Carl Kanowsky: Spottswoode shines at tasting

Kit Guardado and Terry Kanowsky in the background. Courtesy photo

Have you ever had this experience? You go to a movie with friends. You come out of the cinema with certain thoughts and opinions about the film. Then you start discussing the movie with your friends, and you get new perspectives on something that you thought you understood. As a result, your appreciation or distain for the film develops into something more complex and sophisticated. And you discover to your chagrin that maybe you don’t know it all.

Never happened to me since I know everything. Well, maybe not everything. That actually is one of the great enjoyments I get out of tasting wine with friends.

At one of our in-depth tastings, four or six folks will join us (never more than eight drinkers in total). Everyone brings some appetizers and tapas-style dishes that often wind up bringing out nuances in the wine. We generally taste four to five wines.

All tasters are given score sheets to keep track of their impressions of the wines. These impressions include the look and smell of the wine, as well as its taste.

Kit Guardado and her husband, Mauricio. Courtesy photo

Now these friends are not sommeliers or wine critics. They are more your “everyday wine buyer,” someone who knows what they like but can’t define malolactic fermentation. They are people who like wine and can articulately describe their experiences with the wines being poured.

These events always surprise me. My friends provide their insights that deepen my own opinion about the wine.

Well, we just had such a tasting. Joining Terry and I were John and Sandy Schnieders and Kit and Mauricio Guardado. The star of the show was Napa’s Spottswoode Winery and three of its wines, a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Sauvignon Blanc was a hit. You need a little patience because it takes it about 30 minutes to open up. Then you get a strong floral and citrus bouquet, along with tastes of guava, stone fruit, and grapefruit. Both John and Sandy noted how great this would be on a hot summer afternoon, especially with spicy foods. The scores ranged from 80 to 92, with Terry describing a long, slightly acidic finish.

The Lyndenhurst and Estate Cabs were great to taste side-by-side, with the Lyndenhurst retailing for $85 and the Estate for $190. I did not share the price points until after everyone had scored and described the wines.

This Cab comparison highlighted the differences between wines ready to drink shortly after release and those that need a few years of cellar time to allow their components to meld and for the tannins to soften.

The Lyndenhurst is the wine that comes ready to play. Extremely well-received by all, folks were raving about the oak and horse-leather bouquet that married so well with the tastes of blackberries, mint, eucalyptus, and black licorice. It has a delightful mouthfeel and features hints of chocolate. Mauricio called it “excellent”; Kit said it was full-bodied, smooth and spicy. Great scores: from a low of 93 to a high of 96.

John and Sandy Schnieders. Courtesy photo

The Estate is more reserved. I marvel at the courage of wineries willing to market a wine that won’t be ready to drink for a few more years. But we gave the Estate a lot of time to open up and it delivered. I loved it. A deep, dark mahogany red, the taste is multi-dimensional with the berry and plum notes taking center stage. The other folks were not so impressed – the robust tannins put them off. Still it did garner strong votes, going from 89 to my personal score of 98.

With this tasting, Spottswoode demonstrated why Robert Parker calls it the Chateau Margaux of Napa Valley. And my friends greatly added to my appreciation of this fine winery.

If you can get to San Francisco this Saturday (March 3rd), then definitely go to Robert Parker’s event, Matter of Taste, being held from noon to 5:00 at the City Club. Amazing wines to be poured from famous wineries. Get tickets at

©Carl J. Kanowsky
February 28, 2018

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