"The longer the 2003s stayed in the tank, the sweeter they got," noted winemaker Mark Aubert. The phenolic material was there in the first place but the wines just kept getting better and better, not to mention darker. Total maceration times for the outsized cabernet-based wines of Ann Colgin and Joe Wender are now between 50 and 60 days. As of the beginning of March, the young 2003s had not yet been racked, and Aubert anticipated racking them only in preparation for the bottling, as he did with the 2002s. My early look at the 2003s suggests that they will be more tannic and oaky than the 2002s, but it's entirely possible that some of their woodiness will be absorbed during their final months of elevage. Aubert noted that the 2002s possess a somewhat cooler fruit character and show less evidence of surmaturite than the 2003s despite their thoroughly ripe tannins. These are some of California's richest and most massive red wines.
2003 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard
(15.2% alcohol) Good saturated medium ruby. Roasted black raspberry, mocha, coffee and charred oak, with just a hint of raisining. Dense and rich, with flavors of blackcurrant, tobacco, chocolate and charry oak. Finishes broad and tannic, without quite the consistent sweetness of Colgin's other 2003 barrel samples.
2003 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Napa Valley
(15.3% alcohol) Good full ruby. Knockout nose combines black cherry, raspberry, licorice and flowers, all complemented by sexy woodsmoke; for a moment, this reminded me of a superripe but sappy pinot! Then wonderfully sweet, dense and silky, with primary black fruit flavors of outstanding concentration. Finishes with sweet, toothcoating tannins and explosive fruit.
2003 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley
(15.6% alcohol; a blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon, 36% merlot, 9% petit verdot and 5% cabernet franc) Saturated ruby. Brooding aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, Asia n spices, leather and sexy new oak. Lush, chewy and rich, with wonderfully deep flavors of black raspberry and spices. Finishes with big, sweet tannins and a lingering note of charred oak.
2003 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon IX Estate Napa Valley
(15.6% alcohol; a blend of 64% cabernet sauvignon, 31% merlot, 3% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot) Saturated deep ruby. Roasted black raspberry and fla mboyant chocolatey oak on the nose. Lush and seamless, with a texture of liquid velvet. Compelling, primary flavors of blackberry, chocolate and flowers. Perhaps best today on the huge, rising finish, which features substantial but utterly lush tannins that reach the front teeth and great lingering sweetness. This will be just the second commercial vintage from the steep hillsides around this mountaintop winery overlooking Lake Hennessey.
2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard
($200; this north-facing vineyard was the last to be picked in 2002) Saturated ruby. Highly aromatic nose of black raspberry, violet, mocha and smoked meat, lifted by sexy baking spices. Dense, chewy and thick but leavened by its sheer extract and sappiness. This has virtually liqueur-like ripeness but comes across as fresher and fruitier than the young 2003. Finishes with outstanding length and substantial ripe tannins. Winemaker Aubert says that of the Colgin sites, this vineyard produces fruit highest in phenolics.
2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Napa Valley
($250) Saturated deep ruby. Extravagantly complex aromas of cassis, smoked meat, truffle, graphite and rocks, all lifted by an exotic whiff of orange oil; remains just this side of roasted and conveys a powerful impression of soil character. Then almost shockingly vibrant in the mouth, with compellingly deep flavors of black raspberry, flowers and minerals. This chewy, tactile wine offers extraordinary palate coverage. Finishes with a fine dusting of thoroughly ripe tannins and great palate-staining persistence.
2002 Colgin Cariad Napa Valley
($225) Saturated deep ruby. Utterly distinctive aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, Asia n spices, duck sauce, exotic herbs and flowers. Silky, lush and dense, with wonderfully subtle oak character. This actually comes across as tighter and leaner than the Tychson Hill, and more elegant, but this is due to the wine's surprising acidity and firm underlying structure, which also keep this blend remarkably fresh. A fascinating blend with a rising finish that's rare for North Coast red wine at this level of ripeness. This may merit an even higher score with six to eight years of additional bottle aging.
2002 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon IX Estate Napa Valley
($165; from soil that Mark Aubert describes as "60% rocks") Good full ruby. Hugely complex, somewhat exotic aromas of black raspberry, black cherry, blueberry, plum, mocha, minerals and woodsmoke. Suave, lush, thick and seamless, yet with plenty of inner-palate energy. Very concentrated flavor of creme de cassis, with notes of exotic spices and soy sauce. Finishes with big, chewy, sweet tannins and great breadth. From vines in their third leaf, cropped at just a half-ton an acre. I underestimated this wine when I tasted it from barrel a year ago.
2003 Colgin Syrah IX Estate Napa Valley
(from a crop level of one ton per acre; done in 100% new oak) Full ruby. Knockout nose of black raspberry, bacon fat, gunflint and white pepper. Dense and compellingly sweet but with a light touch. Offers an intriguing saline note. A thick but sappy syrah with outstanding potential. This has never been racked, according to winemaker Aubert.
2002 Colgin Syrah IX Estate Napa Valley
($125; cropped at a half-ton an acre and aged in 50% new oak) Saturated ruby. Aromas of raspberry, bacon fat, smoked meat and woodsmoke. Superripe flavors of roasted raspberry and woodsmoke. A saline, thick wine that saturates the palate. Plenty of sexy oak showing; in fact, I find this more oaky than the 2003, which is aging in all new barrels. Finishes with broad, major tannins and terrific length.