A Blind Semi-Vertical. Sort of.

When I first got hooked into this Instagram thing, I started seeing posts about vertical tastings. Having no idea what that was, I asked and a friendly fellow ‘Grammer let me in on the deal. A vertical tasting is when you taste several vintages from the same winery to experience the changes from year to year[1].

File Dec 12, 11 56 30 AMWell, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend such an extravagant affair[2], nor have I ever planned one out on my own. A few weeks ago I received some wine to try from Mirror Wines out of Napa and they sent two vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon. On my way home from The Firm a few nights ago, I got the brilliant idea to do my own mini vertical tasting. And I decided I’d use my handy dandy wine tasting party kit[3] to make it blind!

Husband and I paired the vino with a dinner of toasted baguette, cheese, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic[4]. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening if I do say so myself.
To:                   Alleged Blog Readers
From:              WineEsquire
Date:               December 10, 2015
Wine:              Mirror Wines Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Mirror Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
After encasing the bottles in the red velvet blinding bags, I mixed them up to make sure I didn’t remember which was which[5]. I carefully poured our selections into two glasses and we began. On the first nose I got some jammy leathery tobacco. Not a fruit forward jam, but deeper, more subdued. Very natural and woody. The first swirl around the mouth revealed some chewy tannins, a bit on the drier side.

File Dec 12, 11 55 00 AMThe second glass had a much different nose; there was no mistaking this was a different wine. The nose was a bit harsher, almost as though there was a chemical aspect to it. The first swirl inside was magical though. A bit rounder and more fruit forward than the first, but the tannins were working here as well.

After breathing for an hour or so in the glass, both wines have relaxed. The tannins have melted away making the wines less chewy. The 2012 still has an impeccable nose. Its leathery quality has been enhanced and I’m getting deeper wood flavors. The 2011 nose is still funky, but the slightly spicy fruit and just a hint of vanilla make this a truly superb wine.

Both were deep and luscious; complex with a lot going on. When confronted with two amazing wines, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. If forced to choose however, both Husband and I decided that the 2011 vintage came out on top[6], though both wines were actually divine. I loved the nose on the 2012 but preferred the feel and taste of the 2011.

File Dec 12, 12 17 11 PMIn 2011, the Napa growing season was apparently rainy, cold and harsh, the exact opposite from their typical climate. I bet it’s common to find that the wines from this vintage are either superb or terrible. Given that the grapes really had to struggle just to make it to the bottle, the result is really a testament to all that hard work, and I suppose it’s no surprise that this was such a fine wine.[7]

On the other hand, 2012 was an excellent growing season, described as “classic, “idyllic” and “perfect.” It’s almost as if the 2012 had it too easy, a perfectly lazy Cabernet that didn’t have as much of a struggle to perform.

Regardless, both wines were excellent. A perfect complement to the food spread, and an idyllic way to round out the day. My first go at a vertical may not have worked perfectly, but it was a fun experiment.


Wine Dossier
The wines were produced by Mirror Wines, a Napa winery owned by former NFL player Rick Mirer.[8] He and his winemaker Rob Lawson have been producing Cabernet since 2008 using grapes from two vineyards that “mirror” each other. They have since expanded to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A portion of all sales go to the Mirer Family Foundation which seeks to support children’s health and education initiatives.File Dec 12, 11 55 52 AM

The difference between these two wines, besides the vintage, was the vineyard they came from. The 2011 hailed from Mirror’s Howell Mountain Cimarossa Vineyard. Howell Mountain is its own AVA within Napa; recognized for its high elevation, the climate differs greatly from its sea level counterparts, with twice as much rain and warmer evenings. The 2012 was produced from grapes grown in Oakville, St. Helena, and Yountville. Though both were Cabernets, the different growing areas would of course have an impact on the taste of the wines.

The bottles themselves are lovely. Diesel little things that carry a decent weight to them. The labels are simple and classy, the type I’d be sure to pick up when perusing the shelf. At the $75 (2012) and $95 (2011) price points, these are not wines for the light of wallet, but if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone special on your list, this would be a lovely experience to give.

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] The word “several” means “more than two but fewer than many,” so technically, this was not a true vertical tasting. The wines were also from different vineyards, further screwing up my vertical tasting plan. But whatever, I’m going with it.
[2] Although I’m certainly open to such an experience. #inviteme #2016goals
File Dec 12, 11 55 19 AM[3] A perfect hostess gift from BookNerd Work Friend, though we forgot to use it at our Rosé party this summer. Perfect excuse to have another wine party I think.
[4] a/k/a The Perfect Dinner.
[5] There was no chance of that happening since I promptly forgot which was which as soon as the bags were on.
[6] It turns out the 2011 was harvested on Halloween, our favorite holiday. Must’ve been why we inched that one above the 2012, which was harvested on October 26.
[7] Wine Spectator had the exact same theory. #smart “While no one is calling it a great vintage, many believe great wines were made, just not enough of them. ‘I think there will be some exceptional wines, but they won’t be because of luck,’ said Tor Kenward of Kenward Family Vineyards. ‘They will reflect experienced growers and winemakers who took adversity and turned it to their advantage. I expect a mixed bag.’”
[8] Get it? Mirror (mir-ər).