This past Purim, Benyamin Cantz from Four Gates wine swung by the home with other guys from the shul, and we tasted a few older wines. This is not the first time we have been spoiled by Benyo and his wonderful wines. The last time we enjoyed his wines was last year Purim, but this one included even older wines. We had a couple of his older wines a few years ago with Andrew from Blue Smoke at Benyo’s place.
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 1997 vintage shows a very old world style. While the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon shows a very new world style. The ageless 2005 Syrah is now at its end, and it showed mid-world in style and was a true joy! Finally, we opened a 2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot. To pair with his 2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot, I opened a 2010 Brognagian Petit Verdot, a wine made by Jonathan Hajdu, the first Petit Verdot he made, just like the Four Gates was also Benyo’s first Petit Verdot in 2010. The Brobdingnagian was slightly riper and fruit-forward than the Four Gates, but both were quite enjoyable, with the Four Gates taking home the medal.
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.
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.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
1997 Four Gates Merlot – Score: 95+
First of all OMG are you kidding me!!!!! This wine is purple in color and now fully integrated and perfectly balanced and mouth coating with black and red fresh fruit! Wow, this wine is killing!!! This bottle was brought by Benyo, and it shows how awesome his wines age!
This wine’s color is not bricking – after 22 years!! The nose is redolent with black and red fruit, graphite, blackberry, raspberry, with absurd barnyard, lovely mushroom, rich loamy earth, along with lovely oak influence. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered and rich with lovely mouth coating tannin, followed by concentration of black fruit, dark cherry, cranberry, lovely green notes, sweet herb, and garrigue, with barnyard notes, all rising with sweet oak and tannin. The finish is long with tons of good mineral, ripe fruit, chocolate, vanilla, depth of flavor, and calming acid to bring this entire wine together. The fact that the wine continues to coat my mouth and linger long after it is gone blows me away. Throw in its age and I am further blown away. This wine is still drinking beautifully! Drink until 2024.
2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: 90
This wine is a fruity, really new world in style, this is the Cab to which Benyo added acid. The nose on this wine is over the top but really well controlled, with rich fruit, ripe blackberry, raspberry, with loads of anise, tar, and earth. The mouth on this full bodied wine is too ripe for me, over the top, it is showing sweeter than in the past, with loads of blackberry, rich sweet tannin, sweet cedar, and oak, with loads of sweet fruit notes, and spice. The finish is long, sweet, with notes of sweet cherry saver candy, tobacco galore, with nice spice, crazy fruit structure, loads of leather, and earth. Drink up!!!
2005 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: 91
The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe, with lovely roasted animal, blueberry, with loads of black fruit, and slight oxidation. The mouth on this wine is starting to show its age, with nice dirt, blue and black fruit, with loads of tar, lovely acid, and mouth coating tannin, that is still feeling well, but the wine is losing its speed. The finish is long, black and blue, with dirt, and tobacco galore, with anise, and root beer. drink NOW!!!!
2010 Brobdignagian Petit Verdot – Score: 91
This wine is 9 years old and it looks young. There is no bricking, beautiful dark red, showing nicely. The nose is lovely, showing nice ripe red fruit, juicy blue fruit, with licorice, lemongrass, animal fat, with hints of black fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is ripe, but beautifully controlled, with great draping mouthfeel, with lovely searing tannin, good acidity, with blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, with hints of juicy and yet tart blueberry, with a great fruit focus, and layers of lovely fruit and concentration. The finish is long, juicy, controlled, and tart fruit, with green notes, lovely mint, oregano, sweet baking spices, dark chocolate, and roasted herbs. Bravo!!! Drink by 2020.
2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: 93+
This wine is 9 years old and it looks young. There is no bricking, beautiful dark red, showing nicely. The nose is lovely, showing nice ripe blue and red fruit but more elegant than the brob, which is more of a sweet hammer, showing green notes, earth, and hints of mushroom, with red fruit, licorice, lovely floral notes, with smokey notes of roasted game, and lovely sweet garrigue. The mouth on this full bodied wine has evolved beautifully, showing still sweet herb, black pepper, but super balanced with great acidity, along with layers of concentrated blackberry, strawberry, and boysenberry all wrapped in rich earth, and toasted oak, with a plush and mouth draping velvet – so good! The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco, and sweet herb. LOVELY!!! Drink until 2022.
What a great weekend we had. Once again we had guests from out of town and from around the block, it was a great atmosphere and quite a lot of fun. Dinner started with store bought Burekas that were heated nicely along with salads of homemade Babaganush (simple roasted eggplant and tahini); store bought hummus, and other salads. The main course was wicked – if I say so myself. Fresh sweet and flavorful meat lasagna, another week of succulent sweet roasted summer vegetables, and killer broccoli quiche (parve). There was a bit too much starch, but really it was quite yummy.
The wines were a combination of guest contribution and a bottle from the cellar. Our guest brought a bottle of Herzog Syrah Special Reserve 2002. We have reviewed this before, and I have bent your ear off already about how dangerous it is to cellar Herzog Special Reserve Syrah bottles. They are great when released and are really meant to be drunk within the year – at best. That said the 2002 again was quite nice and was the winner of the night. The other bottle was the Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004. It was nice for a Cabernet, but it was too red and not as weighty as I had hoped for the 2004 vintage. Neither improved with time in the glass, both were drinkable during the evening, but did not improve over time. The next morning they were gone.
Herzog Special Reserve Syrah 2002 – Score A-
The score stays the same and the bottle flavors were pretty close. The only real difference came in the intense pepper attack that made its way from the finish to the front as well. Not sure why but the pepper was far more evident and loud in this bottle. Otherwise, the rest stays the same.
Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was quite nice. It was filled with blueberry, cherry, a hint of blackberry, and green aromas. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was fruit forward with blueberry, blackberry, and cranberry. The mid palate was complex with the fruit and the light oak notes intermingling. The finish was average length with red fruit flavors. The wine is NOT overoaked which may appeal to the anti Cabernet crowd. The flavors are not muddy, but they are not as crisp as I would have liked and though the wine is balanced it did not stand out in any particular manner other than being fruity.
This past week we met with some friends and I must admit we brought the dud of the evening 😦 which is a real shame. Herzog Winery makes some fantastic wines, but the Syrah Special Reserve line is one that is fantastic right out of the chute. I have had a few of my friends get burned on this wine line. The 2001 vintage was supposed to be the bomb, and in the end, it bombed. The 2003 vintage was even better out of the chute, yet unfortunately it too has met a similar demise. All I can say for now on this varietal follows the adage from my hometown (Chicago – go WhiteSox) – drink early and often 🙂 . And if you wish to test fate – buy one more at most and if it is the bomb feel blessed, and if it bombs, chalk it up to another learning experience (albeit a bit of an expensive one).
So if my donation to the evening was the dud, all we can say is that the Four Gates Winery wines we had were the hits. The evening started with a Four Gates Cabernet Franc 2005 and ended with a Four Gates Syrah 2004, with my dud was sandwiched between them. In closing, to be fair, the 2003 vintage of Herzog Syrah Special Reserve may be a poor showing of its original self, but the new vintages are doing fine – and showing well, just drink them now and enjoy.
In order of what we drunk – best wishes!
Four Gates Cabernet Franc 2005 – Score: A-
The Four Gates Cabernet Franc was a real joy to drink, it is a classic Cabernet Franc with a Tasmanian Devil attitude. I need to stress that this is not a copy of one of my favorites which is a Cabernet is a Franc’s clothing. Nope this one is a real Franc – but with a bit of tude to boot. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine just explodes with cranberry, cherry, raspberry, and vegetal notes. Stopping for a editorial comment – a Cabernet Franc must have floral, berry, and herbaceous flavors to make it a Franc to me – end of editorial. This one has all of those along with an acid core that solidifies the wine’s body. The mouth on this medium bodied wine explodes with a red fruit attack that is wrapped in an acidic core that tames the fruit, while accentuating the fruit quality. The mid palate is filled with continued acidic notes and lovely herbaceous flavors. The finish is long and filled with fruit and wood shavings. All and all a real winner. This one stood up to some serious food, but I would not throw it at lamb or such.
Herzog Syrah Special Reserve 2003 – Score: B
This line of wines (Herzog Syrah Special Reserve) need to be drunken early – maybe two to three years after the vintage year. They must be doing something to them to make them so accessible early. They have no cellar life – a real shame!!! The spicy, fruity, and tar flavors are long gone. The color is still a nice purple, but the nose has gone south. There are aromas of blackberry, oak, and a bit of nutmeg. The mouth of this medium-full bodied wine is almost fruitless at this point. There are still hints of black fruit. The mid palate has a slight burn of alcohol and the finish is woody with a hint of pepper.
Four Gates Syrah 2004 – Score: A-
This wine was enjoyed with the last bit of lamb and then continued on to desert. When thinking about the wonderful lamb – only one word comes to mind – steamrolled. The poor lamb had no idea what hit it. The Syrah continued its assault on the peach cobbler and the two were actually quite a nice pair, though not as nice as the lamb pairing. The sugar in the cobbler was nice with the acidity and body of the Syrah, but the spicy and tangy flavor of the lamb paired better with the acidic and full bodied Syrah. Enough editorial. To be truly fair this wine needs a few hours of airing – as the alcohol flavor blows off by then and the lovely fruit, tar and inky flavors come pouring out. The nose on this purple colored wine (with orange halos) is filled with blackberry, tar, and tons of oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is packed with black fruit; blackberry and plum along with a huge inky and viscous mouth-feel. The wine almost levitates in your mouth, almost like time stands still while it wishes about in your mouth. The mid palate is filled with more ink characteristics and leather notes. The finish is long and satisfying with notes of tar and wood.