Tag Archives | Cab Sauv

1998 Wynn’s Riddoch Cab

Shaded canopy = v strong herbaceous nose. Bottle-age gives great complexity against evergreen backnote.

Tasted in Art & Science of Fine Wine class in Menlo Park (see Class Descriptions). Wine sells for around US$100, but would be hard to find in an American retail store. I use this wine to illustrate a lecture point on pruning and trellising decisions. The wine is very unusual, and not everybody likes it, but personally I always find it enormously impressive.

Background Wine Education

     1998 Wynn’s ‘John Riddoch’ Cabernet Sauvignon is from Coonawarra in the state of South Australia. Many people consider Coonawarra to be Australia’s finest Cabernet district. It is about a day’s drive south of Adelaide, and perhaps two day’s drive west of Melbourne. In short, it is way-the-hell-and-gone away from civilization. The first time I visited, in 1980, the only pub in town was still divided into separate men’s and women’s sections ~ smoke in either. Of course that was nearly two generations ago. The point is Australia has a very meager viticultural labor force under any circumstance, and Coonawarra’s isolation exacerbates the situation there.
     Things have changed somewhat in more recent vintages, but in 1998 anything a machine could do to replace manual labor was something the vintners of Coonawarra employed machines to do. That would be the polar opposite of (say) Chile, where men do so much of the work machines do in Australia. Up through at least the 1998 vintage, in Coonawarra the vines were frequently hedged rather than pruned. ‘Hedged’ implies something akin to a military haircut. Continue Reading →

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Class compared 1994 + 1995 vintages. Clear advantage 95. Better acid, much more distinct bouquet. Steak house wine.

Wine Classes

     Tasted in Art & Science of Fine Wine class held in Menlo Park (see Class Schedule). Beaulieu 1994 and 1995 Private Reserve Cabs are priced around $150 per bottle (if available) in most fine wine stores. Reference year-to-year California growing conditions on this website under Useful Wine Info – California Vintage Reports.

Wine Education Background

     Beaulieu ‘Georges de Latour’ Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic of the American landscape, and has been for a very long time. Originally crafted by the legendary Andre Tchelischeff, from grapes grown on Napa Valley’s Rutherford Bench, the wine was famously aged in 100% American oak. That gave the wine a considerable relationship with Bourbon Continue Reading →

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Togni ’99 (Tanbark) Cab Sauv

Napa Mtns. Class taste. Restrained, green thread, good length. Could be Graves. Wine for dinner; not combat.

Not all Napa Cabs are alcoholic heavyweights plodding around the ring anticipating a one-punch knockout. Here’s one with a pedigree for elegance, and the structure to make that point repeatedly.

1999 Philip Togni (Tanbark Hill) Cabernet Sauvignon from 2,000 feet high on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena in the Napa Valley AVA. Tasted as part of the Fundamentals of Taste and Smell class in Palo Alto. Wine cost is around $100 in a retail store. The wine was compared side-by-side with a 1995 Ch. Lagrange, 5th growth St. Julien, in order to discuss the effects of bottle age on CA Cab vs. classified reds from the Medoc.
     The Togni (Tanbark) is an estate wine made from younger vines. Philip Togni received his formal wine education at a French university under the tutelage of iconic wine professor Emile Peynaud. Togni was then assistant winemaker at the Margaux 2nd growth Continue Reading →

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Single Vineyard Napa Cabernets

Think you can pick out a Pauillac from a Margaux blind? It’s hard. Most people who think experts should be able to do it, have never tried to do it. Now perform that feat with wines from Napa Valley!
At least three wineries are making Cabernet Sauvignon wines separately from a variety of Napa Valley vineyards in order to illustrate the concept of terroir. It’s an interesting effort, and success or failure will be replete with commentary on the American marketplace. Heretofore it has been Europeans who firmly believed a wine should express the place where it was grown. Hence the role of the winemaker was akin to that of a baby sitter: keep the wine safe, but otherwise get out of the way and let it develop on its own. By contrast Americans put their faith in the artistry of the winemaker, expecting grapes (usually of the same varietal) to be adroitly blended from several different districts in order to achieve a result better than the sum of its parts. Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay would be one huge success story dating from the 1980’s built on that blending model.
California winemakers love to talk about terroir, and they can demonstrate it in their cellar by letting you taste from different fermentation lots residing in barrel. But, at the end of the day, the sales department at most wineries demands all those lots get blended into one or two final products (usually a high-end assemblage, and then maybe a second-string item) for ease of understanding in the marketplace. Continue Reading →

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