Myriad, MacDonald, Ridge, Dalla Valle

Some from last evening:

  1. 2014 Myriad Beckstoffer G III–in a very good place; open with blueberries followed by milk chocolate; the tannins seem almost non-existent. Everything is in place, so I doubt this wine will improve.

  2. 2013 MacDonald—at first was closed, though already decanted for approx 4 hours. Then it opened up in the glass: oh my god, it really was among the ten best reds it’s been my privilege to drink. (Hat tip and thanks to fellow board member, John Davis.) Mouthfilling; yet light on its feet, more like a Pauillac perhaps than anything else, but seemed still more darkfruited, with mindboggling complexity, sandalwood, and other spices, as well as briar notes from the otherwise smooth tannins. Immense amounts of subtle structure for a California cabernet. Doubtless this could go for many more years, but with air, it really shows its stuff.

  3. 1999 Ridge Montebello–most bordeaux-like of the group. It is, of course, an actual blend, with nearly 30% Merlot in this bottling, if I recall right. It had also been decanted for approx 3 hours and was showing very nicely, big-boned, yet well articulated, with older red fruits and more tobacco leaf than the others. Every once in a while, it fell out of balance, but then come back together, so I might drink rather than hold these.

  4. 1994 Dalla Valle—unfortunately, this wine had not been decanted in advance, which was my mistake, as I had forgotten how big a wine it was and still is. Thus, at first, other than some deep plum, with a little acidity and maybe slightly rough tannins, it wasn’t giving much. It did blossom with air and became a rather power-packed, plush, yet still elegant classic 90’s cab, very dark-fruited, with a nice, long, smooth, savory finish.

So definitely “horses for courses,” or “different strokes for different folks,” as all of these wines were truly fine. I have to say I was surprised how much of an outlier the Myriad was in this company—maybe just more modern or even ultra-modern? I would be curious, though, if others who drink other wines from GIII, Fairchild or Schrader, for example, find it similar to the Myriad or is it more a function of it being a sort of “house style,” which I suspect having drunk a fair amount of his others? (I almost always get that milk chocolate note, for example, which I tend not to find elsewhere.) In any event, very fun evening and these were just the reds!

For my money and limited experience with some of them, those are about right. The Dalla Valle was a really good wine through the 1990s and the MacDonald, although quite new, is made in a style that’s not the soft easy-drinking style of Myriad. Monte Bello gets a lot of love and I have a number of them from the 1990s as well, but sometimes I wonder whether the label isn’t over-considered. The Myriad seems to be made in a soft, easy-drinking style. I’ve had friends wonder whether there was any Cab in it, since they were looking for something more structured and herbal. Some folks love it and it’s the product of careful wine making, but it’s the outlier of the group for sure.

1994 - 1996 Dalla Valle was a terrific trifecta.

Nice line up

From someone who sorted the fruit and performed pump-overs I can guarantee it was all Cab. ‘14 was a tough vintage, fruit was ripe and many ferments stallled. Mike worked real long hard hours stressing over those wines getting them dry.

Hi Brian,
I don’t think I or Greg was suggesting that Mike was not a hardworking, scrupulous winemaker, though of course Greg can speak for himself. I was noting, and he was, agreeing that the wine itself was in a notably different style from the rest I tasted. Are you suggesting that it was a vintage thing, the '14? (I really am curious as to your view, and indeed a comparison to other GIII’s from other years–not trying to mix it up, for its own sake.)

Mike’s style is surely big and GIII gives purple fruit but structure usually isn’t something he lacks. ‘14 was an interesting year and honestly I’ve been sitting on mine giving them time so I don;t have a comparison for you. In a diverse crowd of wines his wines will always tend towards more fruit. It’s what his customers like and purchase. I popped a ‘16 before the last release and it was OTT at that young age. I shoved the others to the back of the cellar.

What Josh said. It’s just an outlier in that group. It was some Europeans and east coast guys who asked the question. I’m sure it’s all Cab. Question though Brian - what was it about the 2014s that made them different? I remember that it was another drought year but I thought it was an early harvest with no serious problems. Is that wrong?

I would add 91-93 to that run.

It was just something about the vintage. Things were humming along and then when sugars got to like 8 brix the fermentations stalled. I remember Mike pulling the barrels out into the sun every day to warm them up. I heard stories of some places where the winemakers went on vacation and came back to large scale VA messes and other spoilage due to the ferments stalling. It was a Napa Cab thing that vintage, not sure how widespread but it was an issue for many. Don’t know if those issues and the resulting winemaking decisions to correct them had any effect on the overall structure of the wines. I’m only speculating.