Here’s a throwback… One of the worst labels ever created–a true testament to 80’s and 90’s design–crazy-busy with graphics and geometry and gold lilt–but horrible enough to be rather iconic sitting on a shelf. Someone who saw the beauty of Lake County fruit before it became a popular, low-cost alternative to Napa wines. The label has received a facelift from the new owners, and finding some of these garish beauties brings back memories. Deep ruddy maroon in the glass, a definite brick defining the color. Meaty and thick with roasted fruit, a rather burnt aspect surfacing upon all fruit contained: what’s there goes deep maraschino and wilted floral against not-quite-dank expressions of deep muddled cherry and blackberry.
Absolutely at-peak in the mouth–and sliding gracefully downhill–the fruit a piquant, spicy alternative to robust youth: serious–but not unpleasant–patina affecting every nuance. Brittle in presentation, the chalky acidity spiraling throughout to the demise of what was obviously lush berry. Rather concentrated–still–but the brushes with concentration have reduced everything to gloriously bitter foundations. Astringent while interesting, wines like this cause ponder to current productions of same balance. This wine seems almost in stasis–I actually think with perfect cellaring it could go another decade without much change. Everything is there for nearly timeless cellaring: powerful tannin still churns beneath the surface; fruit a complement of structure, though the toasty aspects of the nose trouble portions of the palate. If you see these on a shelf, a last testament to Jed Steele: one of the masterminds behind the iconic KJ Chard. I’m not hating this wine at all, and the Memory Lane trip is bonus.
2012 STEELE Cabernet Sauvignon Red Hills Lake County California 14.5