Live from Napa Valley, it’s the Wine Writers Symposium!
After dinner last night we had a “post-prandial” tasting of older Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. As this was not a formal tasting, I made only token notes, and confined myself pretty much to a single consideration: How’s it drinking? Is it too old, still young, or just right? My findings didn’t surprise me: in general, Napa Cab is best drunk young — say, below 8 years.
Here are the wines, with quick comments:
Oakville Ranch 1998: too old
Juslyn 1999: hard, dur; may not be ready.
Truchard 1999: overripe, pruny
Corison 2000: lovely. We had this wine last month in NYC and it was really good.
Keenan 1994 Hillside Estate: on the down side
Peju 1999 Reserve: too old, leathery
Dalla Valle 1995: extraordinary. Near perfect. Still plenty of time.
Jones 1997: old-fashioned, dry. A puzzle. Could develop.
Farella-Park 1995: raisiny, tannic
Trefethen 1981: dried out
Duckhorn 1991: dried out, raisiny
Spring Mountain 1987: old, dry, tannic
Also there was the 1WineDude himself, Joe Roberts. We were talking about how so many people think that, just because a Cabernet comes from Napa Valley and is old, it’s got to be good. Not!
A few notes, after the first day of the WWS: Ran into Alder Yarrow at check-in and sat with him at dinner. It was nice to see Eric Asimov looking hale and hearty. The seminar’s director, Jim Gordon, is my editor from the old days, and it’s always a pleasure to see him. Saw a few other familiar faces, but most of the people were newcomers to me.
“What’s the word? That’s the mystery.” Thus spake Frances Mayes (“Under the Tuscan Sun”), the keynote speaker, describing how to describe a 30-year old Barolo. Finding the right word is the wine writer’s challenge, obligation and joy. Ms. Mayes correctly reminded us how hard that can be, and that the writer must not rest until he knows his copy cannot be improved.
Several panel members pointed to the analogy between the “sense of place” the writer tries to create, and the “sense of place” of a wine, i.e. terroir. I’ve never been as convinced as some that a single vineyard is necessary for a great wine. I think a great wine can be blended from different places. That’s just me. I know lots of others disagree.
Today we are off to the Culinary Institute of America for a bunch of workshops, including one led by my old buddy and former Wine Enthusiast colleague, Jeff Morgan, and one by Karen MacNeil, who was kind enough to write a dust jacket recco for my first book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River. Also speaking will be Michael Bauer, the S.F. Chronicle’s Food and Wine Editor and restaurant reviewer; he will, I trust, be out of disguise. My own panels are on Thursday; I’ll report on them on Friday morning.