Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

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Berry Crawford
 
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Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #1  Postby Berry Crawford » April 17th 2011, 12:34pm

First of all I would like to thank Steven Rigisich and his awesome wife Lisa for displaying such incredible generosity in opening their home and supplying the bulk of the vintages for a dream-come-true type of evening for me. The wines and dinner were both wonderful. Additionally is was a real treat having Joseph Swan winemaker Rod Berglund there to taste with us and offer context and information on the wines we were tasting.

My History with Trenton Estate

I'm not sure what year it was, but right around the time that the 2002 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot Noir was released, my wife and I visited the Swan winery during a tour of the Russian River Valley. I distinctly remember not really liking the 2002 Trenton but since they spent alot of time with us I felt compelled to buy something so I picked up a bottle and brought it home. There it sat about 6 months or so at room temperature before I decided I didn't want it laying around anymore so I opened it to consume with dinner. I don't know if it was me that changed or the wine that had changed in those short months but that wine hit me like a ton of bricks. I was already shying away from the "the bigger the better" style of Pinot Noir, but this wine was a pivot point in my wine geek evolution. While in retrospect the Swan wines are riper in profile and more weighty than many of the Burgundies I enjoy drinking now, this wine opened my eyes to the complexity, grace and subtle intensity that well made Pinot Noir can achieve. It quickly made most of the other Pinot Noir I was drinking seem not as enjoyable by contrast and it decidedly put me on that path that eventually led to red Burgundy.

The Vineyard and Winery

For those who know about the burgundy producer Truchot, there are interesting parallels with the Joseph Swan winery. Both are largely ignored or at best barely noticed by the wine press and retailers. Both have die hard fans who love the style of wines in an almost cultish manner despite lack of popular acclaim. Neither are wines made to appeal to popular tastes and the style for both are quite idiosyncratic.

Joesph Swan started his eponymous winery with his first vintage being 1968 from the Trenton Estate vineyard and I believe his first Pinot Noir vintage was 1971 or so. He ran the estate until he past away and it was turned over to his son in law Rod Berglund. Rod's first vintage in which he had complete control was 1988.

There are two factors that are significant variables in the unique and special Pinot from Joseph Swan Winery. One being the Trenton Estate vineyard itself and the other being the "Swan Clone" that comprises most of the vines planted there.

Despite popular legend to the contrary the Swan Clone is not a suitcase clone of DRC vines. There is documented evidence of Swan acquiring the clones from California wine pioneer Martin Ray and performing selections until he found a line that he settled on. I didn't catch all the details but I believe these vines came from a UC Davis experimental vineyard in Rutherford. Stated simply this is a very good clone of Pinot Noir. It creates a complete wine in and of itself with lots of aristocratic dark fruit and significant depth.

I may have my numbers wrong but I think the vineyard is 13 Acres with about 8 of those planted to Pinot Noir. It is primarily planted to the Swan Clone but in recent years some blocks have been replanted (re-grafted?) to various other clones. It is interest to note that Rob Berglund states that these clones are very strong evidence of the powerful terroir of the Trenton Estate vineyard. From Rod's experience, clones planted at other vineyards he works with produce wines of distinct and different styles. By contrast the batches of wine produced by the different clones at the trenston estate vineyard produce wine with a remarkably consistent expression of character of the underlying land. Here the terroir is powerful and speaks louder than the voice of the clone itself.

Having tasted a number of Trenton wines over the years and especially after this tasting I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the what makes the Trenton vineyard special and this special quality is the ability to produce perfectly balanced wines that can age and improve for decades. While the vineyard does have a distinct flavor profile of rich dark fruits with significant depth, the structural qualities to the wines produced there are what seem most special about the vineyard. The Trenton Vineyard allows for rich and powerful wines that are balanced with significant structure. While that may not sound really unique, in reality I believe this type of balance is very rare in wines from the majority of California Pinot Noir vineyards. While other vineyards have this quality to varying degrees, the Trenton Estate Vineyard seems perfectly situated to allow for full phenolic ripeness without having to worry about losing structure while the fruit hangs on the vines. Rod has the enviable position of not having to choose between ripeness and structure as this special piece of land easily gives him both. This allows for true vin de garde wines that transform for decades.

To be sure, there are certainly other vineyards that allow for vin de garde wines in RRV, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and especially in Santa Cruz Mtns but the sites that trully allow this seem quite rare and the Force seems particularly strong with Trenton. It is a true California Grand Cru site.

The Winemaking

While the terroir is key, you can't ignore the winemaking as a variable in making these delicious wines. There is a style that I find consistent across pretty much every wine produced by Rod regardless of vineyard, vintage or grape varietal. In short, he produces very unpolished wines in the best sense of the term. There is a wild and untamed quality to pretty much all the wines produces there. Also, most of the wines have above average aromatics and alot more acid than their peers are other California wineries (in my subjective opinion).

These qualities come from Rod's willingness to trust nature and not mess too much with the fruit he is given. Saying this type of thing has become cloyingly cliche but Rod truly walks the talk here. That said, he is the farthest thing from dogmatic and is a practical enough winemaker and will do whatever he thinks is best for wine. Luckily, he has good fruit sources that give him the luxury of having to do very little at all and the result is idiosyncratic wines with tons of feral character.

One last quality I want to touch on might be a bit controversial. One characteristic I find in almost all of the wines produced there is what I would call "high-toned" aromatics. Its really hard to decribe though. Im not sure if it is just the barest hint of VA, subtle ascetic acid or just maybe some crazy uncategorizable aromatics from the wild/resident yeasts that are used. Whatever it is I like it and I consider it part of the Swan charm and it often makes the wines recognizable in blind tastings. Its part of what I would describe as the feral quality I love about the wines. Its like a tanginess to the aromatics if there can be such a thing.

Impressions from the Tasting

What stands out more than anything from this tasting is how incredibly long-lived these wines are. Frankly stated, to my subjective tastes most of the wines tasted are not close to being mature. Most are still toddlers and in many cases babies. Trenton Estate makes world-class wines that can easily live and improve for decades. These truly are some of the world's greatest wines and in my very very subjective opinion the very best wines produced in the USA.

What was also fascinating was the incredibly consistent distinctiveness to the wines that transcended maturity, stylistic winemaking-phases and vintage. The terrior expression is powerful and dominates the character of the wine. It is really remarkable.

Lastly, the wines were almost universally delicious. One bottle has a bad cork but other than that all the wines were at least very good though the vast majority need alot more time to evolve.

A Caveat about my Notes

All wines were popped and poured.

I lost the notes from two flights so I considered not even posting but Ive decided to go ahead anyway as it was really only one flight that I don't have much details on.

Also, its worth noting that I came to this tasting with a burgundy-centric palate. I found myself often disagreeing with observations people made at the table. This is obviously the result of subjectivity in taste but worth mentioning.

Flight One

This flight of the oldest wines was really fascinating. For one thing it was almost impossible to take notes because the wines were changing and transforming in the glass at a remarkable rate. It was also really interesting in that these wines came from really young vines and frankly speaking Joseph Swan was a novice winemaker and really didn't know what he was doing and thus playing it by ear.

1973 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - This wine was a moving target that would transform remarkably from one sniff or sip to the next. It started off with aromatics of leather, possibly some VA, earth and some dried mushrooms. These aromatics blew off one by one and then left a high toned earthly nose with tertiary nuances. The flavors and structure were very elegant and smooth with fully resolved tannins. One of the few wines from this tasting that could be considered fully mature.

1974 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - These wines were grown in a year in which Swan was preoccupied with building the winery building and as a result were picked quite late. The alcohol is stated as 15.4% and man is ripe and powerful. The aromatics were forest floor and iron shavings. The dried-cherry flavors were intense and powerful with still noticeable tannins. These could probablly improve over another decade or more.

1975 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - This wine kept transforming more than any other wine in the tasting. Sometimes I would smell and taste it and it would seem overly oxidized. Other times those characteristics would fade away and it would smell like dried flowers. Through all of this there was always a core of young tasting sweet and powerful fruit.

1978 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - A first it smelled strongly of mushrooms but then developed a balsamic vinegar and green olive aromtics (it was better than it sounds). After that you olives would sneak out a bit but smell more generically like classic older Pinot. The flavors were highly elegant, very complete and smooth and likely fully mature.

Flight Two

1980 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Large Ullage and an obviously flawed cork. Basically smelled and tasted like a half way decent tawny port.

1983 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - (this wine had 50% stem inclusion) Rod feels that Joseph Swan went a bit too much in the direction of tannic and austerity in the early and mid eightees. The aromatics were complex and quite profound. The flavors are rich and young and still dominated with tannins (though not astringent). This wine is still a toddler and has years if not decades of life ahead of it.

1990 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - (Rod mentioned he has had better versions of this wine lately). This wine didn't have quite the complex aromatics as the 1983/87 and came across as much younger. It was a rich and delicious young that still needs at least another 10 years if not more.

1991 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - A bit of teriary notes on the nose but the first wine of the vertical that has some elements of oak toast to the aromatics. Very complex and rich but still super young tasting.

Flight Three

1992 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Stems and coffee aromatics. Ripe but balanced. Super ripe tasting. Tons if life in front of it.

1993 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Very complex aromatics of mushrooms and dried cooking herbs. Flavors are complex as with lots of assertive fruit.

1994 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Smoky hight toned aromatics with some nuance of rose-perfume. Quite sweet and rich with medium acidity.

1995 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - High toned nose. Flavors are rich and delicous with great balancing structure. Very successful wine.

Flight Four

1997 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Heavy toast aromatics with lots of "high toned" elements. Very sweet ripe and round.

1997 Swan Trenton Estate Pentagon Pinot - The one year that Rod did a "Reserve" style wine. I never knew this wine existed. Surprisingly this didnt have any of the oak char that I noticed on the regular 1997. Hints in comlexity in the aromatics. Flavors have a bit more intensity and depth than the regular bottling.

1998 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - My favorite wine from the flight and one of my favorites of the whole tasting. Clean aromatics with no toast. Aromatics of flowers predominate with some teriary complexity starting to devlope. Flavors are complex with a textured mouthfeel. Some toast on the finish.

2000 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Chocolate notes doninate the aromatics. Somewhat simple flavors are very ripe and intense. Improves with air.

Flight Five

This flight seemed to have the most of the "high-toned" aspect that I discussed above.

2001 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - A very high toned aromatics of sweet ripe cherries and and some purple floor violent tinged scents. The flavors are super intense and ripe good supporting acid. The wine gets more integrated and whole with air. Could be a legend in the making. Look forward to finding out in a few decades ;-)

2002 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - The consensus (but not unanimous) favorite of the flight. Some slight tertiary complexity on the nose. Again this is ripe, intense and powerful but by far the most elegant and finessed wine of the flight. I can't believe I only have one of these left!

2003 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Lots of intense and powerful cherry aromatics. Of all the wines in the night this had the strongest "high toned quality" Here it seems to be out of balanced to some degree. Has a roasted and dried prune flavor. My least favorite non-flawed bottle of the night.

2004 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Also tons of "high toned" elements on the nose. From a hot year but none of the roasted qualities of the previous wine. Again we had ripe intense and powerful fruit. If the aromatics become less high-toned this could age into a great wine.

Flight Six

This flight was frankly a shock to the senses after all the proceeding flights being that showed so very very young.

2007 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Drank like ultra young barrel sample. Has a bit of noticeable toast. This was so very ripe and sweet it lead to a long conversation on what the older vintages were like and if these three wines will age into the beautifully harmonious wines that that we have drank representing the previous three and a half decades. The general sense I got from Rod is that he feels that the vineyard is healthier and better managed than ever so he is able to get ripper fruit while still maintaining the critical structural framework and that his younger wines should age just as well as the others. While I personally can't even begin to guess where this one might go, the next two wines seem to show their potential more so (at least to me).

2008 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Not yet released. Not quite as barrel-sample like as the 09 but such a baby. Fantastic floral driven aromatics. Ripe yet balanced. Should be great.

2009 Swan Trenton Estate Pinot - Not yet released. A legend in the making. So terribly young but oh so special. Its one of those wines were you don't really notice the parts as the whole is so seamless. I can't imagine being motivated to open one for at least 15 if not 20 or even 25 years. Huge upside potential.
Last edited by Berry Crawford on May 5th 2011, 9:05am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #2  Postby Tyler Rico » April 17th 2011, 12:51pm

Very nice write up Berry!

Big thanks to Steve and his wonderful wife Lisa for hosting. They were also kind enough to provide a good portion of the wines along with a wonderful meal. It's safe to say that this was a memorable experience and a once in a lifetime tasting. I remember Rod saying that this was the most comprehensive tasting of Swan that he can remember since the passing of Joseph Swan; a very special evening!

I will get my notes together soon.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #3  Postby Cris Whetstone » April 17th 2011, 1:00pm

Thanks for the notes Berry. I would agree with you on the three that I've had recently in that lineup.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #4  Postby Anthony Lombardi » April 17th 2011, 1:04pm

Great reading- thanks Berry. Can you shed light on which of the older vintages are considered the best? I'm assuming 1997 since he chose to make the reserve, and I assume 1974 must have been a hot year with the 15.4 alc.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #5  Postby Joe Hauck » April 17th 2011, 1:05pm

[worship.gif]

Thanks for taking the time to write this up Berry, A dream tasting for sure.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #6  Postby jdietz » April 17th 2011, 1:08pm

What a wonderful tasting.. and just my luck that the only two Trenton Pinots I have, the 2005 and 2006, you didn't taste!!!! I have had quite a few older vintages of Swan wines--zins, cabs and pinots--and they have all been remarkably good, kind of like Ridge in terms of the consistent quality of the wine making.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #7  Postby Dennis Atick » April 17th 2011, 5:46pm

Just awesome.
I dig Swan Trentons.
What a treat to taste a bunch from the 70's and 80's.
Great job all/
Thanks for the notes Berry.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #8  Postby Keith Levenberg » April 17th 2011, 6:40pm

Interesting stuff. I've got a mini-vertical of this stuff starting in 1999 that I'd been planning to open one of these days - I guess I should forget about it and put them away for awhile.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #9  Postby Richard T r i m p i » April 18th 2011, 7:00am

Wow. Exceptional tasting. 15.4% 1974 and improving? That would seriously threaten the foundations of my Pinot playbook. Only 30 more years to the 02 drinking window? Happy to have 3, but no way can I be that patient. Interesting that you didn't make any comparisons of any individual wines to Burgundy or Burgundian attributes. Thanks for the notes!

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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #10  Postby Fred Bower » April 18th 2011, 7:27am

Can someone remind me if (and when) the labeling went to "Trenton Estate". I seem to recall that the wines weren't always labeled with these words. Were there non-estate pinots in the very early years? The motivation is in understanding what I'm actually seeing on auction offer when old Swan's show up - are they all Trenton, even if the descriptions are vague?

Cheers,
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #11  Postby Berry Crawford » April 18th 2011, 7:39am

Anthony Lombardi wrote:Can you shed light on which of the older vintages are considered the best?


That would be a struggle. This may sound like a cop out but most of the wines had their charms and it would be hard to choose amoung them. They all have something to say.

Anthony Lombardi wrote:I'm assuming 1997 since he chose to make the reserve


For current consumption I thought the 1998 was maybe drinking a bit better, but the 1997 was also great in its own way. I don't think he made a reserve in 1997 just because the vintage was much better, I just think it was something he wanted to try. It is certainly a ripe year so maybe he thought he could take out the top two barrels without hurting the base wine.

Anthony Lombardi wrote:I assume 1974 must have been a hot year with the 15.4 alc.


The alc is so high because he was preoccupied and thus picked later than usual
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #12  Postby Berry Crawford » April 18th 2011, 7:47am

Richard T r i m p i wrote:Interesting that you didn't make any comparisons of any individual wines to Burgundy or Burgundian attributes.


Im sure some of these wines could sneak into a Corton, NSG or even Chambertin blind tasting, but where they are "burgundian" is in the balance between fruit and structure and those strong core of terroir signature. If I had to compare and contrast between these wines and burgundies in general I would say perhaps that the greatest burgundies have a bit more aromatic fireworks than these did. But even among burgs, aromatic complexity can vary. Few burgundy reds Ive had can touch as RSV or Musgniny for example.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #13  Postby Berry Crawford » April 18th 2011, 7:49am

Fred Bower wrote:Can someone remind me if (and when) the labeling went to "Trenton Estate". I seem to recall that the wines weren't always labeled with these words. Were there non-estate pinots in the very early years? The motivation is in understanding what I'm actually seeing on auction offer when old Swan's show up - are they all Trenton, even if the descriptions are vague?

Cheers,
fred


Every "estate" pinot from Swan is from the Trenton vineyard. IIRC the earliest bottles just say "Sonoma". I think it may have been in the early 80s when he started putting Trenton Estate on the label. Hopefully someone who knows for sure can chime in.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #14  Postby Tyler Rico » April 18th 2011, 8:23am

Here are a few shots I snapped with my iPhone.....

The whole lineup
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1973 was the oldest vintage present
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1973 to 1975
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15.4% on the 1974
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1992 to 1995
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #15  Postby Andy Leslie » April 18th 2011, 1:39pm

Thanks for the notes - really fantastic tasting that had me green with envy. Swan pinot was one of the ways I found myself lured into the world of wine.

I hadn't realised that the earlier bottlings simply said Sonoma & Estate Bottled on the label - I just checked the 1994s I picked-up at auction last year and see they're labelled exactly as the pic above - when I bought them I'd assumed they were a lesser cuvee, but very happy to find they're not.

I was worried by the most recent Swan pinot I tried - the 2008 Cuvee de Trois seemed a mess when I tried it back in December - frankly sweetly-fruited and very alcoholic, it seemed light-years from the Swan style I love. Anyone think it will come around?

Berry - you mention "high-toned" quite a lot in the notes, and raise the issue of VA. I think VA has long been a feature of Rod's wines. I've got some 1990 Cab in the cellar which is a VA-fest. So long as it's under control, it adds character, I think.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #16  Postby Fred Bower » April 18th 2011, 4:00pm

The photos clear it up a bit...no "Trenton" up through 1995. I seem to recall that 1998 was when that designation came in. It is there in 2004 (the label somebody posted to CT).

Thanks,
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #17  Postby DavidSawyer » April 18th 2011, 6:46pm

This looks like an amazing tasting. We were lucky enough to have Rod join us last night at Tom Gutting's wedding here in Houston. He failed to mention this dinner!
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #18  Postby Frank T » April 18th 2011, 6:50pm

Awesome! [worship.gif]

I have a bunch of 70s and 80s Trentons. It sounds like it's time to pop some corks.

Cheers!

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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #19  Postby Eric Lundblad » April 18th 2011, 10:40pm

Awesome notes by Berry...of course. A few additional thoughts:

73, 74, 75 78 flight:
I thought the 78 was the star of this flight. Silk, finesse and lots of good aged character, with enough fruit to keep it honest :). The 74 was in second place (a surprise to me given its age and alcohol)...a big and deep wine, with remaining tannin to resolve but with the stuffing to hang in there (assuming your bottles have been perfectly stored).

80, 83, 90, 91:
As Berry mentioned, the 80 was dead unfortunately. The remaining three needed more time to resolve/integrate their structure...but they all had the balance/stuffing to carry that off (again, assuming well stored bottles). My pick here is the 83...it has, imo, the most complexity of the three and although it was the tightest of the three, the 90 and 91 had slightly more astringent tannins, which seemed harder to develop the harmony that makes Swans great.

92, 93, 94 and 95:
This was the strongest and most interesting flight imo, showing the range that Swans are capable of. The 93-95 are all drinking extremely well right now, but all (92-95) will continue to improve. The 93 was my top wine here, because of its purity, focus and complexity. The 92 needs more time to show well, but imo has enormous potential. The 94 and 95 were close cousins...excellent fruit, richness and detail.

97, 97 pentagon, 98 and 00:
The regular 97 was the star here for me. Awesome fruit, complexity and purity. In 10 years, the 97 Pentagon will integrate the hints of oak and might over take the regular 97. I think the 98 and 00 are in a great place right now and don't see the benefit of aging compared to the other vintages.

01, 02, 03 and 04
The 02 was the star of this flight, and one of the stars of the tasting. Incredible fruit, balance and acidity. Drinking well now, and will drink well in 20 years (I'm assuming). The 01 was also excellent, but didn't have the je ne sais quoi that the 02 had. The 03 and 04 where is bit high toned...so I would drink those sooner and age the others...can't age everyting after all...and I think that's appropriate to the vintages.

07, 08 and 09:
All youngs pups. All of them showing fun/excellent 'babyfat' fruit, which they'll shed at some point. Devoting an evening to each wine to get to know them better seems appropriate/interesting at this stage. Btw, while the 2008 vintage doesn't have the reputation that 07 or 09 does, you sure couldn't tell that from these wines. Woo Hoo.

I was thrilled to be able to participate in this tasting!
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #20  Postby Lewis Dawson » April 18th 2011, 11:38pm

A great report, Berry. Thanks for taking the time.

My strictly personal opinion is, what's the point of wines that take 40+ years to mature? Whether it is Swan or Henri Gouges, or 1961 Ch. Latour, I just do not think that wine style is for me. But still a fascinating report.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #21  Postby Berry Crawford » April 19th 2011, 7:25am

Lewis Dawson wrote:My strictly personal opinion is, what's the point of wines that take 40+ years to mature? Whether it is Swan or Henri Gouges, or 1961 Ch. Latour


Unlike Gouges, Swan Trenton tastes pretty good thoughout its life so once the baby fat melts off so it is fun to track its evolution. It doesn't seem to go through a closed period the way Gouges or Lafarge does. And I guess "mature" is subjective. But still I understand your point. I wouldn't want a cellar full of ultra-vin-de-gardes but I dont mind having a few special wines.

FWIW, I have a feeling some of the higher end 05 red burgs are going to be 40+ year wines. Most will likely get drunk before maturity though.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #22  Postby Frank Smith » April 19th 2011, 9:56am

I have a 1992 Joseph Swan Pinot Noir Hopkins Vineyard that I picked up from K&L some time ago. Any insight into that bottling? There don't appear to be any other vintages of it (I remember having to enter it as an entirely new wine into CellarTracker). I should probably drink it soon, but I've thought about trying to get together a Swan tasting with some locals to put it into.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #23  Postby Richard Leland » April 19th 2011, 10:10am

I was another lucky participant and will echo what Berry said about Steve and Lisa’s extraordinary hospitality. While my tasting notes and preferences are similar to Eric’s – with one or two exceptions – the big “wow” for me was how well these wines have aged: The two best examples of this were the 1978 and the 1974:

The 1978 was simply exquisite. I belong to the school of thought that says that Pinot Noir should be elegant, feminine, delicate and complex and this wine was all of those things. Both the 1993 and the 2002 had the same characteristics and were almost as compelling.

The 1974 is a 37 year old (!) California Pinot Noir that tastes like it’s in the prime of its life. Served blind I would have guessed it was from the early-mid 90’s. While it may not be quite as ageless as Joe Swan’s 1970 Gamay – the true Dorian Gray of wine – it’s damn close.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #24  Postby Gordon ZenMasterOfZin Ng » April 19th 2011, 10:43am

Richard Leland wrote:
The 1974 is a 37 year old (!) California Pinot Noir that tastes like it’s in the prime of its life. Served blind I would have guessed it was from the early-mid 90’s. While it may not be quite as ageless as Joe Swan’s 1970 Gamay – the true Dorian Gray of wine – it’s damn close.


and he was just learning to make wine then.

did all of you drink the sediment in the bottles, as Swan contends that is the best part? [wow.gif] [snort.gif]

A Short History of Pinot Noir in North America: The Formative Years 1850-1989
http://www.princeofpinot.com/article/787/
1969 - Joseph Swan ripped out his estate field blend vineyard and planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The property was in the Vine Hill region of the Russian River Valley, now known as Laguna Ridges. At least some of the budwood was from Mount Eden.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #25  Postby Gordon ZenMasterOfZin Ng » April 19th 2011, 10:52am

Lewis Dawson wrote:A great report, Berry. Thanks for taking the time.

My strictly personal opinion is, what's the point of wines that take 40+ years to mature? Whether it is Swan or Henri Gouges, or 1961 Ch. Latour, I just do not think that wine style is for me. But still a fascinating report.


Well Lew, I think you need to collect some Leroy GC bottlings, as many of those taste great young(er) and can age for decades. All depends on the style of wine. Some are not easy to drink young, and may take decades to deliver pleasurable levels for your palate...to which I agree, I wouldn't want to have those either.

But on the other hand, you have some wines that are ready, drink very well early, that say you might buy too much of, that are past their peak drinking windows in a decade or less. Makes you either forced to drink all of them up faster than you may want, or you forget to drink them fast enough and end up with a wine on the down hill.

Happened to me/my parents with the Domaine Trevallon wines. Need some time in the youth, but alright to drink young, hit a peak around a decade, but then because of lack of 'structure' (ie acidity, fairly low acidity), they lose fruit and you're left with mostly milder tertiary herbs de Provence in the bottle, not so interesting, imho.

Go to have wines that drink well young(er), and mature and keep for 10-20yrs, that's a nice range. I don't find a lot of 2009 Beaujolais drinking well young for my palate, all need 5+yrs by my best guess; but I expect that when they do turn into silky wines @5+yrs, they have the concentration of fruit to go another decade or two at least, making them more like an excellent Pinot Noir Burgundy wine. Even better if they can make it to 30-40yrs, but not a requirement for me.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #26  Postby Jason Hagen » April 25th 2011, 7:47pm

DavidSawyer wrote:This looks like an amazing tasting. We were lucky enough to have Rod join us last night at Tom Gutting's wedding here in Houston. He failed to mention this dinner!


He told me all about it (you must have been busy getting your grove on)... He was very thankful to be at the tasting to say the least. I for one am pissed I was excluded.

J
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #27  Postby Rod Berglund » April 27th 2011, 9:58pm

Andy Leslie wrote:Berry - you mention "high-toned" quite a lot in the notes, and raise the issue of VA. I think VA has long been a feature of Rod's wines. I've got some 1990 Cab in the cellar which is a VA-fest. So long as it's under control, it adds character, I think.


Andy,
The 1990 cab you mentioned, I am sure, is the Steiner. I have never had fruit that wanted to become wine so badly. The moment it hit the fermenter it took off. I had to get blocks of ice which I put into plastic bags to try and slow it down. It melted almost immediately. My usual routine is 25+ days on the skins before pressing but not this one. It was over and done with quickly. And yes, it did have high VA. Whatever happened happpened within the first few days of fermentation as the level didn't change much afterwards. Never figured that one out. Despite that it was still a cool wine. I am willing to put up with a little higher VA levels than a lot of people as it comes from doing things that I think allow the character of the vineyard to come out. Too much is too much but too little means too much control for my tastes.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #28  Postby Rod Berglund » April 27th 2011, 10:00pm

DavidSawyer wrote:This looks like an amazing tasting. We were lucky enough to have Rod join us last night at Tom Gutting's wedding here in Houston. He failed to mention this dinner!


It was Tom's night and you didn't ask!
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #29  Postby Sean Moore » April 27th 2011, 10:12pm

Tyler Rico wrote:15.4% on the 1974
Image


Remarkable.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #30  Postby Andy Leslie » April 28th 2011, 8:48am

Rod Berglund wrote:
Andy Leslie wrote:Berry - you mention "high-toned" quite a lot in the notes, and raise the issue of VA. I think VA has long been a feature of Rod's wines. I've got some 1990 Cab in the cellar which is a VA-fest. So long as it's under control, it adds character, I think.


Andy,
The 1990 cab you mentioned, I am sure, is the Steiner. I have never had fruit that wanted to become wine so badly. The moment it hit the fermenter it took off. I had to get blocks of ice which I put into plastic bags to try and slow it down. It melted almost immediately. My usual routine is 25+ days on the skins before pressing but not this one. It was over and done with quickly. And yes, it did have high VA. Whatever happened happpened within the first few days of fermentation as the level didn't change much afterwards. Never figured that one out. Despite that it was still a cool wine. I am willing to put up with a little higher VA levels than a lot of people as it comes from doing things that I think allow the character of the vineyard to come out. Too much is too much but too little means too much control for my tastes.


Hi Rod

Thanks for chipping-in - yes the cab is the Steiner. It's really interesting to have the backstory on the wine - there's just the one bottle left but I'll make sure to share it with some wine geeks who'll appreciate the story.

The vineyard-character thing is certainly an aspect I find in your wines and is definitely one of their charms for me, and I agree entirely that some VA is perfectly in keeping with that.

Now if you could organise for a wider selection of Swan wines to come to UK, then my work here would be done....!
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #31  Postby Tom Gutting » May 3rd 2011, 6:52am

Hated to miss this event ... but the aforementioned wedding was the next day, so I don't think it was in the cards :) But what great reports and notes. Sounds like a spectacular time. So many of these wines are deeply memorable ... the Pentagon is the wine that created the Pinot bug in me that still bites with frequency today. Maybe the most memorable was a 73 -- the first vintage of Estate -- out of mag with Rod a couple years ago. The palate still resonates with me.

Grateful, Rod, you could make the wedding ... on the heels of this event? That's yeoman work! Cheers to all of you for making it happen. What a treat!
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #32  Postby Tyler McAfee » May 3rd 2011, 6:59am

Tom Gutting wrote:Hated to miss this event ... but the aforementioned wedding was the next day, so I don't think it was in the cards :) But what great reports and notes. Sounds like a spectacular time. So many of these wines are deeply memorable ... the Pentagon is the wine that created the Pinot bug in me that still bites with frequency today. Maybe the most memorable was a 73 -- the first vintage of Estate -- out of mag with Rod a couple years ago. The palate still resonates with me.

Grateful, Rod, you could make the wedding ... on the heels of this event? That's yeoman work! Cheers to all of you for making it happen. What a treat!


Welcome back Tom and congratulations! You must have a boatload of notes to post.
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Wow....

Post #33  Postby TomHill » May 3rd 2011, 8:21am

That's a great writeup, Berry, of some very old friends.
It would be great to see a similar tasting of the Estate Chards. They always impressed me as well for their longevity.
Joe's first one was, I believe, about a '73. Always the tightwad, Joe bought some used Bourbon barrels, broke them down
and scraped the insides, rebuilt them, and barrel frmted. Alas, he didn't scrape enough and the Chard picked up a bit of a Bourbon taint.
Joe pi$$ed & moaned about the wine but finally decided to go ahead & release it w/ a warning about its "odd" character.
It actually developed into a rather interesting wine, a lot like an old Ratafia.
Tom
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #34  Postby Berry Crawford » May 5th 2011, 9:06am

Steve was kind enough to find and send me my notes for flights three and four. Ive updated my tasting notes above.
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Re: Swan Trenton Vertical, 23 Vintages tasted, 1973->2009

Post #35  Postby Rod Berglund » May 16th 2011, 8:02am

Tom Gutting wrote:Hated to miss this event ... but the aforementioned wedding was the next day, so I don't think it was in the cards :) But what great reports and notes. Sounds like a spectacular time. So many of these wines are deeply memorable ... the Pentagon is the wine that created the Pinot bug in me that still bites with frequency today. Maybe the most memorable was a 73 -- the first vintage of Estate -- out of mag with Rod a couple years ago. The palate still resonates with me.

Grateful, Rod, you could make the wedding ... on the heels of this event? That's yeoman work! Cheers to all of you for making it happen. What a treat!


Yeoman's work? It was a privilege and an honor to be invited! All I had to do was make the flight to Minneapolis the next day. Beautiful wedding and very beautiful bride. I had a great time sitting with your family, at your mothers insistence, after the wedding.

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