Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini, Napa, California.

Not all wines have to be an intense, even sometimes laborious exercise for the senses. There are times when one just needs an honest wine. Not every bottle has to be an occasion. Sometimes I just want to contemplate other matters and not necessarily have to focus so intently on the wine. These are the moments that I resort to the unsung heroes of my cellar – The Pleaser. A wine that doesn’t overwhelm your senses or demand your attention. A wine that hits a few key notes and maybe offers an interesting suggestion or two. A clean, well made, honest wine, most importantly, for a great price. These wines I stock by the case.

This Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon is just that. A winner. It embodies the value proposition. A hint of that Sonoma dirt, good fruit, dry plum and blackberry, a touch of cedarwood, balanced body, a finish characterized by a moderately dry tannic grip and a touch of spice. It is always available and for a good price that makes a case an approachable proposition for most.

This is the wine that draws you in and draws your interest towards their signature wines such as their Napa Cab and Monte Rosso Cab Franc, both of which are noteworthy and in my reserve.

I love a winery that not only puts out great signature wines, but also makes a good flagship wine I can enjoy on any given day.

Nice work!

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Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Prolific Vines

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Prolific Vines Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.

Deep, dark, rich color. Slightly warm, restrained nose with notes of blackberries, and subtle dark plum. Terroir is subtle and in the form of a slight sandy, loamy leather. Oak is very measured, and makes its presence known through a very distant licorice and cedarwood. You would likely miss it.

Body is precise. Balanced front to back. Fruit is carried over as a slightly dry dark plum. Crisp, measured tannins provide clean structure, creating a classic foundation from attack to finish. Transition to finish is seamless, culminating in a subtle back and forth between creamy and dry tannic grip, ultimately leaving the palate parched. A reminder of its youth. A hint of spice caps the experience. This is more of a nuanced Cab than most people might be accustomed to. I suspect this ultimately has to do with the climate. It does not have the typical overpowering characteristics of say a Northern California Cab (aggressively acidic, tannic, spice).

This is a great Cabernet Sauvignon. It is showing surprisingly well for its relatively young age. It should age quite nicely, given more time to further integrate. I would pick up a few bottles. Enjoy one now and revisit this vintage in about 5 years. This is a pre-release look at this vintage. I previously reviewed the 2016 and looking at my notes, the 2017 is very reminiscent of it, surprisingly consistent if not a tad more mature.

It was nice to finally visit this little estate tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains (see photos from my visit below). I especially want to thank Dr. Julie and her husband Albert for being to kind and gracious for hosting me and giving me an extended tour of the property and the vineyard. It was a real treat. It was inspiring to see the amount of work they have put into making this passion of theirs become a reality. This is what I love most about being off the beaten path.

I very much look forward to visiting them again soon. If you do decide to attend one of their tastings, don’t forget to ask Dr Julie if she has any of her Tomato Jam on hand. It is simply sublime and unlike anything you’ve had. You won’t be disappointed. Join their club to secure your annual allotment of this very limited and unique wine.

Astral Cabernet Sauvignon

In 1868 something begins to ravage France’s vines. After some digging—pun intended—it is discovered that a plant louse/ aphid known as phylloxera (phyl·lox·e·ra) was enjoying the roots instead of the wines in which they produced.

Although it is somewhat debated, the phylloxera mite is thought to have come from America sometime in the 1850’s. Back in Missouri Charles Valentine Riley, Missouri’s entomologist recognized the affliction in Frances plantings and wrote French botanist Jules Émile Planchon in 1870 to inform him that he too had observed this louse, feasting on the leaves of American vines, and not on the roots—his letter was quickly dismissed.

After some persistence, Riley visited France in 1871 and a argued that American rootstock was resistant to the aphid since the two had evolved together. He was correct! Then in the winter of 1872 George Husmann—The Father of the Missouri Grape Industry in Herman, Missouri—also a scientist, educator, and writer—sent nearly 400,000 cuttings to Montpellier, France. In spite of some French resistance to using American root stock the project was successful and the so-called la défense began.

To this day, all vines with few exceptions are planted on this Missouri bred rootstock in France and America with a local exception—our Astral Cabernet Sauvignon. To this day Astral remains one of the few California Cabernet’s not reliant on disease resistant stock, due in large part to Happy Canyon’s lack of humidity, and the presence of sandy soil!

~ Dierberg * Star Lane


Not long ago I reviewed the Astral Cabernet Sauvignon by Dierberg * Star Lane. I had been wanting to explore this wine since my visit a few years ago and it did not disappoint (see link to my post just above). Shortly after, Dierberg shared the story behind this vineyard. I found it very interesting and thought you might enjoy reading (posted with permission).

Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Lapostolle

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Valle De Colchagua) by Lapostolle, Chile

Dark opaque color. Slightly restrained but still fairly big, warm and heavy nose. Lots of dark plum and blackberry secondary notes. Swirl vigorously and unlock tertiary notes of oak which conspire to create the faintest hint of licorice which turns to more of a cedarwood vibe as it opens up.

Body is very balanced and greets you with good acidity accompanied by a mouthful of tannins in the form of plum skins. From there everything quickly simmers down as the body becomes restrained. Big, massive and dry tannic grip ushers a transition to a slightly warm and spicy finish leaving your lips dried shut – a dead giveaway this wine is young and while it shows sush poise and character, I believe in 5-10 years it will be a a beautiful gem of a wine that will surprise any palate. It is a fantastic wine now but with a little more time to develop it will be a remarkable piece.

I have reviewed some amazing wines by this Chilean winemaker before and this one does not disappoint. Not only are their wines extremely well crafted, they present tremendous value. Bien hecho amigos!

Reviews of wines by this winemaker

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Reserve: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (Astral) by Dierberg Star Lane

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 Astral (Cabernet Sauvignon) by Dierberg * Star Lane, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.

As expected, dark rich opaque color. This is mostly Cab and Cab Franc. Out of the bottle nose is slightly restrained but big and heavy with lots of plum and a touch of dark sweet cherry up front. In the back, anise lingers over a fairly neutral terroir and is accompanied by black licorice as it opens up. There is good separation. This had to have been massive, if not barely approachable 5 years ago.

Unlike your quintessential big jammy California Cab, the body shows good balance front to back. Moderate acid goes hand-in-hand with dry, restrained, fine grained tannins and black currants. Plum and herbs carry over from the nose providing a brief diversion in an otherwise highly structured body. Transition to finish is brief, culminating in a firm and spicy tannic grip that leaves the palate parched and tingling.

This is by all accounts a solid, well built, delineated, wine for the advanced palate. It will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them. At almost 10 years old, it is just now becoming approachable and should be a magnificent work of art in 5-10 years time. It is built for the long haul, is a fine example of the winemaker’s attention to detail and strict adherence to core principles. It presents a zero compromise view of what is possible from an already storied region. I highly recommend this for those seeking solid example of what a California Cabernet can be. It presents a solid reference point for anyone looking for some perspective on the venerable California Cab. Well done Dierberg * Star Lane!!!

Almost two years ago while exploring for the first time, the Santa Barbara county region of the Central coast (read about it here: Dierberg, Santa Barbara) Dierberg came highly recommended by my all-time favorites and very savvy vintner, Roger Roessler. It did not disappoint. I have since gradually been exploring their selection of outstanding quality wines and very much look forward to following their works moving forward. Several racks will remain dedicated to their wines in my cellar. You can also view all their wines I have reviewed and highly recommend here or by using the search.

Tech Sheet

2011 Astral by Dierberg Star Lane

From Winemaker: 2011 SLAST Tech Sheet.pdf
Cellar Life: 12-15 years
Composition: Cabernet Franc 76%, Cabernet Franc 22%, Syrah 2%
Aging: 20 months French oak, new 80%
Analysis: Alcohol, 13.7%
Harvested/Bottled:
Oct-Nov 2011 / Aug 2013
Total Production: Approximately 400 cases

 

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Wine Review: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) by Martin Ray

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) by Martin Ray.

Dark inky color. Out of the bottle, big warm plum nose permeates the surrounding area. Closer inspection reveals notes of licorice, dark cherry and a touch of marshmallows. Swirl vigorously to unlock hints of cedar as licorice turns black.

Body shows precise balance and crisp structure from attack to finish. Other than the dark plum, little other fruit carries over. It is dry overall. Plums quickly morph into crisp dry tannins, providing good mouth feel through a slightly creamy transition. Finish is swift, clean, ending in a interesting play between buttery and dry tannic grip. A moderate but firm spicy heat takes over the finish, warming the chest.

This is my first wine from Martin Ray and I must say I am impressed. It comes across as precise, measured, clean, with a strict adherence to core principles. It sparks a curiosity to explore more of their signature wines. Amongst its peers, it presents good value. Nicely done Martin Ray!

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Reserve: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by MV Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Reserve) by MV (Miller Vineyards), Fair Play, California.

Last year our search for Winemaker Of The Year took us on an unexpected journey. We toured various California wine country but none left a an indelible mark like the Sierra Foothills. We were on the road almost every weekend of the year and tasting several times a week. We encountered so many amazing winemakers toiling away at their life’s passion. About half a dozen emerged as hands down in the class of their own, not just on a local or California stage but on a world stage. MV Vineyards was perhaps the most notable in this respect.

Tonight we look at a Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a distillation of what a big California Cab is all about. A true artisan work of art by a craftsman with absolutely no compromise and every possible attention to detail. Batches are so small you will never find this masterpiece anywhere else but in the little cottage at the end of the road in Fair Play.

Dark inky color. Big, warm, intense nose with caramel and marshmallows which quickly dissipate once it opens up. Subtle plum, blackberries, bramble bush and wild herbs take center stage. Terroir is very restrained an leans on the mineral sandstone side of the spectrum.

Body is measured. Well balanced from front to back. A measured dose of blackberries and plum carry over while retaining its dry overall posture. Herbs and wild bush remain in the back while bold well structured fine grained tannins take over the transition to a firm but restrained finish, capped with a healthy dose of spice. Simply amazing!

You cannot speak of California Wines and not have immersed yourself in art like this. This is the frontier, the leading edge of what made California wines what they are today. You will never find a corporate mass production wine that comes even close to this. This, like the others we have reviewed on here are worth a trip to California and the Sierra Foothills. Well done Mr. & Mrs. Miller!

Wine Review: 2016 Cab Sauv by Canvasback

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon by Canvasback, Red Mountain [AVA], Yakima Valley [AVA], Columbia Valley [AVA], Washington State.

Dark rich color. Long dark legs. Crisp, clean nose with lots of berry and plum. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of good fruit up front along with a healthy dose of restraint. A hint of oak in the back.

Body has very good crisp, clean structure and balance. Not as fruit forward as the nose would suggest. The oak while still restrained, is a touch more pronounced. Expression of the terroir is muted and more mineral if anything. I think this may be the reason for its crisp, clean posture.

It has a great mouth feel. It’s so easy for a Cab to get out of hand and overbearing. This one is extremely well behaved and tamed. I suspect the climate in the region may have something to do with it. Firm tannins lead to a smooth finish dominated by their ever tightening grip. A hint of tobacco, smokey oak and moderate enduring dry spice wrap up the experience.

Most wines have a certain aristic flare to them. This wine feels like it was made with a healthy dose of OCD. It feels like there was great attention to detail and a strict adherence to core principles. This is my first time tasting wine from this little know region. I am very impressed by the quality of the wine and craftsmanship.

Nicely done Canvasback!

Reader Notes

Opened it 10 minutes ago and poured it into the glass. It has a dark ruby red color with viscosity. Its shy on the nose initially but I get some spicy fresh aromas of dark currants, plums, dried herbs. It has mild acidity and good fruit with some roundness on the palate but it has peppery notes on the palate. It has mild to moderate tannins but a smooth very long finish.

My wife has an incredible palate. She is going to taste it soon. Its definitely drinkable without food but I can see it as food friendly. I’ll let you know when I have it with food.

The tannins are not intense. It’s a very well balanced wine. Definitely approachable young compared to Napa cabs. Wifey felt it also has a taint of tobacco leaf and I agree. I think that comes once it’s open longer.

~ Dr Cruz-Romero

 

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Reserve: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Louis Martini

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Louis Martini, Napa Valley.

A textbook Big Napa Cab. Deep rich color. Clean, crisp nose characterized by tart plum and a hint of cherry on the back which quickly dissipates giving way to a neutral terroir undertone. There is a noticeable absence of any heat in the nose. Surprising for a wine with 15.1% ABV. The full, chewy, fruit forward body follows, with lots of blackberry, and buttery tannin. This massive Napa Cab is surprisingly balanced. A testament of the winemaker’s craft. A creamy transition to a smooth, moderately tannic finish. An enduring spicy heat finally keeps the palate warm long after. This wine must have started out as a real beast to tame. It is very approachable now and should further develop nicely over the next few years. Well done guys🍷😁👌🏽

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Reserve: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by Sterling Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga, Napa Valley.

Dark rich color. Upon opening, I am hit with an intense bouquet of floral notes (lavender comes to mind) that quickly vanishes, giving way to intense plum, berry and mineral terroir. As it opens, a sweet cherry vanilla emerges then vanishes. I get the feeling this wine did not appreciate being disturbed this early in its journey. Body is big, heavy, dry, very spicy. None of the nose carries over other than the mineral terroir. Transition to finish is seamless as tannins turn slightly creamy just before infusing the palate with a lasting spicy grip. At 14.9% ABV, this is a big Napa Cab by all accounts. Despite this it still exhibits good balance.

This wine has a long road ahead, on its journey to its fullest expression. I probably won’t be opening anymore of this vintage for another 5 years or so. I look forward to seeing how it develops over time.

This is a well built wine.🍷😁👌🏽

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