Did a Sonoma vs. Napa blind tasting last night of Zins, Cabs, and Merlot, all from recent/current releases. All of the wines were dead-on in terms of their appearance so I'll skip the commentary on how they looked.

Some surprises in the group if you'll read on. The wines are posted in the order they were served.

'98 St. Francis Reserve Merlot: Tight nose of plum and chocolate; palates matches w/a touch of smoky oak, w/execellent mouthfeel. Mid-length finish. I'd rate this 86-87 pts. Suprisingly nice wine - #5 of 6, $43.99.

'99 Stag's Leap Cellars Merlot: More open nose of red fruit, toasty oak, quite a bit of alcohol. A bit closed at first, the wine became very fruit-forward, w/red plums and spicy oak; quite tannic w/a long, drying finish. A touch better than the St. Francis @ 88-89 pts. - $39.99, #4 of 6.

'98 Arrowwood Cab - Not a vineyard specific bottling. Intense, spicy red fruit, slight but pleasant bell pepper notes, and smoky oak on the nose an palate, this one had more than just a touch of EtoH heat, too. A big, fruit-forward Cab w/some aging potential - 90 pts., $44.99, tied for #1.

'01 Gundlach-Bundschu Zinfandel - Huge nose of woodsy,spicy blackberry; soft blackberries flavors, nutmeg, chocolate and sweet oak. Very mouthcoating, lots of tannin, long, sweet finish. 91 pts., tied for #1, and $24.99.

'00 Ch. Potelle VGS Zinfandel - Carried the same profile of the Gun-Bun but not to the same extremes, solid zin w/a long, spicy fruit finish. 90 pts., $42.99, and #3 of the night.

'00 Plumpjack Cab - Darkest wine of the evening, was nearly opaque. Very tight nose at first, opening to reveal cherry, herbs, and smoky oak. Somewhat thin flavors of dark cherry and cedary oak, fine-grained tannins and a warm, spicy fruit finish. Not bad, but it didn't pass muster against the others. $55, 85-86 pts., #6 WOTN.

Were it not for the price on some of these, I'd probably buy anyone of them having not tasted them before last night. I was pleasantly surprised w/the St. Francis Reserve Merlot, having had what appears to be a 'bad bottle of '99 Pagani Ranch Reserve Zin not too long ago.

Both zins were very nice, w/the Gun-Bun taking the WOTN honors (even before everyone knew the price). I also found the Arrowwood to be a fine bottle from an off vintage...just proves you need to taste your way through the '98s as they're obviously not all bad.

On a sidebar - we started the evening w/'01 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc - deep golden color looked more like a Chard than a SB, plush grapefruit and zippy citrus notes, w/a long, racy
finish. 90 pts. easy.

The dinner wine was the Marquis-Phillips '02 Cabernet Sauvignon - no need to elaborate 'cuz it was extremely tasty. Deep red-black color, oozing black fruits, eucalyptus, and sweet, chewy tannins. 91 pts., and a super buy $14.99.

(musings from the great white thread-killer!)

[This message was edited by kybo on Sep 21, 2003 at 10:23 AM.]
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Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by kybo:
'98 St. Francis Reserve Merlot: I'd rate this 86-87 pts. Suprisingly nice wine - #5 of 6, $43.99.

Were it not for the price on some of these, I'd probably buy anyone of them having not tasted them before last night.


Yeah, were it not for your later mention of a disappointing experience with the Pagani (I assume therefore casting a negative impression on St.Francis as a whole) I'd think California pricing has gone nuts without remedy: a $44 red that turns out to be 86-87 and "surprisingly nice" at best really speaks for the situation (and I guess St.Francis is all Sonoma, not just the Zin bottlings? Not that it means much in terms of $$ any more...)
I know this may not be 100% representative of the QPR one can expect from the top appellations--and there are still good values, more desperately sought after than ever-- but where the hell is the market heading for? No wonder some people feel more comfortable shelling twice that price for some guaranteed quality, but you have to have those bucks...and be ready to part with them .... Frown

I really hope the scenario is more promising when it comes to Cabernet (/blends)...

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Free Winona!
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Gastro-
I do believe you got my drift; my impressions on the wine were clearly based on the wine's merit, not the price. And yes, there is a much-chronicled disdain for St. Francis herein, and many other 'top tier' wineries of the same ilk.

I'm not averse to spending $$ on any wine provided I can realize some return on investment. The St. Francis reserve varietal wines of the 94-97 vintages were very nice wines and reasonably priced in the upper $20 to lower $30s. Even their '97 'Old Vines' Zin was superb at $18. Sadly, they jumped on the 'who's better then me' pricing bandwagon of the '98-99s and the quality hasn't kept pace.

As far as shelling out 2x or more for higher-quality (read: mailing list only) wines, I'm still bound by our state's archaic laws and choose not to expend the effort to circumvent. Add to that the notion of having to buy 3-5 cases of mid-level wine to get a bottle or two of the good stuff, and I say 'Thanks, but no thanks. Considering the vast numbers of other wines to choose from, and that I'm still getting used to my own palate, I'll opt to continue sampling for a while. I can always purchase by the car-load later.

What's interesting about the mailing list wine industry is that so many producers 'push' the mid-level stuff on club members for the priviledge of getting a few bottles of the 'good stuff'. An interesting way of guaranteeing they'll sell all they want to sell (and hit their revenue goals). If these producers' wines were actually that good, one would assume that in a free market system they'd sell out just as quickly, and perhaps at a higher price/margin.

(musings from the great white thread-killer!)
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I see; I merely had their Old Vines Zin ('98Frown ) and so thought most bottlings were priced likewise. I also tend to forget state restrictions (a superb extra nail for the coffin).
BTW, watch out (just realized you're at 1999) Wink Big Grin

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Free Winona!

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