Review: Shootout 2005 CA vs. WA. $100 Cab

By Duane Pemberton
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I know many folks who still swear by cab sauv as their favorite red grape and for many, it was the “gateway” red which really turned on the metal lightbulb of how complex, velvety and food-friendly a well-made cab can truly be. Some of the higher-end cabs command prices of $100 or more (especially from California) so I thought it’d be interesting to see how two $100 bottles stacked up against each other.

For many decades, Cabernet Sauvignon has been one of California’s darling grapes and has garnered world-wide praise as being one of the most saught-after grape varities from many of the state’s top wine producers. Napa Valley and its surrounding AVAs have some of the oldest pedigree’s anywhere in the new world of wine making so this was a challenge I certainly looked forward to.

On the other hand, Washington State doesn’t have the historic capital to brag about in regards to growing world-class Cabernet, however, what it has done in its relatively short life-span so far has really knocked the socks off of the wine-world. Areas such as Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills produce grapes that can easily compete with the best out there and make some of the finer cabs you can currently buy.

Review: Shootout 2005 CA vs. WA. $100 Cab

2005 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cab

Ehlers Estate, located in St. Helena CA, has an “1886” bottling of its estate Cab which its very proud of and has painstakingly crafted what it believes to be its best-possible efforts in what a world-class cab is capable of becoming.

Technical Data:

  • Final Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fruit Source: 100% estate grown
  • Oak Regime: 20 months in oak, 100% French oak, 65% new barrels
  • Primary Coopers: Treuil, St. Martin, Dargaud Jaegle
  • Harvest Dates: October 6th – October 21st
  • Bottling Date: June 29th, 2007
  • Production: 3,806 cases (6 x 750ml)
  • Average Maturity: 24.6 Brix, 6.2g/L TA, 3.79 pH
  • Finished Wine: 14.7% alcohol by volume
  • 4,200 cases (6 x 750ml)
  • Price: $95/bottle

Nose: Black-peppered fruit with hings of burnt pepper skins..

Taste: Dark fruits coming thru – black plum, blackberry and heavy a dose of pepper. Quite frankly, this wine is way too hot for me to enjoy. The alcohol on the back end obliterates any fruit that you may expereince out of the starting-gate. I think this wine is really disjointed in not knowing it’s a cab.

……………….24hrs later:

Nose: The oak and spice are starting to settle down and the fruit if coming thru better. I pick up a nice creamy component. getting some nice blackberry pie components on the backend of the nose and a hint of cooking spice.

Taste: the blackberry, black cherry and blueberry fruit on the front attack.

Overall thoughts: At its current price, I’d have to give this wine a huge pass – there are simply too many better wines at way cheaper prices which blow this one out of the water.

2005 Boudreaux Cellars Reserve Cab

Winemaker, Rob Newsom, learned a lot of his yoda-like skills from the legendary Figgins family from the Leonetti clan – a winery which is one of the most celebrated in the entire state of Washington and has a tremendous track-record to back it up.

Rob’s philosophy on winemaking is rather simple – source the best fruit he can and pretty much leave it the hell alone – use a minimalist approach to the wine and more importantly, make it with lots of love.

In the short timeframe he’s been up and running he has managed to wine the hearts, minds, souls and pockbooks of many folks who are fervent mailing list subscribers and do their part in making sure he sells out of every vintage – it seems that winemaking isn’t the only clue Rob tapped into from Leonetti.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard Sources: Champoux Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills) and Loess Vineyard (Walla Walla)
  • Alcohol: 13.4%
  • Production: 150 cases
  • Cooperage: French Oak and American hickory-toasted barrels from Minnesota
  • Price: $100

Nose: Black cherry cola mixed with a hint of medicine cabinet and that 7-11 smell. If you don’t know what a 7/11 store smells like, just walk into an AM/PM, Circle-K or 7/11 market and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Taste: Firm tannin structure and backbone which gives way to very well placed black fruits. On the tail-end I get some nice touches of earthiness – sort of like some dirtiness going on.. This is a wine that really should be decanted for a few hours. Good, long finish that lasts for days which is what I expect a good bottle of wine to do.

Overall thoughts: The tricky part about reviewing a wine like this is that given its pricepoint, we have no clue at this time where it could go in a few more years. Rob Newsom has a knack for crafting wines that’ll cellar for years to come and I get that. I can tell you that for me, it’s not quite worth the asking price of $100 dollars – I’d love to have a couple to lay down and take notes as they progress over the next 3-8 years or so.

Want aother take? Here are some thoughts from Chef Traci and Alan from Mutineer Magazine: