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MWG April 13th tasting (5/5): Napa seconds

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A trio of Cabernet Sauvignons, all arguably Napa Valley equivalents of a second wine.

Napanook 2009, Napa Valley, Dominus Estate ($61.00, 11650439)
Dry-farmed Cabernet Sauvignon (87%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) selected for its more accessible, earlier maturing characteristics. Manually harvested. Fermented on a lot-by-lot basis with gentle pump-overs. Vertical low-pressure pressing followed by racking into French oak barrels (20% new) for 18 months’ maturation. Fined with egg whites. 14.5% ABV.
Odd nose: smoke, sea salt, background red and black fruit, eventually red meat. Rich and sleek. The fruit is pure and beautiful but doesn’t have much to say.The tannins are less prominent than expected. Balance and dimension – breadth, depth and length – it’s got, up to a point. So, in its way impeccable but also faceless, a little like those Bordeaux blend Tuscans that taste like they could have been made anywhere. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and saying it’s passing through a phase. (Buy again? Well…)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Le Petit Vice, Napa Valley, Vice Versa Wines ($60.00, 11089725)
The winery’s owner, Patrice Breton, hails from Quebec. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented on the skins in stainless steel tanks for 25 days and cold-soaked for five days. Matured 23 months in 100% French oak barrels (80% new). Unfiltered and unfined. 15.3% ABV.
Red currant jam, a hint of dill and quite a bit of pickle (high volatile acidity). Started out odd, with plastic overtones marring the fruit. In time, the wine came around: the fruit clean and ripe, brightened by a fresh current of acidity, darkened by a tannic undertow, nicely framed by minerals, with the oak an element, not a looming presence. The sustained finish is kirschy but not hot. The big boy of the three. (Buy again? Well…)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley, Stags’ Leap Winery ($49.25, 00962837)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon according to the SAQ. The winery’s useless website provides zero technical information about its products. 13.9% ABV.
Elegant, textbook Cab nose: cassis and blackberry with an underlay of oak and graphite and hints of mint, green pepper and cedar. Smooth and rich with pure dark fruit, bright acidity and resolved tannins. Good length. The QPR winner of the trio. (Buy again? Well…)

Well, what? Assuming you’re not allergic to the fruit-forward style, all three wines are enjoyable. But they’re also somewhat short on personality, not to mention wow factor (the same criticism has been levelled at Bordeaux second wines, let us note). That said, the real issue here – as so often is the case with California wines – is bang for the buck: the least expensive bottle was $50 and the other two cost 20% more, for wines that most people around the table liked but didn’t get excited about. Buy again? If you’re a fan of Cal Cabs and money isn’t an issue, sure. My $60 will be going toward two or three bottles of more characterful, alive, versatile and exciting wines, many of them natural, from the Jura, the Loire, the Languedoc, Galicia, Dão, Sicily, Puglia, the Peloponnese, Austria…

Written by carswell

June 5, 2013 at 12:48

Posted in Tasting notes

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