Tag Archive | "cabernet sauvignon"

Celebrate Walla Walla event – a huge success

WALLA WALLA, WA-   Originally created to highlight several of the leading wine varieties produced in the Walla Walla Valley wine region and provide an opportunity to learn more about these varieties and how they compare across some of the world’s leading wine producing regions, the 2013 Celebrate wine event drew 472 attendees from throughout the continental United States and Hawaii.  Attendees purchased 905 tickets to six different events throughout the weekend.

Event organizers revealed that over 65 percent of the attendees were visiting from more than 50 miles away.  According to Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the event’s organizer, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, “we saw visitors from all parts of the U.S., including Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Hawaii, California, the Pacific Northwest states, and elsewhere.  This is a great testament to the attraction of not only the Celebrate event, but also our wines and the Walla Walla community.”

Although the 2013 Celebrate weekend had a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, attendees also had an opportunity to taste many other Walla Walla Valley wines at three wine receptions.  In addition, they were afforded a unique opportunity to learn more about and compare how Cabernet Sauvignon wines differ between the Walla Walla and Napa Valleys.  This comparison was made possible at a panel presentation and tastings of 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon wines provided by three Walla Walla Valley winemakers (Rick Small – Woodward Canyon, Chris Figgins – Leonetti Cellar, and Jean Francois Pellet – Pepper Bridge Winery) and three Napa Valley winemakers (Phillip Corallo-Titus – Chappellet, Jeff Ames – Rudius, and Landon Donley – Spottswoode Estate Winery).  Another highlight of the weekend was the appearance and presentations by Patrick Comiskey (Wine & Spirits Magazine) and Paul Gregutt (Wine Enthusiast Magazine), two of IntoWine.com’s top 100 most influential people in the U.S. wine industry, and Dr. Kevin Pogue, geologist and noted wine industry consultant.

“We believe the weekend’s format was a big draw,” stated Wollmuth.  Over 95 percent of attendees felt the weekend’s schedule was unique and that it provided something new.  One attendee described the Celebrate weekend as “Awesome.”  Another summarized their Celebrate experience as having a “Great topic, great venue(s), fun town and terrific weather.”  Other key findings of the attendee survey were that 92 percent rated the weekend as Very Good or Excellent, and over 93 percent said they were Very or Extremely Likely to recommend the event to a friend.

Headline sponsors of the 2013 Celebrate event were Banner Bank and Wine & Spirits Magazine.  Principal community sponsors included the City of Walla Walla, Port of Walla Walla, Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, and Tourism Walla Walla.

The Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine event will continue next year with a focus on Syrah, and a comparison of the Walla Walla Valley to the world’s other leading Syrah producing regions.  Guest Syrah winemakers are expected to be announced by early fall, 2013.  Next year’s Celebrate weekend is scheduled to take place on June 19 – 21.

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Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com/

Doing blends of various varietals is nothing uncommon but what we don’t see as much of is blending varietals and AVAs – this fun little blend from Va Piano Vineyards is such a wine. It’s under $25, drinks well and should age for a few more years to come – let’s dive in.

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 82% Cab Sauv, 14% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 1% Syrah
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak: 30% New French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • TA: .54
  • pH: 3.83
  • Price: $23

Nose: Plum jam, blackberry, bramble, peppercorn and black raspberry. leather glove and rose petal.

Taste: Stellar combination of blackberry jam, pepper, macerated cherries and raspberry. Good acidity on the mid palate that leads into a finish that lingers on for hours with notes of licorice, ink and dark chocolate. This is easily a no-brainer red wine for the money and one should be highly saught out.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Posted in Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2007 CC Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Review

By Duane Pemberton

CC Wines is a joint venture between famous Sommelier, Richard Betts and Castle Brands – his motto’s are: “I will not drink bad wine” and “wine should be a grocery, not a luxury”. It’s clear to me, after spending time with both the cab, that those concepts have carried through into the wine.

This is a stunning cab in that it’s from Napa – which isn’t cheap these days – and destroys many other Napa-area cabs I’ve had for a fraction of the cost.

Technical Data:

  • VA: .091
  • pH: 3.80
  • TA: .62
  • RS: .07
  • Alc: 15.58%
  • Price: $20-$25

Nose: If you took some rainier cherries, wrapped them up in a dirty old cigar wrapper and found a way to smoke it – that’s what this nose reminds me of. Layers of cherry, chocolate, vanilla and modeling clay.

Taste: Hello smoothness, how fond I am of thee – okay, this is a serious cab and opens up even better after some decant time. The tannin structure is right on the money as is the mid palate and finish. This – to me – this what good California Cab is all about. The crazy thing is, that 15.58 is a bit on the higher side for me, but the fruit does a great job of masking some of the heat ans comes off very well balanced. Complexity, smoothness and a finish that simply is BEGGING you to have a steak with it.

My only real concern with this wine is the misleading pricing from CCWines – they clam it’s $20, however, when you search the online merchants from its website, the cheapest this cab sells for is $23. When I asked CC about this, they claimed that they have no control over what the retailers ultimately sell it for. I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs but I feel I have an obligation to point out areas that I feel could be potentially misleading.

Having said all that, this wine is still well worth it, even at $25 .


W.E.P. Rating: 120%

On the web: http://www.drinkcc.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2008 Substance Cab – Review

Substance winery, located in Walla Walla, is a relatively new brand to the Washington wine scene and has been doing a pretty decent job of getting itself marketed in a viral sort of way. Through both social media, blogs and event pourings, this brand has created a nice little identity for itself.

Many of us who have tasted plenty of cabs from California and Washington have come to grips with the fact that – generally speaking – Washington State tends to offer a better value of Cab than California. Having said that, I was excited to get the chance to review this price-point cab.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard sources: Pepper Bridge, Forgotten Hills, Nostra Terra, Phinny Hill, Sagemore, Dwelley, Seven Hills, Portteus, Gramercy Estate
  • Cooperage: French – 30% new, two year old & neutral
  • Price: $20

Nose: Rainier cherries, black currant, charred bell pepper, pomagranite, red twizzlers, fresh mint-sauce and a hint of cherry-flavored Vicks 44D.

Taste: This is still a VERY young cab that’s much better after an hour or so in the bottle or a decant. There’s nothing here but STELLAR fruit up in my grill and coats the palate like a pair of suede pants. Awesome mouthfeel, good tannin structure and enough of a lengthly finish to keep me longing for more. I get a very nice pencil lead/cherry-cola finish on the end. This is a cab that EASILY out-classes just about any other cab I can think of in its price-range.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

(how we rate)

On the web: http://winesofsubstance.com/

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

A pair of Argentina Reds from Septima Winery

There’s no question that Argentina – as a wine producing region – is on fire and that has mainly been because of its successful malbec wines. Due to a variety of reasons such as cheaper labor, land and grape prices, you can often find wine from Argentina are far superior quality-per-dollar than other leading regions.

2009 Malbec:

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 100% Malbec
  • Vineyards: Valle de Uco, 1100 m.a.s.l., Agrelo 1050 m.a.s.l.
  • Oak aging: 6 months in American oak barrels.
  • Analytical Data
  • Alcohol % v / v: 14.
  • Residual sugars: 4.90 g/l.
  • Total acidity tartaric: 5.15 g/l.
  • Volatile acidity in acetic: 0.48 g/l.
  • Color: Intense red with purplish highlights.
  • Price: $12

Nose: Plums, cedar smoke, tanned leather, cocoa, cinnamon and clove with a hint of blackberry.

Taste: I get a good mix of blackberry and plum-pie filling right off the bat – this is very fruit-foward, new-world style malbec. Decent tannins and overall mouthfeel, however, the finish is a bit too short for me – overall not a bad wine for the money.

2008 Cab:

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vineyards: Valle de Uco, 1100 m.a.s.l.
  • Oak aging: 6 months in American oak barrels.
  • Alcohol % v / v: 14.2.
  • Residual sugars: 4.03 g/l.
  • Total acidity tartaric: 5.17 g/l.
  • Volatile acidity in acetic: 0.60 g/l.
  • Color: Deep ruby red with mahogany shades.
  • Price: $12

Nose: Spiced cherries, top soil, leather, sea foam, chocolate, roses and tar.

Taste: The top-soil effece and tar come on really strong at first and then lead way into a spiced-cherry frenzy. Decent mid-palate, however, the tannins are sort of weak for me and it always doesn’t finsih near as strong as I’d hope for. Not a bad effort at all, however, there are far more interesting cabs out there.

Posted in Argentina Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, ReviewsComments (0)

2007 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

By Duane Pemberton

Fewer names are more synonymous with California Cab than Robert Mondavi and for good reason. Mondavi’s history and involvement with getting California wine and Cab “on the world’s radar” have become a hallmark of appreciation by the entire USA wine industry.

Although I’ve had my own personal misgivings with the snobbery my wife and I faced while visiting Mondavi around 5 years ago, I won’t let that cloud my judgement of this wine and what it brings to the table. Frankly, I was happy to review this wine to see what all the hype is about in regards to it always being such a sought-after Cab by many.

Technical Data:

  • Fruit: Varietal blend: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec
  • Brix at harvest: 26.3º
  • TA: .63%
  • ph: 3.59
  • Alcohol: 15.3%
  • Price: $28

Nose: Dark cherries, peppered raspberries, vanilla, the heal of a sneaker, leather straps, dark chocolate and some medicine cabinet.

Taste: This is a cab that thoroughly coats your palate with a multitude of layers – chocolate cake, tar, tobacco, black cherries, black pepper and raspberries. It has a good mouthfeel, decent acids and is overall a rather food-friendly wine. What kills it for me, however, is the current price it’s at compared to cabs that represent a better retail value – the likes of which are mainly from Washington State. If, however, you want a solid Napa Cab experience from a legacy brand like Mondavi, this isn’t a bad bottle at all. If it were below $20, it’d be a far easier recommendation.

W.E.P. Rating: 85%

On the web: www.robertmondavi.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

3 2006 Long Shadows Wines – Review

I can’t think of a more passionate dude in the Washington wine industry than winemaker, Gilles Nicault. His zeal for wine, passion for life and people can only be truly appreciated if you get the chance to meet him in person. One could say that being french-born slanted him to be this way but his level of passion is hard to fake or duplicate. Gilles puts his whole heart into everything he touches and because of that, everyone should have the chance to try his wines – even if at the end of the day your palate doesn’t agree with them.

Long Shadows hires talent from around the world to work with Gilles on various projects – this is part of the success model for the winery as they get to to employ the expertise from some of the world’s most celebrated winemakers.

2006 Pirouette – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Details:

  • Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.93
  • TA: 0.53 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: May 2009
  • Production: 1,733 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Waves of dark chocolate covered blueberries and blackberries. white pepper, wild game, road tar and spice.

Taste: Nice doses of black and white pepper with fresh deer meat, a touch of baby poo, radishes, blackberry, plusm, anise, and chocolate. This is an interesting wine in that it offers some nice layers of complexity and had good acids, but for a $55 wine the finish seems a bit awkward for me. It finishes with some black licorice, pencil lead and ink but all that goodness gets a bit choked out by being a touch too hot – I’d like to try this wine again in 3-5 years.

2006 Feather – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Details:

  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • pH: 3.72
  • TA: 0.57 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: April 2009
  • Production: 2,238 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Cherries, dirt, raspberries, freshly-tanned leather, saddle soap and big-league chew.

Taste: Nice dose of what I’m going to call “dirty cherries” – it’s like you took a handful of cherries, dropped them in the dirt and then ate them – Good stuff. Across the mid-palate, I get some cool flavors of lavender, rose petal, charcoal, black raspberries and leather. Good finish that lingers nicely with flavors of black pepper and spice – would be a great pick for a grilled rib-eye steak.

2006 Saggi – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

  • Blend:42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Sangiovese, 19% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.81
  • TA: 0.55 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: October 2008
  • Production: 1,725 cases
  • $45

Nose: Crayola crayons, christmas fruit cake, cherry, blueberry,  glue,  star anise and some fresh road-kill.

Taste: Blackberry-laced leather straps that have been covered in molasses, cherries, pie crust, chocolate, nutmeg and wild game. There is a lot going on in the taste of this wine – it’s very complex, offering a great variety in layers of flavors. Good acidity and tannin structure – for me – make this wine an easy pick for lasagna or meat-filled ravioli or any sort of italian-styled meat and red-sauce dishes. Good velvet-action on the palate with a finish that hangs out like that annoying neighborhood kid who doesn’t “get it” on when it’s time to leave.

On the web: www.longshadows.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (3)

Review: A pair of Trefethen Cabs

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape which has defined the Napa region more than any other grape and for many good reasons. The climate and soil there are perfect for Cabs – hot days with cool nights at decent elevations and with good, fertile soils. Robert Mondavi helped shape the Cab scene in Napa and ever since it has become the Cabernet -capital of the USA wine-making marketplace.

The Trefethen Winery was started years ago by Eugene and Kathy Trefethen, who moved to the Napa area in 1968. They bought a 600-acre plot of land and the rest, as “they say”, is history. Fast-foward a bit to 1979, when they won the title of “Best Chardonnay” and it seemed their future in the wine business was a done-deal.

Fast-forward to 2009 and you’ll see that they produce some award-winning wines that remain true to the terrior of the Napa region at prices that span the full spectrum – this review, however, hones in on their cabs. Steak anyone?

Review: A pair of Trefethen Cabs

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 1% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Oak Knoll District
  • Vineyard: Estate
  • Harvest: Sept. 12–Oct. 15, 2002
  • Oak: 17 months in French & American Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
  • Bottled: May 2004
  • Price: $75
Nose: Vanilla-laced strawberries and cherries along with casis, leather, blackberries and charcoal.
Taste: Profound vanilla notes coming thru from the oak along with the classic Napa Cab flavor notes of cherry, strawberry and plum. Good earthiness to the mouthfeel helps carry the fruit and leather components into the back-end palate transition. This wine is a no-brainer pick for a Rib-Eye steak toped with blue-cheese and mushrooms. A very hearty California Cab that takes no prisoners but can take your wallet for a bid of a ride at $75. If you have the money and want a solid cab that brings a lot to the table then I’d highly encourage you to give this one a whirl.

Nose: Vanilla-laced strawberries and cherries along with casis, leather, blackberries and charcoal.

Taste: Profound vanilla notes coming thru from the oak along with the classic Napa Cab flavor notes of cherry, strawberry and plum. Good earthiness to the mouthfeel helps carry the fruit and leather components into the back-end palate transition. This wine is a no-brainer pick for a Rib-Eye steak toped with blue-cheese and mushrooms. A very hearty California Cab that takes no prisoners but can take your wallet for a bid of a ride at $75. If you have the money and want a solid cab that brings a lot to the table then I’d highly encourage you to give this one a whirl.

2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 60%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Oak Knoll District
  • Vineyard: 82% Hillspring Vineyard, 18% Main Ranch
  • Vineyard: HarvestSeptember 26 – October 18, 2005
  • Oak: 30 months in French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.8% by volume
  • Bottled: May 2008
  • Price: $100

Nose: Blackberries, chalk, pomegranate , black cherries, plums, farm dirt, tobacco and cocoa.

Taste: Huge leather-action on the front palette with a healthy dose of black cherries, chocolate, tobacco, road tar and plums for days. A superb mid-palette transition which stays very focused with a hint of “grit” into the back-end of the taste. A good finish that hangs out a long time – clearly a well-crafted wine, however, it’s not worth $100.00 to me as I have had cabs equally as good in the $35-$60 range.

Winery Website: www.trefethen.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2006 Powers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage – Review

Powers Winery in the Richland WA, has been producing wines for longer than most other wineries in the state – its legacy extends back to 1982, which for WA is a decently long time. Started by brothers Greg and Bill Powers, they also produce wine under another label called Badger Mountain. It was also one of the first wineries in our state to transition to 100% organic grapes back in 1992 – long before it was the savvy thing to do.

2006 Reserve Meritage: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard Sources and Grape Varities: 31% Cabernet Sauvignon from Coyote Vineyard (Wahluke), 22% Merlot from Katharine Leone (Wahluke Slope, Milbrant), 21% Malbec from Goose Ridge (Columbia Valley), 18% Petite Verdot from Alice Vineyard (Wahluke), and 8% Cabernet Franc from the Estate (Columbia Valley)
  • Copperage:  The Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec both were in new wood (French), the rest in 3-4 yr old. 
  • Bottled in August of 2008
  • ph: N/A
  • Alcohol: 14.2% 
  •  240 cases made
  • Price: $35

Nose: Blackberries, tar, pie crust and some herbaceousness.

Taste: Black plum, blackberry and black cherries combined with some leather, sweaty sock, firm tannins and a finish that lingers quite well. This wine should easily lay down for the next 5-10 years. 

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data: 

  • Vineyard Source: Champoux Vineyard
  • AVA:  Horse Heaven Hills
  • Release Date: 04-01-09
  • Alcohol:14.5%
  • Residual Sugar:0.0
  • Acidity:0.62 
  • pH 3.74
  • Price: $30

Nose: Obvious cherries, blackberries and big league chew, pomagrante, brussel sprouts on the nose along with some vanilla-laced tobacco. 

Taste: I get dried cherry, shoe-leather, dark chocolate, tobacco, anise, not a bad mouth-feel, hints of smoothness and a good finish. This wine would be a natural pairing with prime rib or grilled steaks topped with blue-cheese; however, at it’s price of $30, there are some better values out there – to me this wine is currently bringing about a $20 experience.

Winery website:  www.powerswinery.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Ehlers Cab and Merlot

Ehlers Estate Winery, in St. Helena California, has been producing since the year 2000 and is the only non-profit winery I’m aware of – anywhere. 100% of its proceeds go into cardiovascular research. The reason for this is because its founder, Jean Leduqa, was a longtime sufferer of heart disease – hence why his wife, Sylviane, started a foundation in her husband’s name to aid in that type of R&D. So not only are you helping your own heart with a hearty glass of red wine, you can also know your business with Ehlers goes to help those around the world as well.

In this tasting, I’m looking at the 2006 releases of its Cab and Merlot – both of which are priced at $45. I know that’s on the higher-end of pricing for most folks in today’s economy, but is actually pretty “normal” for Napa-pricing – so I hope these prove to rock me for those prices.

2006 Merlot St. Helena: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Vintage: 2006
  • Varietal: Merlot
  • Final Blend: 79% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot Fruit
  • Source: 100% estate grown Farming: California Certified Organic Farmer 
  • Harvest Date: Sept. 26 – Oct. 12, 2006
  • Acid: 5.7g/L TA
  • PH: 3.74 pH
  • Aging: 18 months in oak, 85% French oak, 40% new
  • Bottling Date: June 16 – 17, 2008
  • Brix at harvest: 25
  • Price: $45

Nose: dark chocolate, tobacco, green onion, blackberry, black cherry, mildewy V8 juice mixed with cocoa-cola blows off after awhile to a nice cedar-laden forest floor, vanilla and toasted marshmellows.

Taste: Think of this wine as a vanilla-laced piece of dark chocolate that’s smothered in blackberry and blueberry jam then topped with some cedar chips and funk – sittin’ there, looking you straight in the eyeballs, just screaming at you to eat it. The finish on this wine lasts for weeks and continues to provide a good jolt of reach-around.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Vintage: 2006
  • Final Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc 
  • Fruit Source: 100% estate grown Farming: California 
  • Appellation: St. Helena
  • Harvest Date: October 9 – 26, 2006
  • Sugar: 18 months in oak, 100% French oak, 65% new
  • Acid: 6.1g/L TA
  • PH: 3.61pH
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.2
  • Bottling Date: June 16 – 17, 2008
  • Alcohol %: 14.1% alcohol by volume
  • Price: $45

Nose: “Forest-funk” combined with classic cherry, rose petal, plum and raspberry. A bit of cola action on the nose as well. I’m also picking up some spice as well. 

Taste: Black pepper, dark cherries, hints of raspberry and spice. I’m also get some chocolate, big league chew, eucaliptus and tobacco. A bit of caramel and tar action too on the back of the palate. this is a really good cab that’d rock the ball right out of the park when paired with a pan-seared, pepper-crusted steak. The finish is like the settled-down middle-aged person that knows who he/she is and where they’re going in life – very solid. 

Winery website: www.ehlersestate.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, Merlot, ReviewsComments (0)

2006 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon – Review

Efeste’s winemaker, Brennon Leighton, is one spoild dude – he’s able to source from some of the best vineyards in Washington state and then act like a kid in a candy store with a “go-pass”. What a dream it is for winemakers to have access to the sort of fruits he does – old-vine, concentrated and full of tons of character.

If you ever meet Brennon then you’ll immediately know why he calls this wine “Big Papa” – it’s a huge cab that takes no prisoners and quite frankly has the backbone to stare-down any of the best of the likes of Napa-cabs.

Technical Data:

  • Barrel program: 20 months in 100% new french oak it
  • Fruit Sources: 100% cab from 45% kiona old block planted 1972, 40% sagemoor 208 planted in 1972,  and 15 %  Ceil du Cheval
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Price: $45

Nose: Tons of cherry, rose petal, bright raspberry, hints of charred asparagus, cedar, cocoa. Some medicince cabinent action as well as hints of bits of leather round things out.

Taste: A massive fruit-attack on the front-end that assaults your palate with killer fruit. Excellent layering of raspberry, cherry with some nice hints of veggie action hit across the back-side of the mid palate. The purity of fruit comes shinging through like a rock-star and has a great supporting case of firm, yet balanced tannins. Massively focused fruits that linger for months on-end. This is easily the best cab I’ve had in the past few years and showcases how serious Washington cabs can be when done properly. This wine tastes really good now but should have room to improve over the next 3-12+ years.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%
Winery website: www.efeste.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (4)

2004 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cab

It’s hard to not fall in love with an American winery that’s been around since the 1800’s and has a long track-record of producing top-quality wine for decades. And what’s there to say about a winery that even had Conan O’Brien out and let him run amuck around the vineyard?  Spring Mountain is truely an iconic California producer that takes itself very seriously when it comes to wine-making, but also knows how to have fun. That’s the best way I can quickly describe this cab – it has a serious side but also knows how to have a great time! 

Click to Enlarge

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Napa Valley-Spring Mountain District
  • Estate Grown and Bottled
  • Assemblage: Cabernet Sauvignon 90%,
  • Cabernet Franc 8%, Petit Verdot 2%
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Aging: 22 Months in French Oak
  • Bottled: August 2006
  • Released: January 2008
  • Production: 2,800 Cases
  • Price $55

Nose: Plum, blackberry and blueberry – along with hints of cherries. Some dirt, chocolate, pipe smoke and asphalt. 

Taste: Heavy dose of peppery fruit on the front-end of the palate – nice layering of the fruit – black cherry, black plums, oak and afternote flavors of black licorice. This is a wine that will only get better with a few more years in the bottle – in proper storage. It drinks good now, however, I don’t think it’s worth $55 dollars. That’s my opionion, however, you still owe it to yourself to get out and try this wine as there’s a chance you may really enjoy it. In today’s global market of competition between world-wide wine regions, it’s always a balancing act between price and quality – that’s an issue all wineries deal with all the time.

W.E.P. Score: 80%

Winery website: www.springmountainvineyard.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2003 Mankas Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery Link

Whoever said we shouldn’t be drinking red wines during the warm months of summer was greatly mistaken! I love my reds year-around and in the spirit of that bring you my take on this 2003 Cab out of California. While there’s no doubt California does Zinfandel perhaps better than any other region in the world, the other king-grape that put California on the map back in its day was the noble Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cab is still one of the most sought-after of all the bordeaux grape varieties – especially here in the USA where we love our beef and want a delicious red wine to wash it down with.

One of the pitfalls all too many California producers have fallen into with this grape is finding ways to keep it tasty and affordable. The demand on the region’s cab and the fact that there is no more room to plant grapes in Napa have really driven the cost for most of them into the stratosphere. In fact, I was just reading a popular wine forum today where folks were complaining how they couldn’t find a good Napa-area Cab for anywhere under $30.

Mankas Hills Vineyards is aiming to cut right through that stereotype with its 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon made from its own estate vineyard. Located in eastern Napa, this winery specializes in making really good, affordable wines.

Technical Data:
Vintage: 2003
Appellation: Suisun Valley, California
Release Date: September 2004
Varietal: 100% from 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown at our vineyards
Ageing: 6 months in a mix of small French, European and American oak barrels
Brix at Harvest: 26
Alcohol: 13.9%
PH: 3.4
TA (titratable acidity): 5.7 g/l
Cases Produced: 3500
Winemaker: Jef Stebben
Price: $10

Nose: Cherry, raspberry and a vinyl beanbag chair, cedar plank and saddle soap with white pepper and rose petal and cocoa puffs for days. Slight hints of charred bell pepper and a Gym locker room.

Taste: Peppered cherries, blackberry jam and dark plum. There’s a good amount of vanilla as well from the oak and cedar box. It finishes off nice w/ black cherries and plums in a very dry fashion with good tannins. The mouth-feel is a bit thinner than what some may like in their cabs and that’s because it was only on oak for 6months.

Overall Summary:
A very solid bottle of wine for only $10 – yeah, I know it says $12 on the winery’s website, however, you should easily be able to find it for $10 at retail. This would make a very good table wine and glass pour at a restaurant. It has good structure and is pretty well balanced for its price range. If you’re at all a fan of Napa-style Cabs, want a “daily drinker” than seek this wine out.

Foods to pair with:
Cedar Plank Salmon
Prime Rib

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 120%

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2005 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon

Columbia Crest’s H3 Cabernet has been garnering a lot of attention as a good Q.P.R. (Quality to price ratio) wine so I decided to give it a whirl and see what all the hype was about. I’ve seen this bottle retail from $11 up to $15 so it really does fall into that mainstream pricing that many folks are comfortable paying for. Columbia Crest has a history of releasing excellent wines for the money – does this one hold up?

Technical Details:

  • Grapes were crushed at 20% whole-berry to retain fruit quality.
  • Fermentation lasted 7-14 days on the skins to extract optimum fruit and structural components.
  • Various yeasts were used to maintain fruit flavors and complexity.
  • Malolactic fermentation occurred in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels.
  • Blending occurred shortly after malolactic fermentation.
  • The wine was barrel aged in 40% new American and French oak, and 60% older oak for 14-18 months.
  • Total acidity: 0.58 g/100ml
  • pH: 3.75
  • Alcohol: 14.3%
  • Price: $15

Nose: Chocolate, plums and cherries for days with allspice, clove and hints of tobacco round things out. Additionally, I also pick up hints of some baseball glove at the end.

Taste: Excellent fruit-forward action with the cherries, blackberries and plums which open up to some good mid-palate spice with the cloves and some nice rose petal flavors on the back-end. The finish lingers on quite nicely and overall I feel this wine is an excellent QPR bottle.

Overall Summary:
Considering the price of this wine, I’m going to have to give it high marks – it has everything I’m looking for in a well-priced wine value. Excellent fruit, decent complexity and a long finish – why other wineries who compete in this price range can’t figure that out is beyond me. I’ve got to hand it to Ray Einberger and his team up there at Columbia-Crest – they sure know how to churn out the good vino and keep the prices down.

Would pair well with:
Grilled Steaks
Pot Roast
Cedar Plank Salmon
Salmon stuff with crab-meat in a green peppercorn sauce
Mixed herb-green salad with feta cheese, toasted pecans and dried cherries

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 100%

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Gifford-Hirlinger – Double Review

The winery with a name that sounds more like that of a law office is on deck today and they’re a pretty new winery out in Walla Walla but are one of the fortunate ones which own its own vineyards.

I got the chance to interview its winemaker, Michael Berghan, the other day at the Taste WA event and he’s a very likable individual. He’s full of passion, has a good pedigree of winemaking and vineyard management skills from his workings in the Napa-region so, naturally, I was looking forward to getting some quality time with his latest wines.

2005 Stateline Red – Retail $22
This table wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and weighs in at a 13.8% alcohol level which is about where I like to see them. This wine is barreled 100% neutral oak which consisted of a mix of American, Hungarian and French. This is a very young wine which really would do well to decant for at least an hour or two, if not longer.

Smell: Typical berry component – cherries, raspberries and slight hints of toasty vanilla, petrol.
Hints of perfume counter action – lavender and white pepper – a little dentist laughing gas mask action and bits of medicine cabinet – like of eucalyptus.

Taste: Floods the front palate with fresh berries – a bit hot on the mid palate with subtleties of vanilla…some blackberry on the finish. It doesn’t linger quite as long as I’d like to see – a bit too short for me, as I’m a huge fan of super-long finishes.

Overall Impressions of the 2005 Stateline Red:
It’s a decent table wine and pairs very well with a variety of foods. Mike does a good job here of keeping balance of fruit, oak but the finish is a bit shorter than other wines I’ve had for a similar pricepoint.

Food recommendations for the Stateline include:
– Steak
– Buffalo
– Duck
– Lamb
– Oven-roasted root vegetables with rosemary

2005 Merlot – Retail $26
A near identical blend as the Stateline Red, this Merlot is 86% and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, however, Michael uses a different barrel program of mostly (60%) new oak (40% Hungarian and 60% French) whilst the Stateline is barreled in neutral oak.

Like the Stateline Red, this Merlot is very young and either needs to lie down for a few more years or needs a serious decant-job – I’d go four hours on it easy.

Smell: Huge dark cherry and blackberry and plum component on the nose – some big league chew. Black peppercorn – slight hint of carpet shampoo.

Taste:  Good mouth-feel, pretty good balance of fruit and oak – the fruit does a good job of keeping the oak tamed and the finish is nice and long. Good bits of chocolate coming thru as well.

Overall impressions of the 2005 Merlot:
The merlot would be my first pick as I feel it’s doing a better job of delivering a good experience for the price-point. Outside of the fact that it has more layers of flavors going on in, it should also have a really good cellaring potential. To me, this merlot is sort of like The Eagles band – after Hell Freezes Over – it keeps the goodness of their original sound, yet does a great job of appealing to a newer, younger audience.

Food recommendations for the Merlot:
– Lamb w/ a Rosemary-mint glaze
– Duck
– Slow-cooked pot-roast
– Oven-roasted root vegetables with rosemary

Overall Summary:
Both of these wines are contenders in their respective price ranges and do a good job of balancing the fruit – There are other wines in these price categories which may appeal to other people who enjoy getting their socks knocked off with an over-abundance of oak or fruit, these wines – especially the merlot – are not that style at all. In fact, they almost have an old-world kind of style here and stay very focused.

I’d really like to see where these wines are at in 3-7 years but like all to many wineries now-days, it seems like they release stuff still on the young side as holding bottles doesn’t allow the revenue’s to come in. I get it. It’s a tough battle.

GH has a good, solid effort with both of these wines and I’d highly encourage you to seek them out and try them yourself. I feel they’re pretty well priced – not too expensive, yet probably won’t become a daily-drinker for some folks. Regardless, seek them out and try them and let me know what you think or better yet, post your thoughts in our forums.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Powers 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon 3-liter box

Before you send me an email, I know and I get it – I know you have an automatic bias against anything that’s wine which comes in a box. That’s okay – embrace it even. I, however, am trying to get rid of stereotypes for wine and in doing so am forced to “take one for the team” sometimes and try things which may be outside of the realm of what I’d consider to be “normal”.

When I first mentioned to some colleagues that I was getting a boxed wine in to review – they had the very typical auto-response of “no-way dude” and “wow, that’s messed up”. Too many companies have given boxed wine a very bad rep due to their use of garbage grapes and cheap winemaking practices which have kept it squarely in the el-cheap’o section at your local grocery store.

Based in Kennewick Washington, Powers Winery has been producing quality wines for well over 20 years now and has a wide array of products, including this somewhat newer release of a boxed Cabernet Sauvignon.

Using the pouch-method of wine storage has advantages.  The more-air-tight nature of the pouch means wine may last weeks, instead of days, unlike it’s bottle-and-cork brethren.

On the flip-side, I don’t think we’ll ever see premium wines put in them because they do not allow for a graceful aging process – they are, by their design, meant for a pop-and-pour situation and do lend themselves for being a good source for wine if you’re doing a large party.

The 2006 Powers Cab uses grapes sourced from 55% Goose Ridge Vineyards, 20% Coyote Vineyard, 10% Milbrant Vineyards, 5% Pleasant Vineyards – all of which are 100% cabernet grapes.

Color: The color is on-point for a cab with its deep-rooted purple-red notes.

Smell: Smells exactly like “communion juice” from church but coupled with a hint of vanilla, 1-week old raspberries and some decent plum component.

Taste: No surprise here, it tastes exactly like it smells – a little fake in my opinion because of the overwhelming Welch’s action. Lots of fruit-forward but starts falling off rather quick as soon as it hits the mid palate. It does taste to me like it was aged in older oak as there’s no real big toastiness coming through for me.

As a side note, when I first opened it up, it really seemed to taste a bit like a plastic liner – it could be subconscious, however, that taste went away after several hours.

That said, it’s not an absolute horrible wine – I could easily see this being setup for a bunch of party guests who “think they’re wine-drinkers” but you really know they’re not – you know, the kind whom thinks Franzia and Gallo jugs are the bomb?

Summary: This wine is going to appeal to those whom want some cheap booze that’ll last them for weeks after opening so they can hit it daily to get their buzz on.

This could be a gateway product to help lure them over to the big-guns, but for me, I’d have to give it a pass. For $22 I’d rather spend a few bucks more and pick up the Powers Reserve Cab which I tasted last month – that is a really good bottle of wine.

This is my opinion but you should try it if you get the chance and ultimately embrace your own palate.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (2)