Thursday, September 4, 2008

Esca Cabernet 2004

Esca Wines
Napa Valley, California
14.3% alcohol
screw cap top
$27.99 from WineQ

The Big Wooden Guy is applauding a very nice effort- a nice wine at a good price.

from the Bottle notes:

Esca is a collaboration between the husband and wife winemaking team, Mario and Anna Monicelli. Esca means "bait" in Italian. Just as the nectar of the Hibiscus flower allures the bee on the label, these wines entice the enophile.

Night One

Immediately upon opening this smelled like Welch's grape juice. Fortunately, that blew off pretty quickly. After about 20 minutes it started to show its legs, with currants, tobacco, and a little melted licorice. That evolved over time, too. Currants remained prominent, but the tobacco faded to be replaced by a more pungent eucalyptus, and the licorice disappeared completely.

On the palate it was more vegetal than the nose suggested. It also changed significantly from attack to midpalate. Up front it was blackcurrant and blueberry, plus tobacco. That evolved to blueberry and dark plum, plus mint. Toward the end, and through the finish, vanilla grew from nothing to a crescendo, exciting at first, pleasant next, but overpowering and distracting at the end. Mouth feel was fine, not too thin but not anything to write home about. Low but very soft tannins, there, but not enough. Acid was AWOL. It was, in a word, fat. If I had to guess, I would say it lacks sufficient backbone to carry over to a second night, much less last years in the cellar.

Night Two

The nose is more terroir-driven, more vegetal and earthy, than Night One. Currants are there, black and red, and so are black cherries, but tobacco, eucalyptus and some green pepper are there, too. It also has a spicier kick, black pepper and cinnamon.

Black and red currants, blackberries, and later blueberry, are all there on the palate. The mint is there, too, spearmint, not peppermint, but only faintly and in the background, along with pepper and nutmeg. Mouth feel is far fuller than on Night One. Tannins are silky, tooth-coating and sweet, but a little light to balance the fruit. Overall, not as fat as Night One, but it does knock an otherwise very good wine down a peg or two. Finish is long.

This surprised me. Night Two was not just better than Night One, it was a LOT better. Was it great? No. Was it good? Yes. I could not recommend years in the cellar. The lack of tannins just don't have that kind of promise. However, will a few hours in a decanter make it a heck of a lot better than just opening it and taking a swig. At a mere $27.99 for a Napa Cabernet this is a good deal on a pretty good wine. Heck, I've had Napa Cabs at two or even three times the price that I would take second to this one.

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