I just got my latest Wine Spectator yesterday and noticed that Laube has rated '99 Chateau Souverain merlot 92. At $17 this seems like a very good value. I went to my local wine merchant and he only had the 98 on the shelves. I'm thinking about a case or two. Has anyone tasted this one yet? If it's any good I might just buy a case or two.
Original Post
TCK, I agree with you fully, I was not speaking in absolutes, I was speaking in generalitites. I will try to expand on my earlier statement to clarify my position.
First let me start off that I feel that Chateau Souverain is one of the outstanding QPR producers in the U.S. Quite frankly I love their wines, I always have, I hope I always will. Secondly I will admit I try to score tough, I do not want to prescribe to the WS and RMP method of elevated grading, and yes IMHO they both do it, just with different wines. While my palate does not equal Tanzer I very much admire his restraint on scoring. With that said here is my methodology. Hopefully it will explain why I doubt the Souverain Merlot is '92 points though I will try it tomorrow and report back my findings. My scoring goes as follows.

80 points, this is the grocery store reference point. All the wine in one isle (ie jug wine, Sutter Home, Vendage, etc is less than 80 points, all the wine in the other isle (ie Woodbridge and above) is >80 points. Yes it is generally speaking.

86-88 points, this is where most middle-of-the-road Napa Valley cabernets fall. This is an enjoyable wine of good quality, it is usually the home of Mondavi Napas, BV Rutherfords, Beringer Knights Valleys, Saint Supery's, St. Clement Napas, Sterlings, Stags Leaps, Clos du Vals and on and on ad naseaum. When I plunk down 15 to 30 bucks for a cab, I expect it to be here.

90 points, this is one of three things, it is either an 86-88 pointer in a great vintage, a >50 wine that doesn't quite measure up to its billing (aka Far Niente) or a wine such as Groth or Staglin or Phelps or Whitehall Lane. It is a very good wine with something that differentiates it from the ordinary quality cab. It is a wine that when the bottle is empty you say 'that was a good bottle of wine'.

92 points, this is a wine that is absolutely delicious. A wine that brings sorrow when the last drops cascade from the bottle. It is a wine that requires both excellent grapes and good winemaking. It does not happen by accident. It is superior to 90% of all wines out there at any price. I believe it would be very difficult for a producer to make a wine of this caliber at prices that net less than $10 per bottle to the winery. In this case I would bet that Souverain is pulling in less than $8 as I saw the Merlot today via email for $13.75 per bottle in case quantities with the tag line, 'get yours before the winery withholds'. Ok now here is the conspiracy theory. Beringer now owns Chateau Souverain, Berringer owns St. Clement and Chateau St. Jean. Beringer Corp does a lot of advertising in WS. One could easily argue that both Chateau St. Jean and St. Clement have been overated by WS in the past (though both are good wines). All of a sudden Chateau Souverain is racking up 90+ point scores like you can't believe, chardonnay, syrah, merlot, and check out the barrel tasting rating on the '00 Cab. As someone who loves Souverain as much or more than anybody, I can't quite buy it. Laube is saying the '92 Merlot is ONE single point less than the '94 Cabernet Reserve? I've had the '94 Reserve and it is one knock your socks off wine. If I could find a single soul who has it I would buy it like water, so that '99 merlot better be some good sh*$. I think the odds are it's good wine, but it ain't 92 points. Could it be, absolutely, is it? I doubt it. Anyway I will find out tomorrow.

Lastly >95 points, A wine that is profound, it is a wine that is comparable to a religious experience, a wine that gives you a new perspective. I have had a couple of these wines and they ARE better than sex, you think about them for weeks. When I see a Tanzer 100 I want it!!!

[ 03-22-2002, 01:40 AM: Message edited by: stealthman_1 ]
Stealth:
Look forward to your tasting notes/rating. As they said so eloquently on Dragnet: "Just the facts". Price/Winery should have no bearing on whether a wine is good or not, that is why we are all chasing the QPR. Also, comparing a merlot to a cab may or may not be a valid comparison. That being said, if this juice is a 92, it will fly off of the shelves.
Good point,

Here's my thoughts

If you recognize that a Laube 92 is almost alway's a Stealth 89-90 then that show's consistency the most important attribute of any rater. If you relize that you are a tougher grader then the stated writers that's fine. As long as the writers maintain a certain degree of consistency in thier ratings then you will always know how that bottle's flavors corelate to your own palate. There is also no way that one can take personal prefrences out of the equation. In food terms, I hate peas going back to my child hood, I would never be able to enjoy any dish with peas in it enough to recomend it. That same thing happens with certain types of wine. It's human nature.

TCK
Never a good idea to judge a wine before it is tasted.

That being said, Chat. Souverain Merlot is usually one of my merlot favs just because it typically contains close to the minimum merlot allowable (and still be called merlot), at about 76%-80% (the rest is cab).

You never know, Laube may have gotten this one right. I look forward to tasting this wine--hopefully by the case. [Razz]

[ 03-22-2002, 03:14 PM: Message edited by: mletson ]
A retailer in my area told me yesterday that he just sold his 80th case of it in the last week and will be recieving 40 more today. He also told me starting next week the winery is putting a one case per retail site restriction, because they want to create the idea that this wine is hard to get. The owner of this establishment whose pallate I trust told me he feels it is a great $20 bottle of merlot that he is discounting to $13 a bottle through the end of this week.
winebrat- "one case per retail site...to create the idea that this wine is hard to get." What a sweet bunch a guys at Chateau Souverain. I hope that your source is wrong because thats the kind of bullsh** that's continuing to drive inflated wine prices through the roof. I have always appreciated CS's wines and enjoyed visiting their Alex Valley estate, if this crap is true it should put a black-eye on an otherwise quality producer. [Mad]
Picked up a bottle for $13.99. Color is a nice medium crimson. Thin legs and not much on the nose at all. Medium to medium-full body with nice cherry and oak flavors. However it seems like the acid balance is off especially on the finish. I definitely wouldn't call it smooth. I personally do not consider this a 92 point wine. I would rate it about 87 points. Definitely prefer the 99 Alexander Valley Vineyards Merolt at this pricepoint.
Good, somebody beat me to it. Tasted from Riedel Vinums with barbequed (like there is any other way) top sirloin and mashed garlic potatoes. Tasted against '99 Saddleback Merlot. Let me disclaim I am not a merlot drinker, I will taste it in tasting rooms, but these are the first bottles I've had in about a year and merlot occupies a mere 3 bottles in my now bursting at the seams 800 bottle celler.
'99 Saddleback Merlot $35, WS NR, 14.4% alcohol
Very deep ruby, transluscent, slightly cloudy in color with a heavily perfumed floral and sweet oak nose, you could buy this wine just to smell it, very nice. Bold and tannic red fruit bomb that is pretty disjointed. I always wondered what disjointed meant till I had my first wine that was disjointed, then it was obvious. The red fruits are all over the place, one sip its balanced, the next its acidic, now at 5+ open its chalky, but it still smells good. A wine of good potential...maybe, or it could just suck with time, I just don't know. Medium finish, that pleases. The '98 version WS gave an 85, I'll give this one an 87 with potential to 91 IF it comes together. Tough wine.

'99 Souverain Merlot $14.99, WS 92, 13.8% alcohol.
Lighter nose of dry leather, dark fruit and oak, comes through on the palate as well, nice balance, but with a sneaky tannic backbone. Virtually no legs, picking up hints of mint at +3 with dinner. Nice medium finish. Really an enjoyable wine, great QPR value, but there is nothing really unique here, just good wine. 89 points. Before you flame me please review WS data base of Merlot, there are only 4 93 pointers from '97, '98, '99, David Arthur, Berringer Howell Mountain, Lewis, and Pride. There are only 6 92's. To get here requires some winemaking folks and a 27000 case bulk merlot just ain't gonna have it.

[ 03-23-2002, 01:50 AM: Message edited by: stealthman_1 ]
Stealth-
Right on with your notes on Souverain. Had a bottle myself last night and it's good. In fact it's very good for the $. No Way it's 92pts good though. There's nothing that stands out about this wine except the fact that it's better than expected at this price. I could still name a slew of $20 and under Merlots that are better made and didn't score nearly as high. I think Laube is slipping in his consistency of late.
2nd Winebrat on the allocation issue - two retailers in Atlanta both confirmed the wine going on allocation. Bought 3 bottles @ $14.99 - what the hey - for $15 even if it is only an 88 pt. wine it's still going to be a bargain.

Anyone been able to measure how the '99 CS Syrah @ 90 pts. stacks up against the '99 CS Merlot from a QPR standpoint? I've not seen any of the Syrah in Louisville or Atlanta; I'd be interested if the Syrah is really a 90 pt. wine or is this simply a marketing ploy to pump up prices at the retail and wholesale level for a larger supply.
The syrah is a good QPR wine (87-88 pointish) as well as the mourvedre, though I think the latter is only available from the winery. Unfortunately it looks like the hype machine is going to go full throttle on this. This is where the money is for the wineries, I guess. They really don't make much from us wine nut, QPR lovers. If I buy two cases a year of QPR wine and they make a buck a bottle profit, they make twenty four bucks, if they can get a good hype started they can make that on a single bottle (aka Chateau St. Jean). Guess the search will continue. Anyone need any '97 Souverain Reserve Cab @ $80? [Big Grin]
Stealthman,

I'm not saying that this is or is not a 92, I havn't tried it yet. I would like to point out that your figure of 27,000 cases is roughly the same number as the average output of a first growth Bordeaux. Also, is there a big diffrence between 18,000 cases (Insignia, Beringer Private Reserve) and 27,000 to a large winery, I don't think so. Case production is not the problem here. This very well might not be a 92 point wine, from the initial tasting reports it doesn't seem to be. But, it looks like many of you wrote this wine off before you popped the cork.

TCK
guys-get ready for the release of the 99 chateau souverain alexander cab. this and the reserve are their best wines by far. if the merlot got a 92, you can expect laube to give the cab a 94. and a $15-16 cab getting this kind of rating is going to make the prices go thru the roof. i think the beringer group may be attempting to do a chateau st.jean at souverain.
TCK, I didn't write the wine off, I liked it, in fact I may have OVERrated it by a point or two. I've written Laube off as any kind of objective taster (I know many of you are way ahead of me on this but we all gotta see it with our own eyes). His own standards are changing greatly. I guess I wouldn't mind this wine as a 92 if he graded consistantly, but he is not. I cannot guage my palate at all against him any more. I used to agree with him within' a point or two most of the time, now I'm off my as much as 8 or 9, often. When it's really a twenty point scale for most purposes, that's a huge deviation. My palate has matured, I should be getting closer to professional tasters not farther away.
stealth-an 89 point california merlot for $15 is still a pretty good deal. i like souverain's wines enough to give it a try. btw, i hope i have an opportunity to buy the 99 cab before it gets rated. i bought 3 cases of the 97 and 2 cases of the 97 reserve. the cab is one of my favorite everyday drinking wines. working on my 95's now.
Ahhhhh!!!! I LIKE the WINE!!!! I tasted both the Saddleback and the Souverain again tonight +1 day, the Saddleback you could rate 85-87 with no argument from me, the Souverain you could rate 87-90, I would say the 90 is stretchin' it but I can't argue with your palate, just LAUBES!!! After all I've written for those who still can't see that I LIKE THE WINE even though I don't think it is outstanding, here is my Souverain inventory so you don't think I'm down on Souverain.
'00 Viognier- 2 bottles
'99 Maurvedre- 4 bottles
'99 Merlot- 1 bottle
'99 Syrah- 2 bottles
'98 Syrah- 3 bottles
'97 Stuhlmuller- 2 1.5 liters
'97 Stuhlmuller- 6 750s
'97 Winemakers Reserve- 1 3.0 liter
'97 Winemakers Reserve- 2 1.5 liters
'97 Winemakers Reserve- 28 750s
'97 Alexander Valley- 6 1.5 liters
'97 Alexander Valley- 26 750s
'96 Stuhlmuller- 6 bottles
'96 Winemakers Reserve- 6 bottles
'96 Alexander Valley- 2 bottles
'95 Winemakers Reserve- 4 bottles
'94 Winemakers Reserve- 1 bottle
'94 Alexander Valley- 5 bottles

Ojeffso, it Laube gives the '99 cab a 94 I will probably just crap. I would be MORE than happy to buy every damn bottle I can get and happily trade it 1 for 1 for any
'98 Maya
'91 Maya
'90 Maya
'89 Maya
'98 Dalla Valle Napa
'94 Dalla Valle Napa (Good Lord do you realize what this bozo is saying)
'93 Dalla Valle Napa
'92 Dalla Valle Napa
'91 Dalla Valle Napa
'90 Dalla Valle Napa
'98 Harlan Estate
'93 Harlan Estate
'92 Harlan Estate
'91 Harlan Estate
'90 Harlan Estate
Oh and did I mention the
'93 and '92 Screaming Eagle????
ALL of which Mr. Laube rated below '94, hell most of these he rated at or below this '99 Merlot.
[Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] I think I'm ranting! I LIKED THE WINE!!!!

[ 03-23-2002, 11:57 PM: Message edited by: stealthman_1 ]
Just wasted my $12 on this experiment. So, not to repeat too much noted above, it was weak, with harsh green tannins, no body or finish, all that, and less. So... to put things into perspective, here are some other wines rated 92 points by the Spectator: '96 Dominus, '96 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow, '97 Lokoya Rutherford, '97 Peter Michael Les Pavots, '95 Hess Collection. Need I go on? To give them the benefit of the doubt, I will write it off as a typo; someone hit the '9' instead of the '8'.
This thread provides a prime example of how following Wine Spectator reviews to make buying decisions prior to trying a bottle is fraught with risk. I can't remember the last time I bought a case of wine solely based on a WS review. WS consistently overrates mass produced common varietals from certain select California wineries or California/Australia wine conglomerates.
Jones,

Parker is not immune to this either. He recently gave very high marks to a whole slew of assorted Dubouef Vin d Pays Merlot's and Beaujolaise. I tried many of them and thought most were sub 85 except for a Jean Descombes Morgon that was actually very good. I have also heard many people argue the 91 on the Falseco Vitiano - a wine that I do like but appears to be very inconsistent according to this board.

TCK
Jones and TCK-
Stop fussing.
YOU'RE BOTH RIGHT.

The DeBoeuf beaujolais are overrated; diluted purple colored bottled water is what it is. However, it is a 90 when compared to the rest of the uriniferous stream of Gamay on the market. If you are drinking Cabs, Syrah, Pinots of any quality why are you dabbling in this stuff?

WS does tend to overrate mediocre wines. Comparing the ChSvrn Merlot to PM 's Les Pavots and rating each 92 pts is delusory, even when you factor varietal differences. We've seen the Viader fiasco. This board has commented on others ad nauseum. Both WA and WS have favorites contributing to big score differences, some of which is true different taste preference, which may not be understandable to any disagreeing individual; some of which is just unfathomable? bottle variation?

Finally , as he has commented numerous times, Jones is right that once you've got some experience, try the wine yourself and make subsequent judgements and purchases based on your own palate and budget. This works well for most wine, especially relatively early drinking US wine. This is harder for Burgs and Bordeaux.

DrT [Cool]

[ 03-24-2002, 11:35 PM: Message edited by: dr.tannin aka x-man ]
Stealthman,

I have just finished tasting this wine.

The wine displays dark red-violet color with thin fast running legs. Aromas of plum and rasberry were noticed immediatly but nose is somewhat restrained. There is a rich mouthfell and definate concentration that is noticed mid palate but the flavors are muffled. The balance is dead on and the finish is long but undefined. The development showed added sweetness with more defined acidity.

Not as good as a Columbia Crest 98 Grand Estate Merlot. On par with a 99 Gallo Sonoma Merlot, though the Gallo is much fruitier.

87-88

TCK

There is good structure in this wine, it could possibly develope in two or three years.
Popped the cork on one of my four bottles last night. Didnt show much upon opening. Decanted for an hour and opened up some, but overall dissapointing. Decent merlot for $14, but not even close to a 92 for me. I fell for this one hook line and sinker. I am SLOWLY learning not to buy soley from WS ratings. I get far better recommendations from these forums.
This wine is overated ! I am sipping a glass as I write this response. I would give it an 88. The wine is good, but definitely not a 92. If you want a better Merlot at a few $ more, I highly recommend the 1999 Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Merlot. I paid $15.99 for CS and $19.99 for the Whitehall.
Drinkable, but certainly not great. Very light on the nose (a little oak a little fruit). A very thin mouthfeel. A very simple plummy mid-palate with a non-memorable finish. I guess you have to spend more to get good Merlot. I think the WL or Swanson/Phelps would be worth $10 more.
In this price range I'll stick to Zin's. Another example of JL's ADP (Advertising Driven Palate)
...Check out the amount of Beringer ads in the next few months.

Better Red Than Not
I didn’t follow this thread a few weeks ago, but came across it tonight. I bought nine at Gary’s a few weeks ago and I think I paid about $16/btl for it. Just bought one, solely on the WS review – I’m generally not a California merlot drinker. Decanted for about 45 minutes and then drank from Vinum Bordeaux stems.
I found the color to be a good, dark crimson with multiple thin, runny legs. Nose of dark fruit, some chocolate and leather. On the palate, I thought the texture was quite nice – medium to full-bodied and mouthfilling. I found the dark fruit flavors to be quite intense – with some hints of menthol to add a little complexity. But I thought it tasted a touch hot – and I found very little tannin on the surprisingly intense lingering finish. A really enjoyable California merlot to my palate, but it didn’t really fit my personal preferences. I won’t buy more, but I’d still give the wine an 89/100 score.
I passed on this thread earlier too because there wasn't much to add. Tried the wine. It's okay but overrated. Nothing to write home about.

The comparison to the CSJ marketing coup is probably valid, but there's one big difference. Many of us were buying and hoarding the under-rated cinq cepages prior to WS's annointment. I haven't heard anyone doing the same with Souverain wines.

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