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"BORDEAUX" BLENDS

November 8, 2001 • Jon's Bear Club

"Purists" despise tastings that pit Old World versus New World wines, Bordeaux versus Meritage in this case. But, if the Old World wines are the benchmarks, how else are the "pretenders" to be measured? All but one wine were from either the 1997 or 1998 vintages. Everyone seemed quite pleased with the overall quality; not one wine was undrinkable, most were very good to excellent and a couple were outstanding. Blending varieties pays the dividend of complex flavors and aromas, although balance is still the key to great enjoyment. For once, the group awarded the oldest and most expensive wine 1st Place, showing sometimes that you actually get what what you pay for and that cellaring is worth the wait. Jon prepared a wonderful meal to match up: grilled beef tenderloin topped with a slice of foie gras, accompanied by fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash and haricot verts, with wedges of bleu cheese to slice for dessert.

Meritage Panel 1.
Meritage Plate
Click on images to enlarge
Meritage Panel 2.

Wines are judged Equal Within Categories or Recommendation and listed Alphabetically by Brand

Brand
Vintage Varietal or "Name"
Appellation, Vineyard
TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish, alcohol %. Summary. ($ paid)

KEY to COMMENTS: consensus (negative?)

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Gary Farrell 1997 Encounter.Gary Farrell
1997
"Encounter"
Pine Mountain,
Sonoma County

Dark ruby; not big, but complex with cassis, blueberry, blackberry, cherry, dried herb, cinnamon, graham cracker, leather and brine aromas; sweet cranberry, cherry and cocoa flavors are concentrated, friendly; medium body, slightly rich; balanced, slightly tart, but not overly fruity; finish is long, more tannic than tart, (Table Wine). Delicious wine in a lighter style that lets fruit dominate the aromas and flavors and keeps the oak in a supporting role. ($54.). WEBSITE

Opus One 1995.Opus One
1995
Napa Valley

Ruby-garnet color with a dark brickish edge; blackberry fruit, cedar, eucalyptus, spice, cigar box and meat aromas with a faint green olive or bell pepper in background and some musty or earthiness (sulfur, filter pad, Brettanomyces?); ripe, leathery, cedary, quite complex flavors are sappy, slightly woody, but very appealing; medium to full body with some richness; very good balance; long finish, with sturdy tannins and grip. 13.5%. This wine, delicious now, is just starting to reach drinkability and, under good cellar conditions, will probably gain complexity, harmony and soften a bit for another four or five years and hold a dozen or so beyond that. ($75. at release; $200. currently) WEBSITE

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Beaulieu 1997 Tapestry.Beaulieu
Vineyards
1997
"Tapestry"
Napa Valley

Medium dark ruby; berry, candy, cassis, cedar, oak, leather, tea leaf and mint aromas (cough syrup?); young, ripe, cedary-woody, minty-chocolatey, earthy flavors are rich, delicious and appealing but somewhat lean, although very enjoyable accompanied by food; medium body, slightly rich; very harmonious balance; fairly soft tannins in medium-long finish, 13.5%. Very nice wine; not a blockbuster, but elegantly appealing, a very lovely wine to savor slowly. ($32.) BEST BUY WEBSITE

RECOMMENDED

Carmody-McKnight 1998 Cadenza.Carmody-McKnight
1998
"Cadenza"
Paso Robles

Deep plum color; ripe, deep, concentrated cassis, blackberry, cherry fruit, cedar, oak, spice, anise, toffee, smoke and alcohol aromas (stemmy, volatile?); sweet entry to appealing, young, tight, ripe cherry fruit flavors, hint of oak in background; medium to full body, lean; good balance is slightly tart; long finish, somewhat tannic, hot and bitter. 13.7%. Composed of 42% Cabernet Franc, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot. With lots of aroma appeal, the barest hint of richness could have easily raised this wine's placement a notch or two. ($20.) BEST BUY WEBSITE

Ch Beausejour 1998 St Estephe.Ch. Beausejour
1998
Ste. Estephe
Bordeaux, France

Lighter color than group; complex, violet, cassis, cocoa, red cherry fruit and slightly coffee grounds, charred oak, vanilla and earth aromas; concentrated, red cherry fruit and slightly musty flavors; thin, light body; tart balance, soft tannins; faintly green, bitter finish, 12.5%. A nice "little" wine; one panel member likened its appeal to that of Audrey Hepburn. ($21.) BEST BUY WEBSITE n/a

Ch Woltner 1997 Private Reserve.Ch. Woltner
1997
"Private Reserve"
Howell Mountain,
Napa Valley

Medium ruby; somewhat closed nose mixes citrus peel, lavender, prune, olive, bell pepper and earthy, meaty, briny aromas (oxidized, cardboard?); light, tight, rustic (unripe?) flavors; medium to full body; good balance, slightly tart; long finish, slightly hot, 13.6%. Oddly appealing for its unusual mix of aromas and flavors, and, although one panelist disagreed, the nice balance kept it alive in the rankings. A couple of panelists thought it might be French. ($35.) WEBSITE

Pahlmeyer 1998.Pahlmeyer
1998
"Red Wine"
Napa Valley

Dark burgundy color; tart (green, stemmy?) cherry aromas also suggest cocoa, caramel, coffee, toast, mint, green olive, meat and are slightly alcoholic; sweet entry, forward flavors are ripe, earthy and quite appealing; medium to full body with rich, soft tannins; very harmonious, good balance, faintly tart; finishes slightly bitter, 14%. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec (percentages undisclosed). With a slightly green or stinky edge, this wine tasted better than it smelled, although the overall aroma impression was good. ($80.) WEBSITE

Robert Sinskey 1997 RSV.Robert Sinskey
1997
"RSV"
Napa Valley

Medium dark ruby; ripe, sweet aromas mingle cassis, almond, cherry, mint and are slightly leathery oaky, briny and (alcoholic, dirty, rubbery, medicinal, turpentine, chemical?); young, leathery, chocolate flavors are somewhat tight, astringent, could use more fruit (overripe, medicinal?); medium body; tart, acidic balance; very dry, long, tannic finish, 14.2%. Controversial, this wine shows promise in the nose, but also a bit of indistinct funk (one panelist likens it to the first time the furnace is turned on after being off all summer), is lean in the mouth and lacks the richness and fullness that would make a more complete package. ($43.) WEBSITE

Terre Vin 1997 Sainte Marie des Bois.Terre Vin
1997
"Sainte Marie
des Bois"

(from West Coast Vineyards)

Bright dark purple; sweet, concentrated, ripe blackberry, dried cherry candy and grapey aromas with hints of vanilla, nutmeg (Kool-Aid, medicinal, ethyl acetate, horse, Botrytis?); juicy, blackberry fruit flavors are big, deep, youthful (unripe?); full body, slightly rich; good balance; slightly tannic and bitter finish, (Table Wine). Blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Cabernet Franc and 12.5% Merlot. This wine scored well and surprised the panel with it's quality and delicious appeal. Made in Rockville, Indiana, it demonstrates the existence of American fine wine producers in the Midwest. The label, marked "For Sale In Indiana Only," indicates that, where Blue Laws still exist, it may be more challenging to sell wine than to produce it. ($28.) WEBSITE

TASTED

Ch Cantemerle 1998 Haut Medoc.Ch. Cantemerle
1998
Haut Medoc
Bordeaux, France

Medium dark ruby; very distinctive coffee grounds, charred oak with dried cherry and berry fruit, chocolate and herbal, bell pepper, earthy, barnyard aromas (rubber, sulfur, Brettanomyces?); flavors are toasty, coffee, slightly spicy and a little burnt and flat; somewhat lean, thin body; tart balance; somewhat short finish, 12.5%. This wine, although a little too aggressive and charred for some panelists, smelled more promising than the flavors it delivered to the palate, needed richness. ($26.) WEBSITE


This Panel included Regulars Mark, Deanna, Glenn, Bob, Diana, Marlene, Jon, Jim, Betsy, James, and Guest Patty
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