A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

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Austin Fulk
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A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#1 Post by Austin Fulk » June 2nd, 2019, 10:39 am

1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select - USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District (6/1/2019)
Decanted for sediment and consumed over the course of about 2 hours. Not much in the way of tannins, but still big, plush, and enjoyable with lots of black fruits on the nose and palate including black berries, black cherries, and raspberries. Not very complex and few secondary nuances, but very enjoyable for its richness. Holding up well, but hasn't really evolved. (94 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

1996 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley (6/1/2019)
Decanted for sediment and consumed over the course of 2 hours. Rather Bordeaux-like, with still a nice tannic backbone and a nose of red currants and cranberries. Lots of red fruits on the palate, including strawberry and cherry. Not extremely complex, but a number of different elements going on. (93 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

The Montalena was enjoyed with a dinner of Flannery hanger steak, roasted spring vegetables, and goose fat fried potatoes with garlic and parsley. Both were enjoyable in their own ways. I've always thought of Montelena as a wine worth aging for the way it will develop, and HSS as one where pretty much what you see at the start is what you get, and this confirmed both of these views.

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Anton D
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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#2 Post by Anton D » June 2nd, 2019, 12:09 pm

Great notes, great meat!

I share your general conclusion regarding both!
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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#3 Post by Howard Cooper » June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm

This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Howard

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#4 Post by Blair Ridley » June 2nd, 2019, 2:40 pm

Thanks for the notes Austin. The quote I pasted below is exactly the reason I stopped buying Shafer Hillside Select. No doubt it's a wonderful wine, but I found that I prefer complexity with my aged cabernets, especially at that price point. I've had plenty of vintages of the Shafer HS cabernet, but didn't ever find the complexity I craved.
Austin Fulk wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 10:39 am
Not very complex and few secondary nuances

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Chris Seiber
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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#5 Post by Chris Seiber » June 2nd, 2019, 3:43 pm

Howard Cooper wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Basically it’s for each person to decide, based on what is most important to you, and based on how long you want to age your wines.

I think my answer would be the same as yours, but very few people age wines (even expensive Cabernets) for several decades, so many of them might prefer the wine that is most delicious younger over the one that would surpass it 20+ years later.

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#6 Post by Austin Fulk » June 2nd, 2019, 4:02 pm

Howard Cooper wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Personally, I think a wine can be great if it’s great to my taste from the start even if it doesn’t change for the better. I love different types of wines including some big, fruit dominated, California wines such as Shafer Hillside Select and Pride’s Reserve Cabernet. They are never going to be mistaken for an aged Bordeaux, but that’s not what I want from them. I love the fact that they are fruit driven, but also the balance of that with acidity and tannins that they have. They don’t need to change and I don’t want them to change.

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#7 Post by David Glasser » June 2nd, 2019, 5:16 pm

Howard, Shafer isnt my favorite wine but it is one of my favorite California wines, so maybe I’m not the target audience for your question. I have no expectations for Shafer to turn into Bordeaux with age.

Montelena and Ridge Monte Bello are also favorite California wines, and while they do age and develop complexity, they don’t turn into Bordeaux either. They fill a different niche than either Shafer or classic Bordeaux.

BTW, Austin did a great job of capturing both wines and the essential differences between them.

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#8 Post by Howard Cooper » June 2nd, 2019, 7:47 pm

David Glasser wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 5:16 pm
Howard, Shafer isnt my favorite wine but it is one of my favorite California wines, so maybe I’m not the target audience for your question. I have no expectations for Shafer to turn into Bordeaux with age.

Montelena and Ridge Monte Bello are also favorite California wines, and while they do age and develop complexity, they don’t turn into Bordeaux either. They fill a different niche than either Shafer or classic Bordeaux.

BTW, Austin did a great job of capturing both wines and the essential differences between them.
I agree that wines like Ridge Monte Bello, Chateau Montelena, Dunn and a number of others never turn into Bordeaux, nor should they. But they do show positive aging characteristics that are unique to great California Cabernet and do not merely hold. I agree with you that they fill a different niche from Bordeaux and IMHO that is what makes these wines special. Bordeaux is not the sole model for how Cabernet ages.

I also agree that Austin did a great job of capturing both wines and the essential differences between them. That is what enabled me to ask the question I asked.

For me, it is certainly not essential for California Cabernet to age like Bordeaux to be great. In fact, since I agree with something David Schildknecht once said - that wines of distinction are wines of distinctiveness - I kind of think it would be a mark against a California wine that it tastes like Bordeaux. But, I do think a Cabernet based wine that does not age cannot be great. And, there are plenty of examples of California Cabernet that do age (and not merely hold) and do so on their own distinctive terms - a sign of greatness.
Howard

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#9 Post by David Glasser » June 3rd, 2019, 7:29 am

We’re perfectly aligned on this Howard. Where people get frustrated is when they try to fit a distinctive wine like Monte Bello into a different niche than it naturally occupies, like expecting it to turn into Bordeaux. That was me before I learned to enjoy it for what it is.

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#10 Post by BobH » June 3rd, 2019, 7:32 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Certainly, Shafer Hillside is my favorite California wine. And the 96 was my favorite of all of their wines from 96-present. My first ever 100 point wine, in fact. However, it's peak was 15 years or more ago. I am not at all shocked that the wine is less than it was back then. But that is typical of most Cali cabs. I can't say that it is or isn't a sign of greatness. You are what you are, and these wines are best with about 5-8 years of age on them for the most part.
hud@k

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#11 Post by Howard Cooper » June 3rd, 2019, 8:03 am

David Glasser wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:29 am
We’re perfectly aligned on this Howard. Where people get frustrated is when they try to fit a distinctive wine like Monte Bello into a different niche than it naturally occupies, like expecting it to turn into Bordeaux. That was me before I learned to enjoy it for what it is.
David, you are correct. We are perfectly aligned on this. I have difficulty with the idea that terroir is important, but that California Cabernet should taste like Bordeaux.
Howard

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#12 Post by Howard Cooper » June 3rd, 2019, 8:08 am

David Glasser wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:29 am
We’re perfectly aligned on this Howard. Where people get frustrated is when they try to fit a distinctive wine like Monte Bello into a different niche than it naturally occupies, like expecting it to turn into Bordeaux. That was me before I learned to enjoy it for what it is.
To me, it isn’t a question of how quickly or slowly a wine ages or matures. It is more a question of whether the wine ever develops more complex secondary or tertiary flavors.
Howard

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#13 Post by Jeremy C » June 3rd, 2019, 10:59 am

BobH wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:32 am
Howard Cooper wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Certainly, Shafer Hillside is my favorite California wine. And the 96 was my favorite of all of their wines from 96-present. My first ever 100 point wine, in fact. However, it's peak was 15 years or more ago. I am not at all shocked that the wine is less than it was back then. But that is typical of most Cali cabs. I can't say that it is or isn't a sign of greatness. You are what you are, and these wines are best with about 5-8 years of age on them for the most part.
5-8 years is a shorter amount of time than I would have thought for this wine
Cuth.bert.son

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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#14 Post by Roy Piper » June 3rd, 2019, 7:13 pm

Good notes!
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Re: A Tale of 2 1996 Cabs

#15 Post by R_Gilbane » June 3rd, 2019, 7:54 pm

BobH wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:32 am
Howard Cooper wrote:
June 2nd, 2019, 12:38 pm
This raises an interesting question. On a number of threads, I have read people saying that Shafer Hillside Select is their favorite wine. Can a red wine from Cabernet be considered great if it holds up well but does not really evolve. Or do wines from California (and I want to keep this with California and not get into religious discussions of California vs. Bordeaux, etc.) that do age and evolve have to be considered "greater" than do wines from California that hold up well.
Certainly, Shafer Hillside is my favorite California wine. And the 96 was my favorite of all of their wines from 96-present. My first ever 100 point wine, in fact. However, it's peak was 15 years or more ago. I am not at all shocked that the wine is less than it was back then. But that is typical of most Cali cabs. I can't say that it is or isn't a sign of greatness. You are what you are, and these wines are best with about 5-8 years of age on them for the most part.
I have to disagree with the broad brush used on “most Cali cabs”. I understand why a lot of folks love HSS even though it’s not my exactly my cup of (Napa) tea. Napa is a big place with plenty of different styles for different tastes. Some age gracefully, some not so much.
Bobby

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