We have been fortunate that since 2005 we have been on a string of nice to great vintages here in Pennsylvania. (I think it may be one reason that I haven’t lost Ray greener pastures—he hasn’t had to experience a 2003 vintage where the wines were tough and the winemaking tougher.) I’ve always thought of Pennsylvania having perhaps 3 tough vintages per decade, maybe four average to good ones, and three great ones.
Here’s how I see the first decade of the millennium stacking up:
2000 – Tough vintage, cool summer, light wines.
2001 – Good hot summer, but early frost (October 8). Good whites, late reds were nice.
2002 – Great summer, rains in late Sept/early Oct. Great whites and early reds, Nice late reds.
2003 – Hardest vintage in 30 years.
2004 – Average vintage, average wines
2005 – Amazing year, amazing wines.
2006 – Very nice year, warm summer, rains. Nice wines.
2007 – Phenomenal vintage, legendary wines across the board.
2008 – Very good year with rains in late Sept/early Oct. Very nice wines.
So far, we have had 3 great vintages, 4 average to good years, and 2 tough ones. If my scale is accurate, we’re in for a rough one in 2009. (As a side note, in the past 15 years, every time we had a bad vintage a Crouch passed away. In 1996 it was Marguerite. In 2000 Tim died, and John died in 2003. Another way to look at it is that perhaps since we’re out of Crouches, the cycle is broken….)
John’s Cadenzas were almost always Cabernet-based. The first Cadenza was Cabernet Franc-based in 1994. His philosophy about Cadenza was that it was the best wine we could make. According to him, it didn’t even matter that the wine wasn’t grown at Allegro, as long as it was great wine. (In fact, I probably should have called the 2002 Reserve Merlot a Cadenza in retrospect.) I have followed John’s thinking by holding Cadenza to a very high standard.
The 2005 Cadenza is about 59% Merlot with less than a third Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Franc. This is a classically styled Right Bank Bordeaux-inspired wine, heavy on the Merlot and a backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are pretty well integrated and smoothed out at this point. What excites me about this wine are the layers of flavors and depth of the wine. This one speaks to the quality of the vintage by how complex and intriguing it is. You can lose yourself in a glass of this all night.
The 2006 was from a pretty good vintage. The color is great, and the fruit is right up front. The tannins are firm (another sign of a less-than-perfect year.) This wine is about 50% Merlot, with around 35% Cabernet and about 15% Franc. This is a “fruit-forward” wine, and it is extremely hedonistic and charming. What it lacks is complexity and elegance and depth. It’s more one-dimensional.
Both wines have good ageability. The 2005 because of its strength, and the 2006 because of its tannic structure. The 2005 should age gracefully, while hopefully the 2006 still has some fruit when the tannins finally resolve. I firmly believe that great wines age well, and that it’s not necessarily dependent on the grapes involved. Some of the most age-worthy wines in the world are not Cabernet-based. Think of the German Rieslings, the Australian Shirazes. Or Petrus from Pomerol which is 95% Merlot. Or the ’61 Chateau Cheval Blanc (from the movie Sideways) which is 2/3 Cabernet Franc and 1/3 Merlot.
Talking the other day with Ray, we thought about the idea of using the term Bridge like we did in 2001 for the 2006 wine. There’s no doubt in my mind that the 2006 is a very good wine. But it’s more like the 2001 Bridge (which was 2/3 Cabernet and 1/3 Franc) in terms of its quality level. We came up with the name Bridge as a way to talking about a wine (that John and I made collaboratively) as a bridge between his Cadenzas and mine. I am now thinking of Bridge as being a signifier of wines that are very good but not quite Cadenza.
We’ll release the 2006 Bridge at $27 (as opposed to the 2001 Bridge which was $25). We will also have a Cadenza from 2007 (and perhaps a Bridge as well, depending on how the blends work out.) 2008 will have at least a Bridge wine, if not Cadenza.