2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Louis Martini, Napa Valley

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) by Louis Martini, Napa Valley, California

Deep dark ruby color. Out of the bottle, ripe plums, and blackberries over a subtle backdrop of sawdust. Swirling vigorously unleashes bursts of sweet pinewood, ripe dark cherries, licorice and a faint freshness akin to mint/eucalyptus. Yummy.

Body is fairly balanced up front. A touch of acidity and fine grain dusty tannins greet the palate with mild tension. This is quickly followed by slightly ripe plum, dark cherries and red apple skins so faint you’d likely miss it. The fruit quickly dissipates as the fine grained tannins precipitate into an ever thickening coat of grit upon the palate. Hints of cola, currants and spice emerge as it transitions to finish. Lips are rendered parched shut under a thick dusty tannic grip and smoldering spice heat.

I seldom indulge in Napa wine country but when I do, I stop by Louis Martini. You’ve likely driven by this unassuming and understated Napa Winery. Its custodians have done a great job of documenting, preserving and continuing its legacy. It’s grounds and experience follow form and function, the tastings focused but casual and thoughtful. Louis Martini should provide a great benchmark for the Modern Day Napa Cab in any cellar.

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2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA

Deep dark ruby color. Nose is shy. Greets with dark plum, old sawdust, and a touch of beeswax. Swirling vigorously adds a slight rocky essence, hints of licorice, shortbread and flutter of minty, herbal freshness toward the back.

Up front, thin, slightly under-ripe dark plum. This is quickly followed by restrained currant, black licorice and a noticeable old, woody leather. Acidity is fairly unobtrusive and could be easily overlooked but for the precise amount of tension it lends to this understated body. Crisp, clean and fully integrated tannins roll off the palate in short order, transitioning to black currants and subtle bitter cola towards the back. Transition to finish is seamless leaving the palate slightly parched with a gentle spice tingle. The cola and currants develop a subtle sweet dimension as the palate resets. As it opens up, a firm tannic grip develops over the entire palate as some of tannins caramelize to add a slight sweet aftertaste. This wine is very much reminiscent of a classic old world style Bordeaux. I can’t help but wonder how amazing a Meritage/Bordeaux blend from Mayacamas would be.

This is a mature, dry, old world look at Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California and the World at large. I highly recommend it for the advanced palate. If you want to get an appreciation for the kind of wines that put Napa on the world stage decades ago, Mayacamas is a great place to start. Their program has gone largely unchanged over several generations of custodians. Their work provides a great reference point and study for the enlightened and curious palate.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the estate for a private tasting last fall and the experience exceeded all expectations. For many years I have come assume there were little left in the Napa region in the form of true, single estate, artisan winemakers with small batch production wines. It’s an expensive proposition these days, especially for a highly sought-after region as Napa. This is why I was even more excited to realize that this small team of custodians (as they refer to themselves) are passionately preserving and continuing the legacy of this storied region with absolutely no room for compromise. This alone is reason enough to explore their wines.

No big, spicy, jammy, fruit bombs here. No overbearing manipulation, additives, or blending down [with Lodi grapes]. It’s simply wine from a vineyard in Napa, made the same way it always has been for generations, clean crisp, true… and there is a lot to said about that these days. It’s so refreshing for a WineSnob!

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2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA


2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA

2021 Winemaker of the Year

Slightly restrained nose. Clean crisp and ripe plum. Most interesting is a distant beeswax. Tannins are firm, clean, fully integrated into the body. A slight departure from the norm in this region known for big, bold, brash wines. It reads on the light side ever so slightly. Bright crisp fruit expression, crisp sharp tannins, slight peppery finish. Underneath a refined smooth body with bright fruit accentuated by a touch of refined caramel lies a dry wine. A great reference Cabernet for anyone exploring this region and California at large.

As it opens up this region really emerges in a very bold way with prominent star anise, granite leather and tannins develop a fine grained dusty texture that coats the entire palate with a firm ironclad grip.

I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for over a decade. His wines are understated, faithful to the region and the art form.

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2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cash Allen) by Blanchard Family Wines, Healdsburg CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cash Allen, Alexander Valley) by Blanchard Family Wines, Healdsburg CA

Deep clear ruby color. Out of the bottle sweet red vines licorice and wet grassy earth. As it breathes, slightly ripe plums, dark cherries and dusty leather. Swirling intensifies the licorice as it turns from red to black. This dominates the nose. Just gorgeous. Who said Cab Sauv can’t be pretty??

Body is balanced from front to back. A touch of acidity greets the palate, lending gentle tension as a light (for a Cab) thin body quickly rushes in with crisp plums and cherries. Tannins are fully integrated and unobtrusive, barely noticeable but for the subtle bitter cola and cassis. A touch of crisp, woody oak emerges midway to create a silky mouth feel and further soften the unobtrusive structure. Hints of green pepper, herbs and spice emerge towards the back. This whole act quickly vanishes upon the palate. Leaving the lips slightly dry under a smoldering spice heat.

Oh man. This is a beautiful Cab. I would venture to say, a Pinot Lover’s Cab. Light, layered, expressive. Both on the nose and in the body. I can’t take credit for finding this gem of a wine. That goes to one of my WineSnobs. Thank you Daryl. I need to take a closer look at what’s going on at Blanchard Family Wines.

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon by Acheson Wine Company, Sacramento CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (Overlord) by Acheson Wine Company, Lodi Apellation, CA

Full bright berry nose with lots of Ripe plum and cherries. Wet oak wood and subtle fine dusty terroir.

Body is soft, mild, restrained. Not as fruit forward as the nose would suggest. Subtle dark plums, and cherries and a noticeable, and pleasant crisp refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak. A very subtle bitter cola permeates the experience. Thin crisp tannins round out the affair.

This is a great refreshing chillable red. Simple, clean, crisp without being overly abstract. A pleaser of a wine that should appeal to a broad spectrum of palate. One of the latest and welcomed additions to the local wine scene here in Sacramento, I think Acheson is onto something. Serving well made wine exclusively on tap, via refillable 1 litre growlers/pop-cap bottles is just one of the many ways they are challenging the norms, rethinking convention, driving sustainability, reducing their carbon footprint from vineyard to table and keeping their wines accessible.

I was very much intrigued during my recent visit and will be exploring more of this emerging trend. Nicely done Acheson!

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2016 Cabernet Sauvignon by Newsom Vineyards, Texas Hill Country

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Texas High Plains) by Newsom Vineyards, Texas Hill Country.

Dark intense semi-opaque color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with slightly under-ripe plums and faint damp wood. Swirling vigorously unlocks an explosive intensity of licorice, a sweet cherry cola and root beer essence and hint of eucalyptus. Not surprised here at all. This milti-generational grower made a lasting impression on me when I visited their understated tasting room in Texas last year. Intense, powerful, terroir driven, old world style wines.

Body is bold as expected. Moderately acidic attack greets the palate, along with a viscous body. Under-ripe dark plums banana skins and spice follow closely. After breathing it softens a little. Fresh blueberries emerge. Body is bone dry, no nonsense, strickly business. This is the main show. You sip this slow. Oak is unnoticeable but for the way it enhances the fruit characteristics. The symphony of notes from the nose further intensify across the palate growing louder and louder until there is nothing left on the palate but a thin, crisp, dry tannic grip over smoldering spice.Oh boy. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine makes a statement. You can taste every part of the fruit that came from the vineyard. Great fidelity. It started with good grapes and was allowed to be itself. It feels unpretentious, un-manipulated. I recommend decanting for a bit. You may have to re-cork and explore the next day. I probably should have used my coravin because it clearly has many more years ahead of it. I’m taken back through vivid memories of my trip through Texas Wine country. Nicely done folks!

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave) by Ventisquero, Chile

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave, Maipo Andes Valley, Pirque) by Ventisquero, Chile

Dark, opaque, plum color. Out of the bottle, nose is a little shy for a Cabernet Sauvignon, with characteristic notes of plum and blackberries. Neither over ripe nor too tart, just right. A dusty, woody leather lingers on the background along with hints of licorice and pomegranate and a touch of cherry cola. Swirling vigorously intensifies and ripens the plum, cherry cola pulls forward as nose fades to a fine dust.

Body is precisely balanced right down the middle, from front to back. A dry, slightly restrained, dark plum greets the palate immediately followed by oak vanilla so subtle you’d likely miss it. This conspires to create a slightly creamy, buttery mouth feel. Faint licorice carries over as well as a touch of cola. Fine grained, dusty tannins precipitate, eventually forming a gentle gradient of well integrated structure. This is a big wine on all accounts but I barely noticed this finely tuned structure. Midway through, a subtle nudge of spice ushers in the transition to finish. As the body slowly fades away like desert rain on a hot summer day, subtle hints of cola, cocoa, warm spice, and dusty tannic grit linger on the palate. After hours of decanting the grip on the palate becomes a dominating force. Body thickens and develops a subtle viscousity. Licorice intensifies and turns from more red to black licorice, holding short of pure star anise.

This Cab exhibits and obsessive attention to detail. It feels like there was a clear vision of what it was destined to be – a thesis, a textbook example of what Cab was meant to look like. Not just from Chile, but on a world stage. No rock and roll here, no over-the-top off-balance notes. Just a quiet focused reflection on the world’s most popular varietal. Chief Winemaker Felipe Tosso and his team have not only created a great wine in the Enclave but a unique opportunity for enlightenment and development of the enthusiast’s palate. The Enclave is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have had yet. Bien hecho amigos!

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You can access Ventisquero wines directly from the Ventiquero Wine Club website as well as on wine.com, both linked below.

https://ventisquerowineclub.com

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2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Four Flags, Red Mountain) by Delille Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Four Flags, Red Mountain) by DeLille Cellars, Woodinville, WA

Dark opaque color. Tempered nose with blackberry, ripe plum skins up front. Wet hay/thatch and slightest touch of oak vanilla linger in the back. Swirling vigorously releases licorice, and intensifies the damp hay/thatch essence.

Body is balanced on attack and quickly develops a slight creamy character. Big plum on the front gives way to black currants and a refined crisp caramel – so subtle you’d likely miss it – reminiscent of neutral French oak. Transition to finish is seamless leaving the palate dry with a crisp tannic grip.

Delille Cellars puts out a veritable lineup of accessible wines that maintain a great sense of place. Their execution is clean, crisp and representative. If you are ever in Woodinville or the greater Seattle area, I highly recommend visiting their tasting room for a focused, guided, tasting. It’s a beautiful location that matches the wines perfectly! Nicely done Delille!

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2008 Cabernet Sauvignon by Windwalker, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon by Windwalker, El Dorado, CA

Dark opaque color. Out of the bottle nose is a little shy but there is an unmistakable honeysuckle and beeswax essence. As it opens up, the nose fills up, thickens into a melange of lemon zest, tangerine, ripe, red berries, and a sharp star anise, it’s sense of place, a hallmark of the Sierra Foothills. Pine, cedar-wood and dusty granite linger in the background. This wine is ripe!

Body is nicely balanced up front. It is slightly fruit forward but nowhere near as much as the nose would suggest. A mild acidic attack quickly hands off to a bold spice heat that intensifies through the body. Ripe plums and Dark cherries add a thick chassis of soft tannins. Oak accentuates the berry and citrus notes nicely. Transition to finish is seamless as the body slowly soaks into the palate leaving behind a slightly moist lips, a fine grained, dusty tannic grit a warm but firm heat. Faint notes of cocoa and caramel linger. This is how this wine was meant to be enjoyed.

There’s endless ways to make a wine. What I find interesting about this winemaker is their willingness to embrace what is most characteristic of this region – hang time. They have a longer ripening season which yields higher sugar, and more intense flavor profiles. At 13.9% ABV it is fairly restrained for this region but the flavors are intense. At 13 years of age, it has had time to integrate very nicely. This is a beautiful wine.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Thracian Valley) by Bulgariana

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Thracian Valley) by Bulgariana, Bulgaria

Good firm nose with dark plums, and dark cherries. This is very much a Cab. Swirl vigorously to release a damp grassy forest floor as cherries turn slightly sweet.

Body is nicely balanced front to back. There’s a hint of acidity. Plums are fairly dry and tart, providing good firm structure. As it breathes, a touch caramel softens the body ever so slightly. This is likely due to oxidation of those tannins since this wine is unoaked. A hint of leather carries over, as do slightly ripened dark cherries. This eventually subsides, giving way to a firm and ever tightening tannic grip. After a brief moment, a crisp caramel emerges before giving way to a gentle but firm spice heat over parched lips.

This is my second wine from the Thracian Valley. It is a classic, well built Cab. Great personality and value especially for the price. This Cab punches well above its weight. It’s always interesting to see this kind of execution from a region you seldom hear about.

Thank you Bulgariana Wine, G&B Importers