2002 Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, $48: Dark garnet, with subtle sweet oak over cassis, black cherry, blackberry on both the nose and palate, with some sticks and underbrush beneath it all; with a little air, some tobacco and sea air emerge, but then it finishes on a fairly long, sweet note reminiscent of white house ice cream (vanilla with cherries) with a drizzle of milk chocolate. Thick and dense, with plenty of stuffing, and despite the big structure, this is already approachable. The sweet fruit and oak make an interesting, if not somewhat incongruous contrast to the earthier elements; I'd like to taste this again in five to eight years to see how these disparate characteristics integrate. While not a "great wine," it's an interesting one, and quite good. Time may show more. Thanks to Paul Mann Jr. for letting us try this.
2003 Honig Napa Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, $20.99. 13.5% alc: Pale to medium straw, with a bit of grass over green apple and grapefruit on the nose, and gaining a creamy undertone in the mouth; rich fruit, with excellent acidity, and seeming to show a note of oak that takes an unobtrusive place in the greater whole. My only complaint about an otherwise nice wine is that it could finish a little longer.
2004 Honig Napa Sauvignon Blanc, $14.99. 13.5% alc: Pale straw, with a little cat pee, a little grass, a good dose of grapefruit and green apple, just a hint of lime and some garlic perspiration; as it opens, it shows more of the feline spray on the nose. Almost as intense and the Rutherford, but without the creamy quality; indeed, this one accentuates some of the more aggressive Sauvignon characteristics, which is just fine with me. Like the Rutherford, it could finish a bit longer, but that's a minor complaint, given the overall package. A solid effort.
2002 Honig Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, $26.99, 14.5% alc.: Dark garnet, with a sweet spice, cassis and black cherry nose that echoes and expands on the palate with silky tannins, balanced acids and a nice finish. Very ripe, if not downright sweet, and nice if you like that style, I suppose, but I don't. A 2000 version tasted briefly a year or so ago showed much more typical Cabernet character, so the jury's out until further evidence is presented. Thanks to R.J. Tibus for sampling these to us.
1998 Thunder Mountain Cienega Valley Chardonnay DeRose Vineyard, 13.4% alc.: Slightly cloudy gold in color, this comes off smelling and tasting yellow, reminiscent of canned peas, processed pineapple and what Alan Kerr describes as "something like lemon Danish pastry glob." Rich and funky, unctuous and zippy at the same time; Milan's Chardonnays were often "idiosyncratic," and this one certainly is, but Kim, Alan and I all found it to be quite enjoyable.
1999 Thunder Mountain Cienega Valley Cabernet Franc DeRose Vineyard, $19.99, 13.3% alc.: This dark garnet old friend is still going strong, giving funky barnyard, black currant, blackberry, a hint of tar and something like herbs and underbrush on the nose; the flavors are all about sweet, rich, dusty black currant and blackberry with herbaceous undertones and somewhat drying tannins on the finish. This really opens with air, losing the funk and becoming even more taster friendly. Another bottle consumed a few weeks before showed a more savory herbaceous character, but both were delicious. This is still on the way up, so drink or hold for at least the next five years.
1999 Thunder Mountain Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon Beauregard Vineyard, $23.99, 13.1% alc.: Somewhat cloudy dark garnet color, with rich cassis and blackberry on the nose, along with some earthy, slightly funky overtones; still tight and un - evolved on the palate. No oaky frills, no maple syrup, no chocolate, just a relatively young wine that needs several years yet, and has the structure to last.
2001 Thunder Mountain Cienega Valley Star Ruby, $23.99, 14.5% alc.: This dark garnet Bordeaux blend exudes a lovely perfume that gives just the right kiss of sweet oak on black currant, black plum and blackberry, all of which carry over on to the palate with medium tannins and balanced acidity. Rich and luscious, so fine and enjoyable; where the Bates Cab is rustic, this is like velvet, and just a pleasure to drink. Thanks to Sam Kallabat for this lovely wine.
We miss you, Milan!
2001 Château de Lancyre Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup Vieilles Vignes, $17.99, 13.5% alc.: Dark ruby garnet, offering a pretty mixture of subtly perfumed red and black currants, berries and plums on the nose, with like flavors that gain some underbrush, forest floor and chocolate (not dark) in the mouth; as it opens, more and more sea air wafts out of the glass. Full bodied, with good structure and a slightly stemmy finish, this is a most enjoyable wine with a fine future.
2001 Château de Lancyre Coteaux du Languedoc Pic St. Loup Grande Cuvée, $28.99, 14% alc.: Dark garnet, fading to pink at the rim, this one exudes sea air right away on the nose, along with meaty red and black fruit (currants, berries and plums again); more leathery on the palate than the VV, and smoother, as well, with just a vague hint of chocolate. Full bodied, with excellent structure and an earthy, stemmy finish, this has a little more of everything than the VV, and should only get better over at least the next three to five years or so. We’ve never had a wine from this producer that we didn’t like; thanks again, DJ.
Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, VA
2003 Rosenblum Santa Barbara Viognier Kathy's Cuvee, 14.8% alc.: Medium straw to pale gold in color, with creamy oak over honeysuckle, lilac and peach in both flavor and aroma; somewhat fat and fairly low in acidity, with a relatively long, slightly bitter finish. More positives than negatives here, but I'd like a little more acidity and a little less cream and fat.
2003 Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah Heritage Clones, $19.99, 15.4% alc.: The color of ink, this offers up big sweet oak, black raspberry, mulberry, blueberry and chocolate aromatics that don't just echo, they explode in the mouth with over ripe fruit that overpowers the medium tannins; the fairly long finish may lengthen as the tannins subside. Ultimately, just too sweet and ripe for my tastes, but it might be interesting to try again in five years to see how it develops. A tip of the old top hat to Roy Lombardo for these.
2002 Concha y Toro Maipo Chardonnay Marques de Casa Concha Puente Alto, $12.99, 14% alc.: Medium straw, with moderate toasty oak over canned pineapple and pear; rich, but not too ripe, with subtle undertones of minerality, zippy acidity and a fairly long finish. A solid, if unexceptional Chardonnay that presents good QPR.
2002 Concha y Toro Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon Marques de Casa Concha Puente Alto, $16.99, 14% alc.: This dark garnet is quite tight at first, needing an hour to an hour and a half to open up and really display its charms; the noticeable oak and the seriously intense dark fruit seem at odds at first, but really come together with air. The wine is all about toasty oak over earthy, slightly tarry black currant, dark chocolate and a hint of shoe polish on a full bodied frame. There's a good dose of tannins here, and if it's not that complex right now, the rich core of fruit carries the day, and the prospects for improvement are excellent. I liked previous vintages better, if only for their lower prices ($3-4 less), but still, this is a good buy, even at the somewhat inflated Michigan tariff. A nod and a wink to Eric Clement for these.
Imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Old Brookville, NY
Reporting from Day-twah,
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