A highly anticipated wine. Long spoken of; just starting to hit shelves steadily; and not too many people have tried. And, despite much talk of Penfolds’ *watering down* of the brand, clearly the Treasury administration allows for much cross-national sourcing and production. My recent experience with the slightly less-expensive “California” (Sonoma & Paso) Bin 600 was a huge success, and I have been eagerly eyeing the ‘Napa’. Initially, there are some disappointments: dark, impenetrable black in the glass, the rim only barely thinning to purple-ruby. Additionally: it doesn’t SMELL like what I like in Napa Cab. This is where the execs at Treasury start screaming, “WHO sent this wine to McConnell??!?” So let me add a caveat: The nose is exactly what 99% of YOU love in your Napa cab. If you drink MOST of what Napa produces these days, this will woo and impress you: it’s ALL the things you look for and find meaningful and delicious. It’s just not what I prefer. Ridiculously concentrated, unctuous and packed with warm, round fruit, viscous and oily, a gaudy perfume putting the emphasis on chubby sweetness of berry at the expense of spice, earth and mineral. Decanted heavily. Nothing helps. This is the new normal.
Then you taste it. Things start looking up. The fruit is a rather streamlined firm blackberry layered with citrus, notes of stiff leather and pickling spices. Actually tasting much thinner than the bouquet insisted, the cherry a bright, spicy–almost thinnish–affair with a firm, black background of oak and briar. Tannin is a light, fairly easy situation–a mere peppery note amid the smooth accessibility of the fruit. Sweet and light-feeling, with a black density everyone will love, it feels like a wine construed into extremely user-friendly upper-end crowd-favorite marketability. Don’t get me wrong: this ISN’T Caymus or Silver Oak or Prisoner. It’s a ridiculously better wine, showing FAR more liveliness of fruit, instillation of acid, basically no RS, and the oak comes nowhere NEAR touching your face. For the price, it fits in nicely with the plethora of top-shelf Napa Cabs out there. And it will most-likely polish nicely over short-term aging.
Bottom line: this is a winner for Penfold’s. This is exactly what everyone wants in a Napa Cab. It’s rich. It’s dark. It’s concentrated and fruity. It has barely-obligatory structure. It is not expensive. But it’s flat. It has no depth, no complexity, no earth, no peat, briar or vegetal, no charisma. It is exactly what everybody wants in a Napa Cabernet. It will sell like hot-cakes at this price and I applaud them for this perfect effort.
2018 PENFOLD’S ‘Bin 704’ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 14.5