Clos Du Val 1996 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged to perfection. We looked up the Robert Parker Vintage Chart for 1996 for North Coast Cab Sauvs, and he gave the regional wines an average of 90 points and said they would be more tannic / slower to mature. Now that we’re 18 years out, this wine is hella refined and smooth, totally living up to its aging potential. This is an excellent example of wine that ages well, and is available at a price point that makes it pretty accessible. We’re finding the non-reserve available for an average of $85 around the web, but we picked up this lovely reserve at the winery, and I haven’t found the reserve label available anywhere else.
So now for the ultimate aged-wine question… what exactly does “Reserve” mean? Usually when we see Reserve on the label and it’s being poured in the tasting room, it means that the wine is made from the best grapes of the lot, and there isn’t very much made, so it’s hella special. But almost two decades later, when a Reserve label is applied, does it mean the same thing? Is the reserve label ever eventually applied to bottles that they age at the winery, noting that it has literally been reserved? I don’t know, do you?
It seems like in terms of quality, wine aged at the winery would have to be the best, as it has been necessarily subjected to less winal assault than any wine that has been shipped, especially for any significant distance. Plus, wineries tend to maintain the ideal environment for aging, and you have to question what’s going on temperature-wise in the warehouses of large stores that sell fine or mid-level wine. Or even cheap wine, really. We’ve been amazed to see what a difference using a wine fridge has made in the quality of all the wine we drink at home, regardless of price point. It certainly can’t “save” chuck, but it lets the chuck be the best that it can be (some people like chuck, and that’s totally cool – there’s no reason to buy manolos when you love your birks).
So back to the manolo at hand: we were lucky enough to sample it in the tasting room, and they had a bottle we could buy to take home, and we just had to. A few
weeks days later at home, we decanted it well; the cork was slightly soft and there was a good amount of sediment in the bottle (but not an egregious amount). Soft leather, tobacco, and violet, perfect medium body; this wine drinks like a treat you hella wanna savor, completely unlike my junior year of high school, when it was made. What a lovely update to my memories of 1996!
The Hella 5 Star System
We have adopted the opinion that fine art, music, wine, cigars, and other comestibles are governed by a unifying principle, which is that the intention of the artist matters. Art can be judged by the patron only as it pertains to the emotive and inductive properties of that art. We think Winemakers and Torcedors are artists.
Here at Hella Wine, we cut our wine-rating teeth on the wildly popular wine app Vivino. Vivino has an integrated five-star system for rating wine, but no standardized rubric to go with it, so we had to define what the star ratings actually mean, and we did so in a very personal way. This system takes into account: price, aesthetics, situational variables, relationships, and any other completely biased information we can come up with. This makes our system predictably emotional, and ratings change from glass to glass, even possibly from the same bottle.
Without further ado, our 5 star rating system revealed
I wont drink/smoke this even if you buy it!
I would drink a glass of this or smoke 1 if you bought it, but I would not order this for myself.
I would buy a glass/one cigar and enjoy it.
I would buy a bottle/5pack of this and really enjoy it.
I'd buy a case/box of this because I just love it.
The Hella 50 to 100 System
We also will usually apply the commonly used 50-100 point scale to our ratings. This tasting format, familiar from the annals of the indelible Robert Parker and Wine Spectator Magazine, does not take price or my ability to afford the wine in question into account. The situation that the drink or cigar was tasted in does not matter. This scale only reflects the quality of the wine/cigar in relation to other wines/cigars we have tasted.
You may loosely infer from this rating:
96-100: A hella amazing wine/cigar of super bold complex character displaying the attributes we hella want to find in the best wines in the world. Wines like this are hella awesome.
90 - 95: An amazing wine/cigar with hella character. Wonderful stuff, we feel lucky to try these.
80 - 89: A hella good wine/cigar, no noticeable flaws but it's just good/okay.
70 - 79: Hella basic, not so memorable wine/cigar. It's good, but just missing that something that makes it hella good, or even special.
60 - 69: Something bad happened in this wine/cigars life. Maybe it got left in a car and cooked, or maybe it sucked to begin with. All we know is we hella don't really want to finish it. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team.
50 - 59: This wine/cigar hella sucks.