The Year That Broke California Wine
Our idea of luxury has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. Napa Valley wines reveal how.
“You can’t go back to Frisson or Tartare. But you can taste 2004 wines. I want to know: How do the wines born of this lavish era stand up to the standards of taste we enforce today? Have they aged better than the eyedroppers of blue vodka?
So I assemble my own collection of wines and enlist three of 2004 San Francisco’s top sommeliers to help me taste: Paul Einbund, Emily Wines and Christie Dufault, who was then at Gary Danko and now teaches at the Culinary Institute of America. We gather in The Chronicle newsroom to uncork 33 bottles of 2004 Napa Valley Cabernets, all disguised inside brown paper bags.
A few wines manage to please even the most curmudgeonly of our panel. The Viader Cabernet has bright acidity and suggests some pleasant non-fruit notes: balsam wood, dried sage. “It’s harmonious,” Einbund says. He likes it “because of the (oak) integration, because of the less abusive nose, because the tannins are not dried out.”