Notes and impressions from a Cabernet tasting - Saturday, Oct 7, 2000, at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Twenty-two wines were poured for a tasting fee of $35. Five of the wines, including the Opus, were served single blind.
The wines, in the order tasted:
1998 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - Washington.
$29.99. Medium dark garnet color. Nose of cassis and oak, with a splash
of vanilla. Medium-bodied wine, with a toasty oak taste, and medium-long
1999 Susana Balbo Brioso - Argentina. $34.99. Dark ruby
violet color. Nose that is cheesy, oaky, and nearly medicinal in its tar
and burnt rubber aromas. Oaky and woody quality to the mouthfeel, but
with lots of slightly sweet fruit balancing it out. Unusual stuff. At
$10 less it might be interesting to see what develops with this wine.
1996 Lone Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon - York Mtn, Paso Robles.
$23.99. Very dark ruby purple color. Huge fresh-crush nose, slightly
herbaceous, with obvious yet fruit-balanced oak. Flat-out huge mouthfeel,
with slightly burnished black cherry fruit, hints of tar and vanilla,
and a touch of blue cheese. An extracted monster from Neil Collins, cellarmaster
for Tablas Creek, and former asst winemaker at Adelaida Cellars in PR.
1997 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon - Sonoma County. $34.99.
Medium dark ruby color. Nose of cassis, toast, oak, in a classic Arrowood
style. Nice fruity taste, but somewhat soft mouthfeel, leading to medium-long
finish. Kind of boring - could use more body or consistency.
1997 St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Sonoma Valley.
$36.99. Very dark ruby garnet color. Nose of oaky and cedary fruit,
with a hint of eucalyptus. Slightly sweet fruit, there is the telltale
oaky and tannic mouthfeel, but the sweet fruit and vanilla flavors are
a nice counterpoint.
1997 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $23.99. Dark
ruby violet color. Slightly herbaceous and dill-like in the nose, with
aromas of hardwoods and shoe polish. Tasty black cherry fruit on the palate,
with a nice touch of toasted wood, and long finish.
1997 St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $23.99. Medium
dark ruby color. Nose of black cherry, vanilla, mint, and oak. Oops! Weak
mouthfeel, with slightly tart/sour fruit, and only moderate finish. Whenever
I find a wine like this with a promising nose, yet a wanting palate, I
always wonder if it's winegrowing or winemaking that stumbled. Seems like
this got picked early and stretched thin - what a shame.
1997 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $25.99. Dark
violet ruby color. Nose of black cherry, oak, tobacco, with hints of shoe
polish, leaf and toast. Nice cassis fruit on the palate, with oak, soft
tannins, and a nice toasted sawdust finish.
1997 Franus Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $26.99. Dark ruby
garnet color. Lots of shoe polish and cassis in the nose, with almost
a hint of beet or herbal quality. Toasty, semi-sweet and slightly soft
mouthfeel, with a nice smooth, if soft, finish.
1997 Phoenix Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $29.99.
Very dark ruby purple color. Nose that is big and jammy, oaky influenced,
with sawdust, mint and eucalyptus aromas. Huge mouthfeel, very chewy semi-sweet
fruit, toasty texture that falls off just a bit on the finish.
Single-blind interlude, or ...pick out the Opus
1997 Vino de Eyzaguirre Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
Especial - Chile. $5.99. Medium dark ruby color. Leafy,
herbaceous, and more than slightly vegetal in the nose, with hints of
rhubarb, tomato and celery. Slightly soft and toasty mouthfeel, with an
obvious leafy quality that lasts through the long finish. Not unlike some
of the nicer Santa Ynez Valley Cabs from the early '90s. Uniquely packaged
in a burlap bag-covered bottle, at $5.99 it's a buy. Sort of makes you
wonder what a non-Reserva Especial would cost.
1997 Opus One - Napa Valley. $119.99.
Dark ruby violet color. Slightly burnished nose of cassis, oak, and sweet
hardwoods, with a hint of vanilla. Very tasty fruit and mouthfeel, with
additional flavors of licorace and tar, and a smooth sawdust-like tannic
texture through the finish.
1998 Andrake Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - Washington.
$42.99. Very dark ruby violet color. Nice complex nose of vanilla,
oak, cassis, and a hint of cedar. Nicely integrated flavors, with a slightly
soft mouthfeel that seems a little short of fruit in the mid-palate and
falls off at the finish.
1997 Stonegate Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley.
$17.99. Medium dark violet purple color. Nose of cassis, oak,
cedar, eucalyptus and cheddar. Nice, if soft, on the palate, decent integration
of flavors, but the mouthfeel seems to slip away before the wine finishes.
Made by Andy Schweiger - probably his last at Stonegate - this one is
a mere shadow of the Schweiger Cabs. I suspect "fruit" is the answer,
if "what happened here" is the question.
1999 Tikal Jubilo - Argentina. $39.99.
Dark ruby violet color. Big nose of cassis, shoe polish, cedar, oak,
toast and vanilla. Nice off-sweet fruit, big mouthfeel, with soft tannins
and a long finish. Lots to like here. Blend of 82% CS, 10% PV, 8% Malbec.
I didn't know it at the time, but this is a breakthrough wine for Argentina,
at a (yawn) less-than-breakthrough price. Darn, why couldn't this
have been the $5.99 wine in the flight
Back to label tasting:
1997 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $29.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Nose of cassis, oak, sawdust, cheddar, and toast. Slightly
sweet cassis fruit, full mouthfeel, interesting hardwood flavors mix with
tar and licorace through the long toasty finish. Nice job. Spring Mtn
does it again!
1997 Lewelling Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $31.99. Dark
ruby violet color. Very developed nose of chocolate, sweet black cherry,
and vanilla. Full mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit, nice balance, smooth
tannins, and very long finish.
1997 Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $44.99.
Dark ruby garnet color. Very toasty nose of cassis, sawdust, and pungent
oak. Big mouthfeel, well balanced with lots of smooth tannins, and the
slightest bit of dill and spice.
1997 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon Le Puzzle - Napa Valley. $45.99.
Medium dark ruby garnet color. Sweet and slightly herbaceous nose of black
cherry, oak and vanilla. Toasty and slightly sweet mouthfeel, with light
oak and vanilla notes, and long toasty smooth finish. Very nice.
1997 Arns Cabernet Sauvignon Estate - Napa Valley. $54.99.
Medium ruby garnet color. Nose of lak, casis, and cheddar, with a hint
of vanilla. Surprisingly weak mouthfeel. Has obvious fruit and texture,
but not much punch or edge on the palate. Smooth medium-long finish.
1997 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $79.99. Very
dark ruby purple color. Nose of intense black cherry and cassis, with
oak, tobacco, and leather notes. Huge mouthfeel, with a grapey type of
sweetness. Lots of integration on the palate, wth toasty black cherry
flavors, and a smooth long finish. Still a little backward at present,
yet quite approachable.
1997 Beaulieu Vnyd Cabernet Sauvignon Georges Latour - Napa
Valley. $69.99. Dark ruby violet color. Toasty nose of cassis, vanilla,
and sweet hardwoods. Slightly young mouthfeel, with a large-scale feel,
and lots of toast and fruit lead to a long toasty finish.
Overall impressions: it's always nice to have a single-blind section in a tasting -- it keeps your perspective honest. This was an interesting group of wines, and included a few surprises.
The Pahlmeyer was very nice, as usual, yet only marginally better than the surprising BV Latour. I say surprising, because I haven't expected much from this BV bottling for the past several years. Somebody's done a nice job on this one. The Newton was very tasty, and priced about right - (here comes the disclaimer) "...considering today's prices." For my palate, the St. Francis was a very nice wine. Also, I found the Arrowood lacking, and not up to past efforts. In the Best Value category, I'd nominate the Lewelling, the Phoenix, and the Smith-Madrone, followed closely by the surprisingly tasty and full-bodied bruiser, the Lone Madrone. The Lone Madrone was made by Neil Collins, cellarmaster for Tablas Creek in Paso Robles. The heavily extracted fruit in this monster harkens back memories of some older Adelaida Cabs, when Neil was Asst Winemaker at Adelaida Cellars (see related story).
We also have some new entries in the "Chewy & Extracted" category: Lone Madrone, Phoenix and Smith-Madrone. In the single-blind competition, I pegged the Tikal Jubilo to be the Opus, merely based on it's nose and substance on the palate. Wrong! Fascinating results. But, if I ever get asked the question, then yes, I'd take 3 Tikal's over 1 Opus. Of course, the Opus One was, ...well, Opus One. You either gotta have it, or you can well do without it.
Here is my order of preference, listed in order and by tier, of the wines tasted.
1997 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $79.99.
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