Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tasting Report: 2010 & 2009 California Cabernets

Ah, California Cabernet. I last wrote about California Cabernets in April, focusing specifically on some wines from Napa Valley. This report features a lot of Napa wines as well, including some real beauties.

Most of these wines — which were received as trade samples and tasted blind — come from the 2010 vintage, a trying year in many regions. Grapes struggled through a cold and rainy start to the season only to be hit with a heat wave in August, all of which gave many growers a reduced crop. However, these conditions also gave some of the 2010 Cabernets more pronounced acid and lower alcohol, qualities which many consumers (myself included) enjoy. It just goes to show that even in a tough year, vinegrowers and winemakers know how to make the best out of Mother Nature’s dole.

On to the wines…

2010 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Selected Vineyards - California, Central Coast
SRP: $10
Aromas of sweet cherries, red licorice and rose petals, a little bit of pepper. Medium-bodied and tangy acid, lots of bright cherry and raspberry with notes of caramelized sugar, red licorice and soft toast. A fun, easy-drinking style. (84 points)

2010 Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $62
Smells like a fruit medley of blackberry, blueberry and currant, but also some coffee and cedar. This is a big wine, but it’s surprisingly smooth. The firm tannins, creamy oak and fresh berry fruit work well together. The currant and blueberry fruit is fresh and full, slathered with smoke, cedar, roasted coffee and vanilla. It’s toasty, but relatively well-integrated. Very forward, open and inviting, with a creamy and slightly herbal finish. Serious stuff. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. (90 points)

2010 Hooker Rugby Club Cabernet Sauvignon Old Boys - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $32
A dark and juicy purple color. A strong nose of dark plums, blueberries, charcoal and ink. Medium-grain tannins on the palate, this is a plush and rich wine with lots of blueberries and blackberries. Sweet mocha and toast flavors match the fruit, but they don’t dominate. Medium acid keeps this from being overbearing, but it’s not a subtle wine. (87 points)

2010 Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Dark purple color. The nose is kicking with fresh currants, black cherries, dried figs as well as tobacco and mocha. Medium-grain tannins and surprisingly fresh acid make this a balanced and easy-drinking cabernet. A juicy mix of sweet blackberries and gushing cherries leads to notes of tobacco and baking spices. Overall, this wine has a creamy mouthfeel, well-placed toast and hints of hazelnut. Impressive finish. Seems like a candidate for the cellar. (90 points)

2010 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $80
A rich purple color. The nose is deep but also fresh, with currant, raspberries, charcoal and crème brulee. On the palate, firm tannins and fresh acid combine to form a rich mouthfeel. The currant and plum fruit tastes pure but maintains a tangy edge. Vanilla and some coconut shavings, but this wine also shows complex notes of pepper, incense and tobacco. Wow. Beautiful and delicious, but also a seriously concentrated wine that has a lot of potential for aging. (92 points)

2010 Hall Craig’s Cuvee - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Bright ruby-purple color. Smells of fresh cherries, cranberries, vanilla and toast. Medium-grain tannins, a bit low on the acid. Flavors of sour cherry, red plums, some bell pepper and earth. The vanilla and toast is really quite high, and it obscures the fruit a bit. The alcohol (15.6%) is persistent and the wine has a mocha-toasty finish. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. (85 points)

2010 Hall Darwin - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Highly aromatic, with lots of sweet cherries and raspberries, rose petals and vanilla. Firm tannins and medium acid make for a full but velvety wine. Sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit, dusted with pepper and olive. I generally have a good tolerance for oak, but I feel the oak overwhelms some of the subtle flavors. However, the acid really saves this wine, providing a sense of crispness throughout. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (87 points)

2009 Franciscan Estate Magnificat  - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
A bit compact on the nose, but it opens up nicely. Dark plum and black currant aromas, but it also smells like a forest: cedar, soil, leaves. Medium tannins meet refreshing acid on the palate. The fruit tends toward dark plums and dates, but there’s freshness to it all. Flavors of cedar, tobacco and charcoal mix in. A bit toasty, but all the other elements come together well, and the result is a silky-smooth wine. A full-spectrum Meritage blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Petite Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. (88 points)

The Buccella Cab ain't cheap but it's beautiful.
2009 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $145
A deep, toasty nose, focused on currant and black cherries, mocha, caramel and cedar. Bold and full on the palate, as grippy tannins meet with medium acid. The black cherry and plum fruit tastes pure and rich, but not overdone. The secondary flavors remind me of black olive, loam and pepper, and they work very well in this context. Quite toasty (lots of cedar) but it has plenty of other elements to balance it out. The finish is really long, with chewing tobacco, pencil shavings and mineral notes. This wine opens up nicely, but there’s so much in here to unpack over the years. Tasted blind, my first impression was: “OK, this is legit stuff.” 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. (93 points)

2010 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Conservancy - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $15
Nose of red licorice, some sweet red cherries and strawberries, mild toast. Medium-bodied with tangy acid. Tart cherries and strawberries lead the way, also some mocha and toasty notes. A simple but pleasant wine. (84 points)

2009 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $53
Smoky nose, full of blackberry and black currants, dusted with earth and charcoal. On the palate, firm tannins, medium acid and dense fruit. Lots of dark berries and fig flavors, matched with loam and charcoal and creamy-toasty oak. Ripe and dark, but full of elegance. The finish shows tobacco leaf and pepper. Delicious now, but this could age for four to five easily. (89 points)

2010 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $24
Lots of plums, blackberries and currants on the nose, sweet and a bit candied, almost raisined, some rose petals. Creamy textured but solid tannin structure. Plums, currants, the fruit tastes fresher and tangier than I was expecting from the nose. Lots of power here, with moderate toast, but the acid keeps it all fresh and balanced. Black licorice, espresso and some bell pepper. Burly, but there’s some freshness and complexity that make this wine really enjoyable, and it opens up a lot with time. A kitchen sink blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 10% Zinfandel, 4% Syrah, and 3% each of Malbec and Petite Verdot. (89 points)

These wines were tasted as part of a report for the daily wine blog Terroirist. Be sure to check out the site for news and notes on all things wine-related.

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