2003 California Cabernet Retrospective: At Age 10, Wines Show the Year's Difficulties

Had a 03 Mondavi Reserve 2 weeks ago and it was quite good.

I received this note last night from someone who lurks here but I have never seen him post. He had told me a couple of weeks ago that he picked some 2003 EMH Black Cat up on the secondary market. I am typically quite skeptical about having my customers purchase wines I produced from an outside source, but this one fared well. I am quoting directly with his permission:

“I opened a bottle of the 2003 Black Cat the other night prior to throwing some steaks on the grill. The bottle showed really well. It was open for about 2-3 hours prior to pouring and there was some crystals on the cork. The nose was great with aromas of plum and cherry with some vanilla and spice on the backend. The palate followed the nose and you can definitely tell that the wine has aged beautifully. I went back to see if there were any bottles left at K&L, but it appears someone else bought the remaining bottles. Guess I’ll have to savor the remaining bottles I have.”

So it appears at least this bottle fared better than Todd’s idea of 2003s. Perhaps what I perceived as high acidity carried this vintage through for me. One never knows.

I’m sure your wines are fantastic, Merrill

Looks like I don’t have a single 2003 from another producer. 2002, 2004, plenty of 2005.

Scott - was the article by Laube online or hardcopy? I don’t recall seeing it.

The Laube article I read was online.

Thanks - I’ll have a look later.

Just had the 03 Pride Reserve on Thursday night and it was ridiculous how good it was; graceful, beautifully integrated, elegant, with plenty of lush fruit remaining; my WOTN on a night which included Harlan, SQN, Caymus SS, Insignia, Alban Reva, Cayuse, Tongi and others.

Nice! Were there any other 2003s in that lineup?


the wines were: 04 Harlan; 2000 Insignia; 1991 Caymus SS; 1993 Tongi; 2008 Reva; 2010 Cayuse Cailloux VY Syrah; 2003 and 2010 Jaffurs Upslope; 2001 Jaffurs Bien Naceido Syrah; 2010 Ojai Solomon Hills Pinot; and the SQN was the Atlantis Grenache.

Wow - all over the place in terms of vintage (well, and a few other things). Makes the 2003 Pride showing even more impressive.

I think the only one I have had for sure is the 2000 Insignia, and that was a very, very good wine back upon release.

I like your term “graceful.” I also like “elegant” and “integrated” - descriptors that describe wines I am inclined to appreciate. Wish I could have shared that Pride with you!

Why the snarky condescension? I am sure this is not a good way to court winemakers and owners.

Thanks for the notes, Henry. I am surprised that the 04 Harlan did not show better- perhaps shut down or a provenance issue? It was absolutely glorious a couple of years ago and one of my all-time favorite Cal cabs. (the Maiden is also top notch). I cannot imagine the 03 Pride being in the same league, and I have some in my cellar. I will definately have to crack one soon! Cheers, Mark.

I read this online article in its entirety today. It appears that the Pride Reserve was one of the top point-getters in Laube’s retrospective. Not a positive article about Napa 2003s. Looks like one of my 13 bottles will be opened within the next month - I am expecting (at this point) pretty hefty bottle variation. I will get as many palates as possible to assess the bottle I open.

The most frustrating thing about winemaking is the number of variables at hand to assess a vintage at any given point. But I think that is probably true of many industries - it is just all aspects of wine that draw us here to observe and enjoy.


I was in no way maligning the Harlan; it was glorious (incredible core of complex dark fruit and molton black licorice with an extremely long intense finish) and my second favorite WOTN, right behind the Pride; on most nights, it would probably be the WOTN, however, on this night, this particular bottle of Pride was signing; in a really special place. Thanks for your comments.


All the Teachworth’s that I bought seem to be doing fine according to cellartracker users. They have three different bottlings.

Estate (94.4 CT average)
Manzanita Hill (92.4 CT average)
Rattlesnake Ridge (92.4 CT average)

Good to know about the Harlan and the Pride, Henry. Glad I have both in my cellar and, given your stellar notes, I will put both of them into this year’s queue!