Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: **** ***+ $$$$ Empyrean Draco Meritage, Yakima Valley, Washington, 2002 and 2003

By way of background, opening thoughts: It is a particular pleasure to have the chance to review two wines from the same maker in back-to-back vintages.  This helps you separate some of the influence of the vineyards and winemaking from the year-to-year variations in climate.  Courtesy of Barclay's Wine importers,  we will be tasting meritage blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot from the Empyrean label.  These are named for the astronomical constellation Draco (the dragon); and we will contrast the 2002 vintage with 2003.

Original tasting and review : This is Empyrean Draco Meritage, Yakima Valley, Washington, 2002 and 2003.  The 2002 is 40% cabernet sauvignon, 35% cabernet franc and 25% merlot, finished at 13.9% alcohol.  The 2003 is 50% cabernet sauvignon, 38% cabernet franc and 12% merlot (so essentially a good chunk of cabernet sauvignon replaced merlot for 2003). 

In the glass: Both are deep ruddy red, moving almost to opaque in the center, with brick at the rim.  The 2003 shows a touch more orange in the brick tone at the edge than does the 2002.

On the nose: Poured cool with a brief decant and swirled vigorously, the 2002 shows soft, deep, energetic fruit with broad and sandy black currant - fully ripe.   The 2003 brings a more shy, more tangy nose, showing fresher plums.  From the aroma, seems like the 2002 will be a more layered sip, with 2003 fresher and brighter. 

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate for the 2002 are in fact classic rich fruit, balanced, gentle, with a clean lacing of softer tannins.  Cafe latte and milk chocolate shavings come through on the modest close. For 2003, the plums are apparent on the palate, softer than in the nose, but vibrant with fresh fruit and a finish that moves up-cheek with bolder acids than its predecessor in 2002.

In summary: Overall, both 2002 and 2003 are strong wines.  The 2002 rates a full four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with its soft, extracted - still refreshingly intense - nature. The fresher 2003 rates three stars with a plus for its exuberant nature.

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