Recommendations for the sample pack ('03 Chardonnay & '06 Cabernet)?

First, wanted to say thanks to the folks at Clark’s winery for the extra effort in shipping the wine from the BerserkerDay offer to arrive timely and safely across country despite the cold weather. Got a call on Wednesday asking me if it was ok for them to ship overnight for arrival on Friday, and received the wine just fine.

So with wine in hand, what is the recommendation for drinking the '03 Napa Chardonnay and '06 Lodi Cabernet this week? Would it be better to drink them w/o knowing any of the back story, or was it intended to discuss them before drinking?

Gee, that’s a pretty good question. How about if I give you the choice? I like the idea that you would form your own impression first, and then hear what I have to say. Therefore, I’ll not post here just yet my view, but instead have it over at under the descriptions of the 2-pack, 6-pack and 12-pack.

Also, the real story of the Chardonnay is available at

One thing, though. Wine is like the movies. You got your three genres: Comedy (yummy wines that make you smile), Action/Adventure (Impact wines that Wow you), and dramas and foreign films (wines that make you scratch your head and maybe learn something, hopefully of an inobvious but profound nature.) My wines are the third type, and will be neither lip-smackin’ good nor will they knock your socks off.

By tomorrow, let’s start discussing what you guys see and we can have an open conversation. I also recommend you go over to the Cognitive Enology thread and try some of the suggested music pairings.

John –

FWIW, I bought the 6-pack and started with the Rosé (from Cab Sauv). Posted a tasting note earlier today – really yummy. It probably helped that I didn’t know anything about the wine going in, although if truth be told I wasn’t expecting much because of the low price.

I drink a lot of that stuff - like every other night. This is what the French and the British do – both consume more dry rosé than white wine because it’s cheap and goes deliciously with everything.

California dry rosés made as saignée (juice bled from, say, ripe Cabernet) are often to hot. Few rosés can handle >14% alcohol, and I bring all mine down to the 12.5 range with reverse osmosis or simply watering. They are so much better that way.

The other secret of dry rosé is that it’s SO much better with a little age. Mine age like crazy, so much that I never vintage date them. I believe that’s a 2008 you’re drinking, still quite fresh and round, almost as if it had sugar, though it’s bone dry. Aging these wines until they’re ready is actually quite expensive, but I make it up on what I can charge for the concentration I get in the reds.

In general, alcohol is detrimental to the aging process, and these wines do very well for a good long while. Of course, I try to deal with vineyards that have a lot of reductive strength from tannin and minerality, so mine are good for five years or more, but even Sutter Home White Zinfandel improves for the first couple years.

Fresh would be an excellent way to describe your rosė. I would never have guessed that it was an 2008 – it seemed very much alive. I think the Faux Chablis may be up next. [welldone.gif]

Please check out the
. Then get some shelllfish, ceviche, sushi or halfshell oysters around. Then the modern jazz, Gershwin, Samuel Barber and Ruben Romero flamenco on the speakers.

Report back.

Opened the ’03 Napa Chardonnay last night. Medium yellow color. Somewhat reticent nose of melon, white fruits, hint of mustiness (in a good way) and perhaps a dash of lemon. Nicely concentrated, with a round/generous mouthfeel, and plenty of acidity, but balanced. Hard for me to pick out individual flavors, but showed good Chardonnay typicity. Long finish.

Had a glass by itself and then with dinner of bay scallops in a garlic, butter/olive oil, and white wine sauce over spaghetti (used the Chardonnay in the recipe); + red cabbage slaw with a sesame oil and white wine vinaigrette. Not unexpectedly, the Chardonnay showed best with the pasta, picking up more of a lemony character, and that was the only time I noticed overt minerality, albeit only a hint. With the slaw, it turned more neutral, but still very refreshing and a reasonable accompaniment.

So, overall: (i) thought it was good, and certainly exceeded expectations for a 10+ year old Chardonnay from California; (ii) don’t drink a lot of older Chardonnays, but of the ones I’ve had (various Chablis from the ‘90s at a similar age), it was comparable to most and better than some; (iii) best with food, but certainly enjoyable by itself; (iv) reading the tech sheet this morning, would not have known the alcohol was reduced via osmosis or whatever.

Thanks John. A perfect description. Subsequent vintages got more and more minerally.

That “good mustiness” is lees autolysis, exactly as in extended tirage champagnes. It takes a long time to unfold, and it’s what tells me the wine is ready. The 2004 is just beginning to express that element.


Just starting to read your book, very interesting but I am not an expert or ITB, just an average but curious drinker.

I am interested to get my hands on some of your “drama” wines, I guess you do not ship to Europe, do you? Alternatively, could you recommend some wines that you found interesting over here in Europe? I mean specific wines from specific wineries? I am only 3 hours from many major wine regions, so buying directly is easy (Rhone, Burgundy, Piemonte, Pfalz/Rheinhessen). That would probably help a layman understand better your explanations although your book is so well written that it is understandable with a minimum of background knowledge ( although it helps if you have seen a winery from inside).

Cheers and all the best

Opened the '06 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon last night. Dark red color. Cassis and black cherry on the nose, with similar flavors. Full bodied, ripe but not overdone, balanced acidity, noticeable but well-integrated tannins, and a medium finish. Just a hint of something herbal, and, again, noticeable but not overdone (new) oak. Overall, a nice Cabernet, and I appreciated its balance and that it wasn’t overdone in terms of ripeness or tannins.

I was intrigued by the following from the tech sheet: “Fermentation techniques: 10 g.L Bois Frais Alliers chips”. So that’s oak chips? If so, kinda cool, because the oak character wasn’t out of line with any number of other Cabernets I’ve had over the years, and I don’t recall having had a wine where it was admitted that oak chips were used.

What’s the thinking behind oak chips + long aging in “small neutral oak”, versus, for example, partial aging in new oak, or oak chips + aging in stainless steel, concrete, or the like?