TN: Maybe the strangest wine I've ever drunk -- 2001 Van Der Heyden Cabernet

  • 2001 Van Der Heyden Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (12/10/2009)
    13.9% alcohol. I remember tasting this at the winery back in 2005. It had some oak – aged 46 months – but was lush and pretty and refined all the way around. Well, down the line, here is what all that new American oak got you … pickle juice. This is, without a doubt, the most confounding wine I’ve ever drunk. It’s singular in a way that threatens to redefine “unique.” Solid red color. Nose of pickle juice. In the mouth, candied black cherry fruit and a dill-laden pickle juice kick. Drying on the finish. Disgusting yet strangely drinkable. I don’t think this was flawed in the least. This is exactly the product of the winemaking. The late harvest Cab from 2001 didn’t show any characteristics like this. D

Posted from CellarTracker

Disgusting yet strangely drinkable


Honestly, I never stop being amused by horror stories like this.

Van Der Heyden was one of the first wineries I ever visited. We kept going back; Andre’s wines were unusual but interesting and we particularly liked the late harvest cabernet. We didn’t have a cellar of any kind, so we mostly drank them young, but I still have a fairly complete vertical going back to 1994 as well as a 1990 late harvest. Then I bought a case of the 1999s and cellared them for a few years, and had a few experiences like yours. I ended up pouring a bottle down the drain and sending half the case back.

Andre effectively retired from winemaking around 2002 and his son in law Mike took over. His wines were more fruity and less oaky, without that VA/pickle character. But I’ve pretty much stopped buying $50+ Napa cabs so the last vintage I own is 2003.

If you’re interested K&L currently has some of the 1996 late harvest cab for $20/375

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Dave - Funny that you mention the late harvest cab - I used to buy that pretty regularly for a number of years after visiting with Andre. He was kind of like a mad wine scientist who had his own unique ideas on how to make wine, but always entertaining to visit.

As soon as I saw the thread, I had absolutely no doubt that you were going to chime in here, Dave!

That pickle character can certainly be surprising. Once got it from a 2004 Saxum. Any ideas about cause?


Excessive use of new American Oak.

He was a hoot. The first time we visited my wife was saying “You’re going the wrong way! This isn’t a winery, this is someone’s house!”
He seemed to have absolutely no clue how to run a business - that was all Sandy’s responsibility - but he loved telling his stories.
I loved that the winery is strictly by appointment only; you have to make an appointment in person by signing the book.

They had big plans to knock down the old tasting room and storage next to it and build a proper facility, but they kept hitting issues and
I don’t know whether anything has ever come of it.

Yeah, I loved this wine young. And I always enjoyed going to the winery. A fun place to visit, and Andre sure is a character. Great guy. Sad this wine went the way it did. But I’ve got another bottle. We’ll see how that works out.

The late harvest Cab always is fascinating. Delicious stuff.

Thanks for all the insight, Dave. And, yes, visiting was so funny – appointment only. Sign the book! … I think the old tasting room is still there. …

Experiences like this are almost worth it. Except you pay for the wine.

Oh! Provenance – bought at the winery, stored at 55 ever since.

And here I thought this was another Coturri thread. [scratch.gif]

And I thought it was a Scholium thread.

It occurs in whites too?


No clue on the whites. Maybe Leenda can answer it for us.

I am actually looking for a few bottles of the Van Der Heyden Late Harvest Cabernet. Do you know anyone who is willing to sell some?

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I haven’t seen any bottles of Van der Heyden in a long time … the late harvest Cab was a truly fun novelty. I’ll keep my eyes out.

A lot of early Colgin had that pickle juice character. Easy to pick n a blind tasting.

I don’t have a clue why some American Oak gives this pickle juice character with age. Certainly not all wines with this elevage but when blind tasting it has always been a red with American Oak. I’ve identified many bottles of Silver Oak in this manner (no clue about the last 15 yrs). Oddly enough some people don’t seem to get it at all but it is very off putting to me.

Yup, same with Rioja, generally making it something that I avoid.