Thursday, July 4, 2013

Un-Exalted Excelsus

As I sit here on this July 4th, I cannot help but reflect on this glorious country's past.  While today is a celebratory occasion, the birth of our nation and the marking of our independence, I am bound to remember those who have sacrificed to make this day a lasting reality.  

Just like people, our nation isn't perfect. We all have faults. America has gone through difficult times and growing pains before and like those times, we emerge strong and resilient.  Perhaps I'm a cockeyed optimist, but I still believe that we are a beacon of freedom and liberty.  We're Americans; borne of all people, from all over the world. So as we celebrate today, I too will be mindful of those who have gone before us and those who are not as fortunate. May God lift you up and may you experience the blessing of freedom and prosperity.  As I prepare to enjoy American wines today, and yes, some British Gin,  I will be mindful.  But for now...I will first continue on point.

As I've professed here before,  the value of my writings are somewhat diminished if I cannot express the bad simultaneously with the good.  I could submit that perhaps the reviews I publish in that regard are more valuable than the encouraging. 

With that in mind, last night I reached into the cellar to pair a wine with grilled sirloin steak and decided upon the 1997 Castello Banfi Excelsus.  1997 was a ripe vintage in Tuscany that lacked the typical structure of many "classic" Tuscan vintages.  While Castello Banfi is a long time favorite producer of mine - I typically love their Brunello and Summus - this wine was a major disappointment.   Somewhere around 1999, Castello Banfi invested heavily in their cellars and revamped their winemaking processes with an even greater eye toward quality. I think that was warranted and this Excelsus seems the child of that pre-renaissance period. 

Dark in color, the wine is pretty in the glass and decanter. There's a slight violet hue around the rim. However, despite being decanted for 60 minutes, this seemed to have no impact. The nose of the wine is heavy with smoke, char, and spicy wet oak.  Excelsus is 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot, so I know the aim here was a Bordeaux styled red with French barrique influence.  On the palate, the wine is dominated by raw lumber and charred flavors.  There's a hint of tired black fruit and little tannic or acid structure.  I'm not sure what happened here?  I recall Castello Banfi not being enamored with their 1997 wines.  I recall controversy on various wine forums at the time.  They seemed to miss capturing the plushness of the fruit so central to this vintage.  

This was my only bottle, and owing to the fact that this wine isn't that easy to find, I stopped buying it after this vintage. I can't see myself seeking it out now.  84 points, about $45 upon release. 

~ Castello Banfi Excelsus 1997 - 60% Cabernet, 40% Merlot ~

E vero...


  1. John, considering how much you liked the 1995 vintage, this must have been a great let-down, but the good news is that the 2007 vintage is receiving great reviews, except CT, typically stingy, I mean, WE is like 97 points good:)

  2. I do remember enjoying the 1995 a lot. That was the first vintage for Excelsus and by and large, was much more structured than the 1997 vintage. I loved 1995's in general. And many 1997s I had have been tired. Though some have been amazing. The critics loved the lushness of the fruit up front, and I remember many calling it the "California" vintage. But that doesn't make for age-worthy wines. This one was past it's prime and way too oaky. And I'm tolerant of oak.