How Did Kelly Fleming Change from 2011 to 2019?
by Andrew Chalk
A comparison of the 2011 and 2019 flagship wines from this Calistoga winery. Both of these wines are available now from the winery website. The 2011 is a (very welcome) library release and I’ll spoil the surprise by saying it is very good.
In one corner, the Kelly Fleming 2011 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. In the other corner, Kelly Fleming 2019 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Both are 100% cabernet sauvignon.
Kelly Fleming 2011 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($200)
Appearance: Opaque garnet with hints of brown at the edge of the meniscus;
Nose: Rich cigar box, French oak, cassis but primary fruit notes are fully resolved into higher-level bouquets.
Palate:Enormously powerful blackcurrant fruit, chewy texture. Harmonious flavors spread around the mouth and contribute to a long, harmonious finish.
Kelly Fleming 2019 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($185)
Appearance: Opaque ruby with a purple rim.
Nose: Perfume notes, raspberry, herbal notes including thyme;
Palate: Velvety tannins, blackcurrant fruit. Pencil lead, baking spice;
The same wine except for the vintage and the winemaker (Rebecca George replaced Celia Welch between the two vintages). The vintages were obviously very different. The 2019 appears to be lighter and a producer of more aromatic wines. As recently as five years ago one could describe such character as ‘feminine’ without being denounced as an incorrigible misogynist, racist, and bad example of personal hygiene.
The 2011 is absolutely prodigious with its layers of flavor and endless aromas. At twelve years of age it has acquired the cigar box and cassis flavors of an aged Bordeaux. Do not be too concerned about the brown rim implying it is near end-of-life. I think the chewy tannins augur another decade of drinking.