TN: '97 and '98 Napa Tasting

I organized a dinner-tasting last month to feature a stash of '97 and '98 Napas that came my way. A friend threw in a few more wines and we all had quite the grand night. The menu was Italian.

The consensus favorite of the night, the one wine that everyone could agree they loved, was actually the 2008 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese. Of the Napa reds, there were sort of two camps: those who preferred the more classically mature 1997 Sullivan Coeur de Vigne (that includes me), and those who preferred the more opulent 1997 Etude. The consensus favorite of the Napa reds was probably the 1998 Mondavi Reserve. But I suspect most would say the 2007 Taylor’s was the wine of the night.

I did not have any experience to speak of with '97 and '98 Napa before this. Based on these wines, it seems the 1997 Napa reds are winding down, and their fruit will probably not hold up much longer, but were definitely showing strong still. The two '98s here showed better overall balance than the '97s, and still have a few years left in them. Based on these, I’d say '98 is more my kind of vintage.

Donnhoff, Riesling Spatlese, Oberhauser Brucke, Nahe 2008
Wonderful nose! Loads of ripe pear, nectarine, and fresh mandarin orange. Same notes on the palate, with some petrol and lots of fine mineral. Full bodied, rich and sweet but seems drier than it is due to the fantastic citrusy/steely acidity. 10 - 15 more years? From magnum. 4 Stars [1/27/18]

Beringer, Luminus, Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley 2013
Very good nose, low key but rich, with some nice oak. On the palate, rich lemon and pineapple, nectarine, and apricot. Full bodied with good mineral, and fine oak. 3 Stars [1/27/18]

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley 1997
No notes taken, but consistent with a bottle a month before, a remarkable, burnished and distinguished old Chardonnay with its rich fruit still intact. Drink now. 4 Stars [1/27/18]

Sullivan Vineyards, Coeur de Vigne, Rutherford, Napa Valley 1997
Great color still, medium garnet. Wonderful mature Napa nose of black cherry, chocolate truffle, some cured tobacco leaf, dusty, leathery Napa earth, and a touch of orange rind. Loads of black cherry on the palate, with red currant, and earth. Full bodied, very fresh still with great acidity, and ripe, sweet, warm fruit, with wonderful succulence. Wonderful example of a mature Napa red. Drink now. 4+ Stars [1/27/18]

Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Georges de Latour Private Reserve, Napa Valley 1998
Medium dark ruby. Great nose, slightly heady, with loads of dark, earthy fruit, some cocoa, and Napa leather. On the palate, black cherry, red currant, and cassis, some plum, chocolatey earth, lots of fine mineral and tannin. Full bodied with sweet fruit. Drink in the next 5 years. 4 Stars [1/27/18]

Etude, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1997
Medium garnet. Rich nose of dark fruit, lots of nice leather, fig, sweet Napa earth/cocoa, mature tones of forest floor, an excellent mature nose. On the palate, tart black cherry and cranberry, black currant, loads of fine, dense mineral and tannin. Full bodied with a wonderful sweet succulent/succulent texture; nice finish, though a bit hot. Very nice. Drink now. 4- Stars [1/27/18]

Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley 1997
Great color still, pure medium ruby. Wonderful, warm, rich nose of sweet red fruit, heady black fruit, Napa earth/cocoa, and cured tobacco; love the nose. On the palate, wonderful, succulent red currant, warm blackberry jam, chocolate ganache, and green tobacco leaf. Good acid. A bit bitter and hot on the finish, but still really nice. Drink now. 4- Stars [1/27/18]

Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley 1998
Good color, ruby/garnet, clear at the rim. Excellent nose of warm, rich, dark fruit: blackberry, black cherry, black currant, and plum. On the palate, wonderful, sweet, dried blackberry, blueberry, and red currant. Full bodied with a wonderful sweet/succulent texture, and elegant balance. Wonderful. Drink in the next 5 years. 4+ Stars [1/27/18]

Taylor Fladgate, Vintage Porto, Porto 2007
Dark ruby. Outstanding nose of dense blackberry, pure cherry, cassis liqueur, blueberry, fig, chocolate, lots of mineral, and wonderful spice; firm. On the palate, rich, sweet blackberry, cherry, blueberry, fig, red plum, peppery spice, mineral, and lots of spirit. Very young still, needs at least 10 more years, and has 30 to probably 40 ahead. Outstanding. 4.5 Stars [1/27/18]

Etude, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1997
Medium garnet. Rich nose of dark fruit, lots of nice leather, fig, sweet Napa earth/cocoa, mature tones of forest floor, an excellent mature nose. On the palate, tart black cherry and cranberry, black currant, loads of fine, dense mineral and tannin. Full bodied with a wonderful sweet succulent/succulent texture; nice finish, though a bit hot. Very nice. Drink now. 4- Stars [1/27/18]

A few years ago, a small group did a 5 vintage vertical of Etude including 91, 94, 95, 97, and 01. The change in ripeness between the first three and the final two wines was very noticeable. Like your group, we had two camps as well, those who preferred the 91 & 94 and those who preferred the 97 & 01. No one preferred the 95 but I think it was slightly corked so not representative.