Monday, December 15, 2014

Naked Vine One Hitter – Faust, Five Years’ Future

In March 2009, I took my first spin through the Cincinnati International Wine Festival, doing my level best to spin and sip my way through most every booth in the place. The sheer number of tastings I did eventually overwhelmed me, my taste buds, and – as you can see – my tooth enamel. 



I find it fascinating to read my old reviews from a few years back to see how my palate has changed as time’s gone by. Before the decade’s turn, I was much more into big, extracted red wines like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel. (“Extracted” is WineSpeak for “Wine made in such a way as to concentrate the flavors, producing a bigger, generally fruitier, and more “in your face” wine.)

When I wrote up my experiences from that day, the wines I chose as my “Best in Show” was the 2006 “Faust” Cabernet Sauvignon from Huneeus Vintners in Napa Valley. The wine, to no surprise, is named for the protagonist in the famous work by the German poet Goethe. Here’s what I wrote back then:
“Maybe it was the name that piqued by devilish curiosity. Maybe it was the powerful black cherry, fresh tobacco, and blackberry flavors that cut through everything else that I'd tasted up to that point. Maybe it was the tannins, strong but without taking away from the fruit and the finish that seemed to go on for days. Whatever deal was struck by these winemakers, they put together an absolutely delicious cabernet -- likely in my personal Top 10 of that varietal all time. Probably will set you back around $55, but considering that "high end" Napa cabernet sauvignons are selling for literally hundreds of dollars a bottle, run with this as a splurge and hold on to your soul.”
A bit of youthful hyperbole? Sure thing – but it *was* a really good wine which had enough power to blast its way through the thick coating of tannin that was undoubtedly wrapped around my tongue by the time I tried it on that March day. While I hadn’t run into an occasion to pick up a bottle over the years, I always remembered it, and I was excited for the notion of having my way with an entire bottle of the stuff!

Fast forward to late 2014. Your favorite companion in the wine review world got an email from Toby at Fineman PR, asking me if I’d like to sample the 2011 vintage of Faust. With memories of my previous brief dance with this devil in my mind, I quickly agreed.

Much like it’s namesake’s winding journey to salvation in that German poem, this bottle took some time to get to me. A bit of a shipping mishap and some ridiculous state import laws kept the bottle from me for a time, but Toby eventually succeeded in getting me a bottle of the just-released 2012 vintage. I did some decanting, grilled up some veal loin chops, rousted the Sweet Partner in Crime from her end-of-semester grading and set to tasting.

OK, first off – “extracted” still qualifies as an apt descriptor here. This is a Napa cab, through and through. Most of what I wrote for the 2006 holds true today. There are still big, bold red and black fruits on the nose and on the palate, which is rich and packed with tannin that definitely needs some air to unwind. The finish is long and chewy. It smooths out a bit as the evening winds on.

Since this is the just-dropped vintage, I thought it’s still drinking pretty young. Six more months in bottle would do the integration of this wine a world of good. The SPinC was more succinct, “It’s just too much for me,” she quipped, “I remember loving wines like this, but my palate just isn’t set up for this one anymore.” I understood where she was coming from. I still liked it more than she did.

With the veal chops, I was pleased with the pairing, but I wasn’t blown away by it. It was a good red wine pairing, but I didn’t think it was quite $55 good. Now, next to a piece of dark chocolate towards the end of the evening, I would have at least entertained an offer for a small piece of my aforementioned soul. Really super there.

For fans of premium California cabernet, I think you’re going to be pleased with this wine. If you’re looking for a holiday gift for a special someone, it’s a pretty solid option. I could certainly see the potential – especially if one were to lay a few bottles of this down for awhile. It’s certainly got the “bones” that could potentially mature into something really special.

The price for Faust remains the same -- $55. I also see that Huneeus is producing a couple of single-vineyard reserve wines inspired by Faust’s story called “The Lure” and “The Pact” which retail for $75 apiece.

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