Browsing the archives for the Cabernet Sauvignon tag

What will you be drinking for #Cabernet Day?

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News and Events

Mark September 2 on your calendar now!  #Cabernet Day is just around the corner.  Join this worldwide celebration of all things cabernet!  Run out to the wine shop or rummage through your cellar to find your favorite cabernet sauvignon or cabernet franc and revel in these bacchanalian treasures!

Wanna take part?  All you have to do is drink a cabernet-based wine (duh) and tell the world about it.   Use the #Cabernet “hash tag” on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and many other social media sites.  Use the same hash tag to see what the rest of the world is up to.


Here are a few links to other sites of interest:
Hey, Hey Cabernet
Celebrate #Cabernet Day: taste then tweet
Cabernet Sauvignon Wiki
Cabernet Franc Wiki

Varietal Voyage No.19 – 2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah

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Varietal Voyage

The first syrah and the nineteenth wine on the Varietal Voyage is the 2005 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah ($19) made by John Giguiere and the crew at CREW Wines.

You might not recognize the Giguiere name but you’ll probably recognize many of the wines this family has made.  Before starting the CREW Wine Company in 2004, John Giguiere, his wife Lane, and brother Karl owned and operated the R.H. Phillips Winery (sold in 2000 and closed it’s doors last year) and produced well-known brands like Toasted Head and EXP.  With the addition of Dan Cederquist as partner and winemaker, CREW Wine Company produces several brands including: Chasing Venus, Mossback, Sawbuck, and of course, Matchbook.  From New Zealand to California, each brand focuses on the best wines that each region has to offer.

The Matchbook vineyard was planted in 2002 in the Dunnigan Hills region of northwest Yolo County.  Located about 35 miles northeast of Napa County in the foothills of the Coast Range Mountains, this area encompasses about 90,000 acres and is warmer and dryer than most grape growing regions. Fertile alluvial soils combined with well-managed pruning and irrigation help make this a suitable region for syrah.  Unlike R.H. Phillips which produced upwards of 750,000 cases per vintage, John and Dan are focused on reducing yields and increasing the overall quality of their wines.  As an example, the Matchbook vineyard yielded a little over 4,700 cases of syrah in 2005.  The Matchbook vineyard is young and still maturing, so it will be interesting to see how the fruit and wines develop with future vintages.

This was a very enjoyable wine and at $19 you can’t go wrong.  The Matchbook Syrah has a pleasant medium body with intense aromas of spicy ripe blackberries with maybe just a little vanilla and tobacco mixed in for good measure.  Normally syrah is a little on the tannic side and requires some aging, but the addition of some cabernet sauvignon (11%) adds some complexity and helps soften the wine making it quite delicious and approachable now.

2005 J.L. Giguiere Matchbook Syrah ($19)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Ramey Wine Cellars – 2005 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

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Tasting Note

A few weeks ago, Sue and I shared a bottle of David Ramey’s Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in tribute to a close friend who recently passed away.  We don’t normally drink wines of this caliber, mainly because of their rarity and price, but every once in awhile you need drink something extra special, even if it is for a somber occasion.  Sue and I looked at sharing this bottle as an enjoyable and memorable celebration of our friend’s life.

David Ramey is considered to be one of vanguards of the American wine industry.  For the past three decades he has used old-world techniques that emphasize terroir and applied them to new-world ideas helping elevate the quality and distinction of today’s California wines.

After graduating from UC Davis he worked for Château Pétrus where he learned the time-honored methods of winemaking from France’s top vignerons.  After returning from France, David helped establish some of California’s most well-known wineries including:  Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, and Rudd Estate.  In 1996, David and his wife Carla started Ramey Wine Cellars with the goal of creating great, terroir-specific wines using David’s unique blend of old and new-world methods.

Located in the town of Healdsburg in north-central Sonoma County, David Ramey and his team make a small variety of high quality, single-vineyard and appellation specific wines including several cabernet sauvignon blends, chardonnays, and a few syrahs.  The 2005 Pedregal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon and 15% petit verdot) is one of Ramey’s single-vineyard blends from the Pedregal Vineyard, on the stony slopes of Napa Valley’s Oakville district.  Through a long-term lease, Ramey Wine Cellars now has complete control over the vineyard and can make all of the critical management and harvesting decisions in order to get the best possible fruit for this unique wine.

Tasting Notes

It’s deep ruby, almost opaque color exudes a perfume of violets, cassis and dark cherries followed by aromas of coffee and bitter chocolate.  The succulent flavors of currants and ripe cherries are quite pronounced with just a touch of sweetness.  Undertones of cocoa, coffee, and earthy truffles add amazing complexity with a full-bodied richness that is intense but not overwhelming to the palate.  Even at this young age the tannins are silky and very approachable with plenty of aging potential.  Paired with a juicy, bone-in rib eye steak, this wine makes a great partner, but there is so much going on here that I would suggest drinking this wine on its own to fully appreciate every little nuance.

Midwest Wine School Experience – WSET Intermediate Level – Class 4

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Midwest Wine School Experience

The fourth class of the WSET Intermediate Level course delved into the world of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc. Covering three different varieties in one class made for a whirlwind session.  Jessica started by describing the three varieties and reviewed some of  the regions that produce some of the best and most age-worthy wines in the world.  We also covered the stylistic differences between wines from different regions, France and the US being a good example.  

For a good portion of the class Jessica reviewed the classic red Bordeauxvarieties (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a little about cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot).  She explained the differences between “left bank” and “right bank”.  The wines from here are blends of these varieties, with cabernet sauvignon being the primary grape in blend for “left bank” wines and merlot taking the lead in “right bank” wines.  This led into an informative discussion of the France’s AOC system and the Classification of 1855.  We also spent a good deal of time going over the how these varieties are being used in new world wines from places such as the United States, Australia, South America, and South Africa.  Many of the emerging wines from these areas are rivalling the quality and ageability of classic old world wines.

Sauvignon blanc also played an important part of the evening’s discussions.  This variety is a major player in the Loire Valley in the appellation of Sancerre.  It has a supporting role in Bordeaux, especially in southern Bordeaux, where it is blended with semillon to create the famous sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.  This popular variety is also being grown in many new world regions where is does quite well in cooler latitudes.  On New Zealand’s south island, Marlborough is quickly emerging as one on the best regions for sauvignon blanc.

Next week’s session will be led by Jaclyn Stuart, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food Pairing, who will guide us through the wines of Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Wines Tasted (Class 4):

  1. Apaltagua Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Colchagua, Chile)
  2. Chateau Reignac 2003 (Bordeaux, France)
  3. Zulu Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
  4. Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Merlot 2003 (Napa Valley, CA)
  5. Domaine Fournier Sancerre Les Belles Vignes 2007 (Loire Valley, France)
  6. Hunters Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Marlborough, New Zealand)

Varietal Voyage No.15 – 2005 Château Bernadotte

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Varietal Voyage

The fifteenth wine on our journey and the last cabernet sauvignon comes from the Haut-Medoc, on Bordeaux’s “Left Bank.”  Château Bernadotte is in the commune of Saint Sauveur, close to the western edge of the Pauillac appellation.  Even though Château Bernadotte lies within the borders of the Haut-Medoc (map) , it is only a few miles from prestigious neighbors like Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour, in the region of Pauillac.

Like the majority of producers in Bordeaux, Château Bernadotte has a long history, going back as far as 1645.  In the early 1800′s, The château recieved the name, Bernadotte, in honor of  Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a field marshal under Napolean I.  Attracted by the favorable climate and soils and its proximity to other classified growths in Pauillac, Château Bernadotte was acquired by Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in 1997.   In 2007, May Eliane de Lencquesaing, the owner of  Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande sold the majority interest of both properties to the Champagne house of Louis Roederer.

The vineyards of Château Bernadotte are blessed with similar soils to the classified properties closer to the Gironde River.  The sandy gravel promotes good drainage and a layer of clay helps the vines resist draught while the grapes mature.  Like most producers in Bordeaux, they have planted cabernet sauvigon, merlot, with smaller amounts of cabernet franc and petit verdot which are blended together create the final wine.  Because weather conditions in Bordeaux can vary dramatically from year to year, the proportion of grapes in the blend can change to adapt to the variations of each growing season.  The 2005 vintage is a blend of 49% cabernet sauvignon, 48% merlot, and 3% cabernet france.  Petit verdot was omitted from the blend in 2005.

The 2005 Château Bernadotte is well crafted with many of the qualities expected from a good Bordeaux.  This medium-bodied wine has a deep red color with fragrant aromas of plums, black currants and layers of earthy green herbs. Flavors of  juicy black currants and raspberries dominate the palate with overtones of mint and woody spice.  Bright acidity balances the ripe fruit as the aggressive grip of young tannins builds thoughout a long toasty, vanilla laced finish.  Unless you like dry, tannic wines, I recommend using a decanter or just letting is rest a few more years in order to soften the young tannins.  This will be great one to revisit in five or ten years.

2005 Château Bernadotte ($33)

  • 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc
  • Haut-Medoc, France

This was the last cabernet sauvignon on the voyage.  Merlot is the next variety we’ll explore, which will bring us back to Bordeaux sometime in the next few weeks.

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

2006 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Tasting Note

This past Wednesday I had the opportunity to taste Chateau Montelena’s 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($49).  It was included in a flight of wines that I tasted during the WSET class being taught at WineStyles in Brookfield. Sue bought a bottle of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon last year and is still resting in the cellar waiting for that perfect meal or occasion.  Although the 2006 harvest wasn’t as good as the one in 2005, I think this wine offered a good preview of things to come.

Chateau Montelena is at the northern tip of Napa Valley, in the heart of the recently christened Calistoga AVA, a region known for the quality its red wines.  All of Chateau Montelena’s vineyards for this wine are located close to the banks of the Napa River and share similar soil characteristics to those found in Bordeaux.  It is these characteristics and the hot dry California climate that deliver a complex and concentrated cabernet sauvignon.  Much like the winemakers of Bordeaux, Chateau Montelena has chosen to blend in small amounts of merlot and cabernet franc to soften the otherwise aggressive tannins of the youthful cabernet sauvignon and create additional layers of complexity.

Tasting Notes:

The experience of tasting this wine started off a little rough.  The first bottle we opened was “corked”, a notable flaw in the wine caused by tainted cork.  Rendell Thomas, the owner of WineStyles, was observing the class and offered to supply another bottle so we could fully appreciate what this wine had to offer.  The new bottle was much better, with no sign of cork taint. In the glass the ’06 has an intense ruby color with just a touch of purple round the edges.  Rich aromas of ripe black cherries and currants are laced with layers of spicy pepper and cedar.  The aromas carry through into the palate with lots of ripe black fruit at the forefront.  The acidity is well balanced making the ripe fruit seem juicier. Notes of vanilla and chocolaty spice are accompanied by the grip of young, ripe tannins that continue to build throughout the long finish.

2004 Chateau Siran

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Tasting Note

I originally intended to drink this bottle of Chateau Siran for Varietal Voyage No.15, but a funny thing happen on the way to the cellar…

Bordeaux is the source for some of the best cabernet sauvignon in the world, so this seemed the logical place to go for the last wine in this series.  With the exception of a few chateaux, red Bordeaux from the “left bank” (west side of the Gironde River) is typically a blend of several grapes with cabernet sauvignon being the dominant grape in the blend.  Chateau Siran just happens to be one of those exceptions, with merlot being the predominant grape (50%) and the rest being cabernet sauvignon (35%), and petite verdot (15%).  Of course, I didn’t realize this until I did a little more research about the chateau.  The Varietal Voyage was intended to explore the the subtle differences between many different grape varieties from all over the world.  Since this wine has more merlot that cabernet sauvignon, we felt that it didn’t fit into this flight.  With that said, we’ll defer the final wine in this series until next week.  C’est la vie!

Chateau Siran has been in existence since the 1420′s when the feudal lord, Guilhem de Siran was given control over the surrounding lands. For the next 430 years ownership of the lands changed hands several times over.  By the end of the 17th century Chateau Siran had developed a reputation for creating quality wines.  In 1859, four years after the famed 1855 Classification, the Miailhe family took ownership of Chateau Siran.  One hundred fifty years and five generations later the Miailhe family still owns Chateau Siran and continues to make top quality wines.

The vineyards of Chateau Siran lie in the gravely river beds of the Margaux appellation, just north of the city of Bordeaux.  Sharing much of the same soil and terroir of its first growth cousin, Chateau Margaux, it’s speculated that the quality of Siran’s wines are equal to, if not better than many of chateaux listed in the 1855 Classification. The soil, composed mostly of sand and gravel, has excellent drainage forcing the vines to grow deep to find water and nutrients.  The flat terrain and quality of the soil, combined with the time honored techniques of the winemakers create wines with the famed character and age worthiness found only in Bordeaux.

Tasting Notes:

Sue and I are relatively new to Bordeaux wines so this was a fun learning experience.  I found the ’04 Siran ($50) to be thoroughly enjoyable, but Sue was a little less impressed. One thing that Sue noticed was a faint odor of burnt rubber, a smell sometimes found in young wines due to the sulphur compounds created during in the wine making process.  Good thing is that this is almost always temporary and blows off quickly.  Thankfully the aromas of black raspberries and currants quickly took over, revealing themselves amongst flavors reminiscent of Chambord (minus the syrupy sweetness) with well-balanced acidity.  Throughout each sip was an underlying backbone of minerals and silky tannins, a classic trait of  Bordeaux wines.  Notes of vanilla and cinnamon carried over into a pleasant finish.

Varietal Voyage No.14 – 2005 Carlos Pulenta “Tomero” Cabernet Sauvignon

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Varietal Voyage

Varietal Voyage No. 14 is another selection from the Thief Wine Shop.  This time we’re exploring an affordable cabernet sauvignon from the high-altitude vineyards of Argentina. The 2005 Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon is just one of the many offerings from Carlos Pulenta Wines.   If you get a chance, try their Vistalba wines, blends of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a grape called “bonarda.”

Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon gets its start in the upper Uco Valley, 80 miles southeast of Mendoza, in a vineyard called Finca Los Alamos. Carlos Pulenta and his family have been growing grapes here for over thirty years.  This location is excellent for growing cabernet.  The high altitude (1,200 meters above sea level), long sun exposures, sandy/rocky soils, and constant mountain breezes work together to create concentrated wines with intense flavors.  One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in this tough environment is getting access to water.  The only real source of water is the snow and ice that falls in the Andes mountains.  As  the ice melts, it eventually makes its way down into the valleys below.  During the 1800′s, as farms and vineyards grew larger, there became a need to control the limited supply of water.  The tomero or “water supplier” was the person in charge of  regulating the precious supply of water by opening and closing flood gates that fed the fields.  Even though technology has taken control over most of the irrigation process, the tomero still stands as a symbol of Argentina’s agricultural history.

That’s enough history!  All in all, this is another good, affordable cabernet.  It has many of the characteristics of an Argentine malbec, with its medium body and ample amounts of ripe fruit and jammy flavors.  The nose shows spicy aromas of blackberries, currants, with juicy flavors of black cherries, followed up by layers of pepper and cedar.  The tannins were soft, almost non-existent; something I didn’t expect from such a young cabernet.  The finish is quick and clean leaving you with the faintest hints of cocoa.

2005 Carlos Pulenta “Tomero” Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage No.13 – 2007 “337″ Cabernet Sauvignon

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Varietal Voyage

Over the past few months we’ve tasted twelve white wines from around the world.   The next wine represents the beginning of the second half of our journey. For the next three months we’ll explore the world of red wines, starting with cabernet sauvignon.

337 Cabernet Sauvignon is made by, ironically, 337 Wines, one of the many brands owned by Delicato Family Vineyards,  “337″ is more than a catchy brand name strategy, it is the name of a special clone of cabernet sauvignon that originated in Bordeaux, France. The winemakers at 337 cultivate this clone in the fertile, but rocky soils of Clay Station Vineyard, north of Lodi, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The climate here is well suited to this clone, where hot, dry days force the vines to struggle for water and cool nights allow the grapes to rest, slowing the ripening process and concentrating the fruit flavors.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the idea that if you wanted drink a good California cabernet you had to endure some sticker shock – not so with 337. This one came as a pleasant surprise to the palate and the wallet!  Since this is such a young wine, the color is very intense with a captivating reddish purple hue that is nearly opaque (Don’t spill it on anything you can’t afford to throw out).  Being that it is so young, I expected lots of aggressive tannins.  Again I was surprised.  337 has well balanced tannins with juicy flavors of black cherries and currants and fruity aromas that seam to jump out of the glass. These rich flavors are followed up by layers of vanilla and black pepper toward the finish.  Enjoy this one with your next grilled steak or as a guilty (but affordable) pleasure!

2007 “337″ Cabernet Sauvignon ($11)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage – The Beginning

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Varietal Voyage
For sometime now, I have wanted to expand my knowledge of the vast viticultural world of wine. I have tasted a fair share of wines, but always seem to gravitate to the same familiar varieties. Not that there is anything wrong with liking a few good wines, but there is so much more to experience!

I recently read in Karen MacNeil’s “Wine Bible” about a plan for expanding your knowledge of wine. She spoke of a systematic plan, sampling different wines over a six month time frame. This was exactly what I was looking for. With a little research and some consultation with Sue, the plan was hatched!

Over the next six months, Sue and I will partake in a voyage of varietal discovery. The first three months focuses purely on white wines. The following three months are devoted to reds. Throughout each trimester we will explore four varieties and three different regions for each.

Month 1-3: The Whites

  • Sauvignon Blanc (US, New Zealand, France) – VV1, VV2, VV3
  • Chenin Blanc (US, France, South Africa) – VV4, VV5, VV6
  • Chardonnay (US, France, Australia) – VV7, VV8, VV9
  • Viognier (US, France, Australia) – VV10, VV11, VV12

Month 4-6: The Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (US, France, South America) – VV13, VV14, VV15
  • Merlot (US, France, South America) – VV16, VV17, VV18
  • Syrah/Shiraz (US, Australia, France) – VV19, VV20, VV21
  • Petite Sirah (US, France, Australia)

So that’s the grand plan – twenty-four wines over the next six months. Stay tuned. This blog will be the travelogue of our adventure!