Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Smith-Madrone is not the oldest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) that I have enjoyed, that is a distinction reserved for a 1982 TWWIAGE. However, it had to be the most stunningly alive, wonderfully structured and still strikingly relevant Napa Valley CS that I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. Subtle echoes of black-fruitiness, wonderfully understated integration of oak, with firm, assertive tannins...blah, blah, blah...this wine had all the winning characteristics of a well made, aged and balanced CS from anywhere on the planet. To me it was very reminiscent of a Left Bank Bordeaux. Loved it. Vinomaker, on the other hand, was not nearly as enthused as I was about this wine; he thought it lacked fruit, I thought he was crazy.
Not everyone enjoys older wines. Some people, and Vinomaker is one of them, prefer more pronounced fruit characters in wine. I like fruity wines myself, but I also like the complexity of older wines. I drank a lot of older, French wines growing up, so I have a little bit of experience with how CS, for example, bottle ages - whereas the average Californian is used to drinking younger, fruit forward wines. That doesn't necessarily mean that I am cleverer than the aforementioned Californian wine consumer, but it does mean I have had a slightly more expansive older-wine education than most. In the case of the Smith-Madrone, I was able to balance the loss of some of the bold-fruit notes (a minimal loss, I might add), for the the complexity that the wine had attained through bottle-aging for 28 years. Curiously, Vinomaker finished this bottle of wine the next evening and loved it: for him the wine had opened up and was now displaying an acceptable level of fruitiness. In my estimation, this beautiful, middle-aged wine had many more years of age-worthiness ahead of it. And look at that price tag, I wish I could buy this wine at that price today.