Napa's 2004 vintage

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Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Fri Oct 06, 2006 1:44 pm

On a Canadian board, someone asked how the 2004 vintage had been. By way of answer, someone helpfully posted both Parker's take and the Wine Spectactor's. Maybe I have a tin ear, but to me Parker's comments sound straight out of the Damning With Faint Praise Department (what does he mean by "from the front backwards"?). I was therefore struck by the difference with Laube's Lauds--Jimbo grades the vintage an excellent A-.

Now I don't live by any of this $#!t except to feel gratitude to Mr. P. as his confusing comments might be the reason I have been able to get the delightful Copain 04's (I know they're not Napa wines, but from afar many buyers think it's all the same) at auction for about half the usual MSRP, just to mention one direct benefit. I'll take charming and seductive over dense concentration any day.

Anyway, here's what the boys said:

Parker
The newest vintage, 2004, was a small crop in the north, and because of that, many people, including this critic, were expecting much more concentrated wines than were actually produced. I love the power, richness, and character of the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, but many Zinfandels, Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Cabernet Francs, while charming, seductive, and loaded with fruit, are essentially built from the front backwards. Only a few reveal the dense concentration and overall potential of the finest 2003s, 2002s, or 2001s. Zinfandel looks especially spotty, yet the Burgundy varietals did well, and the Bordeaux varietals produced attractive, high alcohol wines that should be undeniably appealing in their youth. However, only the finest will be interesting at 12-15 years of age.

Spectator
REGION: California/Napa Valley
GRADE: A-
Short and sweet summarizes the 2004 vintage in both Napa and Sonoma counties--the harvest was early, the crop was small and the grapes ripened well. Winemakers were optimistic about quality, saying that most of the major grape varieties came in without a hitch. About the only complaint vintners had was that the crop size was 20 percent to 50 percent below normal, according to many reports.

In Napa Valley, vintners said the young reds were intense, deep colored and very concentrated; they were also alcoholic. A hot spell at harvest proved tricky, said Craig Williams of Joseph Phelps Vineyards. "September was incredibly warm and dry," he said; many vineyards had varying degrees of "shriveling or concentration," which held crop loads at Phelps to two tons per acre for most varieties. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc look great, Williams said, and the 2004 reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, remind him of 2002. "They're very compelling, very seamless, with great color," making them a notch better than 2003, he said. --James Laube
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Brian K Miller » Fri Oct 06, 2006 2:15 pm

I tried at the winery tasting room the 2004 Regusci Cabernet Sauvignon and found it an extremely powerful, tannic monster-but delicious enough to pick up two bottles. I was very impressed! (Despite a tiny touch of attitude by the tasting room staff)

All the other tasting rooms are still pouring 2003s or even 2002s.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Fri Oct 06, 2006 5:56 pm

Oh, there will a lot of lovely 04s, Brian. I'm just amused at the way wine buyers react to such things--on the other board that I mentioned, one person responded that these bad reports are why she's sitting out the 04 vintage in California. Another guy said well, he hoped the top wines would still be good because of aggressive cropping. You'd have thought Laube and Parker had completely panned the vintage as a complete disaster which, inconsistent as their descriptions look to me, they most certainly did not do.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Mishy M. » Fri Oct 06, 2006 6:43 pm

Jenise my dear,
When one doesn't have the ability to obtain personal experience in the regions, microclimates and vintages before they buy, any vintage, they have to rely on second-hand reports. The reports out of California (in general) are not overwhelmingly good for this one ('04) and even worse for '05s...........
I keep an eye on such things as my money is somewhat scarce for wine so I have to best-buy in this way. I not only do I read vintage reports but watch weather forecasts within the wine-world during vintages.
One doesn't need to subscribe to Arpy or Lauby but their web-advice, as well as others is taken into account when deciding which wines and regions.
Ultimately, trying before you buy is the best possible course of action overall for me, but sometimes you may not have that option, especially those who don't have the time or $ to wine-taste throughout the regions.
I'm certainly not a sheep, I just study as much as I can and do my best with all the info I read.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Fri Oct 06, 2006 9:57 pm

Mishy, didn't call anyone a sheep--I don't think in those terms. But I was surprised, yes, at your comment about sitting out the vintage in light of the fact that the Wine Spectator rated the vintage on the whole pretty well and Parker used a lot of positive terminology even though it was peppered with words like "spotty". Of course, I know you read other boards and have friends "on the ground" who would be giving you their personal opinions too, and you would be taking all that into account.

Yes, it's best to taste the wines. And I've tasted very few of the 04's. But I've just loved the few I've tasted and so would you--they definitely qualify as "charming and seductive", attributes I know you appreciate.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Mishy M. » Sat Oct 07, 2006 2:15 am

Well, in general I usually sit pretty light on California because, as you know, the pricing is atrocious here.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply you as rude or nasty, you are always kind in person as well as on-line.
I love California, the wines and the state, I'm just pissed I can't go out and order them like everyone else. I'd certainly buy a few gems, especially with more specific vintage/regional info,...........but what we get here is mostly an insult to my palate and budget.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Sat Oct 07, 2006 2:40 am

Okay, now you're talking language I understand. The prices of California wines up there are really over the top, and who would spend the money on most of them when you have equivalent quality from other places at half the price? Maybe it's just because I grew up in California and know the home-boy pricing too well, but I just can't imagine paying the prices asked of you guys in Canada be it a great vintage or just so-so. Where, of course, I'll part with the same kind of money for wines from far-away places.

And here's a backatcha from me: while making dinner, I was thinking about this exchange. And really, you're right to call me on this because I said some time back that I was "sitting out" the 2003 vintage in the Rhone, and that's in spite of critical acclaim. I just know that I generally don't like hot vintage wines, and there's no sense in my even trying to get lucky. Maybe that's how you feel about California in a vintage that Parker made look pot-holey, it's just that I thought you were fairly calibrated with Jim Laube and to me it looked like he thought highly of 04 there. It sure is getting to where even Californians can't afford California wine, though.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Mishy M. » Sat Oct 07, 2006 2:59 am

Hmmm, my palate mirrors Laube ? I never knew that :D .
I have never thought my palate mirrors anyone, although "generally" again, I do listen to both Parker and Laube, yet I have serious "issues" with Arpy. The biggest one is out of Australia, where I think Arpy has completely lost his mind, and that's one of my favourite wine producing countries, so that's pretty serious with me.
And I'm glad I didn't have to bring up that little issue of the '03 Rhones, but I thought you were just being true to your palate, and that's completely fair.
I'm glad this conversation didn't keep you up all night tonight, you are sweetly sensitive.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Sat Oct 07, 2006 1:13 pm

Hmmm, my palate mirrors Laube?


Well, I didn't put it that way (there's a doctor running around here named Howard Roth, who is 1oo% my palate twin, but I believe he's the only person I've ever met I can say that about), but from just tasting with you I'd say it's a safe bet that if Jim Laube loves a California wine, you will too--rich and structured, full ripe sweet fruit, that kind of thing. I'd have thought you far less in tune with Parker (and that's true for me, too).

Yup, the 03 Rhone are not my kind of wine. For my palate, the 01's are perfect.

Say, I need to email you about a time we can get together--I've got that Connie still chilling away for you.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Isaac » Sat Oct 07, 2006 4:34 pm

Jenise wrote:... if Jim Laube loves a California wine, you will too--rich and structured, full ripe sweet fruit, that kind of thing. I'd have thought you far less in tune with Parker (and that's true for me, too).
Interesting comment, Jenise. I'd have thought that a wine which was "rich and structured, full ripe sweet fruit" would be highly rated by Mr. Parker. Not so? I admit to a small amount of confusion, but learning which popular critics tastes' match my own, if any, would be quite helpful.

Yes, I understand that your comments were not addressed to me, but I think I might find this useful, anyway.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Mishy M. » Sat Oct 07, 2006 8:36 pm

Jenise wrote:
Hmmm, my palate mirrors Laube?


Well, I didn't put it that way (there's a doctor running around here named Howard Roth, who is 1oo% my palate twin, but I believe he's the only person I've ever met I can say that about), but from just tasting with you I'd say it's a safe bet that if Jim Laube loves a California wine, you will too--rich and structured, full ripe sweet fruit, that kind of thing. I'd have thought you far less in tune with Parker (and that's true for me, too).

Yup, the 03 Rhone are not my kind of wine. For my palate, the 01's are perfect.

Say, I need to email you about a time we can get together--I've got that Connie still chilling away for you.


I like Parker's Rhone and Bordeaux advice, and he's helped me through Spain a bit. He tends to like them a bit or even ALOT too sweet for me.

Save the Connie untill the next off-line when we can use it, I'd like to drink it with wine-friends.
Thanks Jenise.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Paul Winalski » Sun Oct 08, 2006 12:52 am

I really do wish that Robert Parker would learn the difference between "varietal" (an adjective) and "variety" (the corresponding noun). A journalist who purports to be an expert in the field should be able to keep these straight.

From the sound of it, this was a hot, early-ripening vintage, with lots of forward fruit, but not necessarily enough acidity and other structural elements to age over the long haul.

So enjoy them over the short term, and be thankful that you don't have to wait forever for it to come around to drinkability. And that Parker's back-handed compliment means the wines may be more available and more affordable. :)

-Paul W.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Jenise » Sun Oct 08, 2006 2:40 pm

Interesting comment, Jenise. I'd have thought that a wine which was "rich and structured, full ripe sweet fruit" would be highly rated by Mr. Parker. Not so? I admit to a small amount of confusion, but learning which popular critics tastes' match my own, if any, would be quite helpful.


Mmm..yes and no. I have a better sense of Laube's preferences simply because I read about one in three issues of the Spectator. But from reading reviews posted on auction entries--auctions being my primary wine source--I can tell you this: if Parker rates a wine higher than the spectator, chances are good I'll like it. If the Spectator rates it higher than Parker, chances are good I won't. Parker rewards structure, where the Speck rewards lush, sweet fruit. Or so it looks to me.

Agreed about finding a critic whose palate matches yours, and there are many more out there than most people talk about. Especially Steve Tanzer, whose palate and preferences seem most closely aligned with mine.
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Re: Napa's 2004 vintage

Postby Hoke » Sun Oct 08, 2006 3:12 pm

Jenise,

I construe Parker's comments as saying that the northernmost 2004s will be tasty and impressive in their youth but will not hold up in the long run...or even in the middle run, I think.

That, I believe, is what he means by "built from the front backward". Couple that with "undeniably appealling in their youth. However, only the finest will be interesting at 12-15 years of age." and you've got the his read on the vintage. In other words, buy and enjoy, but don't cellar.

Simply his view, from his taste perspective.

You say "I'll take charming and seductive over dense concentration any day." But I wonder if you really would. Casanova was charming and seductive, and he was apparently devilishly good at one night stands. But he wasn't what you might call someone who was good for a long term relationship, was he? :wink:

Dense and concentrated wines (in some critics' views) are the ones that portend long ageability and complexity. If you tell me a wine is charming and seductive, then I'll assume you're also telling me that it is ephemeral, and I'd better drink it quickly. If you tell me a wine is dense and concentrated, then I'll assume it will get better and better as it develops, showing different facets as it matures.

I like both charming and seductive wines and dense and concentrated wines. Depends on what I want, and when I want it. But at my age (and pocketbook) I think I'm going more for the charming and seductive, since I won't be around for many of the dense and concentrated ones to realize themselves. :)
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