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Aug 25, 2007 06:13 AM

How are your 98's drinking?

Since I have a few minutes at my computer, I thought I would throw this out to the group for discussion. In the recent Wine Spectator, the one with the "How to Cook" on the cover, the California wine writer once again defends his position on the 98 vintage and once again pooh-poohs the vintage.

IMO, my 98's are showing beautifully. They have never been powerhouses, but the tannins and fruit are well integrated and they are delightful to drink.

So I ask you fellow wine-o's-how are your 98's drinking?

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  1. With a few exceptions, mine are all gone now. They were good to very-good, when consumed and were actually a vintage, that I sought out (from good producers) at restaurants, if I was not looking for a "tropy wine," but just something ready to drink with my beef. I often get the feeling that many wine writers are more hung up on legacy wines - ones that folk will hoard as "assets," hoping to make $ at auction years from now. There's nothing wrong with those wines - they are often great fun and usually quite good, and they do provide fuel for the journalists. Heck, look at all the ink that WS expends on the auction trail.

    I think that the wine-drinking public would have been better served, had the many writers just come out and said, "hey, these will likely not last that long, and most will not improve that much, but they are drinking nicely young... " Nothing wrong with that.

    I feel bad for the restauranteurs, as they were faced with a problem - put in a bunch of good wine, that folk could consume now, but were likely to not sell, because of the press.

    Upon reflection, I did not have any favorites, and none really stood out and shouted - "dude, do some TNs on me!" Instead, they all went down well with little, or no decanting.

    In general terms, the '98s should have been embraced by those folk who decry heavily extracted fruit-bombs, as most (that I had) were lighter, still balanced, with fewer, though integrated tannins. What's wrong with that?

    I found the same type of thing with the '89s (California). The years were quite different, but there were many winemakers, who expended the extra work and put a lot of thought into that vintage, making some very good wines. The press did a blanket anti-98 campaign and even those winemakers suffered, as a result. Too often, I think that the writers are attempting to MAKE the news, and not REPORT it.

    What are/were your favorites, from that much maligned vintage?


    1. Well, I guess that we are the only winos, who bought the '98s. Their bad...

      BTW, your "phone is ringing" in the Turley thread.


      1. Wine Spectator is frequently wrong about vintages. Just look at their rating on 1997 and 2000 piedmont. Neither one even close to 1996 and 2001.

        98 wasn't a great or even a very good vintage in CA but there were some very good wines made. (BTW IMO the WS severely overrated the 1997 vintage in both CA and Tuscany).

        There were several top-notch 98 CA cabs - three come to mind. Miura, Rudd Jerhico Canyon and Schweiger.

        I must say that is was easier to find disappointment than stars in 1998 but that holds even more true for 1997. My opinion on the two vintages is based on way too high expectations on 97 from the WS.

        6 Replies
        1. re: jock


          I agree on the assessments of the '97s, for CA & Piedmont. Good, but less than the wine press led many to believe. Kinda' like the '85 Ports - good, but not great, as aniticipated. Still, I'm glad that I put in a bunch of Taylor and Fonseca (plus a few others), as my wife has enjoyed them since release - she appreciates a youthful Port, more than I do, so all was not wasted.

          Now, they did hit the '94 CA Cabs pretty well, and the jury is still out on the '00s. In their defense, I've done a bunch of barrel-tastings, and would be hard pressed to make statements about how those wines would be drinking 5-10 years into the future. However, they are professionals, and I am not.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            >>However, they are professionals, and I am not.<<

            Au contraire. Yours is the only palate that counts. and maybe mine ;)

            1. re: Bill Hunt


              Maybe this should be the subject of a new post, but can you recommend any of the CA wineries where you had barrel tastings? The best known one is Del Dotto, and I have not been. BTW, we'll be in Central Coast (Santa Barbara area) this weekend, if any come to mind. Thanks.

              1. re: pjaym17

                Curtis, Santa Barbara is the only on in the Central Coast. It is a part of Firestone, but the wines are head-and-shoulders above anything I have ever tasted from Frirestone. Most have been Santa Cruz Mtns., Amador/Sierra Foothills, Sonoma and Napa. I'll put together a list of wineries, as I recall them and post.

                A lot has to do with the time of year, the number of people in the tasting room and how one's level of interest is perceived, also it helps to know someone at the winery. Most were in ~ Feb., so wines had been in the barrel of a little while. Sometimes I'd gotten to do verticals of 2 wines still in wood, obviously a year apart. Other times it's been horizontals - Picchetti (Santa Cruz Mtns.) is a good example. We did four of their Zins, a Cab and a Merlot.

                What I would love to have the opportunity to do is sample, just before blending and then taste along with the person doing the cuvée, listening to him, or her, tell me exactly what they were looking for.

                Here's a "quick list:"
                St Clements
                An Italian varietal producer in Sonoma (can't dig up the name yet)
                Diamond Creek
                Chalone (they're in Central Coast - Monterey)
                Joseph Phelps

                Some of these require a reservation/appointment to visit and it also pays to be part of their "club." A few were with arrangements from a distributor or major retailer, and one was because the winemaker had been a college room mate of a good friend of mine.

                There are probably more, but the memory can't dredge them up right now.


                [EDIT] One observation that I have made is that I can critique the wine, as I am tasting it, but I do not have the ability to "project" exactly how it will come together, when released. Oh, I can guess a bit, but when I have had the chance to taste them later, from the bottle, I am always surprised at how they changed, and I could never have even been close. Guess that it just takes years of practice.

                1. re: pjaym17

                  barrel tasting tour in the cave of del dotto is very educational and you will get wasted too at the same time :)
                  you will taste same wine from 4 to 6 different oak barrel and will go thru about 20+/- barrel and after that, you will go to tasting room and taste another 6-8 wine from the bottle! not cheap anymore at $45+/- but well worth it.
                  if dave del dotto is out!! one time when he was there we were there for over 4 hours!

                  1. re: rickym13

                    getting back to the orig subject...i still have few 98' still. the best 98' i had so far has been:

                    karl lawerence
                    shafer hillside select

            2. I don't know fron CA, but lesser Paulliacs & St. Julians are currently knockouts.

              1 Reply
              1. re: FrankJBN

                98' was great year for right bank and rhone wine as well as australia