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Compromising In Wine Country

By Charles Olken

People who taste with me know that I don’t like to compromise. There may be no absolutes in wine, but there are some standards that just must be met.

For example, take the wine I sampled just today. $200 worth of very fancy Cabernet Sauvignon from a producer with scads of cred built over the last forty years. I have bottles and bottles of the stuff in my cellar.

But, this wine, from the less than stellar 2011 vintage, disappointed. It was not perfect. Almost, very nearly, so close I could smell it. But I could not taste it. And therein lay the dilemma.

The aromas of this beauty were about as good as good can get. Alive, rich, tight, layered, keenly focused. The nose had it all, and I was ready to award two ears and a tail to this one, and shout “Hallelujah, a 2011 on its way to perfection”. And then I tasted it.

Balanced, pure Cabernet, refined and tannic at the same time. And then it fell a tad short in the finish. Now, young wines can do that, but this “tad short” was not structural and amenable to long-aging, although this wine will age a long time based on its balance and focus. It was the “tad short” when the fruit is just a touch less than perfect even as its varietal precision is beyond question and its beauty is exemplary.

I am going to compromise with this wine. It is the Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2011. It is not perfect, but it is so close that rather than dwell on its one shortcoming, I am going to buy it anyhow and love it for it for all of its good parts. There are other great Cabs to be reviewed in our December Issue, and some of them simply outpoint this wine. Not many, mind you, but some.

This is not a “hold your nose and drink it” compromise, of course. It is a “stop quibbling and enjoy the beauty that has been created” compromise. In wine reviewing, that kind of compromise happens all the time. But not for bottles I choose to put in my cellar. I will let the wine sit for a few years and then serve it with the right foods, and I hope and expect that my compromise will not have turned out to be that much of a compromise after all.

Sometimes you just have to let your instincts take over.


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Yes or no
by Big Al
Posted on:11/12/2014 9:39:47 PM

What are you trying to tell me?

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:11/13/2014 12:14:10 AM

A couple of things, really.

The first is that perfect wines are few and far between. Most highly recommended wines have lots of pleasing, focused, balanced attributes, but unless they get scored by CGCW at three-stars, the upper 90s, they do present minor quibbles.

In the case of the wine in question, the quibbles were medium to very good depth and concentration and a slight reluctance in the finish.

That combination has kept many wines from the mid-90s and two-stars. But in this case, the rest of the wine is so keen in focus, so polished, so layered that its positives convinced me (us) that the wine deserved two-stars regardless of minor quibbles.

What the article was really about was the nature of wine review and assignment of qualititative ranking. 

And so, yes, this is a highly recommended wine.

dig it
by gabe
Posted on:11/13/2014 2:04:54 AM

I once told a winemaker that wines were like people - the best ones are imperfect.  He responded by telling me that wines are indeed like people, and perfect people don't exist.

Compromising In Wine Country
by Bob Henry
Posted on:2/4/2015 10:04:25 PM

Charlie and Gabe,

Coming late to this discussion, but not to contemplating this subject . . .

We are all aware of winemakers blending in a low single digit percentage of "sibling grapes" Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and Malbec in their "clarets" -- but rarely resorting to using one more tool in their toolbox: blending in another vintage.

Imagine what that 2011 Diamond Creek Cabernet's finish might have tasted like if they had added just a "dollop" of 2010 or 2012 to the wine before bottling?

Your thoughts?

~~ Bob




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