Sacramento recently played host to a unique tasting of Forman cabernet sauvignon. 17 vintages of this somewhat underrated wine were sampled (1983-1999), plus some examples from 2002, 2004-06. Proprietor Ric Forman himself attended the tasting himself, and you can read more about how the night went in today's "Wine Buzz" column.
Here are my tasting notes from the night. And yes, this was some serious wine geek-dom:
1983: The first vintage under Forman's own label. First bottle was flawed; back-up bottle showed better. Certainly not in its prime, but showing a nice rosey color and still some vibrancy in the fruit.
1984: Elegant style but somewhat restrained nose. Berry fruit still showing after all these years. Would've liked to have tasted this 5+ years ago.
1985: Now this is what Forman's all about. Fantastic structure, solid fruit with secondary tobacco and earthy flavors. Would guess this as top-notch Bordeaux in a blind tasting. Ric Forman remembered this vintage as "lean and mean," and the 1985 is still rocking. Earned WOTN (a.k.a. "wine of the night") for myself and many others at the tasting. Paid about $60 for this on winebid.com just a few months ago. A steal.
1986: Herbal qualities of mint and eucalyptus prominent here, a style you rarely see anymore with California cabernet sauvignon. Too bad. Enjoyed the subtelties of this vintage.
1987: Struck me as a little tougher and more austere than the other wines so far. Nose had some funk that needed to blow off, but this wine has clearly made it through the long haul. Mike Dunne, former food and wine editor for the Bee, picked the 1987 as one of his favorite vintages at this tasting.
1988: Pleasing nose with a nice smokey quality. The brightness and acidity of this wine was memorable.
1989: Youthful purple color and savory nose. Still boasting solid structure and good berry fruit.
1990: A transition year to a riper style for Forman. Grapes hung on the vine longer than previous years, and it showed. Youthful color and tasty core fruit. Firm tannic grip. Liked this one, and earned WOTN honors from Marcus Marquez, owner of L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen.
1991: Great vintage and still a great wine from Forman. Remarkable structure, oak integration and nice tannic grip. Tasty plum fruit with secondary notes of cedar. Food friendly, but also a wine to sip and ponder on its own.
1992: Softer and more resolved tannins than the 1990 and 1991. Still pleasing, and good with bites of steak.
1993: Brought this wine as my contribution to the tasting. Harkened more to the Bordeaux style of 1980s-era Forman. Ric Forman called 1993 a tough vintage, and the overall fruit profile was less ripe than hoped for. Still a firm acidity and bite to this wine.
1994: My hand-written notes say, "NICE!" Noted vintage for California cabernet overall, and this bottle was showing beautifully. Gorgeous aromatics. Core fruit remains strong, structure firmly intact and would love to re-visit this wine. Perhaps my second favorite wine of the night. Paid about $60 for this about a year ago on winebid.com.
1995: No notes on this one. Sorry, think I was still being bowled over by the 94.
1996: Wonderful plummy aromatics. Slightly softer in style than the 94 and 91, but a notable sense of elegance. Prominent fruit without being overpowering. Surprised with how much I ended up liking the 96.
1997: Vintage noted for its ripeness and upfront pleasures. That held true for the 97 Forman. Darker nose of violets and licorice was different than other bottles so far. More of a brooding, dense wine with loads of dark fruits. Actually preferred the 96 to the 97.
1998: Not as much fruitiness showing on the nose or palate compared to other 90s bottles, but still a very solid wine. Nice tannic grip that worked well with bites of steak. The overall 98 vintage in California often gets a bum rap for its less ripe style, but this wine is certainly in for the haul. Aging better than the 97, at least from this tasting.
1999: Currently in a tasty and thoroughly enjoyable sweet spot of primary fruit and beginning of secondary bottle notes. Flavors of black currants, plus some tobacco and a little spiciness. Very much a crowd pleaser. WOTN for Rick Kushman, my pal and wine drinking colleague.
2002, 2004, 2005, 2006: Welcome to the modern age of Forman, with upfront wines that emphasize blueberries and violets. Alcohol levels in the upper 14 percent range, compared to 12-ish percent from the inaugural vintages. As a group, also getting notes of coffee (especially in the 2002) and lots of plum. Ric Forman predicts these big structured wines will age well, but geared more toward immediate enjoyment.