Wined Down: Gulping With A Mastodon For

Vinted on June 21, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, wine review, Wined Down (

In what’s become a surreal state of affairs, the list of California cult wines that I’ve yet to try in some way/shape/form is dwindling. Quickly.

The surreal part is that there is no way that I could afford these wines on my own, and in some cases I wouldn’t want to pay the money for them, anyway.

That’s not quite the case for one of the newest wines to join the cult cadre, the worst-kept-secret Napa Valley Cab that I featured in the latest Wined Down column over at Tusk, a new partnership with what-a-surprise-okay-not-really Philippe Melka at the winemaking helm.

The story over at has the whole, well, story on my initiation into the Secret House Of Tusk, from the former movie mogul mansion they are converting into their annual party crash pad, to their play to be one of the first real “populist” cult wines by eschewing ratings and implementing a “two degrees of separation” member list policy; so I’m not going to repeat it here, and will instead urge you to go over there and read it, and then buy 700 subscriptions for all of your friends. I will provide you with a bit more on the tasting note front, though, in case you’ve got a serious amount of wine fund money burning a hole in your rich-ass pockets…

2008 Tusk Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
Price: About $1100 for a 3-bottle allocation
Rating: A

Bold, rich, and generously broad, this wine offers several layers of both ripe and dried versions of classic Cabernet cassis and dark cherry fruits, with a panoply of secondary aromas (truffle, coffee, graphite, and – most impressively – a very pure and certainly a very heady black licorice) to accompany them all the way through a fairly long and expressive finish.

You ought to expect a Melka wine to be big but also good, as this one is; but Melka seems to really have let the freak flag fly with this wine. It’s not T-Rex big, it’s Giganotosaurus big. Which isn’t to say that it’s hot and flabby – it really isn’t either, because the amount of fresh, dried, and just-right-ripe fruit on this wine is off the charts. I don’t know of any real food that could stand up to it outside of the biggest, baddest steakhouse fare, though, so it’s options are definitely limited at the table right now; but in about nine or ten years, let’s see if it plays a bit better with food.

It’s the marriage of fruit and secondary aroma complexity that really makes this wine a best-in-class pick for the airport-travel-lounge members who will want (and can afford) to drink it up; if you dig big, bold black licorice notes in your big, bold Cabs, I’ve yet to find this wine’s equal in that department.




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