Small Production Gem Tasting and Dinner

Tasting Notes


All notes by Ben Sherwin

Another successful CLONYC dinner. What better way to beat the heat than to drink some big red wines. Thanks to Mike for setting it up. Some really great wines and, of course, great company. As usual, Zoe was top notch with the wine service.

An Interesting Mix of Wines
The Cobb was a bit out of place here, but it was big enough to hold its own. The Gemstone was oustanding and tied for 2nd place for wine of the night.

  • 2002 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Began with a little plastic on the nose, but that blew off pretty quickly. We weren't sure what to make of this at first because the nose was a bit tarry as well. It was clear that it just needed some time as it eventually settled in to a more recognizable SC Pinot. The fruit started getting brighter and the tart acidity began to show, but the consistent note was wet earth. The fruit was sweet and borderline between red and black. With some air it picked up some black tea notes as well. Enjoyable? Yes. Would I run out to get some? No, but I wouldn't mind having it in my cellar.

  • 1994 Cosentino Winery M. Coz Meritage Red - USA, California, Napa Valley
    I still don't get why everyone raves about the '94s. Decent nose of herbs and cassis. Pretty good fruit with cassis and plums but there is no shortage of oak and the finish clips off a bit. It's certainly ready to drink and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but its fairly conventional and uninteresting.

  • 2003 Gemstone Facets - USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
    Wow. An amazing nose on this one. A great black fruit story, uplifting, but told in dark terms. You name a black fruit and it's in there (currant, blackberry, cherry). As it unwound I got hints of cinnamon as well. Not as explosive on the palate, with dark berries and smoke. The finish lingers nicely but for a few dusty tannins reminding you that this is a youngster. Very nicely made.

1996-98 Vertical
No, I'm not related to the Sherwin family of Cabernet fame. Still, I thought it was the best of this flight. The Livingston was a close second if for no other reason that it so exceeded the low bar I had set for it. The Backus wasn't bad, but it did not excite.

  • 1996 Sherwin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    A solid, well-made wine, but not a revelation. A great nose of cassis and leather. Supple mouthfeel with dark fruit and ripe, sweet tannins. I think this is on the downswing with the acid outlasting the fruit on the medium long finish. While I preferred the '97, this certainly does the Sherwin name proud.

  • 1997 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Backus - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Not the worst wine of the night, but my biggest disappointment. One of my favorite vineyards and vintages, this was one of the 2 wines that I really wanted to try and, while it wasn't terrible, it was not as advertised. Ripe plums, black cherry and cedar on the nose. Pretty nice in the mouth with mocha and blackcurrant, but a bit too woody. All the component were there, but it just didn't do anything for me. A real enigma.

  • 1998 Livingston Moffett Red Wine Gemstone Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
    Not the best wine of the night, but the biggest surprise. It has to be one of the best '98s I've had (granted pretty faint praise). Nice aromas of cassis, leather and vanilla bean. Also, no green. I got some herbs on the nose and on the palate, although it was in no way herbaceous and underripe. Medium bodied with sweet fruit on a longish finish and no green! The cream of the crap for 1998.

The Bad, the Superb and the Ugly
My first Schrader. Another reason to love TRB. WOTN in a close call over the Realm and the Gemstone.

  • 2000 Carter Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Some beat the tricky weather of 2000 and some are this wine. Underripe and uninteresting, this was the only wine of the night that I dumped. Whatever interesting notes in this wine came from the oak and not the fruit (dill, vanilla, cedar). I'm 0 for Carters in the last week, albeit from terrible vintages (the other was a 1998).

  • 2003 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    This is a crazy good wine. Sweet ripe black fruit (currants, blackberries, plums) and smoke jump out and grap your attention. Substantial and seamless in the mouth with cassis, vanilla and cocoa that spread out and coat the palate. Plenty of structure here with a grip that reminds you that you probably shouldn't have opened it yet. Still, a phenomenal, well-balanced wine that will be a star when the tannins soften and the oak further integrates. WOTN.

  • 2003 Harris Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon LTD Limited Reserve Jake's Creek Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley
    A tough one to figure out. It peeked its head out every once and a while, but really didn't really want to show us anything. Clearly not open for business it still had some elements that may let evolve into something. Let it sleep and see what you have in a couple of years.

The Future
A nice flight. The Realm was tied for 2nd for WOTN and the Scythia was 3rd.

  • 2004 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley
    It took a little time to come around (starts out a bit liqueury), but when it did it came on strong. Huge nose of cassis, brambly fruit and spice. Lush and round in the mouth with a great, big core of fruit but with tannins and acidity that balance out the size well. It's accessible now and something special with time. Superb.

  • 2004 Scholium Project Syrah Scythia Donati Vineyards - USA, California, Central Coast, San Benito County
    Another one of Abe's mindbenders. It's tough to get a sense of these wines at a broader tasting as they're so dense that you could spend a whole night on one glass. Accordingly, here are impressions that in no way do anything but hit the surface. Syrah? OK, I sort of see that although it's certainly not typical. There's some sweet blackberry and tar there. Interesting notes of grapefruit and cola. A huge wine.

  • 2004 Scholium Project Petite Sirah Babylon Tenbrink Vineyards - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Don't open this wine. It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Huge and monolithic, the most I could get out of it was some spicy plum.




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