Last night my roommate prepared an amazing meal of lighty roasted carrots and crab apples with a side of yogurt and honey; a soup-styled dish of white beans soaked in the broth of a ham hock with rosemary and herbs, and a purple cabbage and fennel salad -the occassion, it snowed a lot and she had a bottle of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Napa Valley sitting around since Christmas.
Anyone who knows American wine knows Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, they're famous for their wines because they won a blind tasting for their Cabernet Sauvignon in Paris of 1976, and since then it's become a staple of high end American wine and a veritable cliche status symbol if you've ever worked in a wine shop uptown.
With my two roommates and a friend, we gathered around and enjoyed some rose first (yes that rose!), then a Fuso Barbera -a little bready and acidic as I caught the wine towards the end of the bottle- and then we moved onto the big gun on the table. What kept us from starting off with the Stag's Leap was the fact that it smelled tight and a little off, the cork looked suspicious but we decided to decant it and see what happened. It took about an hour-and-a-half for the wine to really come around, initially it was tight with hints of what was to come -this was not a good start in our opinions and we were patient.
By the time we were well into the meal we began to pour around the Stag's Leap. The wine had opened up enough for us to change our minds revealing darker forest floor notes beside dark concentrated berries and cinnamon spice; I had a hard time not conjuring up crawling on a wet forest floor with fertile dirt, roots, and other fecundity tossed in front of my face as I hugged a moss stained tree. While I was on my last glass it started to remind me of a very reserved and austere Bordeaux, yet it probably could have used more time to decant, maybe another two hours or wait till the next morning, because this was a big wine and the alcohol showed: 14.5%. Overall the nose was intriguing yet dodgy, the palate was smooth and rich, full and deep, yet finished with acid and alcohol in wedlock leaving almost no mid-palate to speak of and fire racing down my throat.
Maybe our preconceptions were too high but I think in the end, even though we got to try one of the greats in the American wine market, we were a little disappointed. It just lacked soul.