98 Chat. St. Jean SB, La Petite Etoile, Foul or Fabulous? - Printable Version

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- Bucko - 03-23-2000 11:07 PM

A wine that will polarize people for sure.

For me and many, foul. An oak bomb that I could not drink.

For many others, fabulous. 100% BF and aged for 10 months in small French oak cooperage. A well made wine, with an aromatic nose, very lovely, rich fruit, acceptable acidity, with a soft mouthfeel and creamy vanilla finish.


- Scoop - 03-24-2000 11:32 AM

TMO -- too much oak -- a cardinal sin in wine-making (IMO).

Off to NY's Wine Week for an early Friday lunch!


- mrdutton - 03-24-2000 07:31 PM

What has convinced the American consumer that drinking oak is the right thing to do?

Otherwise, the winemakers would quit using so much new oak and start using old oak or (heaven forbid) stainless steel.

Quite frankly I'd rather drink wine where I can taste the fruit and the soil and the weather rather than wine infiltrated with trees where I can only taste the wood. Gads, if I wanted wood, I could eat a pencil.

- Winent - 03-24-2000 08:27 PM

Always enjoy reading the recommendations of our esteemed moderators.

Just got serious about wine over the last couple of years, but I am already really tired of over-oaked wines. Had an inexpensive Forest Glen Chardonnay at a party the other night and it tasted like a freshly extinguished campfire in a glass. Is it possible to become oversensitive to oak in wine?

- Bucko - 03-24-2000 10:25 PM

I find from my own experience that oak is one of the biggest changes. When I very first started into the adventures of wine, I was REALLY impressed when the winery/wine shop said that the wine was aged in 100% new French oak. That had to make it good, no?

I graduated on up in price and quality of wines over the years, such as drinking Kistler Chardonnay. I thought that Kistler was the acme of winemaking. Then a savy wine friend gave me a polite nudge towards Loire wines. I was blown away by the crispness, purity of fruit, balance, and food-friendliness of these wines. All of a sudden I realized what oak-laden messes I had been drinking. My aversion to overoaking started that day and has not abated since.

IMO, there is no reason to excessively oak a wine except to try to make up for poor fruit. It is poor winemaking IMO, but then $2.50 and my opinion will get you a latte. ;-)


[This message has been edited by Bucko (edited 03-24-2000).]

- Thomas - 03-25-2000 08:23 AM

From my standpoint, oak generally gets in the way of a good wine and food match. That is my reason for disliking wines beat up with a stick.

To me, it is the difference between evaluating a wine for what you can do to it, against evaluating a wine for what it can do for you at dinner. Yet, many unfruity, massively alcoholic, over-oaked wines win Gold Medals, which is likely why Americans believe in oaky wines. Take it up with the judges.

- Scoop - 03-25-2000 01:00 PM

It's an unusual situation with these oak cocktails (especially whites, and most egregiously, Chardonnay) in the US. It seems that palates here have almost been trained to respond positively to those high vanilla notes.

At a recent wine event in NYC (but not a wine industry event), US and French versions of the same varietals were paired against each other in blind tastings. It was entertaining, and the wines were well chosen. It was also very obvious for those with any tasting experience which wines came from where.

When it came to the Chardonnay, one of the wines was a monster, fat and viscous with some nice spicy notes (nutmeg) and that big buttery vanilla (I believe it was from Grundlach). Obviously Californian. The other was understated yet rich, with nice body and acidity, beautiful melon and apple-pie fruit, and a wonderful hazlenut touch in the finish. And no signs of oak. It would be marvelous with some good bird. Obviously this was a classic cru Burgundy.

The tasting leader asked after each "round" which was the favorite. For the Chard, it was at least 5 to 1 in favor of the typically big, over-oaked Californian.

Oh well. We've got some work to do.



- Jason - 03-26-2000 12:41 PM

This is an apt thread to read as I am sitting here drinking a Pinot Blanc from Alsace with lots of green apple and no oak.
I never understood the Cali Sauv Blancs.
Why not just drink chard? I know we have covered this topic ad nauseam, but it does make me appreciate my full bodied white that has no malo.

- Bucko - 03-26-2000 01:59 PM

Here are my notes on four CA SBs that don't overwhelm with oak and malo:

1998 Brander, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate $11. This wine is bold in expressing itself. Very grassy on the nose and palate, with lovely peach fruit, nice balance and a crisp finish. Good value.

1998 Husch, Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $11.50, 9,949 cases. Nice Sauvignon fruit with just a hint of grassiness, a light hand on the oak, and lively acidity.

1998 Jepson, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Mendocino, $15, 375 cases. Another clean, crisp, fruity Sauvignon Blanc, with just a hint of gooseberry. Steam that crab.

1998 St. Supery, Meritage, Napa Valley, $20, 2,208 cases. This is a very lovely, elegant, balanced wine, with luscious citrus and grapefruit flavors and a hint of orange peel.


- mrdutton - 03-26-2000 06:14 PM

Bucko -

You bring the wine, the 1998 Jepson SB Reserve. I'll take care of the steamed Jimmies. Meet me in my back yard anytime this summer here in Virginia Beach. Bring your fishing pole cuz the large pond behind the house has plenty of perch, blue gill and large mouth bass.

- Bucko - 03-26-2000 07:19 PM

It's been a long time since I have been back down South. It is hard to drag me outta the PNW..... Dungeness crab, steelhead, Copper River Salmon, razor clams.....


- Randy Caparoso - 03-27-2000 01:15 AM

We've had this argument before, gentlemen, and I will not cringe from it. Oak, and barrel fermentation, are not in themselves bad. In fact, it can vastly improve a wine like, say, a Kistler or ABC Chardonnay. For our own restaurants, we happen to 100% French oak barrel ferment our Oregon grown Pinot Gris. But I promise you -- you do not taste "oak" in the wine, but just the smooth, creamy, well rounded taste that you would never get if you just stainless steel fermented the sucker.

Of course, I am totally in agreement that many wines which see oak are much worse for it. In those cases, oak is bad, bad, bad. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are too many white wines which are greatly enhanced by the process -- in respect to pure drinking as well as in respect to food affinities. So let's just talk specifics, since blanket statements are just as apt to be in error.

Finally, as for Scoop's tasting results: the fact that the group preferred the well oaked wines should tell you something about why many commercial grade wines are done like that. Winemakers aren't stupid -- they know what the public wants. However, far be it for anyone else -- "experts," critics or otherwise -- to tell the public what they "should" be drinking, and what they "should" like.

The vast majority of consumers never, never read -- and so are not influenced by what is written -- about wine. They just know what they like.

Silver Oak's Justin Meyer always contended that there was always one way to tell which is the "best" wine in any large tasting. All he had to do was look to see which bottles were the emptiest. If the Silver Oaks were the emptiest, he then knew he was on the right track. It took a few years for the critics and so-called experts to catch up with Meyer, but he never really cared whether they did or not. Since as far as he's concerned, he was always the one making the greatest wine!

[This message has been edited by Randy Caparoso (edited 03-27-2000).]

- mrdutton - 03-27-2000 01:19 AM

Apalachicola oysters, Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, Chincoteague and Assateague Oysters, Rock Fish (Striped Bass), Black Bass (Sea Bass), Maine Lobsters.................. Albeit the Copper River Salmon is awfully darn good but the season is so short!

We have our good points also! With all that sea food, we have a great excuse for drinking Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and Beaujolais all summer amongst others, including some good Champagne or sparkling wines.

We should be entitled to our own opinions and we should be able to express them in an open forum, shouldn't we? Even if the general public does not agree.

[This message has been edited by mrdutton (edited 03-26-2000).]

- Randy Caparoso - 03-27-2000 04:04 AM

Fine, so go ahead. Talk amongst yourselves. While the real world rages all around you.

- Thomas - 03-27-2000 07:47 AM

As you must know, Randy, the real world is not a wine world, at least in the USA....

I believe that most of us referred to wines that are overdone, beat up, wooded and malo-ed to death. There are an awful lot of them out there. And you are correct, most people do not read about wine, they simply glance at the score next to wine on the shelf or on the wine list--the score that often rates high for many bottles of large, powerful airplane fuel with vanilla overtones.

- Scoop - 03-27-2000 10:22 AM

I'm not saying all California Chards are bad, nor are all over-oaked, but there exists a tendency...Some oaked chards can be very hedonistic, and many unquestionably love them, but these can be very tricky food companions. They are almost "stand alone"-type wines.



- Randy Caparoso - 03-30-2000 05:13 AM

Sorry, foodie. But there are no respectable restaurants that I know of that lists scores on wine lists. Such things are non-factors in restaurant points of sales. We have 17 restaurants in two countries and 7 states in which our people are recommending wines to thousands of people every night -- and since we run cutting-edge lists, these are mostly wines people have never heard of, let alone are aware of their scores or reviews. But still it is the same -- in whites, they prefer the fuller, softer, creamier, finer textured qualities that are derived from such things as barrel and malolactic fermentation over wines that are light, crisply acidic, lightly or nonoaked. Don't get me wrong. We encourage our guests to try lots of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Riesling; but we still sell boatloads of Chardonnay. So what is a restaurateur to do? Walk around and tell people that they're all wrong? That they MUST enjoy Sancerre more than barrel fermented Fume Blanc?

The fact is -- whether you want to recognize it or not -- the current consumer taste is for heavier, well oaked stuff. Maybe not ten years from now, but it's a fact of life today. Whatever they decide, it won't because of what writers, assorted experts, or even what retailers and restaurants tell them. All we can ever do is endeavor to guide and influence them. But in the end, consumers will always go according to their own tastes and preferences, whatever that might be. This is MY world!

[This message has been edited by Randy Caparoso (edited 03-30-2000).]

- misterjive - 04-02-2000 03:07 AM

It seems that for wine drinkers, to oak or not to oak is a bit of a conundrum. We Americans are surely to blame; we grow the oak, we make the oaky Chardonnays, we (as consumers) equate oakiness with priceyness and desirability. I, too, hate chards thattastelike they were "made by a carpenter." But these oaky monsters sell in the US all the live-long day. The Europeans must be aghast. So much oak obliterates complexity, and what Frenchman wouldn't prefer a fine, nuanced white Burgundy over an oaky, one-dimensional Cali chard. When I first tasted Silvio Jermann's (Italy) Vintage Tunina single-vineyard, stainless steel-fermented Chardonnay, it was a revelation. Depths of complexity, such as an oak-bomb could never dream of. The grape could finally be appreciated for itself. Likewise, in this forum, I have written a few times that Americans somewhat foolishly equate oak with quality when it comes to Chiantis. Ruffino Gold Label Riserva Ducale sells in large part because we as a market prefer an oaky product. As for whites, I can relate to Winent's comment about the Forest Glen. This "freshly-extinguished campfire" taste in Cali chard I have come to associate with art gallery giveaways and other opening day events. Heavy oak tastes cheap, somehow, like an awkward attempt to gloss over major flaws in the grapes. Good oak on good wine is another story. But please, California producers, spare us the over-oaked chards and sauv blancs that you convince us to buy for $9-12 instead of the $2 they are worth.

Speaking of Sauvignon Blanc, I had a nice bottle of 1999 Giesen (Marlborough) last night, with the oak kept in fine proportion to the fruit. The wine is quite crisp, with deliciously tart grapefruit, green apple, and citrus notes. Marlborough continues to amaze me for this grape. Brancott Sauvignon Blanc remains a favorite, but the Brancott is $19.99, and the Giesen was $10.99. I'd say the Giesen is well worth it!