Chris Corley
August 17, 2008 | Questions, Tasting Wine | Chris Corley

A Question from Ed Buckingham : 1997, 1998, 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon

"I have a few bottles of your 1997 Corley Reserve Cab, and 1998 and 1999 Jefferson Cuvee. How long is too long to cellar these? I opened a 1998 the other night. Pretty darn good!

 Ed Buckingham - Austin, TX

Thanks for the question Ed, and also the nice comments on the 1998 Jefferson Cuvee. You've touched on one of the most pleasurable aspects of enjoying finished wines - assessing ageability !

1997-1999 were all good years, although there are distinct differences across the years. I'll talk a little about each vintage, specifically as it relates to our Cabernet Sauvignon.

1997 was a very memorable vintage for us, and for most everyone in Napa, as the quality was superb and we had a large crop. I can recall that at one point during the thick of harvest, we were basically out of tanks to put grapes into! The grapes ripened very evenly and the combination of ripe luscious fruit and rich but not aggressive tannins made this vintage one of the favorites of the 90s. The 1997 Corley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is drinking great right now, especially with an hour or so in the decanter, and I think this wine will be drinking nicely for another 7-8 years.

1998 was a smaller crop than the year before, as was expected after such a big year in 1997. The Cabs from 1998 showed very nice fruit early on, although the tannins were softer than in either 1997 or 1999. For me, the 1998 Jefferson has always been a slightly softer style than either 97 or 99. I would anticipate that the 1998 Jefferson Cuvee should drink well for another 2-3 years.

1999 was another excellent vintage, with a long moderate growing season. The wines were dark and intense, and I remember the tannins being pretty firm early on with the 99s. After about 7 years in the bottle, the 1999 Jeff Cab is tasting great, and I think this wine should be drinking nicely for another 4-5 years.

I recommend decanting all of these wines for 30-60 minutes prior to enjoying. You'll likely get a feel for your 'sweet spot' by stealing a few sips at regular intervals ...


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