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The Big Report: The Best of Northern California

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Saturday, August 31, 2002

(New and upcoming releases from 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001)

(not yet determined, release date 11/04)RED(96-100)
(not yet determined, release date 11/03)RED(88-90)
($165.00, release date 11/02)RED95
(not yet determined, release date 11/04)RED(96-100)
(not yet determined, release date 11/03)RED(92-95)
(not yet determined, release date 11/04)RED(96-100)
(not yet determined, release date 11/03)RED(90-93)
($165.00, release date 11/02)RED91

Ann Colgin has put together an outstanding winemaking team to continue the brilliant work done by Helen Turley between 1992-1998. The full-time winemaker, Mark Aubert, formerly of Peter Michael Winery, is assisted by the well-known, former president of Bordeaux's Union des Grands Crus and château owner, Dr. Alain Raynaud. My tasting at Colgin was one of the highlights of my visit, with three potentially perfect wines as well as two of the greatest offerings from the 2000 vintage ... no small achievement.

The 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard is performing significantly better out of bottle than it did from cask. This 200-case cuvée spent 26 months in oak. Its opaque purple color is followed by a gorgeous perfume of graphite, crème de cassis, and licorice, and full-bodied, layered, concentrated flavors with superb balance and density. Surprisingly sweet tannin as well as an explosive finish have developed over the last year. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2020+. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard reveals this vineyard's tell-tale, wild mountain flower, blueberry liqueur, and cassis characteristics. Although it does not possess the color intensity or body of the 1999, it is a Bordeaux-styled Cabernet offering good structure, sweet ripeness on the attack, and nicely-integrated new oak. Restrained and elegant, it is a successful effort for the vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2015. The awesome 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard (400 cases) enjoyed a remarkable 55-day maceration on its skins. While the tannin is high, it is barely noticeable given the wine's extraordinary richness, concentration, and seamless texture. The opaque blue/purple color is followed by spectacular aromatics consisting of graphite, crème de cassis, smoke, and blueberries. This deep, opulent, full-bodied, profound 2001 will rival the singular Herb Lamb Cabernets from 1997, 1996, 1995, and 1994. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2025.

A new vineyard, Tychson Hill (named after the Colgin residential property), came into production in 1999, but was ruined in a winemaking accident at the immense cooperative, the Napa Wine Company. Hence, 2000 is the first vintage of this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon cuvée. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill (300 cases) is one of the most remarkable offerings from this challenging vintage. An extraordinary bouquet of acacia flowers, blueberries, and crème de cassis jumps from the glass of this dense, pure, intense, powerful yet elegant effort. This is a notable achievement in a vintage such as 2000. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2015. The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill is other-worldly. A compelling, opaque purple-colored offering, its beautiful aromas of blueberry liqueur intermixed with licorice, sweet cassis, smoke, and subtle vanilla envelop the olfactory senses in a subtle but convincing fashion. There are no hard edges to be found in this masterpiece of Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking. Fabulously rich, unctuously-textured, yet remarkably light on its feet for such great presence and purity, with a finish that lasts for over a minute, this is a modern day legend in the making. It may be the greatest wine Ann Colgin, her husband, Joe Wender, and their winemaking team of Mark Aubert and Dr. Alain Raynaud have yet produced. Magnificent! Anticipated maturity: 20062025+

Colgin's new proprietary red wine offering (which I referred to as Madrona Ranch in issue #132 of The Wine Advocate) has been officially named "Cariad" (Welsh for 'love"). The fruit for this cuvée comes from Madrona Ranch, located in the northwestern corner of St. Helena. The only exception is a tiny amount of Petit Verdot (ranging from 5%-7% in the final blend) that emerges from a vineyard owned by David Abreu and Ric Foreman called Thorevilos. The 1999 Cariad (450 cases) is a Bordeaux-like blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot that could easily pass for a high-class Médoc. It offers a complex nose of cedar, spice box, minerals, currants, and loamy soil, with well-integrated sweet oak, a layered texture, wonderful elegance, sweet fruit, and terrific length. It is hard to believe this wine was aged in 100% new Taransaud barrels as their influence is subtle. The vintage's austerity is evident in the wine's finish, so 3-4 years of cellaring is suggested. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2018. Also Bordeaux-like, the 2000 Cariad (made from the same blend as the 1999) is layered and concentrated, with a sweeter, deeper palate. Its length, ripeness of fruit, and intensity are (atypically) superior to the 1999. This brilliant, elegant, floral, perfumed claret look-alike will be at its finest between 2005-2020. Another magnum opus in the making is the 2001 Cariad. There are 500 cases of this 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petit Verdot blend. The taster's palate and olfactory senses are buried in a smorgasbord of aromas, flavors, nuances, and a texture to die for. Is this 2001 a modern day, New World version of a great 1947 or 1949 Bordeaux? There is an opulence and viscosity to the fruit that is remarkable, yet there is an elegance as well as extraordinary complexity to the aromas and flavors. Black fruits galore mixed with smoke, incense, espresso, and crème de cassis are present in this amazing tour de force in winemaking. It will unquestionably firm up at some point during its evolution, but this was one of the single most distinctive proprietary red wines I tasted from what is undoubtedly a spectacular vintage for North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2030.

Colgin, which is already a so-called "cult" wine, seems to have pushed the envelope of quality even higher ... as hard as that is to believe. As always, the truth is in the bottle ... in vino veritas. Tel. (707) 524-4445; Fax (310) 889-0085

 By Robert M. Parker, Jr.