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BOND: A Complete Retrospective
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | NOVEMBER 9, 2017
This historic retrospective of five verticals going back to BOND's inaugural 1999 vintage was the most comprehensive tasting ever staged at the estate and the first time the Harlan family had opened all of the BOND wines in one sitting. The entire Harlan family, along with the teams at Harlan Estate and BOND, were present for this truly once in a lifetime look back at their work spanning three decades.
This is also the first large-scale retrospective my colleague Steve Tanzer and I have done together and the first time Vinous is publishing parallel notes from both of us for the same wines tasted at the same time. I hope readers will enjoy reading and comparing our notes. For more historical background on BOND, readers may enjoy revisiting Steve’s article A Bond Extravaganza.
The BOND team, from left to right: Vineyard Manager Ely McElroy, Winemaker Cory Empting, Director of Winegrowing Bob Levy, Vineyard Manager Mary Maher, Estate Director Don Weaver, Bill Harlan, Debbie Harlan, Amanda Harlan, Will Harlan. Not pictured: Sales Director Scott Gould.
A Few Observations
Following the arc of evolution for the five wines in the BOND portfolio from inception to the present day was fascinating and yielded numerous insights. It is important to note that a number of the BOND wines have relatively short track records and were made from what were very young vines at the outset. Perhaps because of that, vineyard signatures are not always well defined in the early BONDs.
A significant stylistic shift is also quite evident from the first vintages to the present day. Bill Harlan and Director of Winegrowing Bob Levy attribute this mostly to an increase in the age of vines over time, which, among other things, allows for more even ripening of tannin and lowers the need for irrigation. But there is more to it than that. Yields today are not as excessively low as they were in the past, and, in general, the wines are made in a less extracted style than was in vogue in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A good example is the 2007 Melbury, a wine with quite a bit of tannin that will likely never fully soften. To be fair, though, I imagine that a similar trajectory of development would be found in many wines around the world when comparing styles of the 1990s and 2000s to today.
The BOND tasting room, Oakville
Melbury and Quella are always presented first at BOND. Because of that, those wines are sometimes easy to overlook in favor of St. Eden and Vecina, which are much showier when they are young. As it turns out, Melbury in particular has thus far proven to age quite gracefully and evenly. St. Eden, always one of the more seductive, alluring wines in its youth, appears to have a narrower window of peak drinkability than I expected.
Among recent wines, the 2013s and 2010s confirm the stature of their respective vintages. The wines are simply phenomenal. I am not entirely surprised by the 2011s, as I spent quite a bit of time in Napa Valley that fall and saw first hand how better sites and diligent producers coped with the challenges of the growing season. Now, a few years later, the quality of the vintage and its wines is pretty evident. The 2009s are also impressive for their silkiness, suppleness and sheer appeal. Two thousand six is another outsider vintage that has turned out better than originally expected. On the other hand, the 2012s are largely underwhelming given the supposed reputation of the year. The wines are certainly very fine, but they are also bland and don’t offer the visceral thrill of the truly great BOND wines and vintages.
Tasting wines from barrel
The smallest of the vineyards in the BOND range, Melbury is located on Greenfield Road in Conn Valley. This striking hillside site is also one of the first hillside vineyards in Napa Valley developed with vertical rather than horizontal row orientation. Approximately 6.5 acres are under vine, all planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils are Franciscan mélange with a good amount of clay of sedimentary origin. Clay seems to give the wines a level of mid-palate pliancy that is one of the most distinctive attributes of the Melbury Cabernets. The first BOND wine off this site was the 1999, but the Harlan team worked with this fruit going back to Bill Harlan’s days at Merryvale. Over the years, the team has begun to ferment in smaller lots, which, necessarily means more fermentations in barrel, and, therefore, more new oak as well, but the wood is increasingly well balanced, as it is across the range. In this tasting, the wines from Melbury showed an uncanny grace in they way they age. Tertiary notes only really appear around 2005. The 1999 and 2000, tasted today, are very much early essays into exploring the potential of this site that show a work in progress.
Excerpt taken from the Vinous Map of the Vineyards of Napa Valley – St. Helena & Conn Valley by Antonio Galloni and Alessandro Masnaghetti
A fabulous start to this tasting, the 2014 Melbury is simply gorgeous. Dark, aromatic and beautifully layered in the glass, the 2014 exudes freshness and finesse from the very first taste. Gentle, silky tannins give the wine much of its near-term appeal, but the 2014 will be even better with a few more years in bottle. The 2014's aromatic intensity and finesse are truly remarkable today. Power, depth and tannic clout - all signatures of this great Napa Valley vintage - come through in the 2013 Melbury. Bright acids and beams of tannin give the flavors striking vibrancy. Black cherry, plum, mocha, pine, sage and crushed rocks are some of the notes that flesh out in the glass, but above all else, the 2013 is a wine of structure and myriad shades of dimension. It is also, in my view, the most complete Melbury.
The 2012 Melbury is in a perfect spot today. Radiant and succulent to the core, the 2012 captures the essence of the vintage in its racy, succulent personality. The 2012 is not a huge wine, but it is quite open and accessible. Overall, though, the 2012 lacks the pop and sheer energy of the finest vintages in this vertical. In this tasting, the 2011 Melbury doesn’t show the volume or structure of some of the more important vintages, but it has plenty of acidity to drink well for many years. Given the challenges of the vintage, the flavor profile is naturally a bit more savory than is the norm, while the palate-feel is a touch narrow. Even so, it is pretty clear the 2011 will have its day at some point in the future. Today, it is best cellared for at least another few years.
Exotic, ripe and yet also quite structured, the 2010 Melbury is a picture-perfect example of a vintage that was mostly cool, until late season heat spikes pushed the fruit through to full ripeness. The aromatics are starting to show some signs of development, but the tannins need time to soften. This is an especially flamboyant edition of Melbury. Today, the 2010 is a stunner. The 2009 Melbury is one of the more rewarding wines in this tasting for present day drinking. Rich, sumptuous and expressive, the 2009 possesses superb depth to match its dark, sepia-toned profile. There is more than enough tannin and acidity to ensure another 10+ years of fine drinking, maybe more. The 2009 falls into the camp of the more voluptuous, supple Melburys.
The 2008 Melbury speaks in soft, hushed tones. All the signatures of this site are in place, but the 2008 is a quiet wine. In the context of this complete vertical, the 2008 feels like walking into a library. Understated and fresh, the 2008 has plenty of life ahead. It will be interesting to see if it emerges from its shell one day. Hints of truffle, leather and spice add the closing shades of nuance. I don't expect the 2008 to be as long lived as some of the other vintages in this lineup, but it is quite distinctive today. Another highly expressive wine, the 2007 Melbury is a pure joy to taste. Sweet tobacco, herbs, dried flowers, menthol and licorice add aromatic intrigue. There is a good bit of complexity and raciness in the glass. Even so, the 2007 could use a bit more time for the tannins to soften. I imagine the 2007 well drink well for another decade or more. The 2006 Melbury is dark, chewy and a bit rough around the edges. Even so, it has aged well and retains enough freshness to drink well for another decade or more. Mocha, plum, black cherry and spice infuse the super-expressive finish.
A very pleasant surprise, the 2005 Melbury is also the first wine in this tasting that shows the onset of aromatic notes that are leading into the tertiary realm. Even so, the 2005 possesses superb depth and terrific resonance in all of its dimensions. I expect the 2005 will drink well for another 10-15 years given its palate weight. The 2004 Melbury is the most virile, brooding wine in this flight up until this point. Broad but also a bit rough around the edges, the 2004 is texturally lacking some of the finesse found in most other vintages. It will drink well for another 10-15 years, but I don't ever see it being especially refined.
The 2003 is one of the most enjoyable Melburys for drinking today. Fat, rich and unctuous on the palate, the 2003 retains surprising textural layers to play off the nuanced, complex aromatics. Mocha, truffle, spice and leather shape the exotic finish. The 2003 is not especially polished, but it is quite tasty. My impression is that the 2003 will always carry a trace of tannin from the heavily extracted style that BOND favored during this era. A stellar wine, the 2002 Melbury is super-expressive today. Rich, ample and inviting, the 2002 is endowed with soft contours, radiant, rich fruit and fabulous balance. Mocha, smoke, leather, red stone fruit and sweet spices build into the resonant, deeply satisfying finish. The 2002 is one of the more overtly ripe, forward wines in the first flight of this tasting.
Black cherry, cedar, smoke, tobacco and grilled herbs give the 2001 Melbury its distinctive masculine personality. The 2001 is an especially dark, brooding Melbury that will appeal most to readers who enjoy structured, powerful wine. It should drink well for another 10 years or so. This is classic 2001. Although the 2000 Melbury has held up well, it has not developed into an especially complex wine. I would prefer to drink it over the next few years, as there does not appear to be any upside left. The style is soft, forward and open-knit. The 1999 Melbury is a shock to the palate and the senses, as it tastes like it was made by another winery with a totally different philosophy. Burly, gamy and close to mature, the 1999 is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.
Quella, which is derived from the German word for aquifer, is nestled in Spring Valley, near Joseph Phelps and Heitz. The nine-acre vineyard was planted with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1990s. Quella features two very distinct soil types. Volcanic ash is the main characteristic on the upper ridge of the site, which is to say the part of the vineyard that touches Schlatter. Moving downhill, the vines lie on an uplifted riverbed with cobbly soils and sand. Bob Levy developed Schlatter during his days at Merryvale, and became acquainted with the adjacent piece of land, which was not planted. By the time most of Schlatter was developed, though, Bill Harlan had begun selling his interest in Merryvale. Brad Jefferies purchased the undeveloped parcel and contacted Levy, who planted the vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998. The first wines off of this site were a bit rustic. According to Levy, the challenge in the early days was getting the young vines in balance in terms of yield and overall health. A number of vintages were made but ultimately not released.
Excerpt taken from the Vinous Map of the Vineyards of Napa Valley – St. Helena & Conn Valley by Antonio Galloni and Alessandro Masnaghetti
A bit awkward today, the 2014 Quella seems to still be affected by its recent bottling. There is good depth to the dark, intense fruit, but the 2014 is also oakier than I recall from previous tastings. This is an especially succulent style for the year, with plenty of black cherry, plum, menthol and chocolate all pushed forward. The 2013 Quella is dark, ample and enveloping in all of its dimensions. Super-ripe black cherry, mocha, spice and leather notes flesh out in the glass. All things considered, the Quella is a fairly approachable 2013 Cabernet. Although it can be enjoyed with minimal cellaring, the 2013 has plenty of vintage 2013 structure lurking beneath the huge, expansive fruit. This is a gorgeous Quella.
Soft and caressing, the 2012 Quella is quite expressive today. Dark cherry, cedar, tobacco, smoke, licorice, incense and rose petal, along with soft silky contours, give the wine its distinct personality. Bright red stone fruit and lifted floral notes convey an impression of total sensuality. The 2012 is very pretty, but like so many wines in this vintage, it is a bit one-dimensional, especially when compared to some of the true standouts in this range. The 2011 Quella is fabulous. Aromatic and lifted like few wines are in this vertical, the 2011 possesses striking nuance and delineation from start to finish. Beams of firm tannin extend the mid-palate and add to what is a very palpable sense of energy and focus. One of the big surprises in this tasting, the 2011 is absolutely gorgeous today.
The 2010 Quella is fabulous. Nuanced, delineated and yet also dense on the palate, the 2010 captures all the best qualities of this St. Helena site and the year. A rush of kirsch, super-ripe red cherry, hard candy and wild flowers add a kick of exotic intensity that is hugely appealing. A wine of charm and pure deliciousness, the 2010 will drink well for another 10-15 years. Today, it is fabulous. Another gorgeous, deeply expressive wine, the 2009 Quella is showing beautifully. Mocha, plum, bittersweet chocolate and raspberry jam give the wine its sumptuous, up-front personality. Exotic, ripe and racy to the core, the 2009 is a true joy to taste today. Silky tannins add to the wine’s considerable appeal. This is an especially full-bodied, voluptuous wine with all of its elements in the right place.
The only real disappointment in this flight, the 2008 Quella is simply not as refined as the other wines in the grouping. A slightly gamey, wild quality gives the 2008 a distinctly Old World feel. Iron, torrefaction, smoke, blood, molasses and dark spices add nuance, but the 2008 never seems to come together. The oak is overbearing, while burly edges confer an impression of rusticity. On a more positive note, the 2008 has held up well and should keep for another decade or so.
Voluptuous and racy in the glass, with terrific freshness, the 2007 Quella has it all. Raspberry jam, blood orange and sweet floral notes add brightness throughout. Silky, ripe and alluring, the 2007 is one of the many standouts in this vintage. The 2007 drinks well now but it will hold for another 10-15 years. The 2006 Quella is another gorgeous wine from BONDS’s Spring Valley site. Bright red and blue stone fruit, mint, spice, lavender and crushed rocks are some of the signatures. Delineated and vibrant, with plenty of grip and overall density, the 2006 will drink well for another decade plus. This is an especially virile, potent Quella with all the elements in the right place.
St. Eden: 2014-2001
St. Eden is without question one of the most intriguing vineyards in all of Napa Valley. The intense red soils that flow across Rudd end here. St. Eden is a rare site that confers both finesse and power. The 11 acres are planted exclusively with Cabernet Sauvignon. Locally, St. Eden is sometimes referred to as Kramlich, after Richard Kramlich, who owns the land. St. Eden is often the most sensual of the BOND wines. In this retrospective, St. Eden gives the distinct impression of having a fairly compact maturation window. In other words, the wines are approachable relatively young and also peak early. It’s too soon to know with certainty if this is attributable to the more extracted style that was favored in the mid 2000s, when St. Eden got started, or if St. Eden is simply a vineyard that is not especially suited for the production of long-lived Cabernets, but the wines in this tasting made a pretty clear statement.
St. Eden is nestled among several top sites in Eastern Oakville. Excerpt from the Vineyards of Napa Valley, Oakville, by Antonio Galloni and Alessandro Masnaghetti.
The 2014 St. Eden is a wine of total finesse. Silky, perfumed and wonderfully expressive, the 2014 simply has it all. This is one of the most polished wines in the entire lineup. Like many of the 2014s, the St. Eden appears to be going through a close phase after its recent bottling, but all the signatures are there. Once again, the magic of this great Napa Valley vintage comes through in the 2013 St. Eden, a wine that captures all the magic of this great Oakville site. Bright, punchy and deeply expressive, the 2013 exudes class. The tannins are there, but they are nearly buried by the sheer intensity of the fruit. Seamless, racy and utterly exquisite, the 2013 St. Eden is simply magnificent. This is a fabulous showing.
Sensual and silky in the glass, the 2012 St. Eden comes across as a bit subdued and even light, with less concentration and fewer shades of dimension than most other vintages. Perhaps the 2012 is in a bit of a closed phase. We will see. At this stage, the 2012 is a bit compact and not as expressive as it has been in prior tastings. The 2011 St. Eden is very pretty, if a touch understated and shy. Mint, dark cherry, pine, spice and licorice give the wine its distinctive savory personality. The 2011 is nicely done, and although it is not quite the overachiever some of the other 2011s are today, it does have more depth and overall intrigue than the 2012 in this tasting. I very much like the energy here.
In 2010, Napa Valley experienced a mostly cold year punctuated by heat spikes at the end of the growing season. Those qualities come through loud and clear in the 2010 St. Eden. Although quite dense, powerful and unctuous in the glass, the 2010 is also shut down on itself. Even so, the silky, layered expression of fruit that is the key signature of this site is very much in evidence. Regal in its bearing, the 2010 is an absolutely magical bottle endowed with explosive energy. A dark, voluptuous beauty, the 2009 St. Eden possesses remarkable depth and tons of pure intensity. It is perhaps not quite as complex as some of the very best vintages, but it is nevertheless striking for its supple, juicy feel. Mocha, espresso and a host of dark-toned notes build into the super-expressive finish.
The 2008 St. Eden is one of the better 2008s in the Bond range. Powerful and ample on the palate, the 2008 also shows more breadth than some of the other wines in the lineup. Black cherry, grilled herbs, tobacco, scorched earth and licorice all develop in the glass. Firm tannins suggest the 2008 will drink well for another decade plus. Although not especially refined, the 2008 does offer plenty of depth and virile intensity. Racy and explosive on the palate, with soft curves and exceptional balance, the 2007 St. Eden dazzles from the very first taste. Still very young and quite dense, the 2007 has more than enough richness to drink well for many years to come. The 2007 captures the opulence and sensuality that is so typical of the wines of Eastern Oakville. Simply put, the 2007 St. Eden is a total knockout.
A very clear dividing line in this complete Bond retrospective appears with the 2006 St. Eden. Although the wine is dense and rich on the palate, the aromatics are forward and the wine is now heading into its tertiary stage. This is a surprising showing given how well the other 2006s showed. Fully mature aromatics and angular tannins give the wine a decidedly burly, rough around the edges feel. A gorgeous exotic Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2005 St. Eden has aged beautifully. Rose petal, mint, white truffle, smoke and cedar give the wine its captivating aromatic presence and overall intensity. Plush, deep and wonderfully inviting, the 2005 has enough depth to drink well for another 7-10 years.
The 2004 St. Eden is a pretty wine, but it is also approaching maturity. Torrefaction, smoke, licorice, leather and spice notes give the wine notable aromatic nuance to play off the very sweet, ripe fruit. There is good plushness and density in the glass. Even so, I would prefer to drink the 2004 sooner rather than later, as it does not appear to be built for the very long haul. There is plenty to admire in the 2003 St. Eden. Sensual and voluptuous in the glass, the 2003 possesses striking intensity and terrific overall balance. Mocha, smoke, tobacco, black stone fruit and leather notes are pushed forward in this sumptuous, pliant Cabernet Sauvignon. Although not especially complex, the 2003 is quite tasty.
These last two wines are fascinating to taste side by side. The 2002 St. Eden is undoubtedly attractive, but it also looks like it will offer its best drinking over the near to medium term. Raspberry jam, rose petal, mint and spice give the 2002 a good bit of brightness to balance the overt, racy 2002 fruit. Dense and opulent, the 2002 also has enough freshness to drink well for up to another decade. Once again, the riveting allure of the 2001 vintage comes through in Bond’s St. Eden. A vertical sense of structure and layers of dark fruit infuse this virile, brooding Cabernet Sauvignon. Like many of the St. Edens in this complete retrospective, the 2001 does not appear to be built for very long aging, I would prefer to drink it over the next handful of years.
Vecina emerges from Vine Hill Ranch, one of the most pedigreed sites in Napa Valley. Vine Hill Ranch lies on the southern edge of Oakville and shares a border with Harlan Estate. The Phillips family has owned this stunning, diverse site for several generations. BOND sources fruit from the blocks at the end of the property that run up into the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. This tasting once again made clear that Vecina is the crown jewel in the BOND range. The wines are massive, powerful, full of personality and also remarkably consistent.
St. Eden is nestled among several top sites in Eastern Oakville. Excerpt from Vinos Map of the Vineyards of Napa Valley, Oakville, by Antonio Galloni and Alessandro Masnaghetti.
The 2014 Vecina is simply extraordinary. Soaring aromatics and vivid, chiseled fruit are some of the many signatures. Nuanced and wonderfully alive in the glass, the 2014 is also one of the most complete wines in this retrospective tasting at Bond. The 2014 is not a big wine, but it is exceptionally polished and finessed to the core. This look back at Vecina continues with the 2013. Ample and creamy yet also tannic, the 2013 is outrageously beautiful today. Raspberry jam, tobacco, smoke, dried flowers and herbs build into a crescendo of aromas, flavors and textures. Although the 2013 won't be ready to drink any time soon, it is simply thrilling on this afternoon. There is not much more I can say than that.
Gloriously ripe and hedonistic, the 2012 Vecina is also the most expressive of the Bond 2012s. Layers of intense dark fruit, smoke, licorice, new leather and exotic spices build as this resonant, deeply textured Cabernet Sauvignon shows off its personality. The 2012 is all class. Moreover, it possesses a level of sheer volume I don't see in the other 2012s here. Black cherry, tobacco, cracked pepper, juniper berries cedar, leather, dried herbs and smoke are all finely sketched in the 2011 Vecina. Savory in its aromatics, yet also quite deep, the 2011 possesses remarkable concentration, especially within the context of the vintage, not to mention terrific overall balance.
The 2010 Vecina is another head-turner. Powerful and ample, with huge tannins and structure, the 2010 hits all the senses with stunning intensity and gravitas. Vecina is always a big wine, but the 2010 has an extra gear of attention-grabbing allure. The 2010 won't be ready to drink anytime soon. Readers will have to be especially patient here. The 2009 Vecina is dark, sumptuous and also remarkably forthcoming for a young wine from this Oakville site. Smoke, leather, tobacco, licorice and grilled herbs infuse a dark, virile Cabernet Sauvignon that leans more towards sensuality than pure power. In any other tasting the 2009 would steal the show, but the level of this flight is high. Very high.
Black cherry, lavender, crushed rocks, smoke and game are some of the signatures in the 2008 Vecina. Dark and brooding, the 2008 possesses remarkable freshness and minerality that gives the wine its sense of energy. Despite its many virtues, the 2008 still needs time to be at its best. The 2007 Vecina is the first wine in the flight that is somewhere close to being ready to drink. Sumptuous and racy, with soft contours and tons of flesh, the 2007 is irresistible. Even with all of its opulence, the 2007 captures the essential power and structure of this great Oakville site.
Vecina as seen just before harvest, September 2017.
The 2006 Vecina is another fabulous wine. Fresh, delineated and pedigreed to the core, the 2006 exudes class. I am especially struck by how young the 2006 tastes. Along with the 2008, the 2006 belongs to the family of more mineral-driven Vecinas. Dense, powerful and explosive, the 2005 Vecina is superb. The barest hints of aromatic development come through. Although the 2005 can probably be enjoyed now with some air, I would prefer to cellar it, as the future for this wine is unquestionably very, very bright.
A very pretty and expressive Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2004 Vecina is also the first wine in this tasting that shows some degree of aromatic development. Even so, the 2004 is huge on the palate, with a bold, exotic expression of very ripe fruit. Scorched earth, smoke, tobacco and leather give the wine its distinctive, brooding personality. This is impressive stuff. The 2003 Vecina is another impressive Bond wine from a vintage that does not get a ton of attention. Like the other Bond 2003s, the Vecina is not especially complex, but the wine's balance is simply phenomenal.
The 2002 Vecina is a total turn-on. The warm, radiant vintage has softened some of the natural Vecina gravitas. Powerful and ample in all directions, but with great aromatic freshness and vivacity, the 2002 will thrill readers who own it for another 15-20 years. In a word: superb. Surprisingly, the 2001 Vecina comes across as quite subdued in this tasting, both for the vintage and compared to the other BOND wines. Graphite, smoke, cured meats and a host of dark-toned fruits build into the huge finish.
Another inflection point in this tasting appears with the 2000 Vecina, the first wine in this vintage that is mature. That said, the 2000 has also aged gracefully. Sweet tobacco, dried herbs, dried cherry, menthol and cedar give the wine its distinctive lifted aromatics. Soft and caressing in feel, the 2000 is probably best enjoyed over the next handful of years. Although not the most demonstrative or typical Vecina, the 2000 is very, very pretty. The 1999 Vecina is now fully mature. There is enough depth to support at least a few more years of drinking, but the 1999 is a wine whose time has come. Dried flowers, mint, sweet tobacco and licorice add complexity throughout, but the 1999 has begun to fray at the edges. Any remaining bottles are best finished off.
A remote site on Spring Mountain, Pluribus yields Cabernets of rare distinction. There is little question Pluribus is also the most improved wine in the BOND range. In the early days, the winemaking team favored small fermentations in barrel to soften the tannins, but as the vineyard has gotten older, that approach to vinification appears to be less necessary. Some of the first Pluribus wines were not especially distinguished. In more recent times, however, the Cabernets off this site have been truly remarkable.
The view from the top of Pluribus, Spring Mountain
The 2014 Pluribus is super-refined, sexy and polished. Bright floral notes, blueberry jam, spice, mint and lavender abound in this striking, beautifully delineated Cabernet Sauvignon from Bond. All the elements fall into place effortlessly. The 2014 is an exceptional wine of sublime, enthralling beauty. In a vintage that produced big, massively tannic wines, the 2013 Pluribus stands out for its total finesse. Pluribus is also the most delicate and refined of the Bond 2013s. Lavender, mint, violet, plum and a host of bluish/purplish fruits all develop with time, but it is the wine's lifted, gracious personality that makes the strongest impression. Quite shockingly, the 2013 can be enjoyed young. Even so, I would prefer to cellar it for at least a few years.
All the best qualities of the vintage come through in the 2012 Pluribus. Pliant and inviting, with striking depth, the 2012 has a lot to say. This is another subtle, understated wine from Bond that is presently holding back quite a bit. Even so, its potential is evident. Today, the 2012 is super-impressive. Dark cherry, lavender, mocha, pine, savory herbs, black pepper and exotic spice give the 2011 Pluribus much of its distinctive personality. Delicate, lifted and gracious, with striking perfume, the 2011 speaks to finesse above all else. It is another terrific 2011 from Bond.
BOND turned another powerful, compelling Cabernet Sauvignon with the 2010 Pluribus. With time in the glass, the 2010 shows a more delicate and nuanced side to its personality. The natural tension between those opposites is one of the reasons the 2010 is so appealing. Finely cut and focused, the 2010 has more than enough structure to drink well for many years to come. Readers searching for a Pluribus to drink now will find much to admire in the 2009. Beautifully resonant on the palate, the 2009 possesses striking depth and nuance. Time in the glass seems to bring out the wine's natural richness and generous, inviting texture.
The 2008 Pluribus is the most delicate of the Bond 2008s. Hints of pine, scorched earth, toast and licorice give the wine many of its aromatic signatures. Today, the 2008 is deceptively understated. My impression is that the best is yet to come. Dark cherry, bittersweet chocolate, menthol, leather and licorice all infuse the 2007 Pluribus. Powerful and opulent, the 2007 is endowed with quite a bit of textural depth and concentration. The French oak and torrefaction element is quite pronounced in the 2007. I would prefer to drink the 2007 over the next decade or so.
The 2006 Pluribus is a pleasant surprise from this largely overlooked vintage. All things considered, the 2006 has retained striking freshness and energy. There is plenty of raciness to the blue/purplish fruit, along with the heavy oak signature that was the norm at the time. Even so, the 2006 has aged beautifully. A dense, powerful wine, the 2005 Pluribus is just starting to show the first signs of maturity. Blueberry jam, bittersweet chocolate, spice, leather and tobacco all take shape in the glass. There is no shortage of density to the 2005, but like many wines from this era, the oak component is quite pronounced.
In the early days of Pluribus the wines weren’t always highly differentiated. That is exactly what comes through here. The 2004 Pluribus is a good wine, but during this era winemaking seems to dominate over vintage and vineyard signatures. For that reason, there is less differentiation in this part of the vertical than there is with some of the more recent wines in this tasting. There is quite a bit of oak, while the edges have softened nicely. Dark red fruit, iron, smoke and leather shape the supple, inviting finish. Rich, sumptuous and super-expressive, the 2003 Pluribus has aged impeccably. This is a terrific showing from Pluribus in its first release. Dark cherry, plum, smoke, espresso, licorice, tobacco and menthol all fill out the wine's frame effortlessly. I don't expect the 2003 will improve materially from here, but it should drink well for another handful of years or more.
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