Wine Reviews: California Cabernet

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-30-2014

It seems Napa Valley will need a long time to recover from the recent earthquake. My heart goes out to everyone who was injured or sustained property damage. I’m saddened by all the social media images of broken library bottles, fallen wine barrels and spilled wine. But every year Napa vintners give us something to look forward to. Cabernet is Napa’s gift to the world, and I for one am thankful that so many people work so hard to make this great juice.

Many Napa Cabs appear in this report, but the wines come from all across California. They were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. Overall, I found this to be a high-quality crew, with some really beautiful standouts.

Review: 2009 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Montana Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
SRP: $75
A deep bold purple color. Smells of plum cake, currants, all lush and deep with cedar, graphite, sweet vanilla, mocha, so complex and evolving. Rich but structured on the palate, with sweet and chewy tannins, medium acid, a velvety feel. Flavors of roasted fig, currant jam, blackberry mix with graphite, cedar and a hint of sweet spice that reminds me of menthol and pepper jam. Still very young, but lovely, and so deep and mineral-driven on the finish. Wasn’t surprised to see this was a single mountain vineyard Cab. 100% Cabernet. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2009 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Dakota Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
SRP: $75
A brooding dark purple color. Takes a bit to open up aromatically, then shows black cherries, currant jam, mocha, deep violets and rich loamy soil. So much structure on the palate; the tannins show tons of grip, a bit of acid to keep it fresh. The black cherry and cassis tastes ripe, deep, but also tart. Lots of loam, tobacco leaf, loam and granite notes, accented by mocha, dark roast coffee and spiced cranberry sauce. Some black licorice and molasses on the finish. Big, such concentration, young, but beautiful and complex. Deserves to be buried for at least three-to-five before it probably comes out to show its best, but it will hold up for so long. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2009 Cenyth Sonoma County Red Wine - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $60
Deep purple colored. Aromas of currants and blackberries, along with loam, cedar, tobacco and bell pepper. Generous texture, with dusty tannins and medium acid. The flavors are really woven together well: fresh currants and black cherries, some tanginess to the fruit, and the secondary flavors come in waves: loam, bell pepper, tobacco and bay leaf. Notes of dried herbs, black olive and roses linger with cedar on the finish. Dusty, very pretty, could use a few years to unwind and will last for quite a while. A full Bordeaux squadron of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot and 7% Malbec. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $70
Deep ruby-purple colored. Aromas of currant jam, fig paste, roasted plums, along with black olives, charcoal and some sweet herbs. The palate shows plush tannins and tangy acid, supporting the waves of silky-smooth fruit (currant, blackberry, tangy blueberries). I love the mushroom, cigar box and sweet olive notes, which are rounded out with cedar and kirsch. So velvety and pure, complex and long. Drinking surprisingly well now, but I could easily bury this for five years to see what happens. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec, aged in 60% new French oak for 21 months. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon “Moondance Dream” - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95
Violet-magenta color. The fruit aromas dark and deep, currant jam, dark plum skins, blackberries, but there’s also a lot of cedar, forest floor, roasted coffee and some bell pepper. Lots of grippy tannins on the palate, but balance comes from the acid, and the wine shows a velvety feel. I could write an essay on the textural elements of this wine. The black currant and black cherry fruit is pure, deep but also tangy. Integrated notes of cedar and vanilla, matched by sweet oregano and pepper. Very complex, deserving a long sleep, but a very special wine. Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak, a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 3% Merlot. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $38
Nose shows black and red currants and cherry fruit, but there’s a whole lot of tobacco, bell pepper, tar and smoke on the nose as well, which is really intoxicating and complex. Juicy red and black fruit on the palate, the firm tannins and medium acid cooperate to form a rich and fleshy mouthfeel. The tart berry fruit is mixed in with pencil shavings, chewing tobacco, spearmint, and I get these great tar and olive notes. Complex, earthy, worthy of sipping over a few days or burying in the cellar for four to six years. Includes 8% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and a 2% splash of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah, aged 19 months in 25% new French oak, 13.5% alcohol. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $80
Deep and complex on the nose, with rich cherries, black and red currants, dusted with cedar, pencil shavings, mossy rocks and tobacco. Juicy and fleshy on the palate, with fine tannins and tangy acid. Crunchy red currants, some black cherries and strawberries. Lots of tobacco, bell pepper, graphite and charcoal notes. The sweet vanilla and cedar is well-integrated. Bold but also quite elegant, with tons of length on the finish. Could develop complexity with age, but I’m impressed at how well it’s showing now. Includes 10% Merlot and 6% Cab Franc, this wine is aged 24 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Joie Du Vin - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $400/Magnum
Rich and saucy on the nose, with black cherries, some coffee, pencil shavings and loamy soil. Tart red and black currants on the palate, grippy tannins, medium+ bodied, but an almost crunchy feeling from the tangy fruit and fresh acid. Notes of coffee, pepper and cedar shavings add complexity. Some mushroom, fallen leaves and cherry wood come out with time. Finishes long with notes of loam, granite and toasted oak, but it stays tangy. 100% Cabernet, aged 26 months in 50% new French oak, this wine is made from several select barrels at the estate vineyard in Stags Leap. A very good wine, but not cheap. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $35
Vibrant purple color. Smells of red and black currants, some smoke and graphite notes, a bit of sweet cocoa and cinnamon. Juicy red and black fruit on a firm tannic backbone with a fresh acidic frame. Earth, tobacco and clove accent the juicy currant fruit. Long, tangy, open, showing well now. Some olive and bell pepper accents the finish. Aged in 30% new French oak and 10% new American oak, includes 9% Merlot in the blend. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Edna Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $15
Bright purple color. Cool red and black berry fruit on the nose, some spicy cedar and oak, a bit tight and hesitant, requiring time to open up to show some underlying earth and pine forest notes. Medium to light tannins, very fine, with a moderate dose of acid. The black cherry and dark plum is ripe but also showing some tartness. Notes of pine resin, menthol and cedar accent the fruit, some mocha lingering on the finish. Bright and lively. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Medium purple color. Saucy and rich on the nose, with dark plums, currant jam, some vanilla, clove and sweet mocha. On the palate, medium tannins, not too drying, medium acid. Darker berry fruit (black currants, dark plum skins) notes of cola, toast, spearmint, chewing tobacco, a hint of bell pepper. With time, some underlying mushroom and black olive notes come out. Full and long, I think it needs a few years to show its best. Aged 15 months in 2/3 new French oak, this Cab contains some Syrah, Petite Sirah Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Merlot. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon Oso Vineyard – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
A medium purple color. Beautiful nose of currant jam, fleshy black cherries, sweet lavender and cedar, some dark roast coffee and forest floor. Very complex and evocative on the nose. Full on the palate but some tanginess and grippy tannins. Tart black currants and blueberries, mixed in with notes of peppered steak, mushroom, some sweet and savory spices, spearmint, tobacco. A bit tightly wound, a good decant could help, but perhaps four or five years in the cellar would yield an even more harmonious wine. Includes 13% Petite Verdot, this wine is aged 20 months in 77% new oak, 13.8% alcohol. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $28
Medium purple colored. Lots of tart cranberries, red currants, dried roses and cedar shavings on the nose. Fresh and tangy on the palate with tart berries, fine tannins, crisp acid and only 13.5% alcohol. I usually associate Franciscan with a rich and bold style, but this shows a lot of freshness, graphite aspects and tangy red fruit. I also get notes of black pepper, leather and mushroom notes. Includes 10% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot and a 1% dash of both Syrah and Cab Franc. Drinking well now. Solid buy at $28. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Aromas of sweet black cherries and raspberries, also very floral, with notes of sweet caramel, cedar and mushroom. The palate shows fleshy texture, fine but structured tannins and a good amount of tanginess from the acid. The berry fruit is pulpy and fleshy, backed up by a delicious blend of mushroom, cedar, root beer, menthol, loam. Complex, surely this will evolve for quite a while, but I’m surprised by how well it’s drinking right away. Loving these lingering non-fruit flavors. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $53
Deep ruby color. Lots of bright red fruit on the nose (cherries, red currants) some tobacco leaf, mocha, loam and white pepper, all of it intertwined well. The palate shows fine tannins and juicy fruit (black cherry, red currant, some plum) along with moderate+ acid. I like the dusty, forest floor aspects of this wine, and there are some cedar and tobacco notes as well. Good structure, but showing openness and vibrancy now. 76% Cab, 16% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec, aged 12 months in 39% new French and American oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - California, Napa Valley
$34
Vibrant purple color. Nose of sweet violets, fountain cola, and raspberry, plum and blackberry jam mixed together, underlying mushroom and sweet balsamic notes need time to fully come out. On the palate, the berry fruit is tart is juicy, coated in soot, graphite and mushroom, which add interesting elements to contemplate. Notes of coconut shavings and mocha on the finish. Very fine tannins and medium acid, the fresh fruit combines in a silky mouthfeel that offers immediate pleasure. A skilled but a fan-friendly effort. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $35
Bright purple color. Lovely currants and black cherry sauce on the nose, some cedar, pencil shavings and roasted coffee. On the palate this wine is juicy and approachable with fine tannins and some fresh acid. Juicy and fleshy, with black cherry and currant fruit, some underlying cola, vanilla and root beer. An undeniably fun and tasty wine that delivers droves of happiness but also shows some complexity. Some dust, tobacco and bell pepper note slinger on the finish. Some decent structure, but seems ready for business. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $20
Bright magenta-purple color. Nose of dark berries (blackberries and black currants), some roasted nut qualities, along with some mocha, menthol and cedar. Bold on the palate with waves of currant and black cherry fruit. A great mixture of non-fruit elements, which remind me of menthol, cedar, roasted nuts, black olive and coffee. Includes a bit of Petite Sirah and Merlot. Solid value. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2011 McGah Family Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon “Scarlett” – California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $60
Dark purple colored. On the nose, wild, dark berry fruit with a lot of intensity, some tobacco and spice undertones, cigar smoke. The palate shows a lot of density, with firm tannins lining up with the fresh acid. The fruit is pure, dark and deep, almost brooding but not quite, there’s still a real sense of freshness and silkiness to this wine. The fruit is equally matched with notes of tobacco leaf, dusty soil and graphite, a slight herbal aspect. Very complex and inviting, with a finish of cedar and sweet vanilla. Basically, this is beautiful stuff. So nuanced already, but it has time ahead. 100% Cab, spends 18 months in French oak. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
Aromas of plum cake, fig paste, also violets and roses, eucalyptus, tobacco and soil. Fresh acid, but grippy structure, the plums, currants and mulberries combine to form a rich but an almost crunchy mouthfeel. Lots of spice, clove, rose hips and tobacco. Needs cellaring or a very long decant. Includes 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot, aged 23 months in 50% new French oak barrels. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Mira Cabernet Sauvignon – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $52
Nose of tangy red fruit (cranberries, red currants) some darker fruit underneath, also some tobacco, sweet roses, cedar shavings, pencil lead. Firm, grippy tannic structure. Tart cranberry mixes with rich black cherries and currant jam. Mouthfilling but tart, with rose hips, cigar smoke, lots of eucalyptus and incense notes. Big but precise, the flavors glide across the palate with ease. Still, it could use time to smooth out. Includes 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah aged 20 months in 60% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $30
Deep purple color. Red and black currants and plums on the nose, some cola, vanilla, cedar and something that reminds me of mossy rocks, which is actually very nice. On the palate I get juicy red currants, dark plums, the fruit is clean and fresh. Medium tannins, they’re fined down and the acid provides freshness. I get some good tobacco, sweet baking spices and menthol, some soy. Very pretty and open, seems more of a near-term drinker but a high-quality one. A bit of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc blended in. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $75
Dark purple-black color. On the nose, sweet cassis and plums, cedar and dark chocolate. Bold but showing freshness on the palate, with rich plummy-blackberry themes. Some loam, graphite and cola aspects add complexity. Tanginess helps keep it balanced with the creamy tannins. Olive and tobacco notes came out with time, along with a mineral note on the finish. A lovely young Cabernet that could show a lot more as it unwinds in the cellar. Aged 22 months in 85% new French oak, a dash of Merlot and Cab Franc in here. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Piña Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Buckeye Vineyard – California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $85
Dark purple color. On the nose, this is deep, complex and exotic, with black currant and blueberry mixed in with black tea, violets, cedar elements, clove and roses. On the palate, the tannins are bold but fine and pleasant, balanced out by superb acid. Black cherry, tart blueberry and currant fruit, fresh but just a bit jammy. Wonderful Howell Mountain mix of charcoal, iron and graphite with these delicious cola, anise cookie and ginger snap elements. Big but so elegant. Lovely and long, cellar-worthy or give it a serious decant. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Piña Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Firehouse Vineyard – California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $85
Deep purple-magenta color. Nose shows black cherries and blueberries, and I get this pervading scent of fresh mulch, also some mocha and mulling spices. Firm tannic punch, a full-bodied wine with medium- acid. Very grippy and toasty, the blackberry and blueberry fruit is coated with espresso, loamy soil, old library books, soy and roasted red pepper elements. Long finish with pencil shavings and Brazil nuts. Very good stuff, but it needs time to unravel. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Piña Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Wolff Vineyard - California, Napa Valley, Yountville
SRP: $85
Ruby purple color. Dark and earthy on the nose, like charcoal soot, forest floor and portobello mushroom on top of deep, extracted berry fruit. Dense nose, takes time to open up. Full and velvety on the palate but the tannins are quite fine, balanced a bit by medium acid. Waves of blackberry, blueberry and pomegranate fruit roll in, backed up by notes of cedar, cherry wood and cigar smoke. Some chewing tobacco and roasted chestnut linger onto the finish. Rich and creamy but well-structured. Complex, long, needs time to open up but this will be beautiful in four or five years. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Scotto Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon “50 Harvests” – California, Napa Valley Deep and dark on the nose, requiring some coaxing before the aromas come out: boysenberry, blackberries, sweet cocoa powder and coffee, some violets and sarsaparilla. Smooth and silky on the palate, with velvety tannins and medium acid. Fleshy black cherries and plums are backed up by notes of cola, sweet mocha, black olive, granite and pencil lead. Time pulls out notes of sarsaparilla, clove and vanilla. Long, pure, elegant and delicious. Very open and attractive, but could be tucked away for a few years. 13.9% alcohol, includes 6% Petite Verdot. (91 points IJB)

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