First Word of the GREAT 2010 CA Cabernet Vintage

Long time wine writer, critic and industry observer Dan Berger is excited. Very excited:

“what we are seeing now, and will see for the next year or so, is a plethora of Cabs of many hues that are (a) truer to varietal type, and (B) are better structured than we have seen for 15 years or more.”

He’s talking about the 2010 Cabernets from California producers that are just not hitting the shelves and that are reflections of cooler 2010 vintage. The glee in Dan’s words dance and sing out this week’s edition of his subscription newsletter, Vintage Experiences.

Dan’s characterization of the balanced and truly varietal Cabernet Sauvignons from this vintage (and likely from the 2011 vintage)  is a “moment of bizarre awkwardness”. By this he is referring to the fact that most wine drinkers under 45 and most winemakers have become accustomed to believing that fine California Cabernet is naturally or ought to be big, port-y, high-pH wines that deliver easy and early gratification, but little staying potential and certainly no hints of herbalness that is in fact one of the tell-tale signs of the Cabernet grape.

The occasion of the release of these wines is one of bizarre awkwardness because it simply isn’t what California winemakers want or are accustomed to nor are they what consumers know about California Cabernet, according to Berger and he’s not wrong.

Dan concludes his comments on early release 2010 California Cabs with this:

“And the best is yet to come. It’s possible, I suppose, that some $100 Cabs may finally be worth buying!”

Of course it may turn out that Dan’s enthusiasm for the 2010 and 2011 vintage in California will be rewarded by having lots of them for him and others with similar palate preferences to purchase. We still have not heard any in depth assessment of the wines from The Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, The New York Times nor the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s entirely possible that these still-influential publications will pan the 2010 (and the 1 year out 2011) vintage.

I for one have always been rewarded by following Dan Berger’s recommendations and the headline on his lead article in his “Vintage Experiences” newsletter this week, “A Great Time To Buy”, means I am likely to be going on a buying binge.

5 Responses

  1. Chicago Pinot - September 27, 2012

    “It’s entirely possible that these still-influential publications will pan the 2010 (and the 1 year out 2011) vintage.”

    I’m still a wine newbie and don’t totally understand the Groupthink that makes up most wine media. So someone help me here: When was the last time you heard any writer for any Wine Porn mag openly criticize ANY vintage. And by criticize, I don’t mean “it was a challenging year, that rewards the careful winemaker.” I want a critic to just come out and say (if he/she really believes it) “Everything I have tasted from (a specific year) is pure crap; don’t waste your money.”

  2. Charlie Olken - September 28, 2012

    To Windy City Pinot: Vintages vary but it is now the rare vintage in most wine regions that are total disasters. Even 2011, which will be close to total disaster in parts of CA for some wineries will produce lots of good wine because both grape growing and wine making are so much better now than they were several decades ago. Besides, most critics judge wines, not vintages.

    As for Mr. Berger, he will be very disappointed by 2010 when he learns that it has not universally produced light, high acid Cabernet Sauvignons.

    One final note about Mr. Berger. His viewpoint is well-respected for what it is–different. His comments about ageworthiness have been proven suspect time and time again in blind tastings of aging wines. Just to name two wines whose ripeness would offend Dan but whose aging curves have held up and continue to hold up, I would point to the wines of Pride and Shafer.

    It’s OK for Dan to dislike them. It’s OK for everyone to have their own sets of preferences, but when wines from producers like Pride and Shafer show well in their second and thrid decades, then their ageworthiness has been proven. That is not to say that anyone should like those wines because they have aged well–just as it is not to say that thin and green, acidic wines that age well should be liked by everyone.

  3. Doug Wilder - September 28, 2012

    I have tasted through nearly fifty 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon in the last few weeks and will be reporting on them as well as a lot more by early November. There is a tangible difference exemplified by them showing more structure over 2009 i tasted last year. Notable examples from Blackbird, Vineyard 7 & 8, Kapcsandy, Bure and Morlet. They require looking past the forward character of the previous vintage. Do I think they will live longer? Still too early to tell, but they will all benefit from a little more down time at the front end.

  4. Mike - September 28, 2012

    Dan Berger has an unabashed Euro-centric wine palate. Most European grapes do not ripen as well as they do in CA, so they produce lower alcohol, higher acid wines. Chapitalization is perfectly legal in Europe, go figure. Many people prefer that style, many do not. He’s entitled to his opinion, but the mistake that he always makes, as well as any other writer/blogger that writes about wines they don’t like, is to call them flawed. Or to say they aren’t well made, or without ‘balance’, or whatever. Gawd, don’t get me started on that word ‘balanced’. So subjective, so misused, and so popular right now. I like Dan’s writing when he’s opinionating about the industry in general, or reporting on specific events or happenings, but reading his wine reviews can be painful at times.

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