Phteve<–with a PH

Dark ruby with slightly garnet edges.  An overwhelming steely, rubber-band, alcohol nose with crushed mint and very ripe fruit.  36-28-22 CF, ME and Petite Verdot with 14% cab stated on label.  This explains a LOT.  Peppery and black-fruited and oh what a mouth-full!  Chilling acidity and pepper wraps the tongue and dispels any thought of this being a smooth, cab-fruited drinker.  Just an absolute BRUISER.  While “all-encompassing tannin” would be a nice way to put it, I can only describe the whole back half as BITTER.  Really, ‘bitter’ is the only way to put this in layman’s terms.  It’s just BITTER and blasting and one would expect–or hope–for some bright fruit to expose itself into a nice, polished finish.

I really despise using either *smooth* or *bitter* in my descriptors, but sometimes that is just what comes to mind and there is no spinning it in the wine’s favor.  Dark, bitter, and incredibly alcoholic.  I guessed 15-1–based largely on what sort of marketing  ‘envelope’ a label can push but they state 15-8.  Oh boy.  And the price tag says this wine has been on the shelf for almost exactly one year–and it’s a 2006–so that also give a perceptive wine-shopper some creative info as to source and what the winemaker intends for the consumer.

Two things bother me about this wine.  The alcohol goes against everything I think of when I see ‘Claret’.  Combine that with it headed into a decade of age and still showing just incredible structure with the hint of fruit not really polishing, but burnt-rubber/road-tar components still showing at the forefront.  Provenance also is not perfect, with this particular store showing no signs of air-conditioning when I walked in today (August in Morro Bay).

Kinda torn on this one.  Half of me wants to walk in and buy the lot–it is $14.99 wine!–and the other half says that sort of AL combined with what is showing at this age just will all go downhill from here.  There are so many great wines out there as cellar-candidates, so many ways to spend money, one has trouble quantifying this bottle.  It is an interesting wine and I am looking forward to trying some of this label’s other offerings, but a little scared of this one.  Still, for that price, how can you go wrong?  I LOVE trying and drinking wines like this–and so should you… it is just a little fat and tannic.  The whole thing is amazing and wonderful–just a little out of balance.  Still, this Stephen guy is seriously making a statement.

2006 STEPHEN’S Claret 36/28/22/14 CF/ME/PV/Cab Paso Robles 15.8

www.stephenscellar.com

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