The SOMM Journal

December 2017 / January 2018

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Page 113 of 124

{ }  113 It's been 41 years since the Judgement of Paris broke the glass ceiling for California wines, causing some California cult Cabernets to begin out-fetching First Growth prices. But the French had a valid point: Ageworthiness is at the crux of "Great Cabernet" mystique, and the test of a crème- de-la-crème Cabernet is its ability to improve with time. The very best only reach the pinnacle of their potential decades after release. Now that California has some decades under its belt, we thought it would be interesting to ask eight highly-regarded somms to weigh in on how California's two premier Cabernet appellations are weathering that test of time. In August, we invited them to join us at Healdsburg's vaunted SingleThread Farm Restaurant for a three- decade retrospective blind tasting of Napa and Sonoma Cabs. This retrospective, however, wasn't intended to serve as a replay of the 1976 Bordeaux vs. Cali battle royal. Lisa Mattson, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Jordan Winery who hatched the idea for the tasting, explained, "The objective is to explore the evolution of the California Cabernet category on its own merits." Evan Hufford, who directs the SingleThread Farm wine program, agreed. "I don't think Bordeaux needs to be on the table," he said. "California Cabernets have the age now where they can be judged on their own." Eight wineries generously provided precious library wines from 1987, 1997, and 2007: Corison, Mayacamas Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and Frog's Leap from Napa; and Laurel Glen Vineyard, Jordan, A. Rafanelli, and Alexander Valley Vineyards from Sonoma. The wines would be evaluated by four esteemed somms from the San Francisco Bay Area and four from Seattle. Matt Montrose of Atelier Crenn and Matthew Dulle of Lazy Bear, both in San Francisco, joined Hufford and Micah Clark of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena on Team San Francisco. Team Seattle, meanwhile, comprised Nelson Daquip of Canlis; Martin Beally of Wild Ginger ; Aaron Wood- Snyderman of Metropolitan Grill; and Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen of RN74. Hufford's staff bagged the wines by vintage, randomly mixing Napa and Sonoma, before the somms went to work on the 1987s. In Hufford's opening recap of the unusually-challenging vintage, he mused whether the wines had "smoothed" over time. Drought and intermittent heat spikes initially made for wines resembling immature teenagers: full of promise and undisciplined tannins. THE THREE- DECADE RETROSPECTIVE REVEALS THE EVOLUTION OF CALIFORNIA WINEMAKING by Diane Denham / photos by Alex Rubin A group of esteemed somms gathered in Healdsburg, CA, for a blind tasting of California Cabernets. From left to right: Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, Lead Sommelier, Mina Group, RN74; Micah Clark, Wine Director, The Restaurant at Meadowood; Matt Montrose, Wine Director, Atelier Crenn; Martin Beally, Wine Director, Wild Ginger; Aaron Wood-Snyderman, Wine Director, Metropolitan Grill; Nelson Daquip, Wine and Spirits Director, Canlis; Matthew Dulle, Beverage Director, Lazy Bear; Kyle Connaughton, Chef/Owner, SingleThread Farm; and Evan Hufford, Wine Director, SingleThread Farm.

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