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Saturday, May 01, 2004

Stephen Tanzer's Tasting Notes for May/June 2004

Colgin Cellars

Ann Colgin and husband Joe Wender purchased this property from the David Arthur family on a hilltop above Lake Hennessey in 1998 and planted syrah and Bordeaux red varieties in 2000.Winemaker Mark Aubert describes the soil as "thin and austere, about 60% rocks."Barrel tastings of the 2002 wines from these vines suggest that this site will be the source of great wines from the outset. The Colgin reds have very high alcohol and high pHs-in the neighborhood of 4.0 for the 2001s and 2002s. They should be knockouts in their youth but should also age well based on their huge concentration and tannin levels. (I suspect, however, that many Colgin wanabees without the requisite extract and tannic support will lose their fruit and fall on their faces in a much shorter time frame, especially where cellar temperatures are not sufficiently low and care is not paid to sulfur levels at bottling.)The Colgin 2001s remained on their skins for 40 to 50 days, and the 2002s for 55 days, with a total of about 30 pumpovers per vat. These wines are some of the North Coast's most flamboyantly rich examples.

2001 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard
($175) Deep ruby. Aromas of black raspberry and bitter chocolate. Sweet, lush and dense, with powerful flavors of raspberry, blueberry, licorice and dark chocolate. Quite broad but uncompromisingly dry, like a Medoc wine. Finishes with substantial firm tannins. Comes across as distinctly less sweet than the Tychson Hill bottling.

2001 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Napa Valley
($200) Saturated ruby. Exotic aromas of roasted blackberry, minerals and bitter chocolate; distinctly liqueur-like. Then wonderfully sweet and full, with compelling richness and ripeness and strong notes of torrefaction and exotic spices to go with its flavors of cassis, minerals, underbrush and earth. This boasts the almost confectionery fruit quality of the best 2001s. Finishes with firm but fine tannins and outstanding palate-staining length. The crop level here was around 1.5 tons per acre, according to winemaker Aubert.

2001 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley
($200; a blend of 55% cabernet sauvignon, 31% merlot, 7% cabernet franc and 7% petit verdot) Saturated medium ruby. Knockout nose of blackberry liqueur, bitter chocolate, espresso, black licorice and smoky oak. Dense, chocolatey and extremely deep, with a sweetness of fruit that goes even beyond the Tychson Hill bottling. Thick and exotic, with liqueur-like notes of dark chocolate and licorice carrying through on the palate. Hiding its structure today, as the wine's tannins are buried under a wave of fruit.

2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard
Saturated full ruby. Great sappy aromas of black raspberry liqueur, espresso and tarry oak. Wonderfully ripe and sweet, with a distinctly lusher texture than the comparatively rigorous 2001 version. Offers a compelling roasted richness and superb depth of flavor. The extraction seems near-perfect here. Finishes with a wave of supple tannins that reach the front teeth. This may surpass the 2001.

2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Napa Valley
Saturated medium ruby. Musky, multidimensional nose combines black raspberry, espresso, tarry oak and subtle earthy spices. Thick and lush but with powerful underlying rocky spine. Boasts great depth of sweet fruit, spice and earth flavors. A wine of uncanny concentration and power. The huge but lush tannins coat the molars.

2002 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley
(a blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot, 4% cab franc and 2% petit verdot) Deep ruby to the rim. Flamboyantly deep aromas of blackberry, cassis, black cherry, violet, leather and dusty herbs. Offers great volume and lush texture. Shares the extraordinary depth of the Tychson Hill cuvee but comes across today as a bit less confectionery. Here, too, the major tannins are almost magically suave, and the finishing flavors go on and on. These 2002s were scheduled to be bottled in April.

2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon IX Estate Napa Valley
(from the third leaf for these estate vines; includes 10% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot) Good deep ruby color. Superripe but bright aromas of blackberry, minerals, flint and red licorice; shows a rocky character a bit like that of the Tychson Hill. Then supersweet, lush and chocolatey. With a bit less depth of flavor owing to the young vines, one is more aware of the Taransaud oak and the wine's powerful tannins.

2002 Colgin Syrah IX Estate Napa Valley
(aged in 50% new Francois Freres and Remond barrels) Saturated ruby. Extravagant aromas of blackberry, violet and gunflint. Sweet, lush and opulent, with succulent flavors of black fruits, violet, bitter chocolate and pepper. Boasts Northern Rhone-like aromatic complexity with California ripeness and texture, and that's a powerful combination indeed. Finishes with a huge tannic structure that should enable this very high-pH, high-alcohol (16%) wine to age well. Aubert practices very reductive winemaking for syrah: this wine was racked after the malolactic fermentation and will get a second racking only for the bottling.

 By Stephen Tanzer