Sunday night (May 18th) we attended a tasting at the Wine Cellar that featured big red wines at not “everyday drinker” prices–and they were definitely big. The tasting featured 18 wines in the $30 – $40 range, mostly California Cabernet, with a few Zins and Shirazes as well. When we walked in, the WC crew greeted us and, after collecting our admission fee, handed us nice Riedel glasses to taste with, so I was pleased from the get go. In addition to the wines, WC had a nice spread of 6 different cheeses and hard meats with plenty of baguette and crackers to help keep the palate going between wines. If you are a New World wine fan you definitely missed out. This was a great opportunity to taste some higher end wines side by side and truly compare their quality/value.
So let’s dive into the tasting notes. (These are not in the order I tasted and sorry the notes are a little gibberish-like)
2006 D’arenberg “The Laughing Magpie” Shiraz/Viognier ($33) – Cedar chips, boysenberry, vanilla blackberry and allspice. Great body, aroma and mouthfeel. Hint of floral.
2006 Heartland Directors Cut Shiraz ($33) – Butter, peppermint on the nose, cedar, blackberry, cherry and cinnamon. Nice spicy finish, big without being too big. Full and round, nice dry finish
2004 Neyers Pato Vineyard Zinfandel ($34) – Chocolate bon bons on the nose, raisin and plum, nice and peppery
2005 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon ($31) – eucalyptus, green pepper, plum with smooth tannins
2005 Stuhlmuller Cabernet Sauvignon ($38 ) – nice black fruit with earth and cinnamon top notes, great leathery tannins
2005 Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon ($56) – leather, cocoa and pepperoni on the nose with intriguing coconut truffle flavors. Nice firm structure, smooth velvety tannins
2005 Duckhorn Decoy (blend of all the 5 Bordeaux varietals) ($32) – raspberry with subtle earth notes, hints of cola flavor and very soft on the mouthfeel
2004 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($29) – caramel top note with black raspberry and cedar, medium body, a bit too hot on the finish
2004 Tobin James James Gang Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) – nice fresh blackberry, blueberry pie, nuttiness, huge leathery tannins; very nice
2005 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon ($38 ) – black currant, earth, raspberry, prune and leather, full bodied and smooth
2005 August Briggs Zin ($37) – Fig, date and coca with medium to full body with a spicy finish, good acid keep it feeling light with all those heavy “dark” flavors.
2006 Brown Estate Zin ($40) – meaty green beans, plum cherry and port flavors, full bodied and jammy
2004 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) – pepperoni and salami aromas, red currant and plum, very interesting dusty tannins and medium body
2005 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) – strong basil and thyme on the nose, stewed tomatoes, this seriously smelled and tasted like wine flavored pasta sauce – not in a bad way dusty tannic finish
2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (blend with Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot ($48 ) – cinnamon, blackberry, soy sauce, caramel and mint, huge tannins
2004 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon ($47) – vanilla and barnyard notes, nice cherry and plum flavors, fairly smooth with good strong tannins and nice finish
2005 Elyse Korte Ranch Zin ($32) – smoked meat, roasted peanuts and an extremely pleasant black currant jam finish, full body, very nice mouthfeel
2004 Stonestreet Fifth Ridge ($37) – black cherry, green olive, black currant and vanilla, very velvety mouthfeel
These were all great wines and I couldn’t say that any one of them wouldn’t garner their individual price tags. The Cabs were what you would expect from California, big body, bold tannins and lots of good dark fruit flavors. When you taste these wines, which as I said were all quite good, it is hard to justify paying $70+ dollars for the high-end big names that garner more attention. Although being the Caymus lover that I am, I still think it would beat all the Cabs in this tasting, but blind I would probably be shocked more than once. Haha!
So after all of these notes, which wines were my favorites? The Elyse Korte Ranch Zin was very interesting with some aromas I don’t typically associate with Zinfandel wines, though it delivered typical mouthfeel characteristics. The Elyse tied with the August Briggs for my favorite Zin– The Briggs had more of the typical flavor and aroma profile associated with the varietal. Favorite Shiraz went to the Heartland, which again had an awesome peppermint aroma on the nose that you don’t find on too many wines. It was big and bold but not in your face or over the top by any stretch, with great integrated flavors and a beautiful mouthfeel. Top Cab went to what I deemed the sleeper of the group, the James Gang Reserve from Tobin James. I have tasted Tobin James in the past and have enjoyed their reds (especially since they are around $16) but hadn’t tasted any that I would tell somebody they must run out and buy. Clearly I hadn’t experienced their reserve line, because this Cab really shocked me- it was quite awesome and still reasonably priced for a Cali Cab at $28. It was really smooth across the mid palate with nice dark fruit and nut flavors, and it delivered strong leathery tannins which helped provide for the fairly long finish.
Of the wines tasted on Sunday, all but 3 were new to me, so it was a great palate-expanding experience. I am always a fan of Honig and if I had a bottomless wallet I would have picked up a bottle of it as well as the Ramey Cab, which was also impressive, especially as only their 2nd attempt at making the varietal.
We had a blast, as I am sure you can tell. Thanks to the WC crew for putting on a good show and to the distributors (Robin, Bryon and Suzanne) for getting a good forearm workout in while pouring their magic elixirs.