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Old-School Napa?


jbonne
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the Judgment of Paris threads (both Taber and the Chronicle-Shanken scuffle) don't quite seem to address this, so i'll float this out there and then step back and lurk, since my views were expressed in the published piece.

for Father's Day, we did a broad tasting of most of Napa's big established names, tasting many of their most-popular Cabs up to a price limit of about $115. results can be found here:

Napa's defining wines stick to their roots

of the six wineries included in the original Paris tasting, we included four whose reds were tasted, plus Montelena, whose chardonnay won the original title.

the question of whether Napa is worth the money is frequently circled back to, so i'm curious, in this forum, what experiences have been with these stalwarts and others.

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the Judgment of Paris threads (both Taber and the Chronicle-Shanken scuffle) don't quite seem to address this, so i'll float this out there and then step back and lurk, since my views were expressed in the published piece.

for Father's Day, we did a broad tasting of most of Napa's big established names, tasting many of their most-popular Cabs up to a price limit of about $115. results can be found here:

Napa's defining wines stick to their roots

of the six wineries included in the original Paris tasting, we included four whose reds were tasted, plus Montelena, whose chardonnay won the original title.

the question of whether Napa is worth the money is frequently circled back to, so i'm curious, in this forum, what experiences have been with these stalwarts and others.

At the outset, I must confess that I have limited qualifications to weigh in on this with any authority, since I am priced out of the market on most of these wines. I do, however, buy 1 case per year of Cab from Vincent Arroyo up there at the top of the valley. He is known more for his Petite Syrah, but at $20 a bottle, we think his Cabs are very impressive. Of course, we've visited the winery 3 times, so whenever we open a bottle, we are tasting memories as well as the wine.

Finally, these days I would say that Napa Cab is one of our last choices when we go to the store or a restaurant, because of the price.

LPM - Nashville-Based Food Enthusiast

Personal Blog: Boston Dreams and Michelin Stars

lpm@wardandsmith.com

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Looking at the producers in the top ten list of your linked article, I had to chuckle when I discovered that I have not tasted nor own a bottle from any of them beyond the 1995 vintage. So, FWIW, here's my contribution. . .

Flora Springs. Had the 1990 cab two years ago. In a word, it was wonderful. Still have an unopened 1991 Trilogy. Glad to see the 2003 -- at only $30 -- made your top ten list.

Montelena. Last one I owned was the 1990, and I polished that off some time ago. I wouldn't pay the price the wine costs today.

Clos du Val. Never owned any, but always enjoyed the wine when I've had it in the past. Seems untainted by the push for a universal palate wine. And at $30 for the regular Napa bottling, you've tempted me to pick one up.

Rubicon. Never had it. Don't see myself buying it at $100.

Mt. Veeder. Always liked it and liked its price. Have a couple of unopened 95s.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Just drained my last bottle from this producer -- a 1992 SLV. It was holding together well. But at today's $110 price tag, I'll go in another direction.

Silverado. Back in the day, this was my "go to" California cab. But I haven't had any since the 1991 vintage, and that was in 1998.

Freemark Abbey. Last one of these I had was a 1992 Bosche. And I had it a few years back. It drank very well at the time.

Beaulieu GdL. I had the 94 in my cellar up until last summer when I gave it to a friend as a gift.

And the others that didn't make the cut but were still mentioned. . .

Beringer PR. Last ones of these I had were from the 1987 vintage, and they were singing in 1997. I probably stopped buying because the prices started to skyrocket.

Fisher Coach Insignia. Never had it.

Cakebread. I have one bottle of the 95 Benchmark. It's probably not very good now, but I'll open it for someone who will say "Oooooh, Cakebread."

Mondavi Oakville. I've problably had a taste of someone else's bottle, but have no solid recollection.

Silver Oak. I stopped buy either the Alexander Valley or Napa Valley in 1992. And I only bought it at that time because I was seduced by the limited availability and thought myself lucky to get my hands on one. The winemaking also went downhill in the string of vintages following 1992, so I was a bit lucky. Drank the 92 Alex two years ago, and it was doing pretty good. Still have a 91.

Heitz Martha's. The only one I've ever had was the 1988. Had it two years ago and it was on the decline.

Joseph Phelps Insignia. Last one I had was the 1990 and I probably drank it too young. Then the price stopped me. I still have a 1991 Phelps Eisele.

Mayacamas. Last one I had was the 1987. No detailed memory of it.

So I"m sorry I can't offer any comment on wines from these producers in more recent vintages. But I stopped buying California Cabs when I was easily getting better wine for my dollar elsewhere. And while it was likely unfair of me to eschew almost all producers, that's what happened. Most of my cabernet wines are from Bordeaux And for the bottle price of many California Cabs today, if I'm going to spend that money per bottle, I'll spend it on Barolo.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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this is something that has bugged me quite a bit recently. while i am not a cheap ass by any means, it is still often hard for me to justify (to myself and my other half) paying these terriblly high prices for these traditional wines. and i do not limit this to california/us cabs, pinots, or other. While Cheval Blanc (i just picked one off the top of my head) may very well be the best red i will ever taste, im finding it hard to shovel upwards of 280.00 for a bottle. i have never had a Rothschild, laTour, or laTache and many a day from now will be when i do, just because there are so many other bargains out there that warrant my attention first, us and overseas. (or so thats how my mind works).

Aside from that i would say that i wouldnt be completely closed from picking up that 375ml Joseph Phelps Insignia for 60.00 that i keep eyeing or picking up a Mondavi Oakville for 40.00 or 50.00 because simply they offer a better mental value to me even if a Petrus is worth evey penny of 899.99.

just my two cents

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the question of whether Napa is worth the money is frequently circled back to, so i'm curious, in this forum, what experiences have been with these stalwarts and others.

J,

I have not read any of the pieces/threads about the revisiting of the "Judgment." While such events may have a good deal of commercial significance to the 'winners' and 'losers,' I find little use in them.

However, when CA wines were just heating up, I got on every big name mailing list there was (Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Maya, Bryant, Araujo, Kistler, etc.) and bought maximum allocations each year. For awhile, I liked the wines but grew tired of them. Fortunately, at the time, the delta between purchase price and auction price was large enough to make selling them a very viable option. These days that delta has shrunk.

This afforded me the chance to try these wines over the last decade at different times during their aging. I also have significant ties to the CA wine community and, through the generosity of others, continue to have such chances.

My thoughts (admittedly controversial) are these:

1) Most of these wines were made to impress Robert Parker. He is the driving force behind commercial sales of high-priced wine and every CA high-end winery and winemaker is acutely aware of that. Recently, Don Bryant was quoted saying that it was his mission to make '100 point wines.'

2) Most of these wines are made to be drunk sooner rather than later. The style is big, impressive fruit with substantial oak and lots of creamy textures - IMO, the antithesis of good wine but certainly saleable to others, especially with Parker's approval.

3) They don't age well. I'm not saying they die or fade but they simply do not develop in the cellar. And they seldom show any real sense of place.

4) They have no real individual character. One pretty much, tastes like the other and each vintage pretty much tastes like the last one.

I remember tasting through a vertical of Dalla Valle, Maya, from 1991 through 1999 and thinking that, absent seeing the bottle, I could not tell one from the other.

This may be what the winemaker is shooting for; reliable, consistent wines that do not stray from the Parker mold, but it leaves wines that are easily dismissed and relatively boring.

5) The prices are stupid. Parker himself has noted that the market for such wines is extremely narrow and I would go so far as to say that it may be driven by factors other than perceived quality (vanity, resale, etc.).

Some will say that I am simply dissing Parker with these comments; quite the contrary. These wineries sell every bottle and make vast sums of money. Parker sells wine, regardless of the fact that he takes no advertising. And, for those in the industry, he is not only the standard but a boon.

But for me, this predeliction creates a product that is as narrow as its consumer base and a style that is unexciting and not remotely worth the price.

But one man's poison is another man's meat - viva la difference!

Best, Jim

Edited by Florida Jim (log)

www.CowanCellars.com

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What an entertaining post!

Jim--I just heard that Parker was sighted on the grassy knoll in 63!

You are certainly a font of the conventional wisdom.

Yes Parker is influential but really --he has become a character of mythical proportions.

If there is, as you say, a"Parker mold" that "these wines fit" --then please explain to me how over the years he has spoken highly of such a disparate range of wines?

How can he like the wines of say, Dunn and also the wines of Harlan, and Mondavi?

Even more striking-- how is it he has been profuse in his praise of not just a wide range of California Cabernets but of the wines of the Rhone? How is it he can praise barolos from Scavino and G. Conterno?

Just what is this "Parker palate"?

Anyway enough about him--oh one more question!

How is it he wrote highly of many of the so called "old style cabs"????

As for the past and current situation re: California.

As with most things--the "good old days" were not quite as good as we remember.

I recall many fine efforts but I also recall many bottles of thin weedy cabs made from fruit that was grown in less than optimum places.

I recall a very high incidence of bottle variation and wines tainted by bret.

yes we remember the cabs that aged well and evolved into wonderful drinking experiences--how about all those that didn't--tannic monsters that lost their fruit and never really 'came around."

As for today's wines.

Wine styles and fashions evolve and change. Today,there are many more wines made more labels--at least a tenfold increase. To say they "all taste the same" just doesn't hold any water.

You are saying that the Mondavi Reserve tastes the same as a Colgin Herb lamb Vineyard as a Screaming Eagle as a Beringer PR as a Dunn Howell Mountain as a........???? Really??? You can't tell em apart????

The claim that these wines "don't age well" is IMOP a myth. Where does it come from? well all the folks talking about the good old days--promulgating a belief that young wines must be undrinkable tannic monsters requiring decades in the cellar to "soften" up.

As you know, there can be a big difference between evolution and longevity.

let's not negate the impact of the evolution of viticulture and viniculture--notice back in the sixties and seventies how few good vintages there were? One reason those great old wines were so few and far between

Yes--let's "relive" the goods old days and celebrate the great wines but we need to be a bit more realistic about the even better present and future!!!

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John,

Thanks for your thoughts; 'tis good to have a voice of unconventional wisdom in this thread.

Yes Parker is influential but really --he has become a character of mythical proportions.

Nope, not mythic; economic.

I can't tell you the number of winemakers whose goal in business is to score big Parker points (other reviewers, too, but his most). It influences, on every level, the decisions they make in producing their product.

Please, understand that I am not saying they are wrong for doing so; they SELL wine and he can make or break them. I do think it is reasonable to call a spade a spade - hence, no myth, just business.

If there is, as you say, a"Parker mold" that "these wines fit" --then please explain to me how over the years he has spoken highly of such a disparate range of wines?

How can he like the wines of say, Dunn and also the wines of Harlan, and Mondavi?

Even more striking-- how is it he has been profuse in his praise of not just a wide range of California Cabernets but of the wines of the Rhone? How is it he can praise barolos from Scavino and G. Conterno?

Just what is this "Parker palate"?

That is the question isn't it?

Maybe the guy at Enologix can tells us - but then, he wants $20K to do so. Maybe Michel Rolland? I don't know nor do I particularily care - I don't care for most of the wines that Parker scores the highest.

You are saying that the Mondavi Reserve tastes the same as a Colgin Herb lamb Vineyard as a Screaming Eagle as a Beringer PR as a Dunn Howell Mountain as a........???? Really??? You can't tell em apart????

I was talking about the ones I named but I'm sure a few others can be included (Beringer, certainly; Colgin, definely). Not Dunn but mainly because they are so damn tannic its hard to tell what grape they used for the first twenty years.

The claim that these wines "don't age well" is IMOP a myth. Where does it come from? well all the folks talking about the good old days--promulgating a belief that young wines must be undrinkable tannic monsters requiring decades in the cellar to "soften" up.

As you know, there can be  a big difference between evolution and longevity.

And that is the difference I speak of.

BTW, I'm not comparing old Napa to new Napa (if that was what this post was supposed to be about then . . . well, as Ms. Latella used to say, 'nevermind.').

I'm talking about whether the current high end wines are worth the money.

IMO, they aren't. There are so many very fine wines of character from other places on the planet that I find the hutzpah to price a Harlan cab. at over $200, bordering on the absurd.

Thus my initial post.

Best, Jim

www.CowanCellars.com

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Jim

You really are IMOP--a gentleman and a scholar!

(I am not being my usual facetious self)

We could go on for days about Parker.

Suffice to say my opinion is that there are a number of

people in the wine business who have "used" Parker for their own ends.

Most of these people have helped create the myth that is as most myths are--

wildly out of proportion to reality.

As for Cal cabs--the new vs the old--it is interesting to go back and read the

reviews from the sixties and seventies. Cal cabs have always been--for the most part--early maturing and pleasant to drink young--warmer clime--riper fruit!

that's a generality of course and begs the comparison to most vintages of Bordeaux.

Cooler clime--less ripe.

As for the value issue.

I guess this is one area where things are pretty subjective. Hard to argue with someone who is willing to pay X dollars for a particular wine they like--their money and their taste.

I would say that a lot of wine today is expensive (so are most things--a slice of pizza is around two fifty here in NY).

There are plenty of bargains around--that's subjective too.

We all have a list of wines that we wouldn't drink if someone bought us a case!

As always--I really enjoy reading your opinions--we actually may agree on more things than it may appear--but one always learns more from people who disagree than those that agree. (IMOP).

and as always

Cheers!

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Napa's defining wines stick to their roots

of the six wineries included in the original Paris tasting, we included four whose reds were tasted, plus Montelena, whose chardonnay won the original title.

I thought it was a decent piece, jbonne. (It researched beyond current chatter and assumptions, unlike a few I've seen lately.)

The piece shines light (not always welcome, I've found) on the identity of what it calls Old School California Cabernets, and their differences from younger premium Cabernets prominent since the 1990s. The article underlined prices around $100 for some of the old school, though I think it omitted to mention that this is not far (e.g., factor of 1.5) from what many of them already sold for 25 years ago, inflation-adjusted, to repeat a recent point. Or that magnitudes of $100 contrast to newer wines several times higher. I mentioned before a common observation (echoed by just about everyone in the wholesale and retail wine business that I ask, here in N. Cal., not to forget Florida Jim) that Cabernet fans of longer experience gravitate less to new cult wines; these customers still buy "old school" California Cabs. Finally (though the geography may seem subtle from thousands of miles away!) the piece's Napa theme regrettably excluded the 2006 tasting's winner (and advance favorite to win in 1976), Ridge Monte Bello (from the Santa Cruz Mountains), a, if not the, classic old-school California Cabernet by many opinions, young and old. (It sells, to advance purchasers, for $65, which is what it sold for 25 years ago, inflation-adjusted.) A small reminder that top California wines aren't limited to Napa, and never were .*

-- Max

--------

*“California’s best table wines, whether white or red, may be expected to come from the Santa Cruz Mountains, from the Napa Valley, and from Sonoma County.” -- Schoonmaker and Marvel, American Wines, Duell, Sloan and Pearce (New York), 1941.

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thanks, Max. just quickly on the Ridge Monte Bello, we discussed requesting it for the tasting, but opted not to -- not because anyone doubt's Paul Draper's talents, but because we needed some geographical limits. (thousands of miles or no, the Napa vs. Santa Cruz vs. California overall geography differences are hardly subtle.) i also wish we had been able to include the Mayacamas, which was the other wine from the Paris tasting.

the point on pricing is well taken.

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I have not read any of the pieces/threads about the revisiting of the "Judgment."
Hi Jim -- Note that threads here included some important issues unwittingly surfaced in revisiting the "Judgment."
However, when CA wines were just heating up, I got on every big name mailing list there was (Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Maya, Bryant, Araujo, Kistler, etc.) and bought maximum allocations each year.
(Note, I gather that Jim's "just heating up" refers to a particular measure of hot. It seemed to me already in 1976, decades before most mailing-list brands, that plenty of people were interested in premium California wines; simultaneously some California Cabernets that "established" the region in the 1960s and 1970s still sell, with just moderate real price increases today, as cited upthread.) But on to some of Jim's main thoughts:
1) Most of these wines were made to impress Robert Parker. ... Recently, Don Bryant was quoted saying that it was his mission to make '100 point wines.'
That's widely acknowledged, including by winemakers or producers, who have money on the line (Jim cited only one of the examples). It's a point most anyone (except maybe some zealous Parker fans who dislike it) can confirm to satisfaction. However, it's not the universal approach by premium California winemakers. Some of them (who even predated today's mass critics) made reputations on palates of diverse wine fans who judged for themselves; such winemakers are outside of "points;" others cheerfully aim for the same today.
2) Most of these wines are made to be drunk sooner rather than later. ...

3) They don't age well.

Note that Jim's remarks refer newer California Cabs named above. We are talking about products of high price, not the run of the mill. I'll add my own experience that the more classic or "old-school" premium California Cabernets both are built to age (it's a signature feature) and do so well. The 2006 re-tasting reiterated this, but it was old news even in 1976. A popular 1976 California wine book (written before the Spurrier tasting) has a full-page photo of 1935, 1945, 1955, and 1965 California Cabernets, all currently (1976) in "mature good health," while a 1975 lab sample "promises to live in the great tradition."

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2) Most of these wines are made to be drunk sooner rather than later. ...

3) They don't age well.

Note that Jim's remarks refer newer California Cabs named above. We are talking about products of high price, not the run of the mill. I'll add my own experience that the more classic or "old-school" premium California Cabernets both are built to age (it's a signature feature) and do so well. The 2006 re-tasting reiterated this, but it was old news even in 1976. A popular 1976 California wine book (written before the Spurrier tasting) has a full-page photo of 1935, 1945, 1955, and 1965 California Cabernets, all currently (1976) in "mature good health," while a 1975 lab sample "promises to live in the great tradition."

Max,

Well said.

You're right, I was refering to only the newer 'cult' additions (mainly because I thought the initial question in this thread had to do with value and price). Some of those old (70' and 80's) Phelps, Shafer, Freemark Abbey, etc. wines are still beautiful today and very well developed for their time in the cellar. I even have a few of the more recent (but not 'cultish') cabs. from the 1991 vintage that have shown a fairly glacial pace toward development and that I am quite pleased with.

Unfortunately, the wines which now command such high prices, whether on release or at auction, are not made of the same stuff, IMO.

It is an odd scenario; the highest price stuff is the shortest lived (obviously, a generalization). But what could be more perfect for the business-manager at these wineries; stock goes fast and for exhorbitant prices. I should think every person who owns one of these cult creations sends Mr. Parker a Christmas card - not that Parker has any ulterior motive or monetary interest in their success but the atmosphere that he has created (in the main) certainly makes such a business model feasible.

Ahh, California . . .

Best, Jim

www.CowanCellars.com

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Unfortunately, the wines which now command such high prices, whether on release or at auction, are not made of the same stuff, IMO.
That is my impression, though you know them better. (I have also experienced some fans of those newer wines being readier to identify them, than to compare them, with the old-school premium "California Cabernets" of international reputation.)
I should think every person who owns one of these cult creations sends Mr. Parker a Christmas card - not that Parker has any ulterior motive or monetary interest in their success
No, and he has a deep reputation as an independent critic of integrity. (There was a remark I'd like to quote to that effect, from a compelling source, but it was private.) In fact the prominent disclaimer on his newsletter urges readers to judge wines for themselves (i.e., develop their own palates, like the people I cited above). The key factor working here therefore may be how some consumers actually use these ratings, and the consequences for the industry. (You saw Haeger's 1998 article, I'd guess, which presented some objective data.)
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The key factor working here therefore may be how some consumers actually use these ratings, and the consequences for the industry. 

And how some in the industry use these ratings and the consequences for the consumer.

Each plays a role when hype/puffing is the issue.

Best, Jim

Edited by Florida Jim (log)

www.CowanCellars.com

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the Judgment of Paris threads (both Taber and the Chronicle-Shanken scuffle) don't quite seem to address this, so i'll float this out there and then step back and lurk, since my views were expressed in the published piece.

for Father's Day, we did a broad tasting of most of Napa's big established names, tasting many of their most-popular Cabs up to a price limit of about $115. results can be found here:

Napa's defining wines stick to their roots

of the six wineries included in the original Paris tasting, we included four whose reds were tasted, plus Montelena, whose chardonnay won the original title.

the question of whether Napa is worth the money is frequently circled back to, so i'm curious, in this forum, what experiences have been with these stalwarts and others.

"deep gold; perfumed oaky nose; rich buttery, powerful, long ripe, youthful."

"deep cherry color; vanilla nose, fruity, fat, chocolate, round, supple."

Tasting notes for the 2003 peter Michael Belle Cote chardonnay and the 2003 Harlan Estates cabernet?

Nope--

Those are notes from the SF Vintner's club tasting in 1978 for the 1974 Chalone Chardonnay and the 1973 Stag's leap cabernet. (courtey of Mr Taber's excellent book)

"Old style" "New style"

These terms are tossed about --just like "old world" and "new world"

I believe there is some merit in them but after reading over many tasting notes by many writers and critics one comes away with the thought that things are just not so cut and dried!

How about "cult" wines? Well there have always been cult wines. (there will always be).

If california is today "defined" by cult wines then it was back in 1976 when, as Mr Taber notes, Chalone and Montelena were considered "cult" wines. (let's not forget the Heitz Martha's).

IMOP--only Silver Oak warrants true "cult" status, witness the pilgrimage of devotees every vintage.

Current blind tastings of so called "old style" Cal cabs and current so called "cult" wines also reveals that things are not so cut and dried either.

Are the "old style" cabs now made in a "new style" that makes them hard to differentiate?

Or are the "new style" cabs really not so ...well...."new style"?

Or maybe the "old style" cabs were always made in a "new style." is it possible that the song is right?--everything old is new aqain?"

or

are we deceived when we now recall tasting "old style" cabs when they (and we) were young?

... Ahhh but we were so much older then we're younger than that now?

--wow I feel a headache setting in!

Is there a tendency to denigrate some of the newer entries onto the scene, just as many of the so called young whipper snappers like Chalone and Montelena and Stags leap were?

"Oh they won't age well...." yadda yadda yadda.

By the way--every "warmer" vintage of Bordeaux generates the same thinking--1982, 89, etc.

--"too ripe...too low acidity...too much alcohol..too this and that."--they won't age.

As for the price value thing.

Why is California singled out? The fact is the very finest wines from anywhere in the world cost a lot of money. If those wines are produced in small quantities--then prices can get really high.

It is also a fact that there are more wine drinkers around the world with more money thanks, in part, to a pretty healthy global economy. There's also a lot more competition. In the fifties and sixties it was mostly Bordeaux and Burgundy and the British (and far fewer Brits then than now at that).

Do we have a very "anglo" tendency to devalue wines that provide a lot of pleasure when young?

How does one reconcile the fact that the French for eg tend to drink their Bordeaux at earlier ages while the same wines are deemed by others to be too young to provide optimum pleasure?

Who's right? Who's wrong?

Is this really a zero sum game?

Could it be that california cabs are, for the most part, a result of warmer climes and riper fruit?

Could they have always been enjoyable at an early age? Also while there is no doubt that Cal cabs can last do they evolve as well that warrants waiting for them?

Are they better young when one can appreciate the amazing and complex fruit many can offer?

are they better at an older age?

IMOP--as always it is a matter of taste.

Anyway--the J Bonne piece is interesting. Nice to see the notes on these cabs. The article provoked a lot of thought and reflection (at least for me).

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How about "cult" wines? Well there have always been cult wines. (there will always be).

If california is today "defined" by cult wines then it was back in 1976 when, as Mr Taber notes, Chalone and Montelena were considered "cult" wines. (let's not forget the Heitz Martha's).

IMOP--only Silver Oak warrants true "cult" status, witness the pilgrimage of devotees every vintage.

Hi JohnL. I see these assertions you've posted (repeatedly) with evident sincerity but I don't know where some of it comes from. There's no real misunderstanding of the phrase "cult California wines" on online wine fora today (it denotes wines Florida Jim described in his experience: Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Kistler, etc. -- with mailing lists, multi-hundred-dollar free-market prices, often relatively short histories). These wines can't be confused with the classic California Cabernets jbonne wrote of, because many of those classics are still made, so you can compare them side by side. In earlier decades when the now-classic Cabernets were newer, there was no parallel situation (with hype and mailing lists and high prices with short histories). Why cloud these distinctions?

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How about "cult" wines? Well there have always been cult wines. (there will always be).

If california is today "defined" by cult wines then it was back in 1976 when, as Mr Taber notes, Chalone and Montelena were considered "cult" wines. (let's not forget the Heitz Martha's).

IMOP--only Silver Oak warrants true "cult" status, witness the pilgrimage of devotees every vintage.

Hi JohnL. I see these assertions you've posted (repeatedly) with evident sincerity but I don't know where some of it comes from. There's no real misunderstanding of the phrase "cult California wines" on online wine fora today (it denotes wines Florida Jim described in his experience: Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Kistler, etc. -- with mailing lists, multi-hundred-dollar free-market prices, often relatively short histories). These wines can't be confused with the classic California Cabernets jbonne wrote of, because many of those classics are still made, so you can compare them side by side. In earlier decades when the now-classic Cabernets were newer, there was no parallel situation (with hype and mailing lists and high prices with short histories). Why cloud these distinctions?

Max!

Please--I understand what "cult" means.

I am challenging the definition a bit.

At one time the Heitz Martha's vineyard was a "cult" wine. This is a fact not an unfounded assertion.

So were any number of "classic" wines. Chalone etc etc.

If we agree that classic indicates a work of enduring quality then I would ask at what point does a wine become a 'classic."?

How many vintages?

Let's also note that the wines you named have now been around for more than a few vintages.

Kistler founded in 1978

Screaming Eagle 1992

Harlan 1987

Since the early sixties many California wines have been "cult" wines.

Many are classics.

Many have fallen some have fallen and risen up again.

Wines come in and out of fashion, that's the nature of the business.

Most wineries go through ups and downs from BV to Margaux.

My point is simple.

In blind tastings of California Cabernets held over the past several years

involving different vintages and including wines you call classic and cult wines (from the same vintage) result in the following:

--it is difficult to discern which are which (cult or classic) and there is no line of demarcation in quality (the scores are all over the map).

This is why I went back and looked at a lot of tasting notes of young classic wines and found them to resemble the notes for young cult wines.

So cult or classic what is your point?

By the way--it is hard enough to discern which so called cult wine is which.

You lump them under the cult rubric yet they are different in many more ways then they are the same. So while the experts in 1976 couldn't taste the differences they so strongly believed existed, so too, tasters today wouldn't be able to discern the differences they believe exist.

That is I admit my "assertion."

I got a lot of evidence to support it.

Now about your assertions.......!

:wink:

best and as always--cheers (ok I am stealing from Jim)

John

.

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Hey, JohnL, you're right to cite my casual examples of modern California "cult" wines, I don't claim expertise there. Yet there's no denying special use of that term in recent US wine discussion to group several labels. (Thus a firm I know queried clients a few years ago for "cult" California bottles to re-sell, and named the usual suspects.)

Kistler founded in 1978

Screaming Eagle 1992

Harlan 1987

BTW I've seen some good-value Kistler wines also. I experienced one of their Chardonnays, I think, slipped as a ringer into a blind white Burgundy tasting by experienced Burgundy fans, which came out near the top. (I liked it blind, and therefore bought some.)

Other cases above support my point: Cabernets from harvests late 1980s forward became known in bottle in the 1990s, the era of unusual price appreciation by new California offerings. "Old-school" in this discussion means successful wines existing circa the 1976 tasting. (Further, in correspondence last week I mentioned that today's "old-school" Cabernets occupy a continuum hardly novel even in the 1970s. Including 1935 Simi, 1955 Inglenook, already legendary 25 years ago; 1970 BV Georges de Latour, 1974 Heitz Martha's.)

In blind tastings of California Cabernets held over the past several years ...

it is difficult to discern which are which (cult or classic) ... This is why I went back and looked at a lot of tasting notes ...

Whose?

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