On December 18, three Terroirists (myself, Robby Schrum, Sarah Hexter) got together with some friends to formally taste 20 different wines that had arrived as press samples over the previous few months. This marked the first time that we tasted in a single-blind format, which is how we’ll be reviewing all wine samples from now on.
The biggest surprise? How well two budget reds from Paso Robles – the 2008 CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon (which comes in a Tetra Pak!) and the 2009 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – performed against some all star Napa Cabs.
Details, wines, and tasting notes below the fold.
Review: 2010 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree
SRP: $18. The nose is overwhelming – as the wine somehow hits every note one would expect from Sauvignon Blanc, across the entire spectrum of flavors. Green notes (under-ripe bell peppers & jalapeno peppers), citrus fruits (sweet limes), and super ripe stone fruits (peaches) all get checked, making the wine interesting but odd. The acidity almost saves it, but unfortunately, some alcohol rears its head at the finish. (85 pts.)
Review: 2010 Amavi Cellars Sémillon Walla Walla Valley
SRP: $20. Incredibly seductive nose of lemon drops, lemon curd, fresh white peaches, and a hint of sweet, tropical fruits (mango & melon), and a hint of gray rock. Soft and well-balanced, with some super cool salinity at the finish. A fantastic wine. (92 pts.)
Review: 2010 Kelly Fleming Wines Sauvignon Blanc
SRP: $30. Beautiful. The wine perfectly combines all that’s attractive about green Sauvignon Blanc (fresh-cut grass & jasmine), along with what you’d expect of riper versions (beautiful citrus fruits beyond just lemons and limes – grapefruit makes an appearance). The oak (20% new) is well integrated, resulting in a touch of vanilla. Some lees characteristics are also present. A crisp, focused, well-crafted wine. (93 pts.)
Review: 2010 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard
SRP: $20. This wine smells like New Zealand. Screaming levels of fresh-cut grass, fresh-from-the-garden green peppers, grapefruit, and sour lemons. More interesting than Kim Crawford or Cloudy Bay thanks to a strong aroma of spinach and some watermelon (!). This would make for a perfect summer wine. (91 pts.)
Review: 2010 Robert Oatley James Oatley TIC TOK Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
SRP: $14. Bright, simple Sauvignon Blanc nose that’s wonderfully attractive – pink grapefruit, limes, honeysuckle, hint of grass, and some zesty tropical fruits. Very, very simple – and lacking in acitiy — but would make for a perfect summer quaffer. (87 pts.)
Review: 2008 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
SRP: $95. A tight nose, but slowly reveals an array of beautiful dark fruits – blackberries, black cherries, and black currant. The oak treatment is subtle, resulting in chocolate and hints of toffee and spice. Juicy acidity, aggressive-but-structured tannins, only hurt by a slightly bitter finish. Obviously young and tight, but amazing nonetheless. (92 pts.)
Review: 2009 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
SRP: $14. Ripe red fruit, blueberries, and seductive herbaceousness – leading to guesses of a cool-climate (Carneros?) Bordeaux blend. Underneath the fruit, some wild mountain herbs and lavender. On the palate, it’s a bit simpler but wonderfully approachable, with a seductive note of seawater. Unfortunately, it finishes bitter with some strong green notes. (88 pts.)
Review: 2007 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
SRP: $30. The nose is thick, concentrated, and dark. Sweet black fruits (which are a tad bit overripe) and licorice, mixed strong oak that results in dark chocolate and coffee. Unfortunately, the nose is better than the palate – as it ends with a strong shot of alcohol and feels disjointed. That said, the nose suggests this has the elements to come together with a few more years. (87 pts.)
Review: 2006 Mount Veeder Winery Reserve
SRP: $80. A sultry, seductive nose of raw meat (!), blackberries, dark cherries, crème de cassis, and sage, complemented by vanilla and chocolate that is more reminiscent of custard than oak. The wine is supported throughout the palate, and although the tannins are huge, the wine is vibrant and the finish is endless. This should have a great life ahead of it. (93 pts.)
Review: 2008 The Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvée
SRP: $19. A robust nose, but fairly monolithic. A nice, ripe mix of black (blackberries, plum, black cherry, licorice) and green (eucalyptus and green olive), with a nice dose of chocolate and cardamom thrown in. Unfortunately, the wine is much more concentrated on the nose than it is on the palate – it actually comes across as quite watery. (86 pts.)
Review: 2008 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon Cru
SRP: $54. The nose comes across as monolithic, with notes of wild berries, blackberries and dark chocolate – but then reveals itself as layered, with all sorts of enticing aromas (baking spices, coffee, some orange rind) sneaking out. The tannins are soft, the acid is juicy, and the finish is long. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hot at the finish. (91 pts.)
Review: 2008 CalNaturale Cabernet Sauvignon Block #65 French Camp Vineyard
SRP: $13 (per liter). When the foil came off this wine (which was put into a bottle to avoid bias), we were shocked. Restrained-but-ripe blue and red fruits, bright raspberries, cherry Now and Laters, vanilla extract, some lees. The tannins were odd, as they only appeared at the front of the palate, but otherwise, a very good wine. (88 pts.)
Review: 2007 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
SRP: $135. Extracted and massive, but somehow elegant. Layer after layer of big, dark fruits with seductive blueberries and bright red fruits underneath. Underneath the fruit is some minerals along with smoky, spicy cigar box and cedar. On the palate, the wine is lush, velvety, and structured, with a finish that’s lively and coats the entire mouth. (94 pts.)
Wines Scoring Less Than 85 Points
Review: 2008 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
SRP: $90. Supremely disappointed when the foil came off of this one. Hit over the head with heavily toasted oak – and underneath all that, it was hard to get past the nose of huge, pruney fruits – some spicy black cherries (good) and candied green pepper (bad) were the only ones that really stood out.
Review: 2008 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
SRP: $49. Very sweet nose of black fruits, plums, black cherries, chocolate, tar, and green pepper, with a hint of acetone. The oak treatment feels harsh and way over the top, and the nose smells alcoholic. On the palate, it’s the same – but I’m feeling hot hot hot. A disappointing wine.
Review: 2008 Bonanno Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
SRP: $20. A monolithic, artificial smelling nose of purple Gatorade, chocolate cake icing, anise, and herbs. On the palate, it’s well-balanced and well-structured, but just plain awkward.
Review: 2007 Swanson Vineyards Modern House Wines
SRP: $25. On the nose, black licorice mixed with stewed green peppers and tar. Despite the entry-level price point, very surprised Swanson would put their name on this.