I remember when the 1997 vintage of Napa cabernets and Bordeaux blends
were released and the general notion was that the wines would quickly
fall apart. 1997 was the first year of ultra-ripe, ultra
concentrated, ultra-oaked, ultra plush, Parkerized wines from Napa
(the whole phenom started a few years earlier but by 1997 it was in
full stride). I brought out a bottle of 1997 Merryvale Profile a
proprietary blend of cabernet, merlot and cabernet franc, to drink
with dinner tonight. I haven't visited the wine in years and expected
a disjointed mess of a wine. Wrong. The wine was quite tasty,
prototypical Napa Bordeaux blend. Very dark purple with a hint of
brick at the rim. Effusive nose of ripe blackberriesand Napa dust.
The wine was full of ripe, sweet black fruits, cassis and a bit of
oak. Very plush, well resolved tannins. The wine has aged quite well
and has a number of years ahead. "B+/A-"
That's the problem with vintage generalizations, isn't it? With the
caveat that I'd pretty much stopped buying CalCabs by '97, I will say
that I've read of plenty of disappointment with aged CalCabs from that
year. However, looking at the CellarTracker notes for your wine, they
seem pretty uniformly good (with a few people noting Brett), so it seems
like Merryvale managed to avoid the pitfalls of the vintage. I'd also
be willing to put good money on Dunn and Chateau Montelena from that
year not having fallen apart, too ;-)
I can attest to the Montelena and Dunn having tasted both within the
last few months. I'm not sure Montelena and Dunn ever fall apart. I
opened one of my last few '78 Montelena's recently and it is still
There were maybe two GSM blends, but no varietal Grenache that I saw at
the places I stopped at. It's possible that Beckmen might have had one,
but it wasn't in the "Purisima Mountain" flight of wines that I tasted.
I will add, though, that I've never been taken with CA Grenaches,
finding them far simpler and less compelling than the Grenache-heavy
wines from the S. Rhone that I love.
I still have several bottles of California Cabernet Sauvignons and
Bordeaux-type blends from the 1970s that still are holding. These
include Ch. Montelena 1974; Sterling Reserve 1975; Joseph Phelps
Insignia 1974 & 1978; Ridge Monte Bello 1972, 73,74,76. Others from
the 70s that I have not tasted recently include Robert Mondavi
Reserve !974,75,78; Heitz Fay 1975; Heitz Martha's 1976; Heitz Bella
Oaks 1977; Freemark Abbey Bosche 1972,74,76,78. There also are a few
others from the 1970s. Some of the monster wines of the 1970s did fall
apart and some have mainly tannin to offer now. However it is
surprising how many red California wines of high repute that have been
well stored still are very good.
I saw your notes on the GSM. I've had a few intriguing California
grenache wines most notable from Sine Qua Non and Alban. Both were
pure grenache, delicious but really pricey. I was looking for more
moderate price levels for a grenache based wine.