015 version, with tons of depth and earthy mineral driven layers that continue to change and unfold in your mouth over time. It's got epic purity, no hard edges and finishes super long. In comparison, the Quivet LPV (obviously same vineyard and winemaker as Verdad) had a lot more upfront fruit, was really great but lacked the structure and complexity of the Verdad. I'd say 95-96. The Absurd was super unresolved, showed boat loads of oak and dense pure fruit, but really needs time to come together. All the stuffing is there, but it was the least ready to drink - 96-97. And finally, the Myriad Elysian showed by far the most scorched earth and crazy black tar mineral driven notes, with insane levels of power and concentration that really showcased just how incredible that site can be. For me 98-100
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    11/12/18, 8:54 PM - Hey Msuwright - Thanks for the positive thoughts! It's been very, very ugly around here for the past week. Hoping good times are on the horizon soon.

    A few notes based on this tasting. First, Realm was the only 2015, so that may have played into how these wines showed. That said, it was also nearly three times the price of the other wines, so it should have killed them but didn't.

    Regarding Mike vs Benoit, I too really love both of their wine making styles. I generally find Mike to get more extraction from his wines, with perhaps greater depth but many times they aren't as seamless, elegant or potentially age worthy as Benoit's. It probably would have been more enlightening to have a Realm BTK or Crane in the mix to get a sense of how they compare, since like you said, Absurd is a blend. As a matter of fact, if I had to pick one wine to drink forever, it would likely be the Realm Dr Crane. And yet that said, I would take Carter La Verdad over Benoit's Fait Main LPV every single time. So perhaps it also has a lot to do with which block they're working with and potentially the farming and production process (given Realm puts more money into it than most) to determine a winner on a vintage to vintage basis.

    Bottom line is love both their styles for different reasons. If drinking a wine early, definitely shade toward Mike Smith. If looking for a more refined and classy wine that needs a little age, I'd go more in Benoit's direction.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/19/18, 7:29 PM - Hi JEP007 - Sounds like a great choice! I hope your experience with it is as good as mine. If doing a slow ox, I would suggest 6-8 hours. If using a decanter, I think 3 hours or so will do just fine. More time is not likely to be an issue, so nothing wrong with more time than what I mentioned above. These are super huge wines.

Red
2014 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo Napa Valley
12/18/2018 - msuwright wrote:
98 points
This dense and classy wine is stunning, even if it hasn’t quite entered its drinking window. The depth and complexity of fruit are enjoyable, but the enveloping aromas, earthy mouthfeel, and bright finish are even more impressive. This is remarkable wine that offers New World flavor with Old World balance.

Dark red in color and medium in body, the wine offers intriguing aromas of blackberry, mulberry, leather, and gravel. The wine offers luscious notes of blueberry and black cherry, but it's balanced out with brambly notes of espresso, cocoa powder, baking spices, and crushed rocks. 14.2% alcohol. Drink in 2020 or later, when it may approach perfect. If you can't wait that long (like me), decant at least an hour, but it's surprisingly ready. Somehow even better on the second day, when the flavors integrate and become even more ridiculously good.

I decided to open this after reading Antonio Galloni's middling reviews of the Tynan wines. (He claims to write more in disappointment than anger, but he rates the '11-'15 Cabernets as 88-91, with '14 being the highest.) Of course, I am an amateur, who couldn't reliably rate 500+ wines in 24 days to save my life (can anyone?), but I followed this particular wine closely for two days - and AG is really, really wrong here, in at least two ways:

(1) He questions Tynan's assertion that he makes "old-school leaning" Cabernets. No doubt, this is riper than the wines of Togni, Dunn, or Mayacamas (wines that I personally find ascetic), but the Tynan wine is old school for wineries that started in, um, the last 15 years. It has darkness, herbs, gravel, and (relatively) low alcohol. No, it won't clog your arteries with tannins or require you to wait until 2040 to realize it was made from grapes and not pencil lead, but this is a more savory wine than a Mondavi or Peter Michael (not to mention a Carter or Realm). In my mind, this is a slightly riper version of a Dominus or Larkmead, neither of which belong to the "new school."

(2) Galloni says the wines are "dense and heavily extracted." Dense, yes, but the extraction point is completely wrong, as least as to the 2014. Having the fruit out front can be fun (e.g., Bevan, Morlet) or obnoxious (e.g., Anthem, GKG), but this is not such a wine. The fruit is ripe, but there are no plummy, sugary, or pruny notes (i.e., characteristics of extraction). Instead, the dark fruit balances with the - very real - tannins and acidity. If this is more extracted than a wine from Tony Biagi (to pick a recent AG favorite), I'll eat my shorts.

I apologize for the lengthy point / counterpoint here, but the AG review strikes me as the definition of absurd - two substantive (but wrong) points, no specific descriptions, and vague condescension all around (really, questioning the specific number of days of skin contact?). To be clear, I've never met Chris Tynan, and I wouldn't know him if I ran into him on the street. Everyone seems to agree that he is a very nice guy, but - even if he is a complete tool - this wine deserves better than a backhanded dismissal. As AG suggests, maybe he just caught it on a bad day. That said, if this is a 91 point wine, I have a bridge to sell you.

To sum up: the 2014 is a beautiful and delicious Cabernet that has impeccable class and balance. Drink it now or drink it later, but it is an amazing wine, period.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/18/18, 7:46 PM - Nice write up. AG simply has no business rating Napa Cabs. He's never, ever been good at it and should stick with Italian wines and the like. He doesn't understand what consumers are looking for in these wines, and his pallet simply sucks as it relates to anything new world.

Red
2012 Pott Wine Cabernet Sauvignon Her Majesty's Secret Service Stagecoach Vineyard Napa Valley
4/2/2018 - Cristal2000 wrote:
93 points
Blackberries, dried herbs, violets and some tobacco on the nose. Relatively high levels of acidity, red fruit, medium bodied and old world-ish. Relatively long finish that is a bit clipped by the acid bite. Definitely showing secondary and tertiary notes at this point. I didn't love it, but it's a nice wine, especially with food.
  • Cristal2000 commented:

    12/13/18, 9:26 PM - No doubt Aaron has great balance in his wines. I am glad to hear this showed so well for you!

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