December 10, 2010

An Unintended Study in Contrasts: Bordeaux vs. California

You may recall the post from earlier in the week regarding the motherload tasting of Cru Beaujolais. That was certainly a good time, but later that same evening we had time, perhaps more time, to contemplate some additional wines over dinner. Three of the wines served during dinner provided an interesting study in styles of  wines that are highly rated, not inexpensive, and often used in comparing old vs. new world wines styles. The three wines were the 2003 Chateau Angelus, a Grand Cru Class Bordeaux from St. Emilion, and two cult Cabernets from Napa Valley, the 2008 Rivers Marie Cabernet, and the 2008 Kapscandy Cabernet.
What is interesting about comparing these wines (and that was not the intention of this tasting) is just how different these wines were. The Angelus, a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend from Bordeaux, showed some of the textbook qualities one looks for from great Bordeaux wines. Despite being from the ripe 2003 vintage, it was full of floral elements, long cedar notes, and a darkness of fruit that permeates without overt sweetness. It was young, but still a pleasure to drink with the beef tenderloin.
Now...both California wines were obviously young being from 2008...so perhaps this comparison is unfair at the onset. However, the fact that the California wines were nearly unpalatable to my old-world leaning palate is worth noting. Also, worth noting is that there were 8 other people at the table with varying interest in wine who agreed with my assessment. Both of the California Cabernets were uber-ripe and extracted, dripping with sweet fruit to the point that they were really difficult to drink and overpowered the food.

What is interesting is that the two California wines have garnered much praise from popular press like Wine Spectator, and wine critics like Robert Parker. Parker has come under fire in recent years for almost single-handedly leading to the proliferation of spoofilated-wines, wines that are highly extracted and loaded with alcohol. See, Parker likes those type of wines, and when he slaps a 100 point score on a wine (as he did with the 2007 Kapscandy Cabernet), people go ape-shit for the wine. I suppose it comes down to personal preference; there are plenty of people who might appreciate these wines. There was a time when I might have liked these wines...but that time is long gone now and tasting wines like these only confirms that for me.


As long as people remain moderate drinkers for the rest of their lives, no help with alcoholism would ever be necessary.




2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a killer dinner! I haven't tasted anything from Rivers Marie but have heard all the good things. I'm surprised to hear it was so over-the-top goopy. From what I've heard people say (more about the Pinots than Cab), the wines have a major focus on balance. Sounds like the '08 got away from 'em

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  2. Jonathan,
    Thanks for the comment. In all fairness, the Rivers Marie was young, and '08 is not going to win any praise as a great vintage, in general.
    I was a Rivers Marie list member for their first releases in '04 and '05 and I thought those wines were in balance, which is the profile to which you allude.
    I don't know if this wine wasn't actually flawed, or if TRB would stand by it...it was somewhat uncharacteristic of a RM Cab. If I was the only one who felt it that night, I'd think it was me. But it was unanimous.
    Thanks again.
    Cheers!

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