Disclaimer: Since the lackeys at the Federal Trade Commission, in their infinitesimal wisdom, have decided that bloggers must divulge when they have been given a sample of anything that they review on their sites, I must now offer up this admission: I did not pay for this wine. The winery was kind enough to send a sample.
Phew, now don’t we all feel better? Oh, I almost forgot. After the last Wine Blogger Conference we visited a friend who told us that she was meeting some other friends of ours for dinner, and that we should join them. It turned out we were crashing a private tasting and dinner afterwards. The same gentleman who sent me this wine, not only picked up the tab for our dinners, he also brought along some of the most amazing aged Napa Cabs from the winery’s cellars that I have ever tasted. We even had a wonderful conversation that included my three favorite subjects; food, wine and music.
So, I have now done my duty as a responsible blogger to make sure that all of you reading this know that the wine described in this post was given to me as a sample, and that I have a “relationship” with the person who sent it, and I even have some warm, fuzzy memories that are related to this winery. Towards the end of the dinner, very fuzzy memories. Oh, and wait, I almost forgot to tell you something else, we also follow each other on Twitter. Please forgive me for omitting that initially, and I hope you accept that it was a memory lapse and not a deliberate attempt to deceive.
Now, if I were a REAL journalist, like Geraldo, Lou Dobbs or Glenn Beck, this disclaimer would not be necessary. The fact that they are part of the traditional corporate media apparently means that they are qualified to receive samples, and a whole lot of other things, without ever losing their objectivity. A company could send them cases of anal itch cream or whatever it is that they put into their coffee that makes them so batshit crazy talented, and they and their employers would not be required by this new regulation to disclose the fact that they did not pay a thing to keep from having to scratch their asses so often when they go to commercial break. Not that I have any reason to believe that any of those fine men suffers from rectal itching, or anything, I merely bring it up as a hypothetical example.
Isn’t it nice to know that your government is protecting us from people like me? I mean really, shouldn’t you know that the wine I recommend was given to me as a sample? That way if I say it is excellent while possibly even confirming that Wine Spectator’s high score on their legally undisclosed sample of the same bottle; you know that I may or may not have a bias because I did not pay for it.
Now, some folks believe that this new rule would not stand up to a challenge. I tend to think that is the case as well. However, I, and almost every other wine blogger I know, tend to always mention when we are reviewing a sample anyway. It makes for a good story, such as the one about the dinner that I mention above, and really need to write an entire post about some day.
Now that the FTC is happy, and I have done my due diligence to my readers, I will remove my tongue from my cheek and my middle finger from the air, and get on with the wine. Thus ends the mandated disclaimer portion of this post.
One more word about samples, if I may try your patience for a moment longer. While it is a wonderful perk of writing about food and wine, having this “free” wine does come with some difficulties. When a winemaker, PR person, or distributor sends us a bottle for review they have the reasonable expectation that we will drink it in a reasonable time frame. Some bloggers review every bottle they are sent, others do not. Our policy is to only review wines that we really like and would recommend to a friend. Regardless of whether we write a review or not, we do try to taste everything that we get in as timely a fashion as possible.
Where does the difficulty come in? When a bottle of something like the wine being reviewed today comes in, I know that if I let it age for a bit it will become everything the wine maker, and wine drinkers for that matter, hope it will become. By opening it while it is so young, not only am I not tasting it when it has reached it’s full potential, I am ensuring that one of a finite number of bottles of something special will never be tasted.
I know, compared to what we all have to do at our jobs every day, being ‘required’ to open and drink a fabulous wine before it is completely ready isn’t high on the list of terrible gigs, but if you have a real passion for wine I think you can see the dilemna. While I was excited with anticipation prior to tasting this, I did feel a stab of guilt commensurate to what the cork may have felt as the corkscrew violated it.
So, you’re probably wondering, and rightly so after having had to read so much blather, how was this wine that I was forced to cut down in its youth, long before it had the chance to become everything it could be? Well, I’m glad you asked! It was spectacular.
In case you’ve forgotten as so much time has passed, I am referring to the 2006 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines like this are why the Napa Valley has the reputation that it does. Nowhere else on earth can produce something this bold, powerful, and complex in exactly this way. Like the Cabs of the Right Bank in Bordeaux, once you have tasted an excellent example, there is a sense of place that exemplifies the best wine unique to that region. Cornerstone Cellars is one of the wineries that exemplifies that for Napa.
The color of this wine is a deep, almost opaque purple so impenetrable that light seems to bounce off of the surface. The color barely lightens as it nears the edge of the rim, hinting at the power in the glass. Despite my nose being slightly out of commission due to allergies, some aromas of dark cherry, bright raspberry, and rich fresh-tilled earth managed to penetrate.
Amy’s note on the nose said: Dark cherry, blackberry, boysenberry and leather. It reminded her of a leather chair in a hunting lodge. I will try to flatter myself that it was the meal that I cooked that had her waxing poetic, but I know in my heart that it was the wine.
As young as this Cab is, I expected the tannins to be an obstacle that would need to be overcome while trying to get to the fruit. That, however, was not the case at all. While it possesses great structure, the tannins are already velvety and smooth and not overpowering at all. The only hint of youth in the mouthfeel is the way it makes the back of the tongue feel a little dry.
The first sip had me rolling my eyes and making noises like the star of a Food Network show during the money shot tasting their own cooking. Gobs of all sorts of combined rich, ripe fruit hit the tongue before separating into more individual flavors of black cherry, red raspberry, coffee, and milk chocolate. As these powerful flavors begin to retreat on the palate, they are joined by hints of plum, leather and a little cranberry. All of these components combine in a finish that seems like it will never end. It is a finish that demands to be savored.
Despite the common wisdom that California wine, particularly Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, is not made to go with food, we very successfully paired this with 1 1/2 inch steaks of grain-fed prime beef, freshly baked sourdough dinner rolls, and cooked spinach seasoned with toasted garlic and lemon. Proving, yet again, that most common wisdom, particularly as it applies to wine, is utter bullshit that gets passed around anyway in lieu of actual knowledge. Face it, wisdom just ain’t that common of a commodity.
Which reminds me, I may also be friends with Cornerstone Cellars on Facebook. Shoot, I should have put that in my disclaimer. I hope the FTC doesn’t fine me.