Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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30th Anniversary Insights: Jancis Robinson Shares Her Tasting Notes

Last night’s re-run of the famous Judgment of Paris 1976 California v Bordeaux tasting was, much to general surprise, another walkover for California. Exactly the same Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines were tasted 30 years on. It was thought that perhaps after all this time the California wines might have fallen off their perch and the famous longevity­ of red Bordeaux would put the French wines in the ascendant but this was not the case.

There were some lovely wines in this blind tasting and, although I tried to view the wines completely objectively without trying to second guess their identity, I was aware that some of the wines could only be Californian and were some of the best.

Here are my tasting notes, as taken last night, in the raw.

The Original Paris Reds*

Ridge Monte Bello 1971 Santa Cruz Mountains
18.5 Drink til 2015
Dark, shaded ruby. Sw­eet, dusty, ‘thick’ impression on the nose. Very luscious ripe fruit topnote. A bit of dust but really interesting. This is still lively. Could it be Stag’s Leap? Very racy with great structure and still some fruit in the middle. Lots there though no excess of alcohol.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stag’s Leap Vineyards 1973 (predecessor to SLV) Napa Valley
18 Drink til 2010 and beyond
Extremely youthful crimson with hint of brick only at the rim. Very subtle but not especially intense. Hint of oyster shells. (Or do I make this Broadbentian comment just because I’m sitting next to him?) Lovely lift. Really racy. Still some tannin, old fashioned tannin, no tannin management here but great integrity and life. Could be Bordeaux. Very different flavours to wine 3 [Heitz] though similar structure. Neat finish. Could be Bordeaux.

Clos du Val 1972 Napa Valley
17.5 Drink now
The deepest colour. Great sweetness with some minerality. Sweet palate entry. Pretty sturdy and still some tannin in evidence. Could well be a 1970 bordeaux! Good balance and very lively – rather pure old-fashioned wine. Very brisk. Clean finish.

Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970 Pauillac
17 Drink til 2015
Shiny, russet colour. Muted, simple nose. Rich fruit with a dry finish, Surely Bordeaux? Not exciting but appetising. Well balanced and still motoring along. Neat finish.

Heitz (not Martha’s Vineyard) 1970 Napa Valley
16.5 Drink til 2010 and beyond
Deep crimson with only a narrow brick rim. Some cassis and mint on the nose. Very luscious fruit and then quite dusty. Still very lively, as though made for long bottle age. Pretty introvert, probably old style California. Long.

Château Léoville Las Cases 1971 St-Julien
16 Drink til 2010
Bright crimson, quite dark in the middle. Distinctly green, underripe notes on the nose. At first I found this note intrusive but after tasting the first six wines it seems rather refreshingly novel. Mellifluous palate entry but the dryness is after all just too much. Is this the LLC 1971? Very different from the rest, obviously the product of less sunshine. Lots of extract but not that much alcohol. Very straightforward, classic bordeaux of traditional style. Solid. Not heart-stopping but very solid. Very dry, rather drying tannins b­ut no shortage of fruit weight on the palate. Fresh finish. Bordeaux.

Mayacamas 1971 Napa Valley
15.5 Drink now
Dark crimson but slightly cloudy. Sweet, even a trace of American oak? But some gravelly notes too… Rich and lively with lots of character. Acidity is just starting to emerge.

Château Montrose 1970 St-Estèphe
15 Drink up
Very beautiful shaded ruby. Muted nose. Quite remarkably little at first. Smells OLD. Lots of acidity is the first impression. Rather dusty fading fruit. Tart though not dead. Rather hard finish.

Freemark Abbey 1969 Napa Valley
14 Drink up
Brick rim, very pale. Sweet with a menthol note. California. Mint toffee flavour, losing fruit and the acidity is coming to the fore.

Château Haut Brion 1970 Pessac-Léognan
13 Drink up
Relatively simple red. Hint of oxidation on the nose. Full and furry on the front palate then dry on the finish. [I wondered whether this was a bad bottle but Michel Bettane assured me this was quite typical.]