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Friday, December 28, 2007


2006 IX PROPRIETARY RED ESTATE
NAPA(release date 4/09)RED(95-98)
2005 IX PROPRIETARY RED ESTATE
NAPA(release date 4/08)RED97
2006 IX SYRAH ESTATE
NAPA(release date 4/09)RED(92-94)
2005 IX SYRAH ESTATE
NAPA(release date 4/08)RED95
2006 CABERNET SAUVIGNON TYCHSON HILL VYD.
NAPA(release date 11/09)RED(92-94+)
2005 CABERNET SAUVIGNON TYCHSON HILL VYD.
NAPA(release date 11/08)RED96+
2006 CARIAD PROPRIETARY RED WINE
NAPA(release date 11/09)RED(94-96)
2005 CARIAD PROPRIETARY RED WINE
NAPA(release date 11/08)RED96+
2006 CABERNET SAUVIGNON HERB LAMB VYD.
NAPA(release date 11/09)RED(92-95+)
2005 CABERNET SAUVIGNON HERB LAMB VYD.
NAPA(release date 11/08)RED94

Things are changing at this stunningly beautiful winery and estate (around 20 acres at the home property) overlooking Lake Hennessey at an elevation of 900-1,000 feet. The famed wine consultant Dr. Alain Raynaud from Bordeaux remains a fixture as an outside influence coming in to lend his expertise, but well-known winemaker Mark Aubert has left the premises, replaced by his assistant Allison Tauziet. The vineyard manager for the stars and mega-millionaires of Napa, David Abreu, remains in charge of overseeing everything from pruning to canopy management to crop-thinning decisions, and as everyone knows, he is a perfectionist. And of course, the guiding lights remain the proprietors, Ann Colgin and her husband, Joe Wender.

Both 2005 and 2006 stress the elegance of their sites in a more delineated, structured style than hotter, warmer years such as 2001, 2002, and 2003. The 2005 IX Syrah Estate is a dense purple-hued wine of polished elegance and finesse, subtle but intense aromatics offering up notes of earth, lard, meat, spring flowers as well as black and blue fruits. It is buttressed by good acidity, and fine, yet sweet tannins. This medium to full-bodied wine should evolve effortlessly for a decade or more. There are less than 400 cases of the estate wine. Ann Colgin and her winemaking team have been making Cabernet Sauvignon from the Herb Lamb Vineyard since 1992, but the production seems to get smaller and smaller every year. There are only 120 cases of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb. Always showing a subtle hit of bay leaf intermixed with chocolate, creme de cassis, and a bit of espresso, this wine boasts outstanding density, purity, full body, and good acidity and freshness. The wine has a gorgeous structure and has the potential for at least two decades of drinking and evolution. The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill, from that gently sloping vineyard just north of St. Helena, has a dense purple color like the other wines, and a beautiful nose of crushed rocks and pure, floral-infused black currant fruit interwoven with espresso and pain grille. The wine is dense, medium to full-bodied, with beautiful tannin, silky, expansive texture, and a long finish. Unfortunately, there are less than 300 cases of this wine, which requires 2-3 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 20-25 years. The good news is that there are 900 cases of the 2005 Cariad, the first vintage that Allison Tauziet worked at Colgin.

A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the wine seems to have the most complexity of all the 2005s, with notes of subtle menthol intermixed with blueberry, black currant, cedar, spice box, a hint of chocolate, and scorched earth. Very complex aromatics are followed by an equally compelling wine in the mouth. Full-bodied, with beautiful integration of acidity, tannin, wood, and alcohol, this is a beauty that is already drinking well but can last 20-25 more years. My favorite of the 2005 Colgins is the 2005 IX Proprietary Red Estate, a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The good news is that there are 1,500 cases of this blockbuster wine, which has a Bordeaux framework but the exuberance and richness as well as fruit purity of a great Napa wine. Deep purple in color with an extraordinary nose of scorched earth, blueberries, and black currants intermixed with some subtle charcoal notes, spice box and spring flowers, it is very full-bodied, but beautifully structured and well-delineated. With good acidity despite what is an extremely high pH (3.9), the total acids are reasonable. This is a beauty of harmony, power, and great intensity, but it is light on its feet, and an exceptional example of what this high-elevation hillside estate vineyard is capable of producing. This wine should hit its prime in 5-6 years and last for three or more decades.

In contrast to the very Bordeaux-like, structured, cooler-climate 2005s, the 2006s are much more fruit-forward and typically Californian, but without losing the exceptional personality and style of these great wines. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard is much more front-end loaded, another wine of exceptional purity, gorgeous cedary, black currant fruit, and some subtle herbs as well as spice in the background. Full-bodied, opulent, and seemingly more fleshy and succulent than the more delineated 2005, this wine should drink well early on and still last for 15-20 years. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill comes across as ripe, up-front, perhaps not as deep as previous vintages, but still a compelling Cabernet Sauvignon from the great site across from Freemark Abbey on Route 29. Dark ruby/purple with beautiful blueberry and blackberry fruit intermixed with some licorice, smoke, and earth, the wine is medium to full-bodied, ripe, long, but still reticent in terms of asserting its identity and overall personality. This wine should drink well for 20 or so years. About a third of the entire crop was declassified to produce the 2006 Cariad Proprietary Red.

This does show a more firmly structured character than either the Herb Lamb or Tychson Hill Cabernet Sauvignons. This wine has a dense ruby/purple color and firm, restrained, but promising aromas of smoke, camphor, crème de cassis, underbrush and mountain flowers. The wine is dense, full-bodied, rich, but still structured and backward in an almost Medoc-like style. Give this wine 3-4 years of bottle age and drink it over the following 20-25 years. The 2006 IX Proprietary Red Estate is a softer style, but is extremely exuberant and opulent, in almost complete contrast to the Cariad. The wine has remarkable crème de cassis notes intermixed with crushed rocks, acacia flowers, tobacco leaf, licorice, and smoke. It is a meaty, medium to full-bodied wine with gorgeous opulence, purity, and some nice chocolatey, black currant flavors. Light on its feet for a wine of such intensity and richness, I wouldn't be surprised if the tannins re-emerge once in bottle, with the wine evolving for 20-30+ years. Lastly, the 2006 IX Syrah Estate is a seamless example of Syrah, showing flowery, peppery bacon fat and blackberry notes intermixed with some earth and spice. Like all these Colgin wines, the oak is beautifully integrated and almost undetectable given the wealth of fruit and richness. This is a beauty of full-bodied suppleness that should drink nicely for 8-10+ years.

Previously recommended: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard (94), 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard (98), 2004 Cariad Proprietary Red Wine (99), 2004 IX Proprietary Red Estate (98), 2004 IX Syrah Estate (96).

Tel (707) 963-0999; Fax (707) 963-0996.

 By Robert M. Parker Jr.