Monday, November 17, 2014

Wine Reviews: Cali Cabs & Merlots

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Since my last report on California Cabernets, I’ve received a lot of goodies, and some solid Merlots as well. Unsurprisingly, Napa steals the show, but this report features some impressive wines from other regions as well.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2010 Niner Wine Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Boot Jack Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $35
Dark ruby color. On the nose: currant jam, tart blueberries, some mocha, violets, deep loamy soil, sweet vanilla and dark chocolate. On the palate, I like the combination of tart acid and dusty tannins — the structure is great here. The cool red currants and tart blueberries come in waves, very clean and pure. I love the graphite, roasted coffee, underlying tobacco and sage elements. Complex, it has staying power, somehow both elegant and bold. Includes dashes of Petite Verdot and Carmenere, aged 18 months in 33% new oak. What a steal for $35. (91 points)

No big surprise: Caymus Cab slays.
2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Dark purple color. Gorgeous nose of blueberry, rich currants, blackberry, rounded out by cola, vanilla, loamy soil, sweet mocha and a hint of tobacco. Full-bodied and rich with structured but velvety tannins and some acid for refreshment. The fruit is layered and complex, with waves of blueberry, red and black currants and some dark plum jam, then add in the elements of cola, cedar, espresso, graphite, mint and tobacco. A bold wine but it presents itself well, chewy and smooth at the same time with a long finish. Shows surprisingly well but will unfold a lot in the cellar. (92 points)

SRP: $50
Deep ruby-purple color. Lovely nose of deep blackberry, boysenberry and currants, backed up by elements of cola, violets, plum cake and dark chocolate. Great balance on the palate between the dusty-fine tannins, medium acid and silky fruit. Flavors of black cherry, currants and roasted fig, mixed in with notes of vanilla, root beer, but also some loamy soil, black olive, graphite and charcoal. Complex and offering cellar potential, but oh so delicious now. The finish is long and smooth and fresh. A blend of 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 10% Petite Verdot, 13.9% alcohol. (91 points)

2012 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Bright magenta purple color. On the nose I get lots of blueberry pie, some blackberry jam, dark roasted coffee and violets. Bold and mouthfilling, glycerin-like with solid tannins and medium to low acid. The blue and black fruit is bold and rich and laced with dark coffee, caramel and milk chocolate. A full and fruit-forward wine with toasted oak and a big punch, but it’s clearly well-made stuff with a long a rich finish. Needs some time to fully express itself.  80% Cabernet, 16% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc and 2% Petite Verdot, aged 19 months in 30% new French oak. (87 points)

SRP: $80
Bright dark ruby-purple color. Nose of deep currants and black cherries along with cola, damp earth, sweet violets, caramel and clove. Juicy acid on the palate, moderately firm tannins, a smooth and enticing mouthfeel. Flavors of roasted figs, bright currants, black cherries, laced with smoke, graphite, tobacco, caramel, roasted chestnut and anise. A smoky herbal note on a long finish. Rich and age-worthy yet it’s smooth, fresh and food-friendly. 18 months in 75% new French oak barrels. (91 points)

The most expensive wine in the bunch,
but this 2011 Cardinale Cab is a beauty.
2011 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $250
Medium purple color. Nose shows smooth currants and black cherries, rich but nuanced, along with tobacco and roasted red pepper, root beer and coffee. Firm tannic structure but they’re not rough around the edges, some medium acid for balance. The black cherry and red and black currant fruit tastes tart yet rich, and it’s mixed together with complex cola, sweet red pepper, wet leaves, spearmint, caramel, dark chocolate and espresso. Very long and creamy onto the finish with bold toast and vanilla. I’m usually a little hesitant about this level of oak, but all the other elements are firing, so the oak is somehow restrained in spite of itself. Delicious right out of the bottle, but don’t think twice about cellaring this for three to five years and it will probably drink wonderfully for quite a while. 89% Cabernet and 11% Merlot aged 18 months in 81% new French oak. (93 points)

2011 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $75
Medium purple color. Aromas of deep blueberries, black currants and dark plums, underlined by caramel, mocha, anise, black magic markers with notes of graphite and. On the palate, solid tannins but they’re not too rough, medium acid, the fruit is rich and chewy (blackberries, currants, dark plums). Significant oak influence but it’s complemented with complex notes of pencil shavings, dark roast coffee, brown sugar, black magic marker. Smooth but rich on the finish, this is a big wine that needs time to mellow out, but it’s a beauty with a lot of depth and purity. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 19 months in 90% new French oak. (92 points)

SRP: $60
Medium purple color. Nose of dark plums, boysenberry and blackberry sauce, sweet caramel, chocolate and some scorched earth. Velvety and rich on the palate with moderate and dusty tannins and medium acid. Blueberries, blackberries and cassis on the palate, slightly roasted and jammy but the wine doesn’t taste hot. I get a mix of espresso, roasted chestnut, dark chocolate, campfire pit and wood shavings. The finish is creamy, rich and long. A deep and concentrated wine but it’s still easy to drink, although I’d gladly cellar this for two to five years to see it unwind. 100% Cabernet aged 28 months in 50% new French oak. (90 points)

SRP: $75
Vibrant purple color. Smells of plums, currant jam, sweet pipe tobacco, loam and cedar. Structured tannins, a smooth and velvety mouthfeel with medium to medium-plus acid. The red and black currant fruit is juicy and fresh, add in some blackberry sauce, anise and cola. I also get a note that reminds me of mossy rocks and wet leaves, which I love. Long, refreshing finish with lingering vanilla cola and cedar shavings. Beautiful now but should age nicely over the next five years or so. Aged 26 months in French oak and two years in bottle, includes 4% Merlot. (90 points)

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $20
Jammy blueberries, rich raspberry jam, sweet roses and red licorice on the nose. Rich and open on the palate with significant tannins but medium to low acid. High octane, but very pretty, with sweet raspberry and blueberry flavors, doused with mocha, anise cookies, caramelized sugar and toasted oak. Bold but juicy and easy to drink at the same time. Ready to go but will do nicely over two or three years. Cabernet and Merlot. (89 points)

2012 Amici Cabernet Sauvignon Olema - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $22
A deep purple-violet color. Tight on the nose, takes time to coax out the blueberry pie, blackberry jam, hints of mocha and caramel as well. Fleshy on the palate with blueberry and blackberry jam, supported by grippy tannins, a bit low on the acid for my palate. Notes of wet leaves, milk chocolate and cedar linger onto the finish. Perhaps it’ll smooth out a bit over the next year or two, but I’m not sure about cellaring it for very long. 91% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot aged 16 months in 30% new oak. (85 points)

2011 Franciscan Estate Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $20
Dark plum and black cherry aromas, mixed with smoke, roasted coffee, some violet and lavender notes. Fleshy on the palate, with ripe red and black fruits, supported by dusty-fine tannins and medium+ acidity. I really like the sleeker approach of 2011 here, seems to show more nuance and freshness. Espresso and cedar undertones, a hint of tobacco. Very well-put together with a long, tart finish. Includes 8% Cab, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah. (90 points)

2010 Grgich Hills Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
An earthy-ruby color in the glass. Lush nose of dark plums and currants, some loamy soil and mocha, some dried rose potpourri and tobacco notes. Rich and velvety but balanced and clean at the same time, with refreshing acid and solid tannic structure. Lovely berry compote, tart black currants, mixing with cedar, fallen leaves, moss and shaved dark chocolate, all sorts of complexities. Some sweet mocha and vanilla on the creamy and long finish. Lovely in so many ways, but dont worry about burying this in the cellar and forgetting about it for a while. (90 points)

2011 Clos du Val Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Aromas of red and black currants and cherries, tart but full, with notes of loamy soil, violets and a hint of black olive. On the palate, this wine shows fine-grain tannins of medium strength, with some tang from the acid. The berry and plum fruit is bright but rich, and laced with complex notes of smoke, earth, vanilla and loamy, rocky soil. Showing some potential for the cellar, although it’s fine to drink now, maybe with a few hours in the decanter. Includes 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

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