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 October 26, 2000:
Rare and Exciting New Releases
|98 Kongsgaard Syrah Hudson Vineyard (Carneros)óDark
purple. Sweet oak, vanilla, cocoa, plum, cherry aromas. Lush, with restrained
jammy fruit. Some tar, bit stemmy and astringent on finish. Needs 2-3 years
to reel in the oak. Very good with the charred tri-tip. 92(+?)
98 Cape díEstaing Shiraz ďAdmiralís ReserveĒ (Kangaroo Island), MagnumóVery dark. Eucalyptus, menthol, some berry aromas. Smooth, jammy, simple berry and pomegranate flavors. Low tannins, tar on finish. Good, not great, for this level. 90(+?)
98 Murphy Goode Petite VerdotóMedium dark. Practically no bouquet. Tight, focused cherry flavors. Oak contributes a bit of chocolate. Good tannic support, some camphor. The finish drops off. 88
98 Paloma Merlot (Napa)óMedium dark. Sweet cherry chocolate nose. Very plush, low acid, lots of fine sweet tannins. Yummy, deftly woven fruit. High toned mid-palate. Bit astringent and too much oak in finish. Not a food wine. Will not age. 90(-)
98 David Arthur CabernetóDark. Closed up bouquet with some cherry, spicy oak, chocolate. Smooth, plush, velvety-rich cherry chocolate, licorice. Good tannins, low acid. Decent length finish, but a bit hollow in mid-palate (should flesh out with age). 93
97 Frazier CabernetóMedium purple. Cassis, spicy berry nose. Sweet red cherry, plum, lingonberry flavors. Very nice finish, good length, balanced. Could use 4-6 years. 91+
97 Arns CabernetóMedium dark. Closed bouquet, some mineral earthy scents. Rich, deep, liqueur-like. Classic cassis flavor, with hints of cedar, leather. Not overly tannic, but a bit astringent on finish. Still top notch. Give it 6-8 years. 92+
97 Chateau St. Jean Cinq CepagesóMedium dark. Cherry and vanilla oak bouquet. Plush, smooth, immediately engaging. Bit tannic, highish acid. Rich fruit, plumy. Bit clunky. Needs 2-3 years to peak, should last 10. 92+
97 Dalla Valle Cabernet (Napa)óVery dark. Eucalyptus, menthol but not much fruit in nose. Very lush, deep, rich, terrific blackberry fruit. Dense, plush, multi-layered, long, perfect cab. Very sensual wine. 93+
97 Araujo Cabernet Eisele VineyardóMedium color. Classy, smoky charred oak and cherry bouquet. Plush, rich blackberry, bitter chocolate, tinged with charcoal, cola. Very Bordeaux-like. Liqueur richness, impressive length, but lacking some weight in mid-palate. Good acidity will contribute to its ageability, but I fear a slight lack in fruit density. Even after one hour in glass, holds together and shows more completeness and elegance than the other cabs alongside it. 95+
97 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Hyde Vineyard (Carneros)óDark. Classy, Bordeaux-like nose of black cherry, sweet toasty oak, chocolate. Rich black cherry, milk chocolate, cassis. Balanced. Good tannins. Very fine finish. Impressive. 94+
97 Phelps Insignia, MagnumóMedium dark. Cherry, anise, toast, and slight VA in nose. Sweet plush cherry liqueur flavor, good acid, toasty oak, charcoal, big tannins, tar. Decent long finish. After 20 minutes in glass, gets a little puckery, unbalanced. 94+
Itís been a while, and I hear the congregants have been testy, so I return to the bloody pulpit.
I think this is my first Kongsgaard syrah. Having tried the chardonnay before, I think I get the house style. Use plenty of charred oak and donít worry about finesse. Indeed the chardonnay is big, generously oaked, but carefully sculpted around a good acidic core with ample fruit. This syrah aims for the stratosphere (if its $100+ price tag is to be believed), but doesnít quite achieve. In terms of style, it seems to want to compete with SQN and Araujo, both of whom lay on generous amounts of toasty oak. But Kongsgaard outdoes them. I do not think the 98 syrah fruit is quite up to the oak treatment, hence there is some unpleasantness in the finish. Perhaps the oak will integrate, but what will the fruit be like? ďRestrained jammy fruitĒ, you may askÖ Just think of watered down grape preserves.
Paloma has a fine, almost cultish, reputation. The 98 vintage must have been somewhat difficult. Although their merlot has immediate sensual appeal, no doubt the work of wine craftsmanship, I do not believe the fruit in 98 has staying power. Drink this soon, over the next couple years.
Despite the reputation of 98, David Arthur fashioned a fabulous cab. This is my first exposure to their wine, and I find it compelling. Worth a try.
The only previous vintage of Arns I had was the 94. The 97 is better, with lusher fruit and more classic flavors. This would be a fine dinner wine by itself, but in this company, it showed its limits.
The 97 is my first Cinq Cepages. I can see it has immediate appeal, but alongside the other cabs, it suffers lack of depth. A good, not great, drink.
Iíve had Dalla Valle Napa going back to the 94 vintage and the 97 is the best of the quartet. It is a complete wine. Perfect, in fact. But it also does not quite reach the level of the three wines that followed it.
Iíve preached a lot about Araujo. In the Araujo cellar back in April, the 97 showed elegance and a somewhat simple profile. The extra months in bottle have fleshed out the wine, and I expect the Eisele fruit to continue to add weight over the next few months. The amount of char, though, caught me by surprise. At this stage, one would have to be a lover of seriously toasted French barrels to appreciate the wine for what it is. What it is not is a syrupy monster with layer after velvet layer of creamy fruit, the way Bryant is. And it is not mammothly proportioned with fruit as deep as an exploratory well, like Harlan. But as an elegant cab, it has an awful lot going for it. The 97 shows more now than the 96 did when it was released. But it hasnít the dense fruit or power of the 92-95 vintages. So take my 95+ rating with a grain of skepticism. If you want a big, bombastic cab, this will not do it for you, and may only rate a 90(+?). If you want a cab with a lot of cut, complexity, classically structured like a fine Bordeaux, this may be worth a high score. (If you want to get into a price debate, you can do better in Bordeaux for your $125.)
The Hobbs was the biggest surprise of the tasting. Iíve not had Hobbsí wine before. Iím a believer with this vintage. Considering what else is out there for $50, this is about as good as itís likely to get.
The 97 Insignia is riding on the hype from past vintages. It is not as compelling as the 94 or 95 vintages were. Certainly it has immediate appeal, lots of layers of interest, and a long finish. Itís getting formulaic over at Phelps. Whatever it is they do, they do it mighty well. No one will turn their nose at this effort. But donít believe the WS hype. 97 is a couple rungs down from the top of the Insignia ladder.
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