Following up on my last column about the Wine Advocate’s Matter of Taste held in Napa, let’s talk about some of the amazing wines poured.
The Debate Winery offered three takes on cabernet franc (not often a highlight at a tasting) from three prestigious vineyards from three acclaimed AVAs (American viticultural areas). Sleeping Lady Vineyard from Yountville; Beckstoffer To Kalon (probably the premier location of the three) in the Oakville AVA; and, Stagecoach Vineyard in Pritchard Hill, the highest elevation of the three. All 2016 vintage. Of the three, right now, my favorite would be the Sleeping Lady. While they are all outstanding, the Sleeping Lady, despite being full-bodied with loads of dark fruit and a powerful presence, is the most approachable now. Give them three years, long decanting, and then compare.
As I mentioned in my last column there were some visitors from Washington, Quilceda Creek and Cayuse, along with its stablemate, Horsepower.
Quilceda Creek is a longtime cabernet sauvignon powerhouse. They offer four takes on Cabernet, the CVR (or Columbia Valley Red), Palengat, Galitzine, and its flagship, simply Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve been drinking these for about a dozen years. Quilceda never misses a beat. The CVR, while a relative bargain at about $50-$60 from the winery, would be the star at most other wineries. The flagship wine lasts for decades. Alex Stewart, Quilceda Creek’s winemaker, poured the 2015. Outstanding. A magnificent balance of tannins and flavors, this is a wine for a special night. Dark red, with forest floor boutique, the fruit and acid make for a delightful combination.
Quilceda’s neighbor (in the sense that they are both from Washington) is Christophe Baron, originally from the Champagne region in France. While neighbors, they are uniquely different. Quilceda focuses on cabernet sauvignon. In contrast, Baron makes world-class Rhone wines, mainly syrah and grenache.
Besides Cayuse, Baron also owns Horsepower, which provides a different perspective on these same two varietals. At the tasting, guests could choose from the 2015 Cayuse Armada (a syrah), the 2015 Horsepower Grenache Sur Echalas Vineyard, and the 2015 Horsepower Syrah from The Tribe Vineyard.
Just this table alone provided sufficient justification for the entrance price to this gala. Three amazing wines, with the Horsepower Syrah compelling me to linger, simply drinking in this remarkable wine.
You know, some winemakers assert that it’s all about the grapes. I disagree, especially when you can discover to what heights one winemaker can bring a variety, while most of his/her colleagues produce wine indistinguishable one from another.
Another winery that demonstrates this is Kistler, one of my favorite chardonnay producers. They poured the 2016 Laguna Ridge Chardonnay. Karin Ott, Kistler’s director of marketing, welcomed me, providing me a sample. A delightful blend of stone fruit and pears, along with recessed citrus, you can see why Kistler is one of the kings of Sonoma County. One reviewer on Cellar Tracker put it quite well: “Superbly balanced wine with depth, nutty, fat, buttery, bright acidity and fruit in great harmony.”
While there were numerous others to discuss, I will conclude with one of the event’s highlights, Carter Cellars. Sherri Carter, one of the winery’s owners, spent 15 minutes with me, giving a great introduction to her stellar winery.
And Carter did something really smart. Two wines were offered. First the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon The OG (a treasure that is almost impossible to find unless you’re willing to shell out some big bucks).
To compare, contrast, and elucidate, the second wine was the 2004 virtually perfect Carter Cabernet Sauvignon. Carter bottled only 50 cases of this gem.
This is how Robert Parker described it five years ago: “The 2004 Carter is a killer effort. It boasts an inky/purple color and virtually everything you would want in a great cabernet sauvignon – creme de cassis, blackberries, graphite, spring flowers, well-integrated wood, acidity and tannin, a full-bodied mouthfeel and a finish that goes on and on.”
Because I attended the tasting, I could sample this rare find. And, I could begin to see how Carter’s 2016 bottle might evolve over time, providing me confidence in purchasing Carter’s wine.
As I said before, this was a once-in-a-lifetime wine event. Make a point of going to the one next year.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.