WCC 1991 California Cabernet Blind
at Salty's Pub, Clifton Park, NY, (10/6/2006)

The WCC got together recently for a blind tasting of 1991 Cabernet-based wines from California. The restaurant was Salty's Pub & Bistro in Clifton Park, NY, which had very good food, in spite of the name and location (in a strip mall). Sadly, Salty's closed in 2019.

All wines were double-decanted (meaning decanted then put back in the bottle). The approximate decant time before the tasting is given below for each wine. The tasting ran from 7:30 to 10:30. The group ranking is given at the end. All wines were served blind in random order.

Flight 1

1. Stag's Leap Cask 23 (2 hours)
Gorgeous nose of woods, smoked meat, and chocolate. Medium body. A little sour in the mouth. Bitter on the finish. Disappointing. 89 points.

2. Dalla Valle Napa Estate (24 hours)
Much darker than 1. More reserved nose which is slightly alcoholic. Thick, rich and tannic in the mouth. Wow! A powerhouse. Delicious black berries. Very long finish. 97 points.
2 hours later: More forward than many of the following wines, but definitely one of my favorites of the tasting. My 3rd WOTN. Tied for Group 5th WOTN.

3. Beringer Private Reserve (7 hours)
Big nose of super-ripe black fruits and bell pepper. Herbal finish. Has bite in the finish that I don't like. Others like it better. 90? points. Tied for Group 5th WOTN.

4. Shafer Hillside Select (3 hours)
Big bruiser nose of black fruits. Thick, silky, tasty, classic Napa cab. Sweet black fruit. A superb bottle of wine. Great balance. 95 points.

Flight 2

5. Newton Unfiltered (7 hours)
Cedar and mint nose. Thick, silky, tannic. Extracted and ripe. Very young. Huge, meaty, and terrific! Classic Napa! 95–96 points.

6. Montelena Estate (10 hours)
Sweet cedar nose. Rich complex cedar and dark red fruits in the mouth. Wow! Dark and fabulous! A great wine! A Napa Lafite? 97 points. My 2nd WOTN but very close to WOTN. Group WOTN by a 1 point over #13.

7. Dominus Estate (10 hours)
Herbal nose, tomatoes and oregano? Thin and tart on finish. A bit cooked? Disappointing whatever it is. NR
Open 2 hours: Nose turning to mint. A little tart but quite appealing now. Still not quite right, but tasty now. 92 points.

8. Phelps Insignia (28 hours)
Backward, woody nose. So backward, tart and tannic now it's hard to judge, but others like it a lot. Very meaty and structured. I think it has a lot of potential, but it's very hard for me to judge. Doesn't thrill me right now. 92–?? points. Group 4th WOTN.

Flight 3

9. Ridge Monte Bello (24 hours)
Alcoholic nose. Huge, tannic, ripe. Complex minerals and sweet fruit. A touch off in the finish for me. 93 points. Group 3rd WOTN.

10. La Jota Howell Mountain (24 hours)
Monster nose. Huge, ripe, intense, spectacular! Huge fruit. A monster, but so much fun to drink now. Gobs of cherries. Stunning! 96 points.

11. 1990 Ch. Pichon Baron (3 hours)
Herbal nose. Tannic, herbal palate. Something here I don't like. Bad bottle? NR

12. Mondavi Reserve (24 hours)
Cedar mulch nose. Rich in the mouth. Sweet fruit and tannin. Lots of chocolate. Nice stuff. 93–95 points. Tied for Group 5th WOTN.

13. Ridge Monte Bello (13 hours)
Gorgeous nose of cedar. Expansive in the mouth. Explodes in the back of the mouth. Great! 98 points. My WOTN by a small margin over #6. Group 2nd WOTN by 1 point behind #6.

WOTN Voting
(3pts each for #1, 2pts for #2, 1pt for #3)

123Montelena Estate
222Ridge Monte Bello (#13)
311Ridge Monte Bello #9
48Phelps Insignia
5(tie)2Dalla Valle Napa
5(tie)2Beringer Private Reserve
5(tie)2Mondavi Reserve




All original content © Ken Vastola