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  • 2015 Di Costanzo Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard

    This savory but energetic Cabernet is drinking beautifully right now, though I imagine it will be even better in another year or two. This is the kind of wine that almost (almost!) makes you forget you're sheltering in place, and instead takes you to some remote Napa vineyard where the leaves are green, the sky is blue, the sun is warm, no one needs to be home schooled, and a great bottle of Napa Cabernet only costs about a hundred bucks.

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

    To generalize wildly: if 2016 was a vintage of ripeness in Napa, 2015 was a vintage of tension. To me, some 2016s were too juicy, especially in the early going, and some 2015s were too austere, especially lately. True to form, this wine offers a striking balance - a happy golden mean (go Aristotle!) - that is both full and energetic, earthy but generous, and oh so pure (read: no Jolly Rancher / chocolate bar, no burnt cedar, just bottled sunshine... or poetry... or whatever). This more restrained style isn't for everyone, but - my goodness - it works for me. 95+ for now, with upside in another 2-4 years.

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  • 2016 La Jota Merlot W.S. Keyes Vineyard

    This concentrated and grippy Merlot needs a good 2-3 years of bottle age, since it's currently far less enjoyable than the 2014 or 2015 were at the four-year mark. The 2016 has a dense core of fruit and tannin, so there's hope it can unwind and blossom - but, as George Harrison used to sing, it's going to take time, a whole lot of precious time...

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

    This wine left me with a similar impression to the 2016 Lokoya Howell Mountain I tried a few weeks ago - bursting with potential, but nowhere near formed yet. Although the Keyes Merlot tilts Old World, it's been one of my favorite CA Merlots over the past few years. That said, the 2016 is (very much) a work in progress. Wait on this one.

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  • 2014 Realm Cellars Moonracer Realm Estate

    This ripe and earthy blend has become more subdued and grainy in the two years since I tasted it last (2/18 - 97 points), but it's still a tasty and layered wine. Like many 2014s, this has become more open-knit and diffuse, but it's also developed a hint of tea-bag bitterness that makes it less appealing than it once was.

    Dark purple in color; medium in body; nose of boysenberry, cocoa powder, and gravel. Tastes of blueberry tart, black cherry, graphite, and leather, with a layered and dusty finish that develops a bitter taste after an hour or so. Blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. 14.6% alcohol. Drink in next year or two.

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  • jeagle says:

    12/12/2019 7:30:00 AM - I am a bit addled over your notice of my notes as you are so prolific and exist in a world of wine that I can only dream about. I have always appreciated your frank, from the gut approach Thank you. >John

  • oldwines says:

    11/29/2019 6:15:00 AM - I appreciate your thoughtful and detailed notes. My preference generally goes toward more “old world”, less ripe and extracted wines with higher acidity and food friendliness, but I enjoy reading your about your preferences for more modern, ripe styled wines, noting the slight evolution in your notes toward more elegance in that style. Living in Cali you certainly have an advantage in exploring the multitude of wineries there. I will be curious to see how you feel about older Barolo, Burgundy and Bordeaux as you get the opportunity to explore them over time...even older Cali’s like the original style of Caymus SS by Charlie not Chuck and lots of others from the 1970’s and 1980’s which are available at prices sometimes more attractive than new vintages of the Cult Cali’s. Given my bias as indicated in my “handle” I agree with DrBad on the “oenoinfantiocide” comment! ;-) Cheers! “oldwines” aka Dave

  • DrBad says:

    11/16/2019 6:43:00 AM - Sending the wine police over to confiscate your corkscrew for serial oenoinfanticide ;-) Thanks for leading the way on these '17s, enjoying the reviews. Cheers

  • Bin707LoversDetroit says:

    11/11/2019 7:44:00 PM - Hey MSUWright, hope all is well. In reading some of your TN's and searching for certain terms and wines in your most recent thousand Notes, we see you "do" Cali Cabs... Thanks for all the detail and story you put in your Notes. Really adds depth to the art of reading about the depth of a vin. Question... Ever tried a Juslyn (Cab) or Palmaz (Gaston)? Didn't see either mentioned in your recent thousand Notes, but we just cracked a 1998 Juslyn and it rocked our Cali Cab world! Probably the best Cali vin we've ever had. We put a '14 Gaston in the cellar a few years back and probably won't get to it at the soonest, for another five or so... We were looking at your Austin Hope Note, deciding what we want another case of- Austin Hope, or our go-to Penfolds Bin 389, for a similar price... We never thought of Penfolds 389 as a "Caymus" type fruit bomb... Even though we appreciate that style from time to time... It seems that's where you seem to be wanting to lump Austin Hope (and Justin Justification)... BTW, ever try Odd Lot - a Petite Sirah / Petit Verdot blend from Monterey? Sold at Kroger-owned stores... When we're in the Caymus fruit/sweet mood, we'll take this gem all day long over Wagner's stuff... Our guests at house parties all love it too. OK, back to real life, just thought we'd chat you up....

  • msuwright says:

    9/23/2019 7:37:00 PM - Hi Dan - Thanks for the kind words (but don't change your handle, which I love!). It's funny because I was initially a skeptic of Aubert, but enough notes on this board made me try them again (and, once I found I loved them, again and again). For my money, Aubert is making the best Chardonnay in California right now; their viscosity, richness, and tension just can't be beat. If you find yourself going down the Chardonnay road, other producers in the same vein would be Morlet and Peter Michael. There are leaner and brighter versions, still on the bigger side of things (e.g., Maxem) and others that are big but not as tight (e.g., Martinelli, Ferren, Hartford). But all of that is to say that I completely agree that Aubert is unique - in the best of ways! Thanks again for the note.

  • cablover123 says:

    9/23/2019 4:20:00 PM - previously noted I have followed your notes as I find my tastes to be similar. Specifically your notes on Aubert convinced me to jump into their Chardonnays. Our first bottle was last week and my mindset changed on Chards as I now can salivate over something other then Cabs. Thanks

  • WineBurrowingWombat says:

    5/21/2019 7:57:00 AM - I love the truth and honesty in your notes, keep it up!

  • cablover123 says:

    2/27/2019 4:51:00 PM - MSU... Thank you for posting great notes. I wish I had the gift of putting my taste into words. My preferences track very similar to what you describe. While I have always leaned towards Cabs, as I expand further in Chardonnays, your cellar is one that I check on. Thanks...Dan

  • Mark1npt says:

    2/21/2019 8:35:00 AM - msu....finally had one of the 'good' 100 pt bottles of Hartford Far Coast chard the other night. Check out the review. The only one of the 3 I've had that come close to JD's score. Yet, their cheaper Four Hearts is remarkably consistent from bottle to bottle. Me thinks they had one great barrel of this Far Coast and mingled the bottles in across many cases of far inferior barrels to give the appearance of greatness.

  • bestdamncab says:

    1/31/2017 5:36:00 PM - Thanks for reading my Tasting Notes. Walnut Creek is a great place.