February 15, 2019 - Took to Charlie Palmer Steak DC (who has the best corkage policy btw). First Las Piedras from any winery and I hate to be the dissenter but i was not in love with this. First sip was excellent with a crisp blackberry on the attack and then the gravelly and earthy notes kick in to initially create a balance. However the more I drank this the more muddled it became to me. Shifted to overly earthy and ended with a slightly bitter coffee note. Not sure what to make of it on the whole. Still a well made wine with some nice moments but far from something I'd drink over the TO-Kalon's. I'll give the 2016 Verdad a shot at redemption in 2 or 3 years ...
January 16, 2019 - For more than 170 years, the vineyard of little pebbles has been patiently waiting for this CellarTracker moment. (OK, probably not, but work with me here…) In one corner is Mike Smith, the American protege of Thomas Rivers Brown, working for the Carter label. In the other corner is Benoit Touquette, the French protege of Michel Rolland, working for his own label, Fait-Main. In the arena? The 2014 vintage of the Las Piedras vineyard. The question? Who made the best wine. The answer? Fait-Main.
I’ve had both wines in the past, but never side-by-side, which made tonight interesting (perhaps for no one else but me, but - hey - it’s still interesting to me!). Each wine presented as ripe, gravelly, intense, and delicious in a way that puts them among the best of this vineyard I have tasted. To my surprise, though, the Fait-Main pulled away, with a more floral, integrated, and polished profile. Although the wines are more similar than different, the Fait-Main had more lift and nuance, with just as much power as the Carter. There is no wrong answer here, but I was surprised that the Fait-Main tasted a little more right.
- Fait-Main: Inky red in color and full in body, the wine offers aromas of black cherry, graphite, rosemary, and white flowers. The tastes are luscious and integrated: blueberry, milk chocolate, pencil lead, and warm gravel, with a silky and lingering finish. There were very few rough edges with this wine - iron fist, velvet glove, all that. 14.1% alcohol. Decant at least an hour. 97+ for now (better than 9/17), with upside in a year or two.
- Carter: Similarly blackish red in color and full in body, the wine offers more raw aromas of blackberry, burnt toast, black licorice, and pine needles. The tastes are a bit more pungent: boysenberry, cocoa powder, crushed rock, and cedar, with a chalky and somewhat dry finish. 14.9% alcohol. This presented as more rustic than the Fait Main - it’s not quite a bruiser, but it’s the more extracted (and less nuanced) of the two wines. Decant at least two hours. 96 for now (similar to 10/18), with upside in 2-4 years.
Even though I prefer the Fait-Main, I can see the two wines boiling down to personal preference. If you want a more burgeoning, powerful, and raw wine, the Carter is for you. If you want a more integrated, ethereal, and polished wine, the Fait-Main is the one. The surprise for me is that the Fait-Main matches the Carter in terms of power and ripeness; these are both unmistakably modern (and beautiful) wines of the Napa Valley. The difference, in my opinion, is that the Fait-Main has a finesse and class that takes the wine to another level.
P.S. Bonus sports analogy! You’ve now read down to the seventh paragraph of an amateur wine review (and, no judgment, I won’t ask why you’ve read this far, if you don’t ask why I’ve written this much). So, here’s a gratuitous, random, admittedly Bay Area-focused sports analogy. Drinking these two wines is like watching Klay Thompson and Steph Curry each make a three pointer. Each has great form, hits nothing but net, and is a fantastic shooter. Still, I root for one of them more, whether it’s because of his smaller stature, incredible speed, or likable personality. Even though each makes the shot, Thompson is great, and Curry... well, Curry belongs to the ages. Tonight, the Fait-Main was such a wine.
December 28, 2018 - This is an absolutely fantastic wine. Dark black/purple, bramble nose, soft smooth tannins coat the mouth and having dark, pronounced fruit flavors. One of the best representations of LPV. Simply sublime.
October 13, 2018 - This dark and complex Cabernet is completely fantastic: ripe, layered, floral, and lively - this wine has it all. Be sure to decant at least an hour, since it started off quite prickly but evolved (by hour two) into something plush and silky, while still retaining that gravelly, almost grainy undertone that makes LPV so unique.
Inky red in color and full in body, the wine welcomes you in with aromas of blackberry, charcoal, anise, and graphite. The tastes of the wine are bright and energetic: blueberry, mocha, fresh rosemary, crushed rock, and cedar. The finish offers incredible length, integrated tannins, and a silky aftertaste - all characteristics that define great Napa Cabernet (at least to me). 14.9% alcohol. Drink in next 3-5 years.
Compared to the 2015 Verdad, this is a touch more dark and rustic. For what it gives up in polish, though, it provides in depth and integration. I know Andy Beckstoffer’s name is on the vineyard designation, but sometimes I think Mike Smith owns Las Piedras (at least in the metaphorical sense!) - just so good.
June 6, 2018 - When all of us are focusing on the ‘15 (and even '16) LPV offerings, along comes its older sibling, the ‘14 LPV which is great on every level; color, smell, and taste.
Dark black, blue and purple with a little red on the rim Nice charcoal, tar, wet stone. Beautiful smell of fresh cut flowers, black and blue berries, Nice acidity. Strong pronounced backbone and finish. Great correlation of the wine and the vineyard.
Kudos to Mike Smith for building a brick shithouse that will last for years to come and get better with time.
May 12, 2018 - Mike Smith Tasting and Wine Dinner PART #2: This wine laid waste to the 2014 Schrader and 2014 Colesworthy served beside it. The concentration of the Carter pimp-slapped the Schraders into absolute orbit, especially on the front end and through the mid-palate. The Schraders seemed watery (of all things) and thin. I personally think this speaks more toward the Carter’s awesome, complex tiered flavor profile, and less about the Schraders’ inability to deliver depth-wise. The Schraders were not “watery” on their own, but insert one badass 2014 Carter LPV, and the others became its bitches almost instantly.
The 2014 ain’t no Verdad, but it’s pretty damn close. Previous notes from two months ago on the 2014 Carter LPV still apply. Striking black minerality coupled with a swirling interplay of black, red, and some blue berry fruit made for a great showing. Drink now or hold for a few years if you feel like it.
Note: I had this the next day, and it still held up nicely. Missing some of the broad strokes from the previous day, but the flavors and depth persisted. This has some stuffing to last through some short-term cellaring without any issues. Great stuff.
March 6, 2018 - Update from my previous note on 3/4/18 on a Coravin pour of this wine. The remainder of this bottle was consumed as a PnP, and without the 2015 Verdad alongside it. As a stand-alone, this 2014 really highlights the perfect harmony of deeply sophisticated and pure core fruit with beautifully interwoven minerality. A compelling example of the site and an especially great accomplishment in the 2014 vintage (which showed a tendency to have produced some overtly fruity, even clumsy wines in a number of cases). No soggy plushness here...This 2014 Carter LPV is all class.
March 4, 2018 - Previous notes apply. Coravin pour; this was smooth and singing with just a few minutes of swirling in the glass. Black asphalt and gravel led the attack, with astoundingly pure black, purple, and dark red fruit washing over the mineral elements and engulfing the palate. Smooth on the back end, with an inviting finish that beckons you back for another sip.
I served this 2014 side-by-side with its younger sibling, the 2015 Carter La Verdad., whose DNA was just a little more concentrated and intense than the 2014. I favored the 2015 for those reasons, as its core is just so compelling and full of complexity and depth, it’s hard to beat. That said, my girl favored this 2014 for its fascinating gravelly scaffolding and more comparatively harnessed delivery of fruit (“harnessed” by Carter standards at least).
97-98+ points for the 2014. Drinking great now with just a little air. Hold with confidence for another year or so if you feel like it. 100 points for the 2015 La Verdad. Great juice all around.
December 19, 2017 - A wonderful wine! Everything I look for in a napa cab. Rich and bold wine! Perfectly ripened fruit, toasted oak, touches of caramel/vanilla/cotton candy (this kept it from 99/100pts), with a nice complex finish where the touches of earth/mineral arrive. If the hints of sweetness fade and more of the mineral/earth strengthen, this has a chance at 99-100!
December 11, 2017 - This is an exceptional wine, and one of the better 2014's I've had. Drank at dinner next to an astounding 2015 Memento Mori LPV that managed to best it, but the competition was fierce and the MM is a better vintage IMO.
The Carter started out as the better wine. Amazing blackberry and blueberry fruit, cassis, anise, wet earth and stone on the nose. Really silky texture that initially set it apart from the MM. Just glides across the pallet. Nice deep and rich flavors, with good balance and significant structure. In the middle of the evening it seemed to shut down some for a bit, with acid and tannin taking over, but then came back to life a little while later. This has a tremendous spectrum of flavors, and integrates nice earth driven notes with that luscious black/blue fruit. Built for the long run, but easy to enjoy now. Long and fabulous finish. Needs a good 3-4 hour decant.
Overall, not quite a layered or deep as the Memento Mori, but that was one of a handful of the best wines I've had over the past year. Would be interesting to have the MM next to the 15 Carter La Verdad LPV, which I think is also a 99-100 point wine.