Age is beautiful – Four Gates
I must say that as annoyed as I am from how few people age their wines, and how early they drink young wines, I have been seeing a new desire for well-aged wines. In my article on Bordeaux, I wrote about how to build a successful cellar, and recently, I have been enjoying some wonderfully aged Four Gates wines.
As I stated in that article, Four Gates has been blessed with land and climate that gives Benyamin Cantz grapes that are dripping with acid and terroir. The grapes he sources from his vineyard, that he personally tends to, are; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
I have posted about two large tastings with friends at Four Gates where we enjoyed some well-aged wines, here in 2014 and then again in 2015. In those cases, just like recently, the wines all showed beautifully, though one showed more new-world in style than other vintages. The first and oldest that I enjoyed was the 1996 vintage Merlot, long before Benyamin used monikers like La Rochelle, M.S.C., or Cuvee D 🙂
Yes, you are now thinking, wait the first vintage of Four Gates was 1997, no? Yes, you are correct, however, Benyamin also made an entire vintage in 1996, however, because of liquor licensing reasons, he was not allowed to sell, but we sure enjoyed MANY of them for years!
Of the recently tasted Four Gates Merlot wines, the 2001 vintage shows a very old world style. The 2006 vintage, in comparison, is a more new world style, with the 2005 vintage straddling between them both, with a slight leaning to an Old world styling. Finally, the 2009 vintage is also a more new world Merlot in style and is still a baby, but I posted it here as I seem to not have posted notes about it before.
The Pinot Noir is very old world in style and one that is a true joy to taste, though it is not a Burgundy in any way. Burgundy Pinot Noir is far more earth and dirt focused, while this is more fruit focused, but it is still a wonderful old world style new world Pinot Noir – Bravo my friend!!!
It was a lovely Pinot but did not come close to maybe one of the best Pinot Noir I have ever tasted, the 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir – that wine was insane!
My many thanks to Benyo for sharing his wines and allowing me to truly enjoy what age can do for a wine that has the potential to improve from long cellaring.
My notes follow below:
1996 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- to A
Lovely dirt and incredible barnyard, with lovely green notes, foliage galore with ripe raspberry and currants. Wow, what a mouth, medium body with mouth draping tannin, crazy acid with still beautiful red and black fruit, plum, red cherry, and ripe fruit with lovely sweet dill, smoke, and beautiful sweet oak. The finish is long and green and tannic, with acid that jacks the whole thing up, with more barnyard and loam lingering long. Drink by 2019.
1999 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
Wow, what a joy, the wine opens eventually, with a rich mushroom that takes a bit of time to show, with lots of lovely fruit, cherry cola galore, lovely smoke, and earth. The mouth on this full bodied Pinot Noir is filthy, with layers of rich mouth draping tannin, lovely mushroom, earth, rich and evocative acid, with lovely raspberry and cherry taking front stage. The finish is long and cherry filled, with good concentration, acid, coffee grinds, toast, smoke, and more mushroom on the long red berry finish. Drink by 2019.
2001 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
The wine is clearly showing its age, in all the right ways! The nose is rich and filled with lovely barnyard, rich soil, loam, followed by lovely green notes, rich eucalyptus, menthol, and dark fruit abounds. The mouth is full bodied but softer than the other Merlot we tasted this evening, showing lovely cassis, black plums, and raspberry, that give way to still beautiful acid, with gripping tannin that give way to green foliage and lovely mineral. The finish is long and green, with rich dill, vanilla, leather, followed by black fruit, butterscotch, and lovely tobacco, all still wrapped in a cocoon of still lively acid and mushroom heaven. Bravo! Drink by 2021.
2005 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: A- to A
This wine is a perfect example of what California can create. It is a pure joy that shows hedonism in all the regal manner you can imagine it. Bravo my friend!
The nose on this wine is packed with blackberry, cherry, plum, eucalyptus, mad mineral, graphite, rich mushroom, and good hints of green notes, and dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and extracted with waves of concentrated fruit, intense ripe raspberry, plum, cassis, and mouth coating still gripping tannins that all come together with bracing acidity, sweet oak, and lovely sweet dill, and mushroom. The finish is long and spicy with leather, spice, still searing tannin, sweet notes, espresso, chocolate, and hints of tobacco and cloves – BRAVO!!! This is a wine that is still going nowhere anytime soon with more acid and tannin to keep this alive for another 6 years. Drink by 2024
2006 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
Tasting this beside the 2001 vintage La Rochelle, and 2005, I can say that this is nice but not as good as those two. The nose on this wine is hopping with rich plum, raspberry, eucalyptus, blackberry, sweet oak, spice, chocolate, along with lovely mushroom. The wine does not feel old, it still young and not showing the same secondary notes that the 2001 vintage feels like. The mouth on this full bodied wine is integrating nicely and the tannins create a caressing mouthfeel that is mouth coating, but it is fruitier than the 2001 or 2005, with dark plum, blackberry, and raspberry, with lovely mineral, graphite, and loam. The finish is long and lingering with black fruit, raspberry, oak, chocolate, and minerals. Drink by 2024.
2009 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A-
What can I say – way to go Benyo! This is a classic Benyo Merlot nose, a brilliant purple colored wine, showing a lovely rich and redolent nose with great blue and black fruit, blueberry, blackberry, oriental spice, crazy rich roasted herb, sweet oak, and pomegranate. This is a lovely rich and dark and full bodied wine with ripping acid, lovely saline, mineral, butterscotch, black fruit, green notes, all wrapped in rich layers of tannin, concentrated fruit and spice. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate and spice and cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. With time, the mouth opens more to show rich mushroom and mounds of loam. BRAVO!!! Drink by 2027.