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Stephen Tanzer

International Wine Cellar

May/June 1997

The Best New Releases from California

Kalin Cellars. Terry Leighton releases his wines when they, and he, are good and ready: for example, there is still ’91 Pinot Noir and at least one ’91 Chardonnay yet to come.

1992 Semillon Livermore Valley ($25): Green-tinged yellow. Initially mute on the nose, but opened to show subtle notes of herbs, lanolin, resin and hay. Rich and supple in the mouth, with a lovely honeyed quality, but still tightly wound. Distinctly saline note on the back end. This still needs a year or so of patience, and should age slowly in bottle. 89+.

1993 Chardonnay Cuvée W Livermore Valley: Full yellow-gold color. Butterscotch, fig and smoke aromas over a fresh citric underpinning; exotic hint of apricot. Big, thick and enticingly sweet in the mouth, with a hint of exotic fruit carrying through on the palate. Real hazelnutty Meursault character. Strong extract and mineral acids give this fruit a juicy quality and structure to age. Very long on the finish. Really lovely fruit/acid balance. 91(+?).

1987 Chardonnay Cuvée LV Sonoma County (a library re-release of a fascinating wine that had very high acid at the outset): Pale yellow-gold. High-toned smoky nose, with a limey lift. Thick and nutty, but with strong lemon-and-lime acidity giving the wine a very dry impression. If the above is Meursault-like, this is more Puligny. Very long, tactile, almost briny finish. This still-youthful wine is just approaching its peak years 91.

1992 Pinot Noir Cuvée DD Sonoma County ($45): Dark red-brick color, showing some development. Subdued nose initially dominated by spicy oak and leather; opened to reveal deep aromas of cassis, raspberry, tar and smoked meat. Opulent and thick, even a bit undifferentiated, but really fills the mouth. Finishes with dusty tannins and a burst of raspberry. Became more and more interesting as it unfolded in the glass: a distinctly leathery/meaty Gevrey style of Pinot, with earthy, autumnal suggestions of maturing Burgundy. Velvety-rich bordering on the exotic. 91.

1990 Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Valley Reserve ($45; aged three years in all new French barriques): Dark color, with some brown at the rim. Deeply pitched aromas of roasted plums, cinnamon, coconut, tar and smoky oak. Graves-like flavors of plum and hot rocks; like the above, lush and soft, but there’s terrific flavor in the mouth. The finish features dusty, ripe tannins and a burst of plum and currant flavor. 90.

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Last modified: October 10, 2009