June 7 2009
Somewhere in the haze of polemic wine punditry, where every old idea can be given a fresh coat of paint and proffered as original thought, Napa got caught up in the overripe wine discussion, lumped in with the hegemony of “Parker’s Palate,” given “poster boy” status.
With my decidedly ‘New World’ palate, it’s a subject I find of interest, if for no other reason than to explore a categorical rebuke that can’t possibly be as tidy as others may make it seem.
Simply, in my worldview, there has to be striations in this “Parker’s Palate” category.
Surely, we’re not all tasting the same thing and throwing entire categories of wines into this bucket … entire categories like “Napa Cab,” for example.
Here’s my take: in the realm of New World wine styles, where 14% + alcohol and French new oak are de facto standards, most Napa Cabs, flagships for California wine, are unnecessarily painted with the black brush of ill repute, the Scarlet Letter of what’s wrong with the domestic wine scene, reactionary victims to the power of one man, caught up in the collateral wreckage.
Simply, I do not, have not, and will not buy into the notion that Napa Cabs, as a category, are overripe, unctuous, hedonistic fruit bombs.
Dare I say it, but I would go to the extent to say most Napa Cabs have an acid streak that makes them food-friendly, provided that food is a steak, ideally off a grill.
Now, this whistling in the wind on my part shouldn’t be an indicator that I don’t believe these offending candy-like wines exist – they do, I’ve tasted them. In fact, I find that many (not all) Australian Shiraz, Central Coast Rhone reds, Lodi Zins, and Argentinean Malbec’s fall into that grapey, oaked, viscous, vanillin, “what the hell do you eat with this” category.
Just not Napa Cab.
No, these are steakhouse wines. Foils for a porterhouse, or bone-in ribeye, but not foils for the quasi-Old World, draping themselves in food-friendliness; the anti-Parker contingent.
If anything, brush them with the acceptable “New World” brush, just not the “Parker’s Palate” brush that immediately polarizes …
Call them expense account, wood-paneled, ego-driven powerful wines, just don’t lump them into the Parker bucket of offensive wines.
Here are three good ones, all would be dandy with a grilled hunk of red meat … all have enough backbone and nuance to complement a memorable meal.
2004 Cornerstone Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2002 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Merryvale Starmont Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon