Wine Reviews: California Bordeaux Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-20-2016

Yes, California Cabernet is king, but this report includes some solid examples of Merlot, Malbec and Bordeaux varietal blends. Actually, a Malbec in this report blew me away with its awesomeness.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2013 Scotto Family Wines 50 Harvests Meritage – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Gorgeous purple color. Dark and bold on the nose with black cherries, cassis and dark plums, topped in earth, graphite, charcoal and elements of cedar shavings. Full-bodied, this wine boasts firm tannins and some moderate acid, the wine is big but maintains a good level of balance. The dark berry and plum fruit is rich but tastes pure and lively. Beautiful secondary elements of charcoal, pencil shavings, spiced coffee, anise and vanilla. Chewy but not too heavy, a beautiful wine that should age nicely over the next ten years. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc aged 20 months in French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Mount Veeder Winery Reserve- California, Napa Valley
SRP: $100
Vibrant purple color. Very pretty aromas of sweet plums, red and black currants, rich violets, earth, tobacco, mint and cedar. Full-bodied with some sturdy but velvety tannins and a good dose of acidity for balance. Flavors of roasted chestnut, espresso and dark chocolate and drizzled on top of plum, dark currant and juicy blackberries — the fruit is pure and vibrant. A bold, dominant wine but it’s put together wonderfully and has plenty to unveil after years in the cellar. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, aged 20 months in 100% new French oak barrels. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville – California, Napa Valley, Oakville
SRP: $55
Deep purple color. Nose: deep black currant, roasted figs, rich plums, with smoky charcoal, vanilla and cedar. Full-bodied on the palate, velvety texture but structured tannins, a surprising shot of tang from the acid. Black currant, blackberry, juicy plums, roasted fig — the fruit is chewy but seductive. Notes of vanilla, charcoal, espresso and lots of dark chocolate abound. Some earthy-leafy notes too. A few years of sleeping in the bottle will help, but it’s a relatively approachable style of young Napa Cab. All To Kalon fruit (81% Cab, with some Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot) aged 22 months in about ¾ new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Robert Mondavi Winery BDX- California, Napa Valley, Oakville
SRP: $65
Deep purple. Rich concentration on the nose, with black cherries, deep plums, blackberry compote, and then tobacco, mocha, eucalyptus and vanilla. Full-bodied with bold but velvety tannins, there’s a firm structure to the wine while some medium acidity helps it stay focused. Gushing black cherry, cassis, dark plum fruit with solid concentration. Notes of smoky oak and vanilla, but it doesn’t dominate, and I get notes of loamy soil, charcoal, grilled herbs and coffee. This will definitely improve with a few years in the cellar, as it shows serious concentration. . Cabernet Sauvignon with 32% Cab Franc, about 80% of which comes from the To Kalon Vineyard. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Mt. Brave Malbec – California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $80
Dark purple color. What a lovely nose! I get deep currants and plums, rich but elegant fruit, and a medley of cedar, leaves, violets, eucalyptus and clove. Such structure on the palate, firm tannins but moderate-plus acidity keeps the wine vibrant and holds it together nicely. The black cherry and currant fruit is so pure and silky but quite concentrated. I also get fallen leaves, deep flowers, black tea, charcoal and pencil shavings. The mocha and vanilla elements are matched by minerals and earth, and it combines in an overall beautiful package. Long-lived but boldly beautiful now. Perhaps the greatest California Malbec I’ve ever tasted. Aged 19 months in about 65% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon – California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
SRP: $75
Deep purple color. Gorgeous aromatics, but they take a lot of time to open up. Dark currants, black cherries, lots of wet leaves, mossy earth, tobacco, eucalyptus, black tea, cedar and pencil shavings. Bold and so structured on the palate with firm tannins and moderate acidity that holds the wine together. Black cherries, dark currants, the fruit is dense but stays elegant. Pure, vibrant and enticing with its complexity of cedar, earth, tar, tobacco, eucalyptus and coffee grounds. Long and exquisite, gorgeous now but this has serious structure for five to twelve years of aging, easily. Includes a combined 12% Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, the wine is aged 19 months in about 80% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Gainey Merlot – California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $24
Rich purple color. Deep but lovely on the nose, with juicy plums, rich black cherries, the fruit smells so pure and it’s topped with loamy soil, sweet eucalyptus and vanilla. Full-bodied, medium acidity, structured tannins but they’re smoothed out around the edges. The black cherry, dark plum and blackberry fruit, rich and chewy but stays fresh. Dark roast coffee, graphite, loamy soil and eucalypts on the palate, accented with well-knit elements of vanilla and toast. A juicy, plush and downright delicious wine. From Gainey’s Home Ranch Vineyard, this includes 4% Cabernet Franc and is aged 15 months in 20% new French oak. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Matanzas Creek Winery Merlot - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $28
Juicy purple color. Cool blackberry and blueberry with some juicy cherry fruit as well. Notes of earth and violets mix with some milk chocolate and cherry wood. Med-full-bodied with some smooth but moderate tannins — a nice tanginess from the acidity. Blueberry, black cherry and plum fruit, which is ripe and juicy but not candied or dense. Floral, potting soil and coffee elements blend nicely with the toast and vanilla. Fan-friendly stuff with broad appeal but it’s put together very nicely. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Jackson Estate – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $38
Deep purple color. Aromas of spicy tobacco, pine needles and pepper accentuate the plush currant and black cherry fruit. Full but fleshy on the palate, very nice balanced between tannins and acidity. Juicy black cherries and cassis mix with quite balanced elements of cedar, coffee, vanilla and a bit of loamy soil and pepper to finish it all off. A velvety, pleasant style but it opens up a lot in the glass and will likely do more over the next few years. Includes a combined 6% Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Merlot, aged 19 months in a mix of new and used French and American oak. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Tom Gore Vineyards Field Blend – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $40
Deep purple color. The nose is deep and lush with currants and plums, the fruit is rich but shows a tart edge, and I get notes of cedar, spicy tobacco and eucalyptus. Solid structure on the palate, nice grip to the tannins, medium acid. Tart black currant and black cherry fruit topped with smoke, cedar and eucalyptus. Significant structure but still vibrant, and it gets better with air. A blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo and Carignan aged 20 months in oak. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $27
Medium purple color. Juicy currants plums and cherries on the nose, along with loam, rose petals, mint and coffee. Generous on the palate, but shows some vibrancy, with smooth tannins and medium acidity. Cedar, vanilla and cola mix well with the black cherry ice cream and juicy currant fruit. Fun, tasty stuff but shows a good amount of depth for a wine in this price point. Includes 8% Petite Sirah and 1% Merlot aged in 1/3 new oak (mostly American with about 25% French oak) for 16 months. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – California
SRP: $15
Dark ruby color. Juicy and jammy on the palate with blueberry jam and black cherry ice cream, but there’s a good amount of spice and earth mixed in as well. A juicy, chewy and straight-up delicious wine with soft tannins and mild acidity. The fruit is packed in there (blueberry jam, black cherry ice cream, roasted fig), but some charcoal and pepper elements add other elements. Sweet coffee, vanilla and coconut linger long onto the finish. Uncomplicated but highly delicious. Includes a combined 10% Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. (86 points IJB)

<85 points
Review: 2013 Liberated Wine Cabernet Sauvignon – California, Sonoma County
SRP: $20
Vibrant purple color. Smells of candied cherries, plum sauce and raspberry jam. Full-bodied (14.5% alcohol) with soft tannins and medium-low acidity. Jammy raspberries, cherries and raisin cake flavors mix with mocha, vanilla and coffee. Fun, simple, crowd-pleasing stuff. Includes 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, this spends 12 months in French and American oak.

Review: 2014 Mirassou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – California
SRP: $12
Light purple color. Bursting sweet aromas of red licorice, raspberry jam, chocolate-covered cherries and vanilla cola. Medium-bodied, light tannins, medium-low acidity, a chewy and candied style of wine. Tastes like raspberry jam and milk chocolate candies filled with liquid cherry candy, and notes of vanilla and toast. A sweet, candied style if you’re looking for that style.

Comments (2)

  1. The ratings on this site seem to be much lower than I would expect based on the quoted price. Is that because of your rating system or because of the quality of the free samples you receive? A great article would be for you to compare your ratings against other raters–but only comparing the same wines. For example, if you could identify 50 wines that Parker rated that you also rated, what would be the variance.

  2. Bruce – Thanks for your comment. I taste these wines single-blind (and I don’t look up the price beforehand), so I don’t know the price when tasting. Sometimes less expensive wines stand out among expensive wines, and the other way around. But, that said, scores are always frustrating for me. I see Parker scores, and sometimes I compare his to mine, and, I agree, mine tend to be a few points lower across the board than RP’s. I try to stick to the traditional structure of the 100-point scale, as I understand it, but it’s an imperfect system to objectify a subjective experience. With my wine reviews, I try to focus more on describing the essence of a wine, unravel the story it’s supposed to tell. If someone likes the review and it sounds interesting to a reader, I hope the score is secondary. Thanks for reading – Cheers!