Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

1997 Whitehall Lane Leonardini Merlot

Another California wine that has aged well. This wine was great, perhaps at its peak, five years ago, but like a beautiful woman, it is still beautiful five years later with perhaps a subtle touch of refinement. Healthily red blooded with no more youthful purple blush, but full of refined flavors of raspberry and chocolate in a subdued subtle way, not as great as a 20 year old Bordeaux, but a pleasure to drink nevertheless. Who says American wines don't age well? Me! Except that some of them do pretty well. Unfortunately this is hard to guess at, although reserve wines and wines from specific vineyards generally age better as do many so-called cult wines, although this is not always true. What a shame that winemakers seem more and more reluctant to reveal their intentiona and best guess about when a wine achieve maturity and how long it will last. Matt Kramer recently wrote about his experinece of floundering around without a list of tips and without the ease he experienced as a professional wine writer offered free sample all the time - kind of like the first President Bush not knowing about a bar code scanner in a supemarket.


  • At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Mark V Marino said…

    Hello Gene,
    Of course great aged Bordeaux is incredible, but there are many wines from California that are great too. I had a 1983 and a 1985 Steltzner Cabernet that were fantastic! I had a Dry Creek Petite sirah 1985 that was wonderful. The Beringer 1974 Reserve Cabernet is fantastic as many of Sbargia's reserve Cabernet. Anthony Bell the old BV wine maker is making some great Cabernet at Bell.
    Acidity is what you are speaking of in regard to aging some of those cult wines are made from fruit with a sugar of 28-30 these are typically closer to a ph of 4 than 3.5 and a alcohol of 14-15 rather than 12-13. This is of course the oldest wine maker's argument in the history of wine making. I have written several articles on this old vs new school of wine making!

  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger Stewart Kenneth Moore (Booda) said…

    Nice comparison.

  • At 10:47 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Hi Mark. Yes, it's a matter of winemaking style. If only winemakers would gives us a hint, instead of wasting space on the back label with romantic BS or technical sounding grape percentages. In the 1970s, most really good California wines were made in a high acid, high tannin style, to outdo the Europeans, witness my post on 1976 Burgess Zin which finally reached its peak thirty plus years later. The 1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard hasn't done too badly either, but these days too many American wines just don't last. Gene

  • At 10:48 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Thanks, Stewart.

  • At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Gene - Your comment about back label crap would make for a great topic for discussion. Personally, get rid of the bad poetry and very bad humor. While we can never take ourselves too seriously, I really have to laugh more at garbage I read on the back labels (read...these darling grapes were picked with white gloves and sung to as the oompa loompa's gathered them for their final resting place). BARF! Oh, recently had the Whitehall 99' Reserve Cab Sauv, big fruit and nice balance.

  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Right on, anon! Let's all discuss back label crap! How about an honest description and an honest guess about drinkability. I think Whitehall is still a stealth "poor man's"(i.e., less than $1400) cult wine. Anyway many of them are damn good. Gene


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