Spottswoode Tasting. Pinot Provence, Costa Mesa

Earlier this week, they cleared the tables out of the main dining room of one my favorite fine dining restaurants in Orange County, Pinot Provence. Spottswoode, one of the finer estates in Napa Valley (St. Helena), who have consistently been making some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon since 1982, invited its loyal customers to taste select vintages of its Cabernet as well as a pre-release tasting of its upcoming fall release of the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The event was first class, attracted a number of familiar and notable collectors, wine merchants and new friends. Here are my quick tasting notes of the wines tasted.

2001 Sauvignon Blanc – A classic Sauvignon Blanc with tangy citrus flavors, hints of lemon grass and a bright crisp acidity that makes me long for a hot summer day and oysters on the half shell. Perhaps the best Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted. 91 points.

1986 Cabernet Sauvignon (from an Imperial) – I love tasting from large format bottles. 1986 was a great vintage in Napa, and this large format bottle showed how elegant and graceful Spottswoode a fine Napa wine can age. Showing dried fruits, cigar box and cedar on the nose with earth, dried cherry and cedar on the palate with a nice balance. Truly complex, but I’d expect more fruit from this vintage. A year ago the 1987 blew me away. Nice. 90 points

1989 Cabernet Sauvignon (from Double Magnum) – Showing its age but with character, the 1989 was dried fruit, nut and earth. On the palate a tad tannic with a slight acidity and earthy, dried brush flavors. 87 points

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon – Sweet oak, very aromatic with even cola notes on the notes. The wine is big and tannic and could use more time. Some ripe fruit balanced with dried fruit flavors. 89 points

(L or Top) Linday Novak, Owner, Spottswoode Venyards with Amar Dhillon, President, Platinum Associates

(R or Bottom) Amar Dhillon, Rosemary Cakebread, Spottswoode Winemaker; Jim Branch, WebTrend Graphics

1995 Cabernet Sauvignon – Bright and not as aromatic as the 1992 but explodes with black cherry and ripe berry on the palate. Nicely balanced yet still showing solid tannins. Great now. Great in the future. 94 points

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon – Can anyone say the word chocolate? Mocha. And sweet seductive tannins with extremely mild acidity. This wine screams drink me now. I had to go back and taste a 2nd and 3rd time to make sure I wasn’t simply taken back by its sweetness. Truly a wonderfully drinking wine. 93 points

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon – The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is that the ladies of Spottswoode have given it a vineyard designation — Spottswoode Estate Vineyard. The trend in Napa and elsewhere in California and much of the “new world” is to sell wine from single designated vineyards. This is a great marketing gimmick and for many historical Napa Vineyards there are a few great stories. Most winemakers would admit they’d rather not designate the vineyard because that leaves more possibilities for blending a better wine. But for the most part, it’s marketing. For 30 years Spottswoode Cabernet production has been around 4000-5000 cases. I’m sure the majority of the fruit that has gone into this wine has been from its estate vineyard on Madrona Lane in Napa Valley. So what does this new label tell me? I should have asked, but perhaps Spottswoode plans to introduce a new wine? We’ll have to wait and see. But the 2000 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled in May 2002 and this was one of its first public tasting. Like most youngsters, the wine showed classic flavors that show the pedigree of Spottswoode’s choice of new french oak with toasty vanilla, butterscotch and black cherry flavors. This wine is one of the favorite 2000’s I’ve tasted. It will be released in the fall of 2003 and my case order is in. 92 points.

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