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Wine Review: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter CabernetI’ll start this post with a quote from my sister, Jackie, (and fellow blog contributor for the ‘Cooked’ section), “that wine was so good, but it went so fast.” The true sign of a good wine? It is consumed fast and fights break out over the last drop. It has happened on more than one occasion between Al and I, but I’ve never seen it occur with more than a group of four. Now I won’t call it a fight but over dinner with my sisters, my sister’s new husband, his parents, Al and I all seven of us did reach for that last drop.

The Mad Hatter is the second label of Dancing Hares. Dancing Hares Vineyard is an impressive team with Andy Erickson (Screaming Eagle, Favia, Leviathan) at the helm as head winemaker with assistance from Michael Rolland and renowned vineyard manager David Abreu. The 2007 Dancing Hares Proprietary Wine is an exquisite blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, at about $125 per bottle. Exquisite, yes but not quite your every day drinker.

The Mad Hatter is a similar blend at a friendly price point – about $60 per bottle – that is if you can find it. The vineyard itself seems to produce impeccable Cabernet Franc and Merlot which balance each other perfectly in the blend and give only the best characteristics of each varietal. In taste, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost seems subdued and restrained allowing the other varietals to come through. Erickson says, about the wine:

“The 2008 Mad Hatter is a bold, ripe expression of the vintage.  Those lots from our estate that show upfront fruit, soft tannins, and immediate appeal form the core of this wine.  This vintage is enjoyable from the outset, with plump, ripe fruit character and a lingering intensity.  Notes of darjeeling tea leaves, ripe blueberries, brown sugar and cream lead the way for this hedonistic wine.”

It’s a wine worth grabbing, enjoying and fighting over if the situation presents itself. And, I am proud to say I did get the last drop.

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Erickson Departs Screaming Eagle

After just five vintages of winemaking at the famed Screaming Eagle Winery, Andy Erickson is departing to focus on his personal projects and other winemaking commitments at cult wineries such as Favia, Leviathan, Dancing Hares and Arietta amongst others.

What does this mean to the public? While the majority of us are not on the Screaming Eagle list and cannot afford to purchase the cult Cabernet (we quoted a customer 2006 at over $1500 per bottle), Erickson’s other projects and much more accessible, affordable and even interesting. Hopefully this move will afford him time and creativity to expand his current projects and also tackle some new ones.

What does this mean for Screaming Eagle? Losing your founder and current winemaker in the span of four years is never a dream for any winery. We’ll see in the coming vintages what the future holds, but this does provide the setting for new owners Walter Banks and Stanley Kroenke (sports industry executive) to put their own stamp on the winery by selecting someone as winemaker who will take Screaming Eagle in their direction – whatever it may be.

But for now hats off to Erickson, for making wonderful wine over the last 5 years at Eagle and much luck to him with his other endeavors. I know at least one wine store that will continue to fully support him, his current projects and all others down the road.