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I opened and decanted this bad boy at 10:15 a.m. Saturday morning in preparation for dinner that night. On opening, luscious dark fruit filled the room. I poured a little into my tasting glass just to get an initial feel for the wine. Loads of structure and mouth-puckering tannins, but I could taste some great fruit waiting to come forth. Tasted again at about 4 pm (my passive cellar filled with great aroma), still tannic, but the fruit starting to play a more significant role. My anticipation was building. Tasted again at 6 (can you tell I was getting excited?) - things really beginning to sing here. I can't wait to take my steak off the grill and enjoy this stuff.

Sat down to table at about 8 pm. Tannins have moved into the backseat, providing the structure on which to hang some great fruit...but...where is that explosiveness I was hoping for? The fruit is there, but it's not THERE. Hmmmmm....

Glad I have five more, plus my six-pack of SVDs on order. A wine with a lot of promise, but a bit of an enigmatic finish keeps it from exalted status at this point -- I certainly enjoyed the experience of tracking the wine throughout the day.

Today I'd give the wine 92 pts with room to move higher.
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I had a simular experience when I opened my first split about a week ago. This is an extremely well made wine but will probably never be in the league of Etude, Pride, or Insignia. Time may reveal the fruit but the heat on the finish is the problem for me. I think it is one of the best in its price range under $50. 89+pts now with potential for 92pts.
It's funny you mention Insignia. Although my experience is somewhat limited, the bottle of 1997 Insignia I had a few months ago continues to be the wine against which all others are measured.

2001 Pride CS comes close.

I didn't get any hot finish on my bottle of Neal, but it's good to hear that I am not the only that, at least to this point, was not awestruck by this wine.
and with dbw4. This was a fantastic drink and a nose that would not quit. I will take any one that is up for trade. The body has a full and rounded feel with seemingly 0% acidity and a rich palate that blending with a silky texture. A slight spice on the dismount that to me reminded me of some top merlots that I have tasted. As dbw4 mentioned, the backbone was muscular enough to provide aging, but I would never be able to keep my hands off of it to allow it to age. 95 pts.
An absolute pleasure to drink and sniff. DRAB and dbw4 WE OWE YOU ONE!
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You are torturing me because I know that this will be very difficult for me to find. Am I correct in that it is only available by mail order from the winery? How is their zinfandel? Can the single vineyard wines be better than the Napa Valley bottling? (I will do a search of this forum to look for tasting notes)

Auto. You really should try one now. Like, tonight.
This wine is clearly not ready to drink. I gave in an opened one. Based on what I read, I decanted it twelve hours before dinner and tasted it periodically throughout the day. It took about fourteen hours to soften sufficiently for drinking. This is a clear indication that the wine needs time. 14 hours in a decanter is a means of prematurely aging (oxidizing) the wine. I have 5 bottles left and will wait years for the next. I'd estimate this wine to peak from 10-15 years after vintage date.

Is it a pleasureful wine to drink now? Absolutely, but those who polish this wine off in the next few years will not get to experience the complexity and velvet richness that are yet to evolve.

Just one more sip.
I have tasted the '01 Neal Family Cab 5 times now since Pyang brought a bottle to Chicago (link) last fall, and this is the first time that I have been disappointed.

I stood a bottle up to take to the CWM & ORV recent off-line but then I changed my mind. Now I am sorry that I did. It would have been good to hear the others opinions of this bottle.

When I opened the bottle last night, it looked as dark as always, but I knew from the nose that this bottle was different. When I asked Lady Vino Me to smell it she said right away "fresh grass." I know that this sounds funny, but it had that new mown lawn smell that is exactly like NZ Sauvignon Blancs. There was also typical currant smell of Cab, but the grassiness was impossible to miss. Also there was a hint of floral scent that I never noticed before. It reminded me of honeysuckle and it was not unpleasant, only surprising. It was like the floral part of a young Cote Rotie, but that comes from the Viognier and I know there isn't anything like that in the Neal. The wine still has its rich mouthfeel and firm tannins. It still has currant, blueberry and chocolate notes. But now it has that grassy herbal smell and taste that just would not go away, even after 4 hours of being in a decanter. It made me wonder if there might be some Cabernet Franc mixed in the blend, but even for that varietal the herbalness is too strong. It is not completely unpleasant, but it is certainly not something typical in a California Cab, and it is so strong that it is impossible to overlook. I rated my first bottle of Neal Family at 96 points, but no one would give this wine more than 88 points. Many might give it a few less.

I am not certain if this wine is going through a phase, or if it is evolving in a direction that is not expected. We did not finish the bottle. I will leave the last 5 or 6 ounces for a few days to see if there are further developments. Right now, I am just a little bit worried about my other bottles. If this wine cost $15 or 20 it would be all right to drink them up. But at nearly $50 I was hoping to drink these for many more years. Now I am not sure how long these will last.



Quantum mutatus ab illo!
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Originally posted by Vino Me:
Yes, itis the first bottle of a previously sealed case. I am very worried about it. I have thought of calling the winery to see what they think, but what can they say? That the wine isn't going to age well? That I shouldn't have bought it?

From everything I've read and heard about Mark Neal, I would be surprised if he responded like that. You might want to call him. Or perhaps he will respond to you here as he seems to post regularly.

If you would have said that you had already opened a bottle from that case and it was fine, I was going to offer to alleviate your worries and buy the rest from you. Sorry, I'm sure you don't need jokes about it.
Be quiet, Seaquam, or I will tell Board-O that you mentioned Canadian juice.

Pyang, I know that you are a big fan of this wine, but to tell you the truth, if it is going to start moving down the herbal path, then maybe being removed from a mailing list is not so bad. I did not enjoy the wine much, and I am now concerned that this may be an unexpected quality of the entire release.

I will try what is left in the decanter tonight I think, and maybe I will open another bottle just to see what's going on. I hope my fears are wrong.



Quantum mutatus ab illo!
Actually Blue O, I will be downstairs in my workshop sanding a small project tonight, so I could build that bin. Unfortunately, I think I will have to price this wine much higher than you have suggested. That would be a lot of money to lose. Anyway I am not ready to put all of these bottles up for sale.




Quantum mutatus ab illo!
well vino me,
hope this is an april fools joke, cause on march 20 i open a bottle and found this on of the best cabs yet this year. check the what are you drinking notes. i have had three bottles so far and have a problem keeping my hand off the one in my cellar. you should check it again. so if you want to sell let us know!
Mark Neil and Grove Celio were at the McArthur CA Barrel tasting last week and joined us for dinner at the Mendocino Grill afterwards. They brought a bottle of their 98 CS Napa Valley and the 2001 Second Chance Vineyard. Both were excellent. The SCV was still young, but with a little age on it will be a stunning bottle of wine. Complex but well structured with firm tannins. Lots of fruit, yet quite integrated even now. The 98 was amazing, showing well for a wine that saw so little airtime. Several of us picked it as our wine of the night, which considering the competition was quite a feat.

Have to say that both Mark and Grove are great guys, interesting to talk to, I learned a lot.

When in doubt, open another bottle.
I hadt his wine for the second time tonight -- was decanted for 8 hours...

Sweet nose of currant, black raspberry, and maybe just a hint of blueberry and strawberry. Rich mouthfeel with mostly black fruits -- a bit of red currant as well, though. Long finish. I think I rated this 92 before and I stick by that. I might rate this 91.5 but with the clear ability to improve. In 4-5 years this could be a 93 or perhaps even higher. For $45/bottle, it is hard to keep my hands off this when I want a nice Cab, but this will deffinitely be better in about 5 years.


"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?" -- W.C. Fields
We had this at a restaurant in NYC last night with grilled ribeye over arugula with rosemary sauce, and sauteed veal with three types of wild mushrooms in a marsala sauce.

It was dark purple with a truly great nose of plums, cedar, and baking spices. On the palate, the wine was tannic and not as rich as the previous bottle. It was is still quite youthful, just not as complex as desired. I'd like to have tasted it another hour or two later, but it was all gone with the entree. Possibly closing down a little? Me 90. My wife 91.

Just one more sip.

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