Wine Tasting Notes, 2009: Whitehall Lane, Rutherford

whitehalllaneA recent bottle of 2004 Whitehall Lane Merlot prompted a visit to their St. Helena winery today. I had purchased this Merlot almost two years ago, and so my recollections were a little hazy. Much to my surprise, however, it was excellent, and I was intrigued that I hadn’t remembered this wine more clearly. When I investigated its retail price, I was even more pleased to discover that it was only $28. Although I was sure that the 2004 Merlot was already sold out (which it was), I was interested in catching up with Whitehall Lane’s current releases.

Long story short: I didn’t discover anything as engaging as that 2004 Merlot, but I do feel that Whitehall Lane offered some decent values. My main issue with the 2005 Whitehall Lane Merlot (in which I’d placed most of my hopes) was that it did not seem to have enough fruit to stand up to the oak. But despite being less impressive than the 2004 Merlot, I do feel that the 2005 remains fairly priced at $28 — it just doesn’t present the same bargain as the previous vintage. If it’s all the same, and you purchase your wine online, the 2004 Merlot is still out there in cyberspace for good prices. And keep an eye out for Whitehall Lane’s 2006 Merlot, which is slated to be released soon — perhaps it might just be a return to form.

Among the current releases, my favorite wine today at Whitehall Lane was the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which has just recently been released. This wine is a blend of two other Whitehall Lane bottlings, the 2005 “Leonardini” Vineyard ($60) and the 2005 “Morsoli” Vineyard ($60). Having tasted each wine separately, I found it quite revealing: these wines really need each other. With the former wine, it was dominated by minty-eucalyptus flavors, bordering on medicinal herb characteristics. The other wine offered better flavors, but was also a touch light. As for the Reserve, blending the “Morsoli” and “Leonardini” helped push the herbal notes to the very back, creating a wine with added complexity and finesse. However, at $75 per bottle, I ultimately had to pass.

The 2005 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon was only $40, and a better value than the 2005 Reserve. Even so, I felt that the Cabernet suffered from the same malady as the Merlot: it just seemed a little over-oaked for my tastes. The other decent value was the 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which is priced at $16, but lacks any finish. But as one of the few Napa wines under the $20 mark, expectations should also be managed accordingly.

1 comment to Wine Tasting Notes, 2009: Whitehall Lane, Rutherford

  • J.R.

    At 28 dollars a bottle I hardly consider it a bargain, I understand comparatively speaking it may seem cheaper, but I refuse to buy in to the hype Napa brings with its overpriced fruit punch. I find myself much happier sticking to the fairer priced other valleys in the area or sticking to the true bargains found at Kermit Lynch.

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