Last night I hosted a fantastic California Golden State tasting for 45 clients, in effect recreating my recent trip there in March 2017. There was a multitude of top Sonoma Coast Chardonnays, Russian River Pinot Noirs and Napa Valley Cabernet Blends. But the highlight of the evening had to be the beautiful pair of mature Napa reds from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
In August 2007, Warren Winiarski sold the winery to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori for a reported value of $185 million US dollars. The sale included the winery facilities, as well as the famed SLV and Fay vineyards. Last night we tasted the uber rare and apparently only produced once by Warren for the US market only, Fay Block 5C Merlot 2000 as well as the icon Cask 23 1997. Both wines were tasted along side each other blind.
First up was Wine No.1 (the Cask 23) which was a deep garnet colour with a nose of earthy black berry, forest fruits, tannery leather, cedar spice, dried lavender and a complex herbal espresso note. The palate was stylish and elegant with a solid core of fruit that was showing tertiary development but with a texture that was still quite tight knit and mineral laden. Medium bodied and possessing fine intensity, the fruits were moving to the earthy, red currant, savoury spectrum suggesting this wine is mature and probably needs drinking, though another few years in the cellar will hardly make any difference. Having recently tasted the youthful block-buster Phelps Insignia 1997 (100/100 Robert Parker), the Cask 23 1997 was certainly showing that perhaps the extra elegance in its youth maybe turns to frailty with 20 years in bottle. Nevertheless, a thoroughly charming, mature Napa Cabernet.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Next, was Wine No.2 (the Fay Block 5C Merlot). Despite being only 3 years younger, it had the most youthful, almost reductive nose of saline cassis, black currant leaf, sea breeze, graphite and cherry cola. Incredible effort for a Merlot from California at 17 years old. The fruit on the palate was super intense, displaying seductive finesse and measured restraint. There were multiple layers of black current fruit interspersed with a sprinkle of Asian spices, damson plums and black bramble fruits. Balanced and harmonious, youthful and intense. A really enjoyable wine to drink. Certainly no rush to drink these up.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The joys of blind tasting!