The Bernard Roth Archives
We happy that Bernard, who has sampled so many wines, has shared his notes with us. We do have, or have had for sale a few of the wines Bernard writes about, and we include a link to our stock page whenever it is a producer we carry (but since the stock page is kept up-to-date and the wines are sold, don't expect any but the newest of wines to show up in our stock!). Mostly though, since we specialize in County of Santa Barbara Wine and Central Coast Wine, we don't carry a lot of the wines Bernard writes about. But we think it is important that you be able to have an idea what they're like in case you are planning to buy some somewhere, or have them in your own collection. Enjoy.
Here are Bernard's notes from July 20, 2001:
ďAn Introduction to Napa Valley Cabernet SauvignonĒ
|NV Michel Turgy Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Le Mesnil
sur Oger - This old favorite did not disappoint. Light toast, moderate
yeastiness, the wine carries its restraint with great confidence. Thereís
plenty of white fruit, but it is not too overtly advertised. Lot of complex
flavor activity on the palate, showing harmony and balance. The finish
is crisp, clean, minerally. Score it in the low 90s.
1997 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - Second time with this wine with consistent impressions. Lot of black fruit character, plum, blackberry. Excellent concentration, full on the palate, with decent tannins and moderate acidity. Finishes with chewy tannins and lingering fruit flavors. Top QPR value in Napa cab that Iíve had in a few years for $24 at Costco. Should age up to 10 years. 90.
1997 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - First time with this. Seemed restrained aromatically, more linearly framed than the Heitz, and with finer tannins. Again, black fruits, some tar and French oak showing. I kept going back to this to see how it evolved, but it stayed pretty tight even after 30 minutes. Seems like a sound wine, but needs 4-5 years. 89+
1995 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley - Another favorite of the past, it was decanted at least an hour before serving. Fairly broad aromatics, but some years away from peak expressiveness. The wine was less tannic than I remembered, but still showing dark fruit flavors. Rounder in the mouth than my last go with it, starting to challenge the 94 vintage in its approachability, but not as overtly driven by vanilla and cocoa oak as its elder sibling. Showed a lot of class, with its balance, smooth mouthfeel, layered flavors. 94+
1997 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve - My second positive experience with this. The first was in April at the 38 year BV Reserve vertical and the 97 stole the show, IMO. Lots going on aromatically, with black cherry, suave oak. Flavors are more red fruit than the previous wines, with pomegranate, boysenberry, red and black cherry. Good structure, but very approachable and harmonious tannins. A good candidate for 20 years. BV is back! 94+
1997 Araujo Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard Napa Valley - Decanted 6 hours ahead, but the wine had glorious aromatics when first opened, and did not skip a beat for the entire evening. More impressive now than when first released, the wine continues to gain weight with time in the bottle. Red and black cherry fruit, but picking up more dark tones (plum, blueberry). Gaining some liqueur-like power, but still years away from primetime. Long, structured finish, with lingering complexity. This wine continued to evolve in the glass and picked up a couple points for size and complexity over a couple hours. Pretty impressive now, it should hit top form in about 8-10 years. 96+
1978 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard Napa Valley - Second time in a month with this monster, so I knew to decant it 6 hours ahead, like the younger Eisele. Everyone was surprised how young this tasted. No sign of oxidative/aged effects. Powerful black fruit, strong tannins. Multi-layered flavor profile and great length. A great cab. 97 points for the foreseeable future. Another 20 years of life!
1978 Leoville-Las-Cases - My first time with this (to my recollection). Classic mature claret. Just about exactly as I would have expected and wanted. Give-away aromatics of dried cherry, cedar, cigar box, caramel. Similar impression in the mouth, with a bit of tawny Cherry Herring, cherry tobacco and leather. A complete wine, fine, and proper, with good weight in the mouth and succulent finish. Drink over next 5 years. 92-
1989 Gaston Huet Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg Première Trie - Iíve had the 89 Cuvee Constance, but this was my first time with this. As pristine an aromatic message as chenin is capable of delivering. Gorgeous perfume of citrus flower, nectarine, tangerine, honey and light botrytis. The flavors are totally harmonious, vivid, balanced and wrapped around a zesty acidic frame. Thereís requisite minerality (slate, oyster shell) and a long, crisp finish. This is much more ready to drink than the Constance, but is still very young. Probably will need another couple decades to reach peak. 95+
A short bloody pulpitÖ
I can recommend each of the above wines. The Michel Turgy is going to be hard to find, but the search is worth it. At $35 a bottle, it shows true Grand Cru character. Donít be put off by the inexpensive price of the Heitz. It delivers more than any other $25 cab Iíve tried from Napa recently. The Grgich is a sleeper. I donít have to convince anyone about Insignia, but I do want to awaken the BV skeptics (and I was one through most of the 80s and 90s). The GdLT is worth owning. The Araujo skeptics ought to learn to have faith in the two most important facts about wine: A great vineyard and a producer committed to doing all the right things (low yield, minimal manipulation, careful selection, etc.) will generally make great wine. The 97 vintage Araujo is textbook Eisele, and drinking it side-by-side with the great 78 Phelps, I can tell you they have a lot more in common than just the vineyard name on the label. This is as close as CA cab gets to Latour. Finally, as remarkable as it sounds, somehow the 89 Huet reappeared in the market recently ($44 at Woodland Hills), and Iím astounded thereís still any left. Anyone who has a love for great dessert wines is an idiot if they donít seek this out. Even the Sauternes drinkers couldnít get past how well this wine showed.
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