Wine Reviews: California Cabernet & Blends

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-13-2013

All wines were received as press samples and tasted blind.

2008 Franciscan Oakville Estate Magnificat
California, Napa Valley
($50)
The nose is dark and deep and needs some time to open. But I got some lovely smoke and earth, sweet plum, potpourri and toasted oak with some time in the glass. Very creamy on the palate, showing richness but also intensity. Black cherry fruit, earth and mocha are topped with sweet cedary oak, perhaps a bit much for some palates, but I think the oak is balanced by the overall power of the juice. Tobacco and hints of lavender linger onto the finish. Time in the cellar would do this good. A blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 6% Petite Verdot and 2% Malbec. (90 points IJB)

2008 Castello di Amorosa La Castellana
California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
($88)
Intoxicating aromas of wild raspberries, sweet plums, some violets, fig paste and cedar. Fresh red and black fruits start off the palate, raspberry, plum, fig, even some notes of dried apricot. Flavors of soil, coffee, cedar and hazelnut add complexity. The tannins have smooth edges, making this easy to drink now, although I think it could be cellared for five years easily. The acid lingers onto the finish along subtle notes of vanilla bean and toast. A fruit-forward yet elegant blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 16% Sangiovese. Simply delicious. (91 points IJB)

2009 St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
California, Napa Valley
($30)
Aromas of ground coffee, cherry liqueur and notes of rhubarb. Rich and jammy on the palate, but really firm tannins provide structure. Lots of red currant, red apple peel (no joke) mixed with flavors of vanilla bean and toasted coconut. A solid Cabernet Sauvignon that will gain complexity over the next few years. 5% Merlot in here as well, all aged 22 months in 40% new French oak. (88 points IJB)

2009 Vinifera Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon Continental Expedition
California, Napa Valley
($40)
Luscious nose of red and black plums, cherry pie, cedar and cinnamon candies. On the palate, fine tannins and medium acid provide a base for the bright cherry and tangy plum fruit. Cinnamon, cedar, campfire smoke and vanilla bean flavors grab my palate’s attention and keep it. With time, hints of dill pickle and sage drift in and linger through the long finish. Throughout, the wine maintains a very fresh, unassuming style, but it’s layered with complex flavors and seems capable of serious development in the cellar. A Steve Matthiasson wine. (92 points IJB)

2009 Fields Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Konrad’s Vineyard
California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
($59)
Aromatically, this wine is rocking: pure plum and blackberry fruit, hints of white and bell pepper, wet leaves. The fruit is distinctly Californian, but it has a Bordeaux-like approach as well, and I love it. Fresh acid balances with fine tannins and rich plum fruit. Complex and lush, with those same peppery notes, tobacco and a braised meat flavor. Soft oak adds toast and vanilla notes, but they don’t overwhelm. Very balanced and ready to drink now. (90 points IJB)

2010 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five
California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
($72)
Incredibly dark purple color in the glass with thick legs. Aromas of black plums, espresso, toasted oak, hints of rose petals. Grippy tannins provide solid structure. The plum skin, blackberry and cassis flavors are strong and compact and need time to develop. Acid seems a little low. On the finish, flavors of black tea, espresso and dried leaves mingle with a big dose of toasty oak (it’s aged 20 months in 100% new French oak). If you’re drinking it now, a long decant is the way to go. (88 points IJB)

2010 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District
USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District ($70)
Dark and rich on the nose, like blackberries and currants cooked down with brown sugar and ground coffee. Notes of tobacco, dusty earth and anise come out on the nose as well. The tannins are firm and dusty, the acid is focused and the blackberry and currant fruit is pure and velvety. Notes of potting soil, soy sauce, mocha and pipe tobacco add complexity. Long finish with notes of creamy oak. A beautiful example of 2010 Napa Cabernet, and a wine that will do wonders over the next 10-15 years. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in 54% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2010 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon “Cru”
California, Napa Valley, St. Helena ($54)
Dark purple colored. Aromas of dark plums, raspberry jam and sweet pipe tobacco, also some cedar and mocha. Really alluring aromas that transition to rich flavors on the palate. Medium-tannins, medium acid and a rounded use of oak set up the dark plum and boysenberry flavors. Mocha, toast and cherry liqueur mixed in. A rich finish with notes of vanilla and cherry wood. A hedonistic wine, but impressive in its concentration. Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak, this cabernet sauvignon includes 7% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. (91 points IJB)

2009 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée
USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
($24)
This wine shows more restraint on the nose, but I mean that in a good way. I smell red currant, sour cherry, rose petals, tobacco and some roasted coffee, and it’s all mixed together really well. Tangy acid and fine-grained tannins on the palate make this so easy to drink. Lovely mix of currant, sour cherry, roasted plum fruit, and it all tastes fresh and crisp. Secondary flavors of tobacco, sage, black pepper. A hint of bacon fat on the long finish. Very Old World in its approach, must more nuanced and subtle than bombastic. Still has a good five years of aging potential. A kitchen sink red blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 6% Zinfandel, 3% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec. For the price, a no brainer. (91 points IJB)

2009 Gundlach Bundschu Vintage Reserve
California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
($80)
A complex and sure to be long-lived wine. Aromas of smoke, tar and loam accent the pure blackberry and cassis. Juicy and fresh on the palate with ripe but firm tannins and fresh acid. The blackberries, fig paste and caramel flavors are deep, verging on the profound. Rich, but not overbearing. Graphite and cocoa powder last long onto the finish. Delicious now, but this will get incrementally better with five years in the cellar. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. (92 points IJB)

Comments (3)

  1. Thank you for the nice comments regarding or Cabernet! It has been in the bottle just now about two years and has really come around from it’s angry mountain youth of just a year ago.
    Ryan- Fields Family Wines

  2. Congratulations Fields Family Winery and Ryan Sherman, winemaker and all!

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