Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Californian Vertical
Spottswoode at La Queue De Cheval

Hi everyone, welcome back to blogsville, caveman style.

Most of you know I have little affection for most Californian wines (in particular their whites and Cabernets) but a reference to Spottswoode as being the ‘Margaux of California’ was enough to pique my interest, even if it was just to eat a great lunch and confirm what I believe is my well founded prejudice. Thanks to all at La Celeste Levure for putting this one together.

Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 2004
Possibly the best Californian white I have ever tasted. It reminded me of the 2000 Fieuzal but less zingy and slightly richer. Classic Bordeaux white grapefruit alongside riper notes of melon, peach and even some kiwi. A judicious use of oak rounded out the rough edges and acted as a foil to a wonderful minerality. Super fresh and really, really good. Unfortunately it is not available this year in Quebec.

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.

Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with a hint of Cabernet Franc, these organically farmed grapes touch only French oak. While the Margaux reference is perhaps a stretch, especially with respect to older vintages, these are elegant and food friendly Cabernets. Not too sweet or chewy, all the bottles shared an interesting minerality and spice component that was a refreshing change from the classic jube-jube cab that seems to be the norm. Here’s a rundown of tasting.

1987… Slightly over-cooked blackberries is a sure sign that it is on it’s way down fast.

1994… Nicely balanced wine though I found it perhaps a bit too straightforward. While it didn’t have any of that cooked fruit of the 87, it lacked the spice component and vigour of the younger vintages. I would have liked to have tasted it a couple of years ago.

2000… Interesting wine that combined bright fruits (raspberry) with more earthier notes, almost Olives. Nice and rich with silky tannins, this is classic Cali cab without the residual sweetness. I had a sense this balance was a bit tenuous so drink em up if you got them.

2001… I liked this one the most and it worked best with filet mignon and mushroom brochettes. The tannins were alive but by no means out of line, just a nice structure that allowed the oak, alchohol, fruit, spice and minerality to support one another. While the Spottswoode folk were claiming this was a keeper, I would drink it now to benefit from it’s youthful vigour.

2002… The first over-ripe wine of the bunch and strangely ‘Parkered’ at 96 (while the 2001 received a 94). Not my style of wine but might make the average Caymus lover pretty happy.


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