Cellar Management

Pick My Next Bottle – 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Showdown

The February installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon from some of the best regions in the world known for growing this noble grape. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I will open the winning bottle this Thursday, on my wife’s Birthday, and post a Bottle Note shortly thereafter.

2003 was an above average vintage in both Washington and California. 2003 in Bordeaux was marked by a once in a lifetime heat wave. The very best wines of the vintage are glorious buy many question their age worthiness.

The Producers:

  • Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex Golitzin is a nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and 70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena, California with developing his early interest in wine. Alex’s son, Paul Golitzin is now chief winemaker at the winery.
  • Araujo Estate is a 38-acre vineyard in northeast Napa Valley, east of Calistoga. It was established in 1990 when Bart and Daphne Araujo bought the historic vineyard from Milt and Barbara Eisele, who planted the vines in the 1960s. For nearly 40 years the Eisele Vineyard has been known as one of the valley’s great vineyards, consistently producing outstanding wines. Several years ago Bart and Daphne Araujo sold the winery to Francois Pinault, the owner of Chateau Latour. The winery is now known as Eisele Vineyard.
  • Chateau Pichon Baron and Chateau Pichon Lalande were once part of the same estate. The Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville, on the night of his death in 1850, divided his Pauillac estate between his five children. His two sons were awarded what became Chateau Pichon Baron. His three daughters were given what later became Chateau Pichon Lalande. Today Pichon Baron is owned by AXA insurance group and managed by Christian Seely.

The Wines:

  • 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – Another wine I’ve had multiple times recently, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot) is pure perfection in a glass and yields off-the-hook aromatics of cassis, black raspberries, tobacco leaf, pepper and licorice. Deep, layered and even elegant, with a seamless texture that conceals the sheer wealth of material present, it builds through the mid-palate, possesses huge amounts of extract and masses of polished tannin on the finish. Despite the overall size, it never loses its Cabernet Sauvignon soul and has an almost Bordeaux-like savoriness and tannic frame. Still young (yet gorgeous none the less), it can be enjoyed now or cellared for another 10-15+ years. Drink now-2028. 100 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2003 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard – Absolutely superb, this 2003 is drinking beautifully. This blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot from the famous hillside Eisele Vineyard in northeast Napa Valley tips the scales at 14.5% natural alcohol. Gorgeously fresh black currant and black raspberry notes intermixed with spring flowers and forest floor jump from the glass from one of the most aromatically complex wines of the vintage. Medium to full-bodied with sweet fruit, velvety, melted, integrated tannin, a round, generous mouthfeel and no evidence of oak, this is a classy, elegant as well as substantial beauty that continues to age well. It may even be superior to Araujo’s 2002, which, on paper, is a better vintage. The seductive, alluring 2003 should remain at this level for another 5-8 years, but there is no reason to defer your gratification. Bravo! 96 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2003 Chateau Pichon Baron – This is a brilliantly run property year in and year out, and especially since the mid- to late 1980s has produced one of the top four or five wines made in Pauillac in virtually every vintage. With 13.4% alcohol, the 2003 is one of the most powerful efforts this chateau has ever made. Its dense purple color is accompanied by sweet, jammy creme de cassis notes intermixed with roasted herbs, smoked meats, and chocolate. Although ripe, dense, full-bodied, and moderately tannic, it is silky (because of its low acidity and high glycerin) as well as accessible. It should firm up in the bottle, and be at its peak between 2008-2025. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Should I Open?

  • 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (51%, 22 Votes)
  • 2003 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard (37%, 16 Votes)
  • 2003 Chateau Pichon Baron (12%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 43

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the February installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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4 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Showdown

  1. My Pick is the 2003 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard. I’m speculating that the Araujo is probably drinking earlier than the other two contenders. That said, I’m really curious about how the Pichon Baron is doing (I have not opened any of my 2003 Bordeaux yet).

    1. I’m surprised you have not opened any ’03’s. From what I hear they a quicker aging curve than a more classic vintage. Sometimes though I think this is collectors talking their book. I’ve opened a few but not as many classified growths as I would like.

  2. I go on a wine-by-wine basis and I don’t have many 2003s. So, I’d rather be cautious and wait until I’m sure the wines are aged enough to drink. It hurts when one opens a bottle too early and the wine is still closed. If I had a few bottles for each Château, I’d have opened a couple just to see how they’re doing. I don’t have any 2003 Pichon Baron but I’m still curious how it’s drinking.

  3. Although I’d love to hear about the Pichon, I think time may be running out on the Araujo. Set it free!

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