Silver Oak vertical tasting…Does vintage matter?

Silver Oak Napa Valley- 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

The year, or vintage, listed on a the wine label is the year that the grapes were harvested. It is a snapshot of the entire year, in a bottle, (the weather in the region, the weather in the vineyard, and it’s effect on the fruit.)

In wine regions with cooler climates, like Germany or France, there is wider variation in the growing conditions so it is more difficult to consistently get fully ripe fruit. Experts say vintage is VERY important with these wines.

In hotter wine regions like California, the conditions are much more reliable and therefore the wines vary less from vintage to vintage. Let’s see if this is true.

The best way to taste the TRUE difference vintage makes, in a wine, is to drink them side by side, in a vertical tasting. Basically drinking many glasses of the same wine, from different vintages. I know…I know, it sounds like work, but someone has to do it.

I was invited to a vertical tasting, by friends from #Westchester Wine Meetup, of a classic California Cabernet, Silver Oak. My wife and I biked around Napa several years ago and tasted wines at Silver Oak so I know a little about them.

Silver Oak Vineyard- Napa

• They produce full bodied wine, yet they make it ready to drink upon release.

They use 100% American Oak, which gives the wine a spicy quality.

• Silver Oak Cabernet vines are HUGE and are actually a part of the Tolerant Taster web page header above.

• They started out making one wine that contained only 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now they produce two wines:

1. Silver Oak Alexander Valley- still 100% Cab blended from several of their vineyards.

2. Silver Oak Napa Valley- a Bordeaux style Blend that is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (around 80%). See my tasting notes for actuals.

Now…can I tell the difference from one year to another…

Continue reading

“Bottle Shock”- Drinking Wine with Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Heidi Barrett of La Sirena.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to take advantage of an opportunity to taste wine with 2 legends of Napa Valley, Bo and Heidi Barrett.

A little about them…

In 1976, Bo Barrett, working at Chateau Montelena with his father, submitted Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay to the “Judgment of Paris” competition. The Napa Valley wine was up against several top white French Burgundies – and Montelena won. The American victory stunned the wine world and put Napa on the wine map overnight. What’s even more impressive is that the wines were rated by French wine experts.

Click to read more about the Judgement of Paris, and what happened at the “rematch”.

Heidi Barrett, Bo’s wife, was THE wine maker responsible for Screaming Eagle, a California cult Cab, when the wines achieved 99 and 100 point ratings from Robert Parker and  started commanding in excess of $1,000 PER BOTTLE.

Click here to see current prices for Screaming Eagle.

At the event, Bo gave his take on biodynamics: “It’s bullshit.” He talked about how difficult it is Continue reading

Gone to California-Part 1

I have to admit it, before my first trip to Napa & Sonoma, California wines were not my favorite. My experience with the whites (mostly Chardonnay) was that they were either too oaky, or too buttery. The reds (Cabernet and Cabernet blends) were too tannic and too high in alcohol.

That trip changed my thinking

It began when my wife surprised me with a special birthday present- a biking trip of Napa & Sonoma (Napa Valley Bike Tours).  It was a perfect way to experience the vineyards and the wines. Each day we would bike to several smaller, family owned or operated, vineyards. This gave us privileged access to tour and taste with the owners and/or the winemakers.

Continue reading