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Vintage Imports show offers peeks at past and future

October 29, 2018

Watch the hype on the new release 2008 Roederer Cristal, $24, 93 McD. It is being compared to the vaunted 97-point 1990, selling now at $525 and up. If you are buying this type of wine, I’d say look at the 2007, priced at $190 and up. The 1990 rates 99 points, and the 2007 is 95-96. I’ve had all three. It’s a rare bird who will see the difference. Buy two of the 2007; it will cellar thru 2025 at least but is drinking great now. 

I took the opportunity to attend the Vintage Imports portfolio tasting at the Sugarhouse Casino and Event Center in Philly. The center is a very well-appointed business with plenty of parking and a gorgeous view of the Delaware River. The staff was efficient and courteous. It was clean and neat. I was impressed with the quality of the food they served also; it was well above the normal wine-tasting fare, well chosen and tastefully presented. As expected, VI and 65 producers they represent put on a diverse selection of fine products. I was fortunate to get an invite for Marguerite. She has arrived as a proficient evaluator. We normally separate and then compare notes. There are so many selections, this allows me to cover a lot of ground. It also avails me of another opinion. Although I taught my children about wine, Marguerite has a well-defined palate and easily separates the chaff. There were over 360 products to sample. I had already been exposed to roughly 235, but that still left a lot of ground to cover. Normally, I go through the book, starring new items to visit first. Two stars for wines I wish to revisit, three for wine too good to pass up. I don’t prompt Marguerite. We confer as we go. The readership, after all, is not monolithic.

Keynote show was a 50th anniversary presentation by Joe Cusimano and Lorenzo Trefethen, third-generation scion of Trefethen Family Vineyards. Lorenzo was an enthusiastic, informed proselytizer for the family farm and business. When grandparents Eugene and Catherine founded Trefethen in 1968, there were 25 operating wineries in Napa. Most were hanging on by their teeth. Trefethen was the first post-Volstead Act winery to be established in California. The family bought the Eschol Farm with its gravity-fed winery. Although I was aware of Trefethen’s successes in putting Napa on the map by winning French competition awards, I learned quite a bit.  It is fascinating and curious. Folks can read  here: http://www.trefethen.com/Our-Story/The-Historic-Winery.

Lorenzo showed four Chardonnays and four Cabs. As I’ve explained previously, it is only necessary that Cali Cabs employ 75 percent or more Cabernet Sauvignon to make them eponymous. Most Cali Cabs are actually blends. Trefethen Chardonnay, which we sampled, was 100 percent. All spent time on oak. Let’s start with the only Chard I could find for sale. The 1988, 1995 and 2009 are unfindable by me. The Oak Knoll label, from 2012 on, falls into the 89-90 point/under $25 window. These are good-value Napa Chardonnays. We sampled the 2016; I give it 90 points under $24. It took silver at IWC and San Fran Chronicle Comp. My notes read: good value, complex nose white flowers, toast, green apple, full mouthfeel with trop fruit, bright acidity provides clean finish, great with white sauce dishes. A little cellar time will improve. Of the Cabs, the 1986, 1995 and 2000 Library selections are only available at the vineyards. Let me assure you they were delicious. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon with Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot needs time, as expected. I’d advise looking at the 91-point 2010 at $58; the 2016 is $50. The 2010 is findable. Floral nose with violets and jasmine, red berry flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced, needs time. Those who want top shelf Reserve Cabs can take a look at Trefethen Hillspring Vineyard Halo Cab 2012. This will run you $220; it is worth it. Comparable to most Napa top-shelf producers. Very dark, with blackberry, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco and hint of eucalyptus bouquet. Pleasingly rich palate of cherries, chocolate, great acid/tannin frame plus color says age me to 2020. If you are impatient, either don’t buy, or decant. More from VI next week. The above link, by the way, is a very fact-filled, historic look at the early Cali wine industry.