Tag Archive | "california wine"

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

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2008 Crystal Basin Cellars Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah does very well in the heat of California and the vineyards in Ed Dorado country – in the Sierra foothills – are well known for their elevation and cooler nights which is a great combination for great fruit. Crystal Basin Cellars is in this area, in a city called Camino, and has been producing quality red wines for awhile now. I was first introduced to its wines last year and have been a huge fan ever since.

Technical Data:

  • Alc: 14.2
  • Brix: 25.5
  • ph: 3.75
  • Price: $27

Nose: Peppered jerky, bell pepper, blueberries, blackberry and the inside of an old leather shoe.

Taste: Very good combo of black fruit flavors coming through with a light dusting of cinnamon and blueberries. I get a good black licorice-laced leather component across the mid palate with very nice tannin structure. A young wine that drinks good now and should age another 5-8 years or so. Goes great with barbeque, steaks, hamburgers or even wild game.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: http://www.crystalbasin.com/

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A pair of 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ducks

Sauvignon Blanc is a classic Napa white grape that has got a lot of play over the several decades but has – in many ways – fallen out of the limelight because all too many started tasting the same and folks seemed to have gravitated towards the “buttery chardonnay” from that region.

Duckhorn Winery has been producing wines from this grape for a long time now and I had the chance to sample both its flagship “Duckhorn” label as well as its more moderately-priced Decoy brand.

Decoy Sauvignon Blanc: W.E.P Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • 79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Semillon
  • Harvest Information
  • Harvest Dates: August 25 — September 9, 2009
  • Average Sugar at Harvest: 22.2° Brix
  • 20 Vineyards Harvested
  • 100% Stainless Steel Fermentation
  • Alcohol: 13.0%
  • 0.65 g/100 ml titratable acidity
  • 21 days fermentation at 55°F
  • pH: 3.25
  • Bottled: January 2010
  • Released: February 2010
  • Price: $18

Nose: I get some nice citrus notes right off the bat along with a touch of kiwi, grapefruit and hay.

Taste: Really nice acids – much better ones to me than the Duckhorn Sauv Blanc. The citrus and grassiness along with the grapefruit and kiwi action make this a very shelfish-ready go-to wine. I appreciate the finish on this wine for the most part but the finish can be a touch hot. With that said, i’d still hit this wine up with some fresh oysters.

Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc: W.E.P Rating: 75%

Technical Data:

  • 75% Sauvignon Blanc,
  • 25% Sémillon
  • Harvest Dates: August 21 — September 9, 2009
  • Average Sugar at Harvest: 22.6° Brix
  • 7 Napa Valley appellations
  • Cooperage: 100% French Oak Château-style barrels (60 Gallons) 15% Barrel-fermented in new oak 5 months sur lie
  • Alcohol: 13.0%
  • 0.61 g/100 ml titratable acidity
  • 21 days fermentation at 50° F
  • pH: 3.35
  • Bottled: February 2010
  • Released: April 2010
  • Price: $27

Nose: Honeysuckle, vanilla, kiwi skin and some pineapple mixed with green apples and grapefruit.

Taste: This is a very “generic-tasting” Sauvignon blanc in that it has the typical grapefruit action going with a slight hint of grassiness but to me offers nothing compelling for its price that can’t be found elsewhere. I know the finish will lose some folks who are used to oaked-whites as the kick of Semillon starts coming through with the pineapple/vanilla combo that is actually quite tart. It’s a well-made wine in its own right, however, it’s a bit pricey compared to what else is out at similar quality at lower prices.

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2006 Sheldon Petite Sirah – Review

When Dylan and Tobe met, little did they know that they’d eventually start a micro-winery in California. Their love and passion for wine have taken them all over, including New Zealand – some may call it fate, I call it destiny. Regardless, I’m glad they’re making vino as this 2006 Petite Sirah shows the kind of quality we can get when it’s made with love.

Technical Data:

  • Captured Into Bottle on 12-10-07
  • Released Into The Wild in May of 2008
  • Vineyard: Lodi appelation, 19 feet below sea level on limestone soils
  • Cooperage: 20% New & 80% Seasoned French Oak
  • Ferment: 20% Whole Cluster
  • Numbers: pH 3.66 TA .64 Alc 14.2% RS 0
  • Price: $32

Nose: Blueberry pie crust, beef jerky, leather, carpet shampoo and ink.

Taste: If you took some black licorice and combined it with peppered beef jerky, fresh venison, tobacco and dark chocolate – that’s exactly what you’d have with this wine. Awesome amounts of black, dark fruit that does a stellar job of gliding across the mid palate and down the throat into a finish that lingers for hours. On the finish, I get notes of leather, cocoa powder and a nice smidgen of charred bell pepper.

W.E.P Rating: 95%

On the web: http://www.sheldonwines.com/

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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

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Red, white and Rose’ – 4th of July – Rose’ Picks

By Duane Pemberton

The 4th of July here in America invokes visions of grilled burgers, hot-dogs and fried chicken. Toss in the obligatory sides of potato-salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, watermelon and other goodies – you have the makings for a natural pairing with Rose’ wine. Here are a three of my picks for this weekend – they are made in the good ol’ USA and also all happen to be from California.

2009 “Crusher” Rose by Don Sebastini & Sons – W.E.P. 120%

Technical Data:

  • Blend: 83% Pinot Noir, 13% Viognier, 4% Malbec
  • ph: 3.65
  • TA: 52/100ml
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Price: $14

Nose: Cherries, watermelon, cranberry, red twizzlers, bubble-gum and white pepper.

Taste: Nice melon action up-front that has stellar notes of watermelon, honeydew and cantelope along with a hint of white pepper. Good mid-palate that brings in an almost bubbly-like aspect. The finish is nice and long – I’d easily hit this with pretty much ANY summertime-fare.

2009 Foppiano Estate Rose – W.E.P. 80%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 55% Petite Sirah, 45% Pinot Noir
  • Appellation: Russian River
  • Harvest Date: Pinot- Sept 1 Petite Sirah- Oct. 12
  • Acid: 0.65g/100mL
  • PH: 3.36
  • Bottling Date: April 8, 2010
  • Alcohol %: 14.2%
  • Price: $15

Nose: Prosciutto-wrapped melon, candied cherries, rhubarb pie and white pepper.

Taste: Strawberries, melon, white pepper and some nice jelly-bean-like flavors coming through for me. Decent mid-palate transition and mouth-feel, however, the finish is a bit too hot for me.

2009 Pedroncelli Dry Rose of Zinfandel – W.E.P. 120%

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
  • Composition: 100% Zinfandel
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Acidity: .600g/100ml
  • pH: 3.53
  • Residual Sugar: 0.14%
  • Price: $10

Nose: Big-time hot-dog smell coming through along with strawberries, raisins, sweaty sock, cranberries and spice.

Taste: Good amounts of strawberry, cherries, raspberries, anise and spice. Mid palate brings in some Oscar-Mayer action with flavors of rhubarb, white pepper and bubble-gum. Good, dry finish that makes this an easy pick for $10.

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, Rose, RoséComments (2)

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 Merlot Duel – Ca. vs. Wa.

I love wine duels as I believe they can help shake-up the many stereotypes we have as wine lovers. I’ve been witness to quite a few that have shaken preconcived ideas and also helped to enlighten peoples minds and palates to the wine-world around them. And honesly, that’s a great thing, right?

California has really taken on a following all its own for the good job it does with so many of the red bordeaux grapes – Cab and Merlot top that list. The simple truth is that California has been producing award-winning Merlot longer than any other state in the union and for that they should be commended and saught out.

However, as many of us know, the state of Washington has really come a long ways in a short amount of time and really shaken things up a lot – not only here in the “new world” but in the old as well. Its eastern climate is ideal for growing grapes that ripen well and produce amazing fruit – talk to any vineyard owner there and they’ll talk about that area for hours.

2006 Pedestal Merlot by Long Shadows Winery – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Long Shadows vintners, founded by long-time Washington wine pioneer, Allen Shoup, is one of those Walla Walla-based wineres to watch and has garnered praise on most of its wines from critics around the world. In fact, it’s 2005 Pedestal Merlot recently won international acclaim at a wine tasting in Canada. There’s little doubting that this winery and the people behind it are about as passionate as anyone can get when it comes to the potential for Washington wine.

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.
Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blaCKberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.
  • AVA: Columbia Valley
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • pH: 3.83
  • TA: 0.51 grams / 100ml
  • Blend: 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec
  • Release date: February 2009
  • Production: 1,877 cases
  • Winemaking Overseer: Michel Rolland
  • Price: $55

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.

Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blackberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.

2006 Double Eagle Merlot by GOS Winery: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Double Eagle started off as a pet-project from some friends who simply wanted to make some good wine for themselves to share. From the leather label to the waxed top, it’s clear that the presentation of this wine was made to impress. Fast-foward a few years, and it caught-on so much that Michael and crew made it available to the public. While you probably won’t find it in wide-spread availabillity you can always order it directly from the winery.

  • Varietal: 92% “Grieve Vineyard” Merlot,  8% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • AVA: Napa Valley
  • Vineyard: Grieve Family Vineyard (Lovall Valley)
  • Elevation: 650 feet
  • Density: 1,040 vines per acre
  • Vine Age: 9 years
  • Harvest Date: 11/2/06
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.7
  • Winemaker: Michael Sebastiani
  • Cold Soak: 1 ½ days
  • Fermentation: 14 days with additional maceration of 5 days
  • Oak: 100 French, 20% new, 40% one-year and 40% two-year
  • Alcohol: 15.4%
  • pH: 3.86
  • Bottled: 8/27/08
  • Cases Bottled: 200
  • Price: $40

Nose: Intense dark chocoloate, cinnamon, black plums, black licorice, vanilla, pomagranate and charcoal.

Taste: Cascading black fruit that gives way to a piece of freshly tanned leather soaked in currant, cinnamon and chocolate undertones which are firmly grasped by a nice tannin structure with excellent acidity and mouth feel. The finish lingers very well and keeps rewarding your tastebuds long after its slid gently down the hatch.

Posted in California Wines, Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Winemaker interview – Christian Tietje of Four Vines

Christian Tietje is all about taking the snob out of wines and we’re huge fans of that – we recently had the chance to catch up with him at the Seattle ZAP event:

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Winemaker Interview – Joel Peterson of Ravenswood

We had the rare opportunity to sit with Mr. Zinfandel himself – Joel Peterson – of Ravenswood Winery:

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Justin Winery – 3-way Review

The Paso Robles area of California is really shaping up to be a huge rock-star region in the Golden State and for good reason – it has a cooler climate than Napa and generally presents grapes that don’t get as sugarfied as so many do in the more nothern areas of California. Producers in this region have honed their craft in making wines that really take advantage of the cooler temps and done very well.

Justin Winery was founded in 1981 by Justin and Deborah Baldwin and follows the typical story of how it was their desire to produce world-class wines etc. etc. blah blah blah – right? How many times have heard of similar stories? Let’s see if their wines hold up to the vision they had:

2008 Sauvignon Blanc – W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Taste: Grassy lemons coat the palate with nice slight hints of white pepper. Excellent acidty keeps the fruitiness in check and helps this be a very food-friendly wine that’d go great with shellfish, sea-bass or a spring salad.

Technical Data:

  • Tank ageing: 5 months in topped up stainless steel
  • Barrel replacement: No barrels
  • Blended: 9/19/ 2008
  • Racking: Once-Post Fermentation
  • Harvest dates: 8/15/ 2008 (West Paso Vineyard) 8/17/2008 (East Paso Vineyard)
  • Filtering: Sterile
  • Fining: none
  • Brix at Harvest: 22.1 to 23.6
  • Bottled: January 27, 2009
  • Harvest method: 100% hand-harvested
  • Closure: Stelvin Screw Cap
  • Fermentation:14 days with M2
  • Total Acidity: 0.81g/100ml
  • pH: 3.18
  • Malolactic fermentation: None
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Barrels: None
  • Yeasts: M2
  • Price: $15
  • Nose: Lemon peel, grass, straw and hay – hints of grapefruit and elmer’s paste.

    Taste: Grassy lemons coat the palate with nice slight hints of white pepper. Excellent acidty keeps the fruitiness in check and helps this be a very food-friendly wine that’d go great with shellfish, sea-bass or a spring salad.

    2006 Reserve Tempranillo – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

    Technical Data:

    • Barrel aging: 18 months in 225-L oak barrels, 25% new
    • Blended: 7/30/ 2008
    • Barrel replacement: 30-40% annually on average
    • Harvest dates: 9/10-10/3, 2007
    • Racking; every 3 months
    • Brix at Harvest: 24.8
    • Fining: none
    • Harvest method: 100% hand-harvested
    • Filtering: none
    • Fermentation: 10 days with UV-43
    • Bottled: May 2nd, 2009
    • Maceration: 22 days including fermentation
    • pH: 3.74
    • Total Acidity: 0.68 g/100ml
    • Alcohol: 13.5%
    • Pump overs: 2 times daily during fermentation
    • Barrels: Allier, Nevers
    • Yeasts: UV-43
    • Price: $45

    Nose: Vanilla-laced cherries with plum-sauce, black licorice, wild game and white pepper. Medicine cabinet, rose petal and pomagranate.

    Taste: Black peppercorns smashed into the skins of plums and then reduced down in a sauce pan. Take that reduction and slather it over some grilled venison and that’s what you have going on in this glass. I also get some campfire smoke action along with toasted vanilla from the oak. This wine – at first – is a bit too oaky but tends to have that blow off rather well if you let it decant or sit around in your glass for an hour or so. Nice lingering finish of cola from a wonderful grape that’s showing very well for this region of California.

    2006 Cabneret Sauvignon – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

    Technical Data:
    • Barrel aging: 18 months in 225-L oak barrels, 26% new
    • Blended:  8/13-8/24, 2008
    • Barrel replacement: 20-30% annually on average
    • Harvest dates: 9/10-10/31, 2007
    • Racking: every 6 months
    • Brix at Harvest: 25.9
    • Fining: none
    • Harvest method: 100% hand-harvested
    • Filtering: none
    • Fermentation: 12 to 15 days with UV-43
    • Bottled: April 13-25, 2009
    • Maceration: 18 to 35 days including fermentation
    • pH: 3.73
    • Total Acidity: 0.65 g/100ml
    • Alcohol: 13.5%
    • Pump overs: 2 to 4 times daily during fermentation
    • Barrels: Missouri, Minnesota
    • Malolactic fermentation: in barrel
    • Yeasts: UV-43
    • Price: $26.25
    Nose: Dark cherries, certs wintergreen action, plum skin, cocoa, licorice, slight vanilla and toast.
    Taste: Good amounts of dark fruit coming thru – plums, black cherries, blackberry with a backend of black licorice and spice. Good mouthfeel, however, a tad oaky – the oak does blow off a bit if you decant for an hour or so. Good mouthfeel and a nice lingering finish. A good effort for a California cab, however, there are cabs easily just as good for quite a bit cheaper.
    Winery Website: www.justinwine.com

    Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc, TempranilloComments (0)

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

    By Duane Pemberton
    Click here to see how we rate wines

    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:

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

    Lucas & Lewellen 07 Chard and 05 Cab Franc – Review

    The connection to the movie sideways is undeniable – Lucas & Lewellen Winery had its Pinot Noir featured in the movie that destroyed merlot sales. L&L is a central-coast California winery whose founders, Louis Lucas and Royce Lewellen came together and bought some land in this fertile grape-growing region and have really done a lot to strike a claim for themselves as one of that region’s premiere wineries.

    2005 Cabernet Franc: W.E.P. Rating: 40%

    Technical Data:


    • Vineyard: Valley View
    • Composition: 100% Cabernet Franc
    • Oak: 19 Months French Oak
    • Fermentation: Punch down
    • Bottled: April 2007
    • Acidity: .70
    • pH: 3.69
    • Alcohol: 14.8%
    • Production: 605 Cases
    • Sugg. Retail: $26.00
    • Release Date: July 2008



    Nose: I pick some some strong eucaplyptus and cedar box on the initial pass – almost like a cedar cigar box. There’s some hints of black fruit in there somewhere, however, I have a feelin it’s going to be overpowered by oak.

    Taste: Can someone get me a friggin toothpick to pick out all the wood splinters here? I mean.. really? I get that this is a California wine and that a lot of folks are used to having a piece of oak furniture in the glass with their wine – but wow. I’m gonna let this hang out to see if some of the wood blows off from it. Two hours later – the oakiness of this wine is still rather pronounced – it’s not quite as strong; however, is still not doing much for me.

    This wine is a complete:



    2007 “Goodchild” Chardonnay – W.E.P. Rating: 75%

    Technical Data:

    • Vineyard: Goodchild
    • Composition: 100% Chardonnay
    • Fermentation: Barrel
    • Oak: 100% French oak (30% new)
    • Bottled: July 2008
    • Acidity: 0.616
    • pH: 3.38
    • Alcohol: 14.4%
    • Production: 881 Cases
    • Sugg. Retail: $22.00
    • Release Date: September 2008

    Nose: Pineapple, mango and peach skin – the classic vanilla hints on the nose as well. I also get subtleties of river-water stones. 

    Taste: Take some pineapple, starfruit and mango – then toss in a tiny bit of butter and toasted vanilla – that’s what’s going on here. If you’re looking for a butterbomb napa charonnay, then this is not a wine for you – it’s rather crisp which shows it has little oak on ot. Good viscousness and acidity on the mouthfeel, decent fruit but a bit too hot on the backend for me.

    Posted in Cabernet Franc, California Wines, Chardonnay, ReviewsComments (0)

    2005 Concannon Petite Sirah – Review

    A wine that’s been gaining a lot of popularity around the Seattle-area is the Petite Sirah Concannon wines out of California. Concannon was the first winery in the USA to produce a petite sirah as it’s been around since 1883 in the Livermore Valley area. Petite Sirah, as its known in the U.S. and Israel,  is actually the Durif grape – it came about from cross a cross pollenation from Syrah and a Peloursin plant. 

    It shares a great deal of similarities of the Syrah grape which is one of the reaons it got its name of “Petite Sirah” – spicey and a bit jammy.

    Technical Data: 


    • Appellation Central Coast
    • Varietal Content 95% Petite Sirah, 3% Merlot, 1% Petite Verdot, 1% Mixed Reds
    • Case Production 75,000
    • Aging 12 months in French and American oak barrels
    • Alcohol 13.9%
    • Residual Sugar 0.31 g/100ml
    • Titratable Acidity 0.58 g/100ml
    • pH 3.61
    • Release Date Spring 2008


    Nose: Cranberry, asparagus tips, white pepper, bacon fat, and loganberry.

    Taste: Huge cranberry component that’s been mixed with white pepper, rhubarb, blueberry and blackberry pie with crust. Decent finish and mouth-feel make this wine a pretty good value-play at the prices you can usually find it for in your local grocery store – around $12. 

    W.E.P. Rating: 90%

    Winery website: www.concannonvineyard.com

    Posted in California Wines, Petite Sirah, ReviewsComments (1)

    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)

    2005 Brutocao Reserve Merlot – Review

    Brotocao, from Hopland, California is one of the few wineries which prides itself in making a variety of wines from its vast selection of grapes. They do everything from Bordeaux to Italian to Zinfandel – in fact its Quadriga, wine uses 100% Italian grape varieties, (which we reviewed last year) has won widespread acclaim.
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    Blend: 83% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon
    Price: $34

    Nose: Wild game, plums, road-tar bubble, tobacco, french-roast coffee, blackberries, black-cherries, black raspberries – anything black – yeah, it’s all here.

    Taste: Awesome fresh road-tar taste which is engulfed with dark plum flavors – I pick up the fresh road-kill game on the mid-palate and sweaty arm-pit which follows the onslaught of dark fruits. The finish has some nice dark chocolate and coffee elements which hang out on the palate like a bunch of college-kids after hours at an In-n-Out burger stand. I’m feeling it, loving it and would easily snatch up more of this wine in a heartbeat. Excellent balance of fruit, tannin structure and oak. White and black pepper.

    W.E.P. Rating: 100%

    Winery website: www.brutocaocellars.com

    Posted in California Wines, Merlot, ReviewsComments (0)

    2005 Ventana Vineyards Chardonnay

    Inasmuch as it might pain some wine drinkers out there who’ve had their fill of Chardonnay’s over the years – the reality is that this grape is going to be around for a long-time. It’s about as iconic to the wine industry as any grape could ever be and it’s still used to make some of the world’s finest sparkling wines. 

    Ventana Vineyards, based out of Monterey California, has put its own spin on this grape and has turned out quite a head-turner for those who enjoy a more pure-fruit experience and less oak.
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    Technical Data:
    • Appellation: Arroyo Seco AVA: Monterey, California
    • Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
    • Vineyard: 100% Estate Ventana Vineyard
    • Barrel Selection: French Oak
    • Total Acidity .64 g/ 100ml
    • pH 3.54
    • Alcohol 13.5%
    • Suggested Retail: $18.00 per bottle
    Nose: Crisp green apples, pineapple mixed with slightly toasted almond butter and some starfruit along with a little beach-sand.

    Taste: Excellent minerality backed up with the green apple and a bit of honeysuckle, pineapple and pear. Shard acidity across the mid to back palate. This wine has really good finish that lingers nicely.

    W.E.P. Rating: 90%

    Winery website: www.ventanawines.com

    Posted in California Wines, Chardonnay, ReviewsComments (0)

    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! 

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    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)

    2006 Concannon Assemblage

    Wine website: www.concannonvineyard.com

    W.E.P. Rating: 100%

    Not too many new-world wineries can say they’ve been producing wines since the late 1800s, however, Concannon is one fo them. Based on California’s central-coast region, this winery specializes in producing wines with fruit from the Livermore valley.

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    Its Assemblage white wine is a blend which combines Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon  grapes – the end result is a very well-balanced white which I think a lot of folks would really get into if they had the chance to try it.

    Tech Data:

    • Appellation 100% Livermore Valley
    • Varietal Content 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 46% Semillon
    • Case Production 500 cases
    • Alcohol 13.9%
    • Residual Sugar 5.0 g/L
    • Titratable Acidity 6.0 g/L
    • pH 3.25
    • Release Date Fall 2007
    • Price: $15

    Nose: Typical grassy nose with some grapefruit on the end – very typical of Suavignon blanc. I also get some white-grape skins, apple blossoms, ivory soap. Very clean and refersing on the nose.

    Taste: Floods of wheatgrass, grapefruit, some alfafa hay mixed with some hints of passion fruit, mango and kiwi. Beautiful finish with some kickin acidity which rips across the palate. This is a very food-friendly wine that also stands very well on its own. Very well balanced and a white wine I’d highly encourage you to seek out.

    Food suggestions:
    – Shellfish
    – Creamy pasta dishes
    – Creamed spinach or kale

    Posted in California Wines, Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc, SemillonComments (0)

    2006 Ventana Vineyards Pinot Noir


    Winery Website: www.ventanawines.com

    We’ve reviewed a few wines so far from Ventana Vineyards and have yet to be disappointed by any of them thus far. I’m a huge fan of the California Costal Pinot so it was with some slight anticipation that I drank this wine. There’s something rockin’ about the pinot from that region which keep it on the forefront of pinot sales at large.

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    Technical Data:

    • Vineyard: Ventana Vineyards Soil Type – Calcareous composition of alluvial deposit with rock and gravel
    • Barrels: French Oak
    • Vintage: 2006
    • Wine Type: Red Wine
    • Varietal: Pinot Noir
    • Appellation: Arroyo Seco
    • Acid: .53 g/ 100ml
    • PH: 3.85
    • Fermentation: 100% Barrel Fermented
    • Alcohol %: 13.5
    • Price: $28

    Nose: Huge cranberry, and dried cherry component on the nose – very much reminds me of home-made cranberry Sauce.

    Taste: Cranberry spice with hints of toasty oak… some firepit ash, floods of dried berries, chocolate and cherries abound – the finish lingers on very well. This is a well-made Pinot that’s very food-friendly and one that I’d quite frankly recommend; especially to those folks out there who may still be struggling with the whole pinot thing – yes, some of them exist, in spite of that stupid movie, Sideways.

    W.E.P. Rating: 100%

    Posted in California Wines, Pinot Noir, ReviewsComments (0)