When better than a New Year ski trip to have a blind tasting of some decent cabernets with a little bottle-age. The line-up, all resplendent in their brown bags, was:
Leonetti 2000 Cabernet (Walla Walla)
Hogue 2000 Reserve Cabernet (Columbia Valley)
Lakes Folly 1998 (a cabernet blend, Hunter Valley, Aus)
Pepper Bridge 2000 Cabernet (Walla Walla)
Walla Walla Vintners 2000 Cabernet (Walla Walla)
Maryhill Reserve 2001 Cabernet (Columbia Valley)
Unfortunately, the Maryhill was corked. Hopefully we can dig out another bottle sometime, but no more shall be said here.
The Pepper Bridge was soft, with dusty tannins , and clearly ready to drink. Certainly pleasant, but nothing to get all excited about.
The Lakes Folly was still displaying deep black fruit and understated oak. This is still a little young for a Folly from a good vintage, so perhaps we weren’t seeing it at its best, but it didn’t impress as much as some of the others. I’ll give other bottles more time.
The Walla Walla Vintners was all about upfront fruit, soft tannins and overt vanilla overtones. There was a bit of a split on this from the tasters, but it was undoubtedly drinking beautifully. My guess is that it was pretty much at its peak.
The Hogue was the blockbuster of the bunch. A huge wine, inky in color, long blackberry and spice flavors, bold supporting tannins and soft acids. This needed 3-5 more years to show off its true quality. I wish I had another one. Great stuff.
The Leonetti simply said one thing to me – "Drink me" – and everyone else got a similar message. This was a velvety seductress of a cabernet, with wonderful mouthfeel, dark fruit, cedar and mixed spice that lingered forever on the palate. While drinking wonderfully now, I don’t think another 2 or 3 years would disappoint. Overall, the standout wine of the evening.
This was a fine tasting to end 2006 on. It certainly boosted my faith in the quality of Leonetti cabernet, and made me want to search out and cellar a few of Hogue’s recent fine drops. A challenge for 2007 …