TN: 91 Cardinale [California]

91 Cardinale [California] 13.7% abv. I was putting some wines away, and my hand brushed the top of this – I felt a drop of seepage, so I pulled the bottle and inspected it. Ugh. The top of the foil is a little wet, but at least the ullage is still bottom neck. I’d intended to share this at some older Cab night with oenophiles, but it looks like this won’t be able to wait for that, and this 91 is going to have to be consumed soon, jumping the queue of all the other wines waiting their turn. I have very little experience with the bottling, other than maybe a 2001 at around age 10-12 or something, so I don’t have a sense for decanting/pairing etc. A friend had recently given me the heads up on a local fishmonger who supplies some good local Japanese restaurants, and who will transact with retail customers, if they follow trade rules, so I pick up some high grade ahi, hamachi, and salmon on the way home from the office, to make a sashimi platter for a cold supper on a hot night. With low expectations, I pull the cork (which is soaking wet) with my Ah-so, and pour a glass. The SO looks skeptically at the cork and label and refuses a glass, preferring an icy goblet of sangria, since its 90F outside. Amazingly, the wine is intact, and singing :slight_smile: The color is a dusky garnet, hardly any lightening at the edges, with a nose of sandlewood, blood, saddle, currants. It’s a rich, complex, captivating bouquet. I start drinking a glass as I prep the Nishiki rice, and get the nori out for a hand roll or two. The wine has a super, classic restrained yet long finish. It reminds me of California cabs made with a Bordeaux hand - Laurel Glen, Togni, Andersons Conn Valley, Dominus etc. Now the SO is willing to try some, after the queens food taster has deemed it to be non poisonous! The label doesn’t tell the taster much - just that’s vinified and bottled in Geyserville. There is no mention of what grapes, nor where they are from, but IIRC its some kind of “best barrel” mostly CS blend from Napa/Sonoma. Seems a little strange to me, since normally pricey/top wines are single vineyard labeled, or are all from one estate’s holdings…but they pull it off here. I’m torn between whether this is an A- or solid A wine, but for my Bordeaux weaned taste buds, I think it tilts toward the latter. I’ll see with a last glass or two saved for tonight. I rarely see Cardinale mentioned here, but if one trips over older bottles on a wine list or something, it could be worth the flyer, if you like this category.

PS: a glass and a half the next afternoon is even better, although a little cloudy, since I didn’t decant. There is hardly any sediment at the bottom of the bottle, and it was kept vertical/still for a few days prior to opening. I would have expected more grit/particulates.

PPS: picture of the fish

KJ used to blow out older vintages (mid to late 80’s) yearly in the parking lot at their “Chateau” in Santa Rosa/Fulton, up until 2003 or so.

$5-$10 a bottle.

I must have bought 20 cases before they stopped doing the parking lot sales.

Good stuff.

The '97 Cardinale was a spectacular wine. My last bottle was probably around 2008 and it still had lots of life ahead of it.

I note Parker has given very high scores to recent vintages so beware a style change.

Wow that is amazing. I guess its hard to sell stuff at their proposed list prices, when it is ‘only’ entitled to the California AVA

This will force another uptick in 1991 prices.