By way of background: I've been sampling through some Columbia Valley reds of late. Here's one I found in my cellar, an 11-year-old cabernet sauvignon. Here we'll see first hand how these things age...
Initial review, May, 2011: This is Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2000, finished at 13.5% alcohol and aged in small American and French oak barrels for more than 16 months.
In the glass: Chateau Ste Michelle cab is deep, dark red with some brick highlights showing at the edges.
On the nose: Poured cool with a brief decant and swirled vigorously, shows a fruity and very lightly oxidized cherry-style aroma. From the aroma, seems like this will be solid and layered.
On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact a distinctly oak-laced, muddled cherry mid-palate, with little hints of oxidation calling from the edges. Acids and oaky tannins balance the fruit to create an overall light- to mid-bodied experience.
In summary: Overall, I can't see that this experience would draw me back again, so rates stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for balance. From the character, I believe we would have done more justice to the wine by opening no more than five or six years from its vintage date, rather than 11 years. Indeed, when I tried the 2001 vintage six years after its vintage date, in 2007, I awarded a full three stars.
Following three hour decant at room temperature: Consistent lightly oxidized cherry aroma. Balanced palate of sweet red cherries, soft tannins and moderate acids.
Following longer decant, two days kept cool in partially-filled bottle: Aroma almost moving to funky. Solid and full, though still not quite three stars. Note to self: open Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon younger than 10 years.
Updated review, over a full year later, July, 2012: Deep dark mahogany and brick, opaque in the center. Layered, soft black cherry on the nose. Balanced deep black cherry with hints of oak on the palate. Satisfying, though, moving to an easy three stars.
Updated review, 2001 vintage, sampled 13 years from vintage date, November, 2014: Deep magenta, opaque in the center. Aged, somewhat oxidized fruit on the nose. Palate still shows some bright blackberry, and a clean laundry essence. Still touches three stars.
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