Gem in the Rough

Impenetrable black garnet with distinct brick at the rim. Here’s the deal with cabs like this: It’s pretty fail-safe to stick your neck out and declare a 20-yr wine when they’re 2 or 3 or 4; likewise not much risk in tasting a 20YO cab and saying its got another decade+ to go. But when a wine is 10. That’s always a difficult one for me. Typically they are so beautiful at this sweet-spot: polishing wonderfully, tannins and fruit in handshake into elegance and moderate tertiary, but fruit often comes into criticism at this juncture: should I stay or should I go? Often–at ten–wishy-washy indefinite things are happening causing wonder, as often these things can go into stasis for the next decade–polishing barely, as the bulk of rough edges have already been worn off–OR will we see a sharp drop-off of fruit? This one has arguments in both directions.

Gorgeous concentrated blackberry and supple hairy-hide-rug in the nose, sweet molasses, maple and pipe tobacco tinging grapefruit minerality and steely crispness. Tertiary is apparent, a smooth, armchair rub against chubby fruit.

Tasting it pulls black, thick, macerated berry and briar into the scene. Still-vibrant tannin wastes no time introducing itself: a high-note of acidic structure abrasive against mellowing fruit. Dark and chewy on the palate, I truly feel the jam-PACKED cherry hovering can–and will–outlive strenuous tannin. But it’s thinning. No debate there. The freshness going hollow in the middle and leaving angular juxtapositions of candied fruit and heated structure. I’ve got three of four of these left: along with other (not made every year) vintages younger, so we will see. Right now it is BEAUTIFUL. Sharp and beautiful.

2009 SAPPHIRE HILL Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sonoma Co. 14.5

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