2003 Whispering Dove Stags Leap District, Napa, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon


Before I tell you about this bottle of wine, allow me to give you a little background info. I’ve tasted an earlier vintage of this wine at a wine store in Dublin, Ca and I wasn’t impressed. It smelled sweet, like gummy bears, was flabby and thin, and didn’t impress me at all. Then I got the sales pitch, “this wine is limited production and is going to sell out, and we’re almost sold out in fact! Buy now for $45 USD and save 30% by the time of its official release, how many bottles would you like, you’re limited to three.”

None please, although that is brilliant marketing. You appealed to my greed and sense of urgency instead of my taste buds!

So I commented on it on one of Alder’s posts at Vinography, which garnered some serious feedback. ‘Try it again’ was the cry from the masses, so I did last night. This was one of the hardest purchases I’ve ever had to make. The notes I read on forums were lackluster and sometimes negative on the 2003 Whispering Dove, even the store manager looked at me a little different at the counter. I really didn’t feel like wasting $29 (the price for the 03 has fallen sharply and the source for fruit changed from 2002) on a wine I didn’t want to taste again. But I did it for the sake of being fair, and to make sure any bias was gone, I made sure I tasted it blind against another 03 Cab. I made sure I didn’t know which wine was which, I wanted this to be legitimate. I also didn’t want to know what the second bottle was, I just stipulated to my friend that it be an 2003 Cabernet. He could have grabbed a 2003 Hartwell, or a 2003 Beringer Cab, I just didn’t want to know.

The tasting:

Wine #1
Exhibits a Ruby – Garnet color, sweet blueberries on the nose with almost a syrup like smell, acidic with the blueberry theme carrying over on the palate, a simple, medium bodied finish. 81pts JAT

Wine #2
A darker wine than number one with a deeper purple, a hint of pepper and dust on the nose, but somewhat cloying. A medium bodied wine lacking any complexity; astringent and over oaked. The tannic finish lasts about 30 seconds. 77pts JAT

I had the first wine pegged as the Whispering dove, thanks to that sweet nose I remember from my first experience with it. 81 points is still a good score, and better than 77. Imagine my surprise when it was revealed that the second wine was actually the dove, Wine #1 was a 2003 Ravenswood Vintners Blend California Cabernet retail ($12 USD?), not a bad wine, although it was a little acidic and overly fruity, possibly from chaptalization?

How disappointing. The grapes for the Dove are from Stags leap, shouldn’t I have been able to taste that? The wine was unfortunately one dimensional, devoid of character, and over oaked. I honestly would have jumped all over this wine if it was good, at $30 a bottle for juice from an acclaimed Napa AVA that would have been a great deal. Sadly, it’s to good to be true.

This wine is made by someone associated, (was associated?) with the Wine Warehouse, a wholesale distributor out of California, and in hopes of jumping on the bandwagon with a hyped wine / label / AVA, their efforts appear to be to make a quick buck, not deliver a quality, consistent product that consumers can return to year after year. If you buy into it, by all means, pick up a bottle or two, although I’m not one to recommend a bottle that doesn’t taste that good.

For me it’s simple, if it’s a good wine it’s worth the money, purchase it and enjoy. If I’m looking to purchase wine as an investment, I make sure that it isn’t just hyped by retail sales people, I double check with professional critics, taste it myself (if I can afford it), or even look to other blogs or forums for information on it from other wine lovers.

I wanted to like the 2003 Whispering Dove and be proven wrong. I took the tasting seriously, did it blind and focused on the wine itself, not the label. Those that tasted it with me weren’t influenced by my notes, which I kept to myself, and weren’t aware of my background with it. We all tasted the wines blind and had the same consensus, this wine was just O.K. This is what I learned, and I personally feel there are much better wines to be had for $30 from around the world.

Wine: 2003 Whispering Dove Stags Leap District Reserve
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $29 USD
Notes: A dark purple color with a hint of pepper and dust on the nose, but somewhat cloying. A medium bodied wine lacking any complexity; astringent and over oaked. The tannic finish lasts about 30 seconds. To be avoided.
Score: 77pts JAT