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Sep 29, 2010 04:58 PM

California 2006 vintage?

My daughter was born in 2006 and I want to stash a couple bottles of that year to save for her when she graduates college or gets married. She is fifth-generation Californian, so I would really like buy California wine. However, there aren't many that can cellar for 20 years. (Phelps is a sentimental favorite of ours but I don't think it will last the journey.) Right now I am looking at Ridge Monte Bello and the Mondavi Cab Reserve. I am in Los Angeles, close to many great shops. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. I think you are on the right track - it's cabs from napa. 06 was a really solid year. But because you are talking 20 years, you have to make absolutely sure the wine has been in ideal conditions since bottling. Order direct from winery or a trusted LA retailer like K&L.

    1. Phelps might surprise you. The Phelps Insignia, Eisele and Backus could make 20 years if properly stored. I recently had the 1994 Insignia and it was great.

      You should consider buying a magnum whatever wine you decide. Wine in a larger format will go longer.

      Again proper storage is key.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Scott M

        Think the Magnum is a good tip if you proceed.

      2. Silver Oak, Opus One, Phelps' Insignia, Chimney Rock's Elevage, Honig's Reserve Cab, St. Supery's Elu are a few that come to mind when I think of wines that could go that distance. I'd also include Grgich Hills' Cab and his Chardonnay, too, for that matter. -- Don't forget he was the winemaker of that Montelena Chard that not only beat out all the Montrachets in 76, but beat them again 30 years later.

        12 Replies
        1. re: ChefJune

          My personal tasting experience differs from those of Chef June, who is a great contributor to this board. Having recently tasted 25-year verticals of some of the wineries mentioned, I am not confident any will make 20 years.

          Which means I'm in agreement with OP. There are very few California wines that can last 20 years intact, enjoyable and beautiful.

          California Cabs aren't meant to last that long; they are meant for consumption within 2-3 years, usually within 7 years, and at the outside 10-12 years. That 10-12 year marker generally is the length of their beauty -- the maximum time before the fruit has noticeably left the wine and the flavors are thin.

          Specific wineries:
          I'd rule out Phelps Insignia, Chimney Rock's Elevage, Silver Oak, for starters. Phelps has suffered serious recent quality erosion since their master winemaker, Craig Williams, who made the brand famous, has left. Silver Oak has seen a long steady decline over the last decade. These brands are no longer what they once were. Chimney Rock's wines have showed widespread cellar taint lately.

          Bear in mind that Grgich's nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, makes the wine now, and Grgich's wines are no longer made by the Mike Grgich, who is quite elderly and may retain the title "Winemaker" but it is Ivo who makes the wine. Not sure that any Grgich wine will make 20 years.

          As Carswell mentioned, I think the Ridge Monte Bello is an option. Dunn is the only other option I know.

          On Cellar Tracker, read the reviews of California wines that are 20 years old now (the 1990 vintage) hat were recently tasted.

          Perhaps a vintage Port or Sauternes instead? Or a non-wine gift that will mature in 20 years.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            I believe Craig Williams left in 2008 and was the winemaker during the 2006 vintage in question.

            1. re: Scott M

              True, but having tasted the 2006, it's not like previous years. Just checked my notes
              from the tasting because my co-patriot (one of the greatest palates I have ever encountered anywhere) and I walked away stunned, shaking our heads. What happened to the Phelps wines, we asked? Why are they nothing like they used to be? Where was the concentration, the finess, the ageability?

              A subsequent re-tasting one year ago confirmed my initial tasting.

              Not sure how involved Craig Williams was on vintages that predated his departure by 3-4 years. From what I've read, he had turned over most his direct winemaking responsbilities by then.

              All this in addition to the question of a 20-year-old California wine being a wise investment that would be appropriately commemorative.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Interesting, thanks for the insight.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  You clearly have more updated info than I have! M-L. Thanks.

                  However, 2 years ago, I catered a dinner where the 89 Opus One was featured. It was, however, poured from Jeroboam. I can still taste that glorious wine. ;)

              2. re: maria lorraine

                What do you think about Mayacamas or Corison? In my opinion, California wines don't age long-term if they are picked once the skin phenols/tannins are all fully ripe, and just about everybody but Mayacamas and Corison are picking super ripe. Both these producers make a point of offering tastes of library wines at tasting and are consciously making their wines to age gracefully for a long time, not show off easy curvaceous fruit at a young age.

                I recently enjoyed a 1982 Yverdon made by Cathy Corison with Spring Mountain fruit from near my parents' winery. It was probably starting its downhill slide, but I was amazed how vibrant the nose still was, even on the second day open. I assume the fruit is similar to what Mayacamas gets today on their property a few miles south in the same mountains, and Cathy's style seems remarkably consistent over the years.

                I appreciate that you've pointed out the changing styles at many of the old standbys for wines that age. It doesn't get discussed enough how much winemaking style and grape growing has changed in Napa in the last 20 years, and assuming a winery's current releases will age the way their early 1990s wines have is, in most cases, a very dangerous thing to do.

                1. re: SteveG

                  When I was heavily collecting California Cabernet in the mid-90s everyone said that the wines were not made the same as they were in the 70's and 80's and they were fruit forward and not built to age. I have recently had the 1994 Insignia, 1995 Insignia, 1994 Arrowood Reserve, 1994 Arrowood regular bottling cab, 1994 Whitehall Lane, 1995 Phelps regular bottling cab and all of them were wonderful. I still have many other cabernets from these years. So I heard this before about the winemaking changing and the wines won't age so drink them young. I am not saying you are wrong about the mid-2000 wines, maybe it has changed. I have since moved on and am not buying a lot of Calif. cab so I won't be able to try them in 15-20 years but it wouldn't shock me if the wines from good wineries/winemakers with a history of crafting wines continue to age well despite all the naysayers.

                  1. re: Scott M

                    I've also recently tasted almost every one of the wines you mentioned and found most of them had peaked. I guess it's a case of different palates.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Without tasting your wines, hard to say. If we had shared the same bottle of wine then I would agree. All of mine had been professionally stored since they were originally released.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        The ones you had may have "peaked", but they are all at least 15 years old. And how they are stored over their lifetime does play a part in how long they last.

                        ...and Scott, I would add Trefethen to your list. We recently had both their 94 Reserve Cab and Library Selection Cab, and both were beautiful, and still had life left in them.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I don't think 15 years is all that old, as far as aging goes for "quality" bottles. The storage is ideal.

              3. Mid 80's Phelps bottles are mind boggling right now. Ch. Montelena Estate bottling is another good bet for the long haul. "Modern" producers like Silver (J)oak are best avoided since they are cranking out very extracted and oaky wine which might not show too well in 20 years.

                1. Haven't tasted the 2006s of either wine but the Ridge Monte Bello is almost always superior to the Mondavi Reserve and, something I've always found strange, a bargain relative to many other high-profile California Cabs. Dominus would also be on my short list, especially as the 2006 is outstanding.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: carswell

                    RMB is always my rec. for a long-term ager from Cali, too.