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Cabernet Sauvignon Week

Robert Mondavi - 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

I suppose it's fitting that the final selection for Cabernet Sauvignon Week is from Robert Mondavi CabMondavi Winery. The story of the Mondavi impact on the California Wine Industry is retold often enough that it doesn't bear repeating here. As with many of the larger wineries, that are now owned by corporations, the Mondavi brand has a wide reach at numerous price and quality levels. Today's Cabernet is from the Napa Valley series. For me, it's at this level up that one can seriously consider the Mondavi wines. The Mondavi 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet is in fact 85% Cabernet Sauvignon. The other 15% is made up of parts of all four of the other Bordeaux varietals.

The nose of this wine reveals oak, vanilla and a lot of spice. What becomes immediately apparent when taking the first sip is that this wine is young. There is an upfront tartness that dissipates as the wine breathes, but is still apparent. Blueberry, mocha and white pepper come out and resonate through the mid-palate. There are present, slightly rough, tannins in this wine. A sign that it needs some time in the bottle. The finish is slightly above average in length with more spice and a very subtle earthiness. The 2005 Mondavi Cabernet shows good acidity and is well balanced. The alcohol is a somewhat surprising 15%, but it doesn't come across that way when drinking it.

It's clear to me that this wine needs more time in the bottle to resolve itself. Six months to a year should make a huge difference. My bet is that it'll be enjoyable to drink for 7 or 8 years after that. Suggested retail is $28. Check Wine-Searcher though as it can easily be found for $20 or under. This is a well made Cabernet that needs some time to be fully enjoyed.

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Tara Bella - 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Today's Cabernet selection is from Sonoma County California. Tara Bella Winery is very Tara Bellaliterally 2 people, Tara and Rich Minnick. They do just about everything themselves, including hand numbering and hand-waxing every single bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon. They planted their vineyard in the foothills of the Russian River in 1995. Their 100% varietal, 100% Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon is the only wine they make. Their total annual production is between 300 and 500 Cases. In 2005 they made 359 cases. The first thing apparent about this wine is that it's a little on the young side right now. Decanting it for a couple of hours is highly recommended if you want to enjoy this one in it's youth.

Once it does open up the nose reveals spice, blueberry, cedar and a hint of licorice. The first sips bring out some earthiness as well as raspberry and cherry fruit characteristics. The mid-palate is rich and mouth-filling with excellent acidity. The berry characters as well as the earthiness and spice continue through the long and persistent finish. There is an inherent earthiness to this wine that I'd expect to increase with some bottle age. This wine is very well balanced and made for food. I found it to be a perfect match for Wild Mushroom Risotto.

Tara Bella 2005 Estate Cabernet Reserve sells for $65. However, almost 95% of their wine each year is sold to their wine club for $53 per bottle. If you can get your hands on some of their Cabernet I suggest laying it down for a few years and then pulling it out for a special occasion of some kind. The 2005 should improve nicely for at least 10 years, perhaps more, considering how well balanced it is. This wine might be made in California but it has an Old World style to it.

Tomorrow: The final wine of Cabernet Sauvignon Week, is from Robert Mondavi

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Mollydooker - 2006 The Maitre D' Cabernet Sauvignon

For today's Cabernet selection I'm looking at one from Australia. Although this is only the second vintage for Mollydooker Maitre D'Wines, the folks behind the label Sarah & Sparky Marquis have been in the wine business for the better part of two decades in one form or another. Mollydooker Wines has several distinct series which translate into different price points. Today's Cabernet Sauvignon is part of the Lefty Series. Each of the wines in the Lefty Series has a retail price of $20. Upon approaching The Maitre D' the first whiff from the nose reveals plum and berry notes in great abundance. The first sips showcases more dark berry fruit and some softer mocha notes. This wine absolutely explodes on the mid-palate with extremely rich and mouth-filling intense dark berry and plum fruit. The finish of The Maitre D' is long, lingering and noteworthy for the price point. Clearly above average in length it features, fig, candied blueberry a ton of spice and subtle espresso notes. The tannins on this wine are soft and fairly sleek. Above all The Maitre D' is smooth, silky and loaded with ripe enticing dark fruit that draws you back for sip after sip.

Considering the wine clocks in with 16% alcohol it's a marvel that it doesn't drink hot at all. In fact it's well balanced with firm acidity and goes down quite easily. It's a big wine for sure but it's also not overwhelming and didn't tire my palate as I drank it. The Maitre D' drinks very well right now and I expect it has a solid 5 years ahead of it. For $20 this an excellent value and you'll be hard pressed to do better. This is especially recommended for fans of big, rich wines. Mollydooker Wines has a great deal if you order through their website. If you purchase a case of wine, shipping from California for the entire thing is only .12 cents.

Stay tuned as I will be looking at two other Mollydooker Wines, The Boxer and Blue Eyed Boy in the upcoming weeks.

Up Next: A Look at Tara Bella's 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Wellington Vineyards - Mohrhardt Ridge 2003 Cabernet

Today's Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard offering from Wellington Vineyards in Sonoma County California. Included in their diverse offerings are several Rhone varietals, a few blends, a few vineyard designated Zinfandels, Cabernets and more. The Mohrardt Ridge Cabernet is one that Wellington has been making for many years. The 2003 that I looked at is in fact their 15th straight vintage from that vineyard. WellingtonThe nose of the Mohrardt Ridge offers up lots of spice, blueberries and cedar notes. The first sip reveals oak that is firmly present but in check and reserved. The mid-palate features a lot of dark berry fruit along with continued spice notes that tingle along the tongue and back of the throat. The finish, which is substantial in length, has some light earthiness and subtle black pepper. This Wellington Cabernet is very well balanced with good acidity and firm tannins. An hour or so in the decanter does wonders to change the flavor profile of this wine and allow it to open up and shine.

The retail price on this wine is $22. This is a good value for a wine that has at least 5 years of positive evolution ahead of it. What I liked best about this wine is it's balance. That balance is what helps this wine pair wonderfully with a wide range of foods. This is a New World wine with Old World restraint and elegance. Having had a number of Wellington Vineyards wines over the years it's fair to say that describes their house style.

The next Cabernet featured will be from Mollydooker.

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Joel Gott - 2005 California Cabernet Sauvignon

Today's selection is a 2005 Cabernet from Joel Gott. This one differs from most of the other Cabernet's this week in that it's a blend sourced from several diverse areas of Joel GottCalifornia. Fruit from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi & Lake County went into this wine. It was aged for 15 months in a combination of French and American oak. Just over 9,000 cases of this wine were produced and it retails at $17. The diversity of fruit really helps make a wine of wide-ranging character and appeal. The first thing apparent is a bouquet of candied black cherries that just explode in your nose. The first couple sips of this wine are tart and tight but it opens up and smooths itself out very quickly. There is an absolute ton of dark, jammy fruit up front that leads to a huge rich mouth-filling mid-palate. The finish features some mocha notes that are underpinned by tingly white pepper. Joel Gott's 2005 California Cabernet is lush and the finish is hefty and substantial. The wine has good acidity and is well balanced. The rich heady fruit makes it very much the New World wine that it is. It has easy drink-ability and sufficient complexity to make it interesting and a bit thought provoking. This wine will pair very well with BBQ and grilled meats in general. It also drinks very well on it's own.

For $17 I found this wine to be a very good value. It over-delivers for the price-point. Definitely recommended for fans of fruit driven wines that envelope the palate. Joel Gott is probably best known for his Zinfandels. This Cabernet shows that his other offerings are well worth a look too.

Coming Tomorrow: A Single vineyard Cabernet from Wellington Vineyards.

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Martin & Weyrich - 2003 Cabernets

Up today are two offerings from Martin & Weyrich of Paso Robles California. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of the Paso Robles region in general. I find that by and large there are many noteworthy wines of distinction coming out of this area. Not only do many of them stand out stylistically, they are also often available at bargain prices compared to wines of similar quality from say Napa or Sonoma. Having started in 1981 Martin & Weyrich is amongst the earliest wineries from the area. Their portfolio reads like the United Nations of Wine. Italian and Spanish varietals are a large part of what they do right alongside Bordeaux offerings such as Cabernet Sauvignon. There are precious few U.S. Wineries that even make Tempranillo, let alone a dry Rosé of Tempranillo. That's but one example of their diversity.

The first of their two Cabernet's that I looked at is called "Etrusco." 15% Sangiovese was blended in and it spent 18 months Etruscoin 50% new French oak. 3,100 cases of this wine were produced and it's retail price is $22. I found this wine to need a solid hour in the decanter to really show all it's true colors. Initially it had some tartness but that dissipated. The nose is full of black raspberry and earthy mushroom aromas. The first sip reveals toasted cherry flavors that follow through to the mid-palate along with substantial pepper and overall spice elements. The finish features some white pepper notes and clings to the back of the throat for a noticeable amount of time. "Etrusco" is well balanced with terrific acidity. It's clear that the Sangiovese blended in really helps balance this wine and make it very approachable. This wine works very well with pasta and red sauce as well as fairly strong cheeses.

For $22 this wine is a certainly worth it in my opinion. What I most enjoyed about this wine is it's combination of bright and dark fruit flavors which makes it very easy to drink. That said, this wine has quite a bit going including firm tannins, suggesting a respectable shelf life if stored properly.

The second Martin & Weyrich Cabernet offering is also from 2003. This one is however 100% varietal. Additionally it 2003 Cabernetspent two full years in 80% new French oak. Fruit was sourced exclusively at the Weyrich Family Ranch and production was limited to 500 cases. Retail price is $35.

Giving this wine time to breathe is even more essential than with the other selection. The nose offers up chocolate dipped raspberries. The first sip reveals significant tannins, earthiness and kirsch liquor. The mid-palate is big, round and mouth-filling with a ton more cherry fruit and mushroom laced earthiness. The finish is long and lingering with more berry fruit and substantial spice flavors that go on and on. While this wine is quite enjoyable now, especially after sufficient time breathing, it will improve with age, perhaps dramatically. I would anticipate the already present earthiness to become a greater focus as the fruit and tannins soften. The winery expects this wine to age ten years and that would not surprise me. I think that if you tuck a couple away now you'll be pretty happy in 5 or so years when you pull one out for an occasion. At the moment this wine would be a great match for a steak or other equally hearty foods.

At $35 this wine is actually a bargain. No it's probably not a wine most can have with leftovers on Wednesday night very often. But it is a tremendously good wine with excellent aging potential. Cabernet Sauvignon of equal quality from Napa would easily cost twice what this wine does. What I liked most about this wine was it's range of flavors and complexity for the price.

Both Cabernets from Martin & Weyrich impressed me. They are distinct wines and each offers value in it's price category.

Cabernet Sauvignon Week continues with a wine from Joel Gott coming up next. 

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Castillo de Molina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005

Molina Today's selection is the final Cabernet for the week in the value category. The Castillo de Molina Cabernet is from Curico Valley. This is estate fruit grown in Vina San Pedro's vineyards. Castillo de Molina is one of Vina San Pedro's second labels. For those not familiar with them, Vina San Pedro's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best coming out of Chile year in and year out. For my money it often runs neck and neck with the legendary Don Melchor. This Cabernet spent a year in a combination of French and American oak barrels. 30% of the barrels used are new. The first whiff of this wine reveals vanilla and blueberries. After the wine opens up a bit some mocha and cherry notes also emerge from the nose.  The palate shows some toasty oak layered on top of berry flavors. This wine is very light bodied for a Cabernet. It features a firm acidity and the tannins present are soft and round. The Molina has no hard edges and certainly goes down smoothly. The finish features some spicy white pepper notes. The finish is a touch below average. This wine should be paired up with lighter food than the average Cabernet Sauvignon. Mild cheeses and roasted chicken are 2 items that come to mind which would work well.

I found previous vintages of this wine to be more impressive. The 2003 in particular was excellent in it's price category. The retail price of this wine is around $11. If you shop around you can find it for a couple of dollars less. At around $9 it's an OK buy. I would not expect this wine to improve in the bottle. However it should drink as it does now for 3-5 years. Without question, of the three value priced Cabernets I looked at this week, the Guenoc is hands down the best value.

Up Next: Two selections from Martin & Weyrich

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Guenoc - 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

The second selection for Cabernet week is from Guenoc in Lake County California. GuenocGuenoc is a sub label of Langtry Estate & Vineyards. Lake County is an up and coming area in California about 60 miles north of San Francisco. Some interesting wines at very fair prices are emerging from this area. Guenoc's 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 8% Petit Verdot and 4% Petite Sirah. This wine spent 20 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels. The nose of the Guenoc Cabernet has lots of dark blackberry fruit and a touch of tobacco. It takes about 45 minutes in  the decanter for this wine to open up fully. Once it does the first sip reveals generous spice notes, especially pepper and more dark fruit characteristics. The finish is of medium length and there is some white pepper that coats the back of the throat as it closes out. It's lighter bodied than a typical Cabernet which lends itself to pleasurable sipping on it's own. I also expect this wine to go well with pasta and red sauce as well as a variety of cheeses.

Retail price on the Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon is $12, putting it in the value category. A quick look at shows it can generally be found for under $10. It's certainly a solid value in that price category. I'd expect this wine to have at least 5 years of life ahead of it.

Coming tomorrow: Castillo de Molina, the weeks final entry in the value category. 

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Santa Rita - 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Maipo

First up for Cabernet Sauvignon week is a value priced offering from Chile. Over the years I've had good luck in finding Santa Ritasome terrific values for my money with wines coming from South America. And Maipo Valley, where this selection hails from, has been a specific source of some of my favorite Chilean finds over time. In general I have often been able to find Chilean wines with a great earthiness to them, which is appealing to me. The 2005 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in a combination of American oak and stainless steal vats for 8 months. This one is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose features mostly black fruit characteristics along with subtler anise and a bit of clove. The first sip out of the bottle was tart and tight. The mid-palate has some dust and earth on it along with dark berry and soft tannins. Even after breathing the finish showed some tartness along with a few white pepper notes. That finish however is well below average in length. After the bottle is open for an hour or so and the initial tartness dissipates as do most of the other limited flavor notes this wine features. In fact, what little fruit it has seems to disappear rather quickly and be replaced by an unfortunate vegetal quality that isn't appealing.

Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Resevra has a retail price in the neighborhood of $12. If you look around though you can find it for about $9. Unfortunately with all the values coming out of Chile it's very easy for me to say that this wine simply isn't worth your money. Way too many South American producers are providing more bang for the buck in this category. This particular wine is one to avoid.

Coming tomorrow a review of a Guenoc Lake County California Cabernet Sauvignon

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Cabernet Sauvignon Week

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Cabernet Sauvignon Week. Each day one or two cab's will be looked at closely. The Etruscolist of wines scheduled for coverage include (not necessarily in this order): Santa Rita - A Chilean Wine in the value category.


Guenoc - A California wine from emerging Lake County in the value category.


Wellington - A single vineyard wine from Sonoma County California.


Martin & Weyrich- Two selections from this venerable Paso Robles, California producer.


Mollydooker - A rising star from Australia in the $20 range.


Castillo de Molina - A Chilean producer with a value priced entry.


Joel Gott- A wine priced in the teens and sourced from several prime California AVA's


Tara Bella- A single vineyard, limited production wine from Sonoma.


Mondavi- A look at what this seminal Napa winery is offering in Cabernet for around $20.


and more....