Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cellar report: 2003 Owen Roe "Walla Walla- Isadore Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon...drinker beware!

Once again I was reminded of the frailty of the new style American red wine. You know the wine I'm talking about. Those super-ripe, rich, and high octane behemoths that seemingly are de rigueur in the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate if you have any hope of attaining the 90+ point score that is the holy grail for American winemakers. I get it. A high score leads to two tangible benefits: the wine is so much easier to sell, plus you can jack your prices up because there is a certain sad, needy segment of the wine buying public who just have to have those bottles. And from experience I can tell you that in blind tastings, which is how the Spectator and Advocate supposedly do much of their scoring, these big bruisers will always stand out as impressive over the more nuanced, better balanced, and more age worthy reds.

The downside, as I was reminded last night, is that wines that should easily age for 10+ years are already toppling over the Cliffs of Drinkability at just 6 years of age. I took a bottle of 2003 Owen Roe "Walla Walla- Isadore Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon to an otherwise stellar dinner at Bar Avignon (their bavette steak, exquisitely tender and perfectly cooked, may be the current top piece of beef in PDX) last night with my good friend Jake. Now there is practically no one in our local wine biz who has my respect more than Owen Roe's absurdly talented leader David O'Reilly. Which is why it was somewhat shocking that this $40+ cab (back in 2003) was already edging over the freshness line. It was still deeply colored, rich, and quite delicious. But the vibrancy of the fruit was already starting to slip away, and in a wine still to young to develop those treasured secondary aromas and flavors that are the reward for wine dorks like who cellar these bottles for several years. This in a wine that The Wine Spectator rated at 90 points and said "Best from 2007 through 2014." I wish I had popped the cork about 2 years ago and enjoyed it while it was still bursting with youthful exuberance. It was like a 40 year old guy who suddenly starts to develop senility. He's just too damn young, isn't he?

It just proves what I've been discovering more and more, which is that this new style of American red wine, which demands a 14% or 15%+ alcohol level from letting the grapes get so ripe, while undeniably delicious and hedonistic drinking experiences while young, just don't have the acid and tannin balance to ensure longevity. As I tweeted about this one "Great 5 yr. wines, after that, drinker beware!" Which really is a fucking shame considering the prices being asked, which start at $40 and rapidly escalate. No wonder my cellar is filled with southern French and Italian wines. Half the price, incredible food affinity (thank you acidity and tannin and moderate alcohol levels), and possessed of so much more potential.

8 comments:

Paul said...

I completely agree! I once did a vertical at Far Niente and you could pin the year easily where it all went horribly jammy. On a positive note, an Italian favorite of mine is Travaglini Gattinara -- the one in the squarish bottle. Taught and gorgeous.

Bernard and Eva said...

I have a few bottles of Owen Roe (our favorite) in the cellar, and generally I love David's wines. I'm hoping the consumer wine palate will appreciate the subtlety of craftsmanship so winemakers will not be "forced" to make huge fruit bombs. I think Owen Roe wines typically have the "best of both worlds" with the old world earthiness and new world fruit, it would be a shame to lose that quality!

Bernard
www.portlandoregonwine.com

bb said...

Paul...love the Piedmont reds. Alcohol under control, not excessive ripeness (usually). When you can buy great single vineyard Barolo and Barbaresco for much less than these overwrought U.S. wines, then I know where my $$ are going!

B&E...I'm with you on your thoughts on David. But I'm finding some of his...and too many others...big, high alcohol, super-ripe fruit bombs just don't hold up.

RM said...

I have a number of Owen Roe & Sineann wines dating back to 2002 and I haven't noticed any dimunition of flavor in them yet. Peter's Baby Poux cab from 2003 is still great as is his Old Vines Zin.
I don't believe that Sinister Hand from 2003 was designed to age but it was still fresh when I last had a bottle a few months ago. I guess I'll keep an eye on these older wines.

I did try my next to last bottle of 2002 Marzianno Abbona Barbera d'Alba last month and it was still tasting very nice. About time to get some more of this.

SWIRL said...

Not to be oppositional but my wife and I seldom enjoy the WW "bigs" without seven to ten years shelf life on them. We are just now enjoying our Cayuse' from 2002; all the jamminess has been tamed and they can be enjoyed with food. Thanks for the tip on O. Roe. We will move our stash forward in our rotation.

bb said...

RM and SWIRL....I think it all depends on the vintage and the winemaker. I know that in the hot '03 vintage the fruit got away from some of them. And i agree with SWIRL that a little time to let the initial fruit calm down is a good thing. And RM, I love Barbera. My fave wine at VINO right now is an '04 Lequio that is drinking superbly!
Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...

Not to jump on the bandwagon but I would add Adea's 2001 Pinot (both Yamhill and Coleman vinyards) to this list. These wines had completely come apart. The fruit had faded and in it's place just alcohol fumes. Very disappointing. Same with an '03 from the same producer when young the wines are tasty but on reflection not worth the price (even though I bought them on sale directly from the producer). Caveat emptor.

Frank said...

Hmm, I'm feeling sheepish because I thought that Owen Roe was great. On the other hand, I'd already been at Bar Avignon for quite awhile....