TNs: California, Here I Come!

Got together with five other winos to check out some produce from the Golden State last night at Sola restaurant in Bryn Mawr (as a brief aside, one of the small “benefits” Pennsylvania residents receive from being afflicted by the woeful PA Liquor Control Board is that there are so many fine dining, BYOB-only options because many proprietors don’t even want to bother dealing with the state – Sola is another one of these establishments, and they did a tremendous job last night with a tasting menu that really worked nicely with our selections).

We started with a 2004 Marcassin Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch (unfortunately, the 2001 Kistler Vine Hill Road Chard was deemed to be flawed, possibly heat-damaged, so the first flight ended up being a single wine). I am normally not a fan of super-charged Cali Chards, but I really liked the balance of this wine. Crisp acidity framed the apple-y fruit, and this was a wine that I could have spent some time with watching it unfold. Reminded me of a nice Meurseault.

The next flight was for me the highlight of the tasting, and consisted of three mature cabs, the 1978 William Hill, the 1977 Phelps Eisele and the 1983 Fretter Leaky Lake. All three wines had enchanting, fully-developed noses that really ran the gamut in terms of flavor combinations. In addition, none of the wines showed any real sense of being tired or in decline, although the Phelps had the shortest finish of the trio and as a result was my least favorite of this fascinating flight. In the end, I think I probably considered the Fretter to be both my wine of the flight as well as WOTN – thoroughly enjoyable drinking!

Then, on to what was for me the least enjoyable flight of the evening (although to be fair, I was probably the most critical participant of this flight, so my fellow tasters probably enjoyed it more), which consisted of the 2006 Kistler Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2004 Aubert UV Pinot Noir. The Aubert managed to capture everything I find distasteful about a certain style of California Pinot (and I will give Aubert the benefit of the doubt in referring to it as pinot, because this 15.8% alcohol-infused cocktail displayed no pinot-oriented nuances that I could discern). I guess the only thing positive I could say about this wine is that it’s presence made the Kistler seem balanced and elegant by comparison. Neither would really be a wine that I would drink by my own choosing, but I guess if your goal is to get blotto while drinking wine, the Aubert would certainly be a wine for you. Interestingly enough, given all the cabs we consumed, the Aubert was IMO the largest-scaled, most full-throttle wine of the night, and would have been a great ringer in a blind tasting of Aussie Shiraz.

Now, on to the next flight, featuring the 1992 Dominus and 1992 Phelps Insignia. One of the things I remarked on at one point last night was how “balanced”/competitive the cab flights were in that you really had to think about your potential wine of the flight, and these two wines were no exception. Both drinking excellently right now – in terms of a California cab vintage that is really in the zone right now, 1992 would be high on my list. We decanted the Dominus, and as a result it may have been slightly more open, displaying an earthiness to it’s bouquet while the Phelps was more fruit-focused, but both wines were really singing.

Next, the 1994 Phil Togni and the 1994 Peter Michael Les Pavots. Again, two wines that showed nicely, although clearly younger and less nuanced than the previous flight. I believe I had a slight preference for the Les Pavots, as this seemed to show a little more in the glass. And I noted none of that telltale green streak that people always seem to mention with Togni’s wines, but perhaps I am less sensitive to this than others.

We closed the evening out with the 2006 Switchback Ridge Cab. A huge wine (the only wine of the night that might give the Aubert a run for it’s money in terms of sheer power), and at 15.7% alcohol, not a wine that would have easily fit into any of the other flights. But while this might not exactly be my preferred style of cab, the components were harmonious despite the presence of that alcohol, and this is a wine that I would like to check out in a decade.

All in, great wines paired with excellent food and interesting conversation – not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening in the Delaware Valley [cheers.gif]

A nice set of notes. Thanks.

Bob - great notes.

First that 92 Dominus is underrated when compared to 91 and 94. It is very good.

83 Fretter Freaky Lake is amazing. I had one last fall that was spectacular and still very young tasting.

Aubert Pinots - don’t care for them. To big, raisiny and hot

Tony, that was the first time I have ever had a Fretter wine, and it was eye-opening to say the least. I believe the winery ceased operations after the 1984 vintage (I think Steve Edmunds used the facility for the 1985 Edmunds St. John wines).

He did and now my friend Sasha makes his Eno Wines (along with Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars) at the same location in Berkeley, CA.

Great notes Bob. Terrific lineup. The 78 William Hill is a great wine.

[rofl.gif] [berserker.gif]

another fan of the 92 Dominus here! recently saw 6 btls in OWC for $600 online when computer crashed. by the time i was back online they were gone!

It’s true, I tell you [cheers.gif]

Just one of those wine styles that I don’t get - I literally found it undrinkable and disposed of my one pour in the dump bucket - just for the hell of it, I took a look at WineSearcher today and it’s selling for $270+ a bottle!

BTW, I’m checking out another glass of the Togni as I type this - this is still an opaque purplish-red in the glass, and has an attractive note of graphite intermingled with the black fruit profile - I likee! Very smooth on the palate, with a sweet, ripe fruit finish.

Bob… a word of advice… the next Helen Turley… check back on this wine in about 10 years… and remember who called 1982 Bordeaux…

Actually, I think the 04 UV would stick out like a sore thumb in an Aussie Shiraz tasting because as full throttle as those wines are, their faults are typically limited to alcohol and oak and the wines are otherwise clean.

I had the '06 Switchback Cab last week and it’s a monster wine, thanks for the notes.

The '92 vintage for CA cab. has, IMO, been under-rated from the start. So many good wines that year and in a variety of styles. I am not a cab. guy but when Laurel Glen and Harlan make good wines in the same year, I’d say its a successful vintage.
BTW, love your description of the Aubert pinot. And I would disagree with Josh about its longevity; 15.2% alcohol is not something I want to see in a wine I’m laying down.
And, Togni makes wines for the long term. I always thought they were a bit hard and green, but as they age out, they change into something wonderful (all but the 1993, which was so green I couldn’t even smell it).
I envy you the chance to drink an old Phelps Eisele; that was a terrific vineyard source in their hands. I wish Araujo had done as well.
Best, Jim


Great to see you posting here – sorry again that I could not join you all, but I couldn’t change the on-call schedule in time, so I ate leftover cold pizza at the hospital. :frowning:

Nice notes, and I really enjoyed reading your descriptors of the Cali Pinots. [shock.gif]

Regarding the 1992 Dominus with the 1992 Phelps Insignia – when I was in London at the end of April we tasted the 2002s of these same wines and while the Dominus was still a puppy with the capacity to really age well, the consensus at the table was that the Phelps was more of a pop and pour, hedonistic enjoy-it-while-it’s-young kind of wine. I wonder whether the Phelps 2002 will age well.

At any rate, I hope that in the not too distant future you and I can post some notes on this BB about wines we’ve had together!


Bob, thanks for the terrific notes. I have been impressed with the few bottles of the '92 Dominus I have had, and I still have a few left. It sounds like there is no need to hurry. Any thoughts on the drinking window for this?

Brad, as enjoyable as the Dominus was with a 2 hour or so decant, I can’t imagine that it won’t still be drinking well for another 10-15 years, and it’s possible that there might even be some additional positive development, so you have no need to be concerned about it’s longevity, IMO.

Alex, I do not envy you your cold pizza dinner [cheers.gif]