HE Says: Our annual USC/UCLA Venom and Vinum super-secret, under the radar, blind wine tasting happened late last year. 19 years. So, 19 years – just a little younger than She.
SHE Says: Bwa, ha, ha! That’s the kind of math I love. My disclaimer – I’ve only been around for 7 of those years.
He continues: As I’ve written before, the clandestine wine tasting takes place the night before the USC Trojans-UCLA Bruins football game. There are 12-18 of us each year, with allegiances split about 50-49 between the two schools (She providing the odd number as she has allegiance to the marching bands.) The venom refers to the words we exchange before the game, deriding the opposition school and their football program. This year, both football teams were pretty lackluster and the game featured a lot of ugly football. Nonetheless, we’re happy that our Trojans were victorious once again and have won 8 of the last 9 games.
She interrupts: How’s my special friend, Art Bartner doing?
He continues: The band was great as always. 2010 was the 19th straight year we’ve held this event, which includes a great dinner and then a blind tasting. We change the wine theme each year – this year it was 2007 cabernets from Napa, California, priced between $15 and $45. The 2007 harvest in Napa is considered one of the finest in a several decades, and the 7 wines we tasted confirmed that. Very little separated one wine from another and overall it was perhaps the best tasting we’ve ever done.
The results and our comments:
2007 Buehler Vineyards Cabernet “Kindly Well” Napa Valley – the evening’s top wine.
He says: This is a boutique wine offered through the Premiere Napa Valley program bought thru an auction, and later sold at a local L.A. wine store for about $33. The grapes come from a hillside block they call Kindly Well at Buehler. It had a nice nose and was very well balanced. I tasted cherry and sage/cedar flavors, and thought the winemaker did a fine job with it. It tied for the highest score overall, and won our tiebreaker. I scored it an excellent 16 and my second favorite wine, but it will likely be difficult to find.
She says: Nice, but I’m not sure you’ll last more than a week in my house.
She also says: Hard-to-find. Ai! Drive me crazy with difficulty. I hate that. Unfortunately He’s right this time. I searched all over “the internets” for you – at least two whole websites – and I couldn’t find “Kindly Well” at any price. Bummer.
2007 Provenance Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet – This is the wine we brought, and it finished tied for first but was edged out on the tiebreaker. Chris Cooney and Tom Rinaldi (formerly at Duckhorn) made this terrific cab, priced around $35.
He says: It had a nice nose, with a very good body and structure. Like a supermodel! Predominant berry flavors. It was very soft and low on tannins, so I’d recommend drinking it soon. I gave it a strong 15+ and had scored it as my third favorite wine.
She says: Smells like caramel, tastes like wine. Your mind is so busy I can’t figure out what you want.
2007 Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet – Our friend Andy brought this wonderful wine, which was easily the biggest of the 7. It cost about $45 and scored a great 94 in Wine Spectator.
He says: It was a very big and bold wine, with medium-high tannins that masked the fruit. The wine was tasting tight at first, but with thirty minutes in the glass it started opening up and revealing itself. Because of the tannins, it has great aging potential and you’d want to sit it down for at least 5 years, and probably 10 to 15. I gave it my highest score, an excellent 16, but others felt it was too tight and it finished in 6th place.
She says: Dark water.
2007 Caravan Cabernet – Karen and Steve brought this wine ($33), which is produced by Darioush. The cab is blended with 14% merlot and 4% each of petit verdot and malbec, all from their estate and Mt. Veeder Vineyards.
He says: The wine was very smooth, with a slight chocolate/cocoa and cherry flavors. It had good structure and medium low tannins, and I recommend that you drink it within three years. I gave it an very strong 15+ and rated it 4th best, as did the group.
She says: Big, bold and complicated, aren’t you? I’ll have to spend some time figuring you out.
2007 Main & Geary Cabernet –
He says: Ken and Nanci brought this wine ($20) and while it had a big nose, it exhibited sour cherry flavors to me. It seemed like the alcohol was a bit higher and it didn’t really do much for me (a fair 14), but the group had it tied for fourth.
She says: Broad shoulders. I could definitely spend the weekend with you.
2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Educated Guess Cabernet –
He says: Another selection from Ken and Nanci ($18) that I had read comments on for being a good value. It was very soft, with very low tannins. Very slight cherry flavors, with almost a sweet note to them. Definitely meant to be opened right away. I ranked it 5th with a fair 14, but the group scored it last. In all fairness though, only a handful of points separated first from last in our group.
She says: There’s an awful lot of alcohol on your breath, darlin’ – but you’re strong and steady and that’s how I like it.
He says: Our friends Cari and Chad brought this $20 cab and while I found it just OK, it ranked third in our group, just one point off the top. It has a really intoxicating nose, but I found the body to be thin. I gave this a fair 14 and had it as my least favorite.
She says: He doesn’t understand you – but I do.
He says: In summary, I think the Round Pond will be the most ageworthy of the wines, and if you’re looking for something to drink now or in the next few years, I’d recommend the Provenance Rutherford and the Caravan cabs, which should both be readily available. The Buehler is terrific, but will be hard to find.
She says: In summary – Here’s a picture of a hand drawing of a caterpillar in the upper right hand corner of my wine notes – and it reads “My Caterpillar”. If I had more of an explanation for you I would share, I swear I would – but alas, I do not know what prompted this. Wine + pen + paper = anything can happen.