My in-laws were in town for close to two weeks (!). Don’t get me wrong–I love my in-laws dearly and there is no doubt that I am well ahead of the curve when it comes to marrying into a great family, but two weeks is two weeks. It helped that my father-in-law loves to drink wine, particularly those wines that he knows have received 90+ points from the critics.
While they were here, we went through a fair amount of wine, and on their last night, I asked my dad if he would like to join me in tasting through a couple of samples that were sent to me by Cornerstone Cellars in Napa. At first, my father-in-law did not fully comprehend the concept of “samples” (particularly why anyone would send me wine) but once my wife filled him in, he was more than willing to participate.
Tasting wine upon release is a rather strange concept to me: I prefer holding on to wine for a few years–with many wines I have waited more than a decade to open them. Even the notes sent to me by Craig Camp at Cornerstone suggested that the wines would likely benefit from some more time in the cellar. So this was going to be a bit of uncharted territory for me–a ride in the dark, if you will.
I decided that we would taste the wines several different ways: right out of the bottle, using a Vinturi aerator, after an hour or so decant, and the next day (after spending the night in the refrigerator). My father-in-law only participated in the first two tastings (right out of the bottle and the Vinturi) as he had started drinking before I got home, and my mother-in-law decided that any more wine would cause them to miss their flight the next day (I thought about inserting a comment here, but I won’t).
1st pour: A bit shy but really inviting dark berry fruit and mocha. Rich and full on the palate all the way through with the Merlot evident half way in. Not much in the way of tannin on the end but nice finish. My score: 89-91 Points. My Father-in-Law’s (FIL) score: 92 Points.
Vinturi: After passing through the aerator, there was a more vibrant nose. Same flavors, just more “there”. On the palate, the mid-palate seems to suffer a bit as it was noticeably thinner. Interestingly, more tannin comes through at the end. Overall, the aerator to me seemed to disjoint the wine a bit, still Very Good, but a notch lower. 88-90 Points. FIL: “You want another score? I already gave you one–92.”
Decanted: Much richer nose–vanilla, mocha and blackberry dancing well together. On the palate, less fruit forward than the earlier tastes, but perhaps more balanced and harmonious. With the extra time, this becomes more old world (and more my style, honestly). Give me some skirt steak and I am in heaven. 90-92 Points.
The next day: It seems to have an even richer nose, more complex and full but also with some heat. On the palate, this takes me as better than the forays the day before. The tannins are also much more evident, suggesting that this wine has a bright future ahead. 91-93 Points.
Overall Impression: There is no doubt that this is drinking very well right now, but I think a couple of years in the cellar will certainly pay off. Very Good now or hold onto it for a few years and it gets to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
1st pour: A really shy nose giving little other than dark raspberry and a bit of heat. On the palate: Wow. A lot of stuffing here with plenty of time ahead of it. Austere, lengthy finish with noticeable tannins. This is but a pup, but has some real big dog potential. 92-94 Points. FIL: Dad liked this wine, but did not find it as “smooth” as the Napa Valley 90-91 Points.
Vinturi: Nose is much more alive with pronounced blackberry, vanilla and even anise. On the palate shy initially and mellow thru the mid palate but with a bit more aeration this starts to scream and shout. Wow. Still same score but for different reasons. Maybe a bit higher. 92-94 Points. FIL: Did not really notice a difference and did not give a score (or did not hear me ask).
Decanted: Wow. I am not a hot beverage drinker, but this smells just like the coffee I make for my wife every morning (she likes a bit of french vanilla cream stuff added in). On the palate, this has mellowed out as well–the tannins are there, but not as boisterous and the acidity becomes more prominent. This certainly needs some time to figure a few things out, but it has the potential to be phenomenal. 90-92 Points.
The next day: Like the Napa Valley, a much more refined nose on the second day, if a bit muted. On the palate, this is remarkable–it still has some work to do, but all the elements are there. Great fruit upfront, and intrigue through the mid-palate. The finish is a bit strong, as the tannins are biting, but this wine, with time, will push phenomenal. 91-93 Points.
Overall Impression: This wine is enjoyable now, but if you are willing to wait a while (5-10 years, I would guess), it will be well worth it. I think this has 94-96 point potential, certainly.