Impenetrable garnet with no edge, involving lots of glass-staining orange. Beautiful clean smoky eucalyptus with a steely core, barely wavering from fresh straightforward stream-clean into a slight barnyard tinged in tertiary leather and caramel. A sweet cassis rises up late, soaked in sandlewood and myrrh. I could smell this forever.
Oh how I love this Bordeaux blend from Sonoma. And have for decades. And watched its price double and triple and availability dwindle from a fairly common supermarket top-shelfer to rare–almost always surprising–sightings. This is one of those gems large sections of the wine-consuming population have never imagined possible from a brand known for mass-marketed reasonably-solid–but cheap–soccer-mom bottles. There used to be a Briarcrest cabernet too, and two elite chardonnays: Flintwood and Calcaire. Was there another cab? I feel like I am forgetting one. But Marlstone. Marlstone is one of those things whose price has finally started matching the quality we all have known was in the bottle. Sonoma will never garner Napa prices, and you don’t have to read far into my reviews to find my love of Alexander Valley Cabernet. And this blend takes all the rough edges I love about the AVA and polishes them elegantly in world-class meritage fashion.
In the mouth, leaner than you might imagine, but nutty nectar none-the-less. The surprising part is brilliant tannin surfacing early, bringing a pungent high note of green pepper and tree-sap into play. The tannin puts up chalky resistance to the deep, concentrated fruit–a valiant effort–almost winning in some areas and, of course, finally succeeding. My complaint with a lot of wines at this level–especially from Napa–are often almost egregious plushness, which–even though the minions may scream “Infantacide!” is precisely how they are designed in this early-drinking age. No such situation exists with Marlstone–and especially this 2010. I think this is greener and tighter than the 2011, which is pretty hard to believe. The beauty in this wine is the ability to practically stand a fork up in the dense dark fruit stew but it never goes slutty, it just peels off wave after edgy wave of gritty verve effortlessly and calculatedly, leaving you with a curious heroin first-trick must-have-more reflex of pain and pleasure. But always a bit more pleasure.
2010 CLOS DU BOIS Marlstone Cab/ME/Bec/PV 74/15/7/4 Alexander Valley Sonoma County 14.5