This year’s Mid-Priced Cabernets, High-End Cabs, and Cab-based blends fell into two categories. The first category, were wines with elevated acidity and lots of forward fruit flavors. The second category, were wines with very high tannin levels and muted fruit offerings. Overall, regardless of the style, we discovered some very impressive wines. In this report we will highlight all the big winners, with a spotlight on all the wines that scored 92 points or more. We will also spotlight a handful of Cabs that scored 91 points that were priced $50 or less. In a subsequent post I will present you with some Very Good value priced Cabs.
Which Cab or Cab-based blend was the best of the best? Let’s start with the winner from our Big Blind tasting! The 2006 Shafer “Hillside Select” for $215 received an Excellent score of 95 pointsfrom the panel. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap district was very distinguished and stood out in a blind tasting that included 15 of California’s highest profile wines. This impressive offering opens with a very attractive blueberry bouquet with hints of menthol, cassis, and gentle oak. On the palate, it is full-bodied, smooth as silk, and beautifully balanced. The panel loved its delicious blueberry flavors with pleasantly integrated oak. It went on to further express its complexity with notes of plum, dark chocolate, and anise as well. The panel could not say enough very good things about this wine.
The next three winners are wines that I covered non-blind over the last 6 months. These outstanding offerings each warranted 95 point scores from me. If you can get your hands on a bottle or so, you certainly will be impressed as well. First was the 2007 Robert Foley “Claret” which is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A small group of us really enjoyed this wine at the Robert Foley dinner at the Stonehedge Inn. This gem opens with a fragrant boysenberry bouquet with a hint of blackberry. It was full-bodied, very well balanced, and ultra smooth. That inviting palate presence evolved into blackberry flavors with notes of black raspberry and black pepper. There were hints of spice and gentle oak in the background as well. This complex wine finished with well managed tannins that just drifted away nicely. You will be impressed! Sticking with Robert Foley, I recently tried his 2008 “Claret.” It is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This vintage opens with a black cherry bouquet with a hint of blueberry, black pepper and oak. The palate notes mirror the 2007 in that it is full bodied, very well balanced, and ultra smooth. The flavor profile changes a bit as this wine displays delicious black currant and blueberry flavors with a pleasant dose of black pepper and oak nicely mixed in. Both of these gems cost $110 and were made to be enjoyed with a filet mignon with someone who will truly enjoy these wines.
The last 95 pointer has yet to be released. So you can get in line. It will be released in July and will likely be only available online or at the tasting room. The 2007 Kendall Jackson “Trace Ridge” Cabernet for $75 is a steal. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Knights Valley is a classic Cabernet! It is impressive, yet elegant at the same time. On the palate, it is full-bodied, quite smooth, extremely well balanced, and graceful. It displays very tasty black cherry flavors with a hint of gentle oak and blueberry mixed into the background. The finish is rather dry and its lengthy fine tannins go on and on and on. There are only 395 cases of this beauty so get in line early. It will be able to be consumed in the near term and like the Foleys, it would be perfect with a filet mignon.
The next two awesome Cabs received Excellent scores of 94 points. The first offering is a Cab I covered a while ago. It was the clear winner in our mini-blind tasting that I held last spring. It may be the best Pina wine we have tried to date. The 2007 Pina “Buckeye Vineyard” for $85 hails from Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. It opens with an attractive red currant and red cherry bouquet with just a touch of earthiness in the background. It was full-bodied, very nicely balanced, and ultra smooth. Its flavors were a delicious blend of mild blackberry and black currant with a hint of chocolate. It closes with dry and dusty tannins that pleasantly drift along and fade away. We described this wine as a wine to “Wow” your friends.
The next Excellent Cab finished in second place in our high end blind tasting. The 2007 Scarecrow for $225 might be a bit tricky to find because of the perfect number that Robert Parker bestowed upon it. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon opens with a fragrant and attractive black cherry and black raspberry bouquet with hints of menthol and vanilla oak. On the palate, we found this wine to be medium-bodied, well balanced, and satiny. The panel described it as having very tasty mild blackberry flavors with notes of plum and dark chocolate. The panel also detected a dash of black pepper and a hint of oak as well. It was quite complex. It finished big with very dry sticky tannins that sail on for a very long time. This special Cabernet was built for the Kobe Cap steak at Grill 23. All you need now is a very very big bank account as the price of this wine has skyrocketed!
The next grouping of Cabs and Cab-based blends all scored 93 points. Each one is rather impressive. The first one comes from a prominent Napa producer. The 2008 Caymus “Napa Valley” Cabernet for $68 is different from many of the previous wines. This offering is full-bodied, smooth, spicy and particularly fruit forward. Those forward fruits consist of ripe and extracted blackberry with notes of black currant. There is also some black pepper and spice mixed in as well. In the end it closes with dry, fine tannins that are slightly prolonged. We would suggest decanting this young Cab before serving it with a pepper encrusted New York strip steak.
The next wine was a newcomer to our Big Blind tasting and made quite a first impression. The 2007 Altus for $70 was tied for third place and comes in at a very reasonable price tag considering the price tag of the wines that finished near it. This blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Malbec, & 5% Petit Verdot is put together by the same folks that make Merus. This gem opens with a huge ripe blackberry bouquet with hints of cedar, eucalyptus, and blueberry. In the mouth, it is full-bodied, very well balanced, and so smooth. We all were impressed with its rich black cherry and black currant flavors enhanced by integrated mild oak and black pepper. Its finish displayed moderate tannins that were slightly prolonged.
Next up is the 2004 Tom Eddy “Napa Valley” Cabernet for $90. Tom had a great run with his 2004′s . If you recall we loved the 2004 Dr Crane’s Cab this spring. This Napa offering is quite impressive in its own rights. It is full-bodied, well balanced, and incredibly smooth. I loved its delicious gentle black raspberry flavors with notes of black cherry and a hint of plum. There was also a touch of black licorice and oak in the background which added to its intrigue and complexity. It closes with well managed, fine tannins that sail away so nicely. I enjoyed this wine over 4 nights. I savored every sip.
Our final two 93 pointers are examples of how a vintage impacts a wine. The 2006 versions of both these wines were all about rich flavors and bold tannins. The 2007 versions are both much softer and more approachable now. The first offering is for readers who really prefer finesse and elegance. The 2007 Quintessa Red Wine from Rutherford comes in at $140. It is medium to full-bodied, very well balanced, smooth, and silky. It presents delicious black cherry and gentle black currant flavors on the palate. There is also a touch of black pepper mixed in as well. Its refined tannins are quite classy and would pair perfectly with braised Colorado lamb chops. We close our 93 pointers with the 2007 Joseph Phelps “Insignia” for $225. This almost black colored blend finished in third place in our big blind tasting. It is comprised of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, & 4% Petit Verdot. It is surprisingly medium-bodied, very well balanced, creamy, and smooth. The flavor profile is a gentle plum and mild black currant with notes of integrated dark chocolate. The finish is very dry and its dusty tannins are well managed and show nice length.
For our 92 pointerswe will give you a quick snipit to wet your whistle.
Joseph Phelps 2007 Cabernet “Napa Valley” $54
This wine is full-bodied, nicely balanced, and smooth with gentle oak infused blueberry and black currant flavors. It is very food-friendly and went perfectly with beef bourguignon.
Merryvale 2007 Cabernet “Napa Valley” $65
This Cab from Merryvale is a sleeper in the high end range. It brings similar quality when compared to many of the other High End Cabs, but at a lower price tag. It is balanced, and shows plenty of upfront ripe fruit. We enjoyed it tasty ripe blackberry and black currant flavors. Serve with veal parmigianna.
Von Strasser 2007 Cabernet “Estate” (Diamond Mountain, CA) $70
This Cab opens with a fragrant cranberry and red currant bouquet with a hint of menthol. It is full-bodied and smooth in the mouth. It displays extracted and juicy black raspberry and licorice flavors. Only 213 cases made.
Von Strasser 2007 Cab “Spaulding Vineyard” (Diamond Mountain) $80
This offering is full-bodied, very well balanced, and velvety with oak influenced plum flavors. The finish is quite dry and its dusty tannins are quite grippe and show good length. Serve it with a well marbled ribeye.
Kendall Jackson 2007 “Trace Ridge Red Wine” (Knights Valley) $75 221 cases
This red blend from Kendall Jackson opens with a very fragrant and attractive boysenberry bouquet that really draws you in. It is full-bodied, nicely balanced, and very fruit forward with tasty blueberry and mild raspberry flavors.
Paul Hobbs 2007 Cabernet “Napa Valley” $75
This Cab is also full-bodied and very fruit forward. The panel enjoyed its extracted black plum flavors with notes of black pepper, menthol, and black cherry mixed in. They suggested pairing it with a NY strip steak
Pina 2007 Cabernet “D’Adamo” (Napa Valley) $75
The panel was a bit split on this Cab. Those who loved it, thought it was one of the top wines they covered all year. The other half thought it was a very big wine with lots of potential, but needs some time. It is medium-bodied, silky, and luscious with very fruit forward and extracted blackberry flavors. Try some and you be the judge.
Tom Eddy 2004 Cabernet “Meteor Vineyard” (Napa Valley, CA) $115
This 100% Cab is full-bodied, balanced, and savory with delicious spicy black cherry flavors with hints of menthol and pepper. It finishes with building moderate tannins. Pair with a New York strip steak
Duckhorn 2006 “The Discussion”(Napa Valley, CA) $115
This wine did warrant a Discussion. It opens with a very inviting black raspberry and blueberry bouquet. It was medium-bodied, very well balanced, and elegant. We loved its delicious black cherry flavors with notes of blueberry and a hint of red currant and vanilla oak. Its fine tannins make it food-friendly.
D.R. Stephens 2007 Cabernet “Moose Valley Vineyard” (Napa Valley, CA) $125
This Cab is full-bodied, slightly acidic, and displays savory fruit forward flavors. Those flavors are black cherry, dark chocolate, and coffee with a touch of oak. The panel suggested serving with beef bourguignon in the near term.
Chappellet 2007 Cabernet “Prichard Hill” (Napa Valley, CA) $136
This wine opens with a complex nose of mild black currant with hints of leather, eucalyptus, and black olive. On the palate, it is very well balanced and suave with delicious gentle blackberry flavors. It finishes with a hint of heat and its moderate tannins are slightly prolonged. The panel suggested pairing it with filet mignon.
Merryvale 2007 “Profile”(Napa Valley, CA) $135
This red blend opens with a ripe blackberry bouquet with a hint of smoky oak. It is full-bodied, slightly acidic, and displays a very lush mouthfeel. It displays spicy blackberry and oak flavors with some rich dark chocolate noted as well. It finishes with dusty tannins that are nicely extended.
Spotlight on 91 pointers that cost $50 or less:
Paul Hobbs 2007 Cabernet “Crossbarn” (Napa Valley, CA) $35
This wine is the best deal in the post! It was the winner of our first blind Cab tasting. It is medium to full-bodied, well balanced, smooth and silky with yummy black currant flavors with notes of black pepper and a hint of oak. The panel suggested pairing this gem with the Kobe Cap steak at Grill 23.
Chappellet 2007 Cabernet “Signature” (Napa Valley, CA) $42
The little brother to the Prichard Hill listed above. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and savory with very tasty black currant and black cherry flavors. It is food-friendly and above average for the price point.
Thelema 2007 Cabernet (Stellenbosch, SA) $41
This Cab from South Africafinished in second place in our big blind Cab tasting of mid-tier priced Cabs. It displays smoky oak flavors with notes of black cherry and black currant mixed in. Pair with beef bourguignon.
Beaulieu Vineyard 2006 “Tapestry Reserve” (Napa Valley, CA) $50
This red blend from BV is medium-bodied, balanced, and fruit forward. It is tasty with spicy black cherry flavors with hints black pepper and black raspberry. Our entire table really enjoyed it with our steaks at dinner so we ordered another bottle!
Carol Shelton 2007 Cabernet “Rockpile Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $50
This new Cab from Carol Shelton is almost pitch black. It displays very tasty black cherry flavors. It is very food-friendly and goes down easily. It did not last long and paired well with Roy’s prime rib.
Other 91 pointers that cost more than $50
Krupp Brothers 2006 Cabernet “Veraison – Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa Valley, CA) $60
Sebastiani 2007 Cabernet “Cherryblock” (Sonoma Valley, CA) $75
J. Davies 2007 Cabernet “Diamond Mountain” (CA) $75
Darioush 2007 Cabernet “Signature” (Napa Valley, CA) $80
Lail 2007 Cabernet “J. Daniel Cuvee” (Napa Valley, CA) $125
We wrap up with the 90 Pointers
Bella Vetta 2007 Cabernet “Ami’s Vineyard” (Howell Mountain, CA) $35
Kuleto Estate 2006 Cabernet “Napa Valley” (CA) $50
D.R. Stephens 2007 Cabernet “DRII” (Napa Valley, CA) $65
Charles Krug 2006 Cabernet “Vintage Selection” (Napa Valley, CA) $69
Swanson 2007 Cabernet “Alexis” (Napa Valley, CA) $75
St. Supery 2006 Cabernet “Dollarhide” (Napa Valley, CA) $85
D.R. Stephens 2007 Cabernet “Walther River Block” (Napa Valley, CA) $105
Tom Eddy 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon “Meteor Vineyards” (Napa Valley, CA) $115
We hope you enjoy exploring these High End treats as much as we did. If you are going to splurge, you should be drinking the very best. We are certain you will enjoy these winners!
Cheers – Ken
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