This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.
This batch of California Cabernet represents an interesting cross-section of regions, styles of vintages.
Running the gamut from candied, drink-me-now (or not at all) bottles, to sexy, cellar-worthy wines, diversity in Cali Cabs always intrigues me. Some of the wines I liked best were among the more expensive, but I was impressed with the high quality of several bottles in the $20-$40 range. And for about $50, I don’t know of a better Napa Cab than the 2011 Smith-Madrone.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.
2012 Parducci Cabernet Sauvignon “True Grit Reserve” - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
Vibrant plum color. A deeper, darker yet more subtle nose on this one, lots of violets and cinnamon on top of the juiciest black and blueberries. Wow, what an interesting nose, so much flowers, roses and even white flowers and baby’s breath, really unique. A full and creamy approach on the palate, but the tannins provide a moderately firm grip, a bit lower than medium acid. So silky and creamy with coffee, melted chocolate, baking spices and some dried flowers. I’d love to see these complexities come out after three or four years in the cellar. Aged 18 months in 20% French oak, this Cab includes 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah. (89 points)
2011 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Deep but bright purple color. A concentrated nose but it unwraps wonderfully with bright currants and plums, some intense notes of cedar, menthol, anise, smoke and paved road. Firm structure, the tannins are grippy but showing a coarse dusty presence, and the acid comes in balances it out perfectly. Tart red and black currants, lots of them, with some spiced cranberry sauce. Such complex earth and herbal notes that I could ramble on about them for quite a while. Suffice it say this is very complex. The spice and cedar elements are woven in perfectly with the earth tones. Hints of eucalyptus and mint on the finish, which is long and pure. Delicious now, but will be a beauty once cellared for four or five years. Includes 10% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot. (93 points)
2011 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
Dark purple color. Bright red currant aromas along with wild berries, complex and exciting notes of roses, cola, sweet cocoa powder and some A full-bodied Cab with firm tannic structure, I’m enjoying the clean acid and the sense of lightness it adds to this bold wine. Tart red currants mix with black cherries and dark plums, backed up by cola, pencil lead, pipe smoke and sarsaparilla. An oaky style (19 months in 91% new oak), a bit heavy-handed for my palate, with plenty of vanilla and toasted almond flavors, but the freshness keeps this exciting. A very long finish with tart berries and coffee. Includes 3% Merlot and 3% Cab Franc. Long life ahead, this would be easy to bury in the back of the cellar and forget for five to eight years. (92 points)
2011 Cornerstone Cellars “The Cornerstone” - California, Napa Valley
Magenta color. Lots of loamy and dusty soil on the nose, coffee bean, notes of cedar and pine, mixed in with tart black and red currant fruit. Starts off with a dose of refreshing acid, the fine-firm but grained tannins provide some weight for the velvety fruit. Black cherries and red and black currant fruit, all of it ripe but crunchy as well, the wine glides across the palate. Complex notes of black tea, sweet cocoa, cedar and vanilla and integrated well with the earthy and herbal aspects. Needs time to expand but a beauty. Impressive stuff, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. (92 points)
2012 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon “Stepping Stone” - California, Napa Valley
Dark yet vibrant purple color. Deep nose: currants, blackberry jam, smells like you made a paste out of currant skins. Sexy aromatic display with notes of flowers, deep earth, granite and sweet pipe tobacco. Full bodied, firm tannins but they’re fined down around the edges, medium-low acid. Well-structured and full of black and red currant and cherry fruit, a moderate level of extraction. Significant toast and mocha, this is a delicious and hedonistic wine that coats the palate but finishes long and clean. I’d love to cellar this for five or six years because it’s got a lot of stuffing for the cellar and complexity to unpack. Just a bit young at the moment but a very pretty Cab. (91 points)
2012 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
Bright purple color. Nose shows currants and dark cherries, sweet vanilla and cola, some elements of pencil shavings. A deeper nose, takes a bit more time to open. Full, velvety with dusty but firm tannins and moderate acid. The fruit is round but still tangy, black cherries and raspberries, accented by some dusty, earthy and loam elements. Toast-vanilla aspects are integrated and the wine finishes clean with complex hints of clove and roasted chestnut. Aged for 14 months in 35% new French oak, includes 6% Merlot. (90 points)
2013 Force of Nature Cabernet Sauvignon Mossfire Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Deep ruby colored. Smoky nose, with roasted coffee, mocha and campfire on top of tart plums and red currants. Full-bodied and ripe, moderate tannic structure, medium-low acid. Smoky, roasted notes, like dark coffee, toasted nuts and caramel on top of blackberries and currants, some loamy elements. Hazelnut and clove on the finish. Bold, but working well, a lot of fun. Aged 12 months in 20% new French oak. (87 points)
2012 Tooth & Nail Wines “The Possessor” Tolliver Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Bright ruby-light purple color. Complex aromas of plum cake and blueberry pie, but some deep floral and spice elements as well, along with mocha and cedar. On the palate, the blue and black fruit is so silky and juicy, but nice tartness as well. Dusty but firm tannins, some underlying medium acid keeps it balanced out. A tart but deep wine, so much juicy berries, with charcoal and graphite and crushed granite notes that are really connecting with my palate. Some vanilla and cinnamon on the finish. Lovely freshness but lots of fruits and spice, would be great with pork or grilled sausages. 14.5% alcohol. 70% Cabernet, 12% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 8% Malbec, aged 16 months in 30% new French oak. (89 points)
2012 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Réserve - California, Sonoma County
Bold magenta color. Deeply fruity nose, dark and luscious berry fruit, laced with tobacco and pepper. Velvety texture to this wine, silky and smooth with fine tannins and some acid to keep it clean. Bright red and black berry fruit, lots of delicious clove and baking spice notes. Dark red flowers, a looming presence of sweet roasted nuts, black cherry cola and vanilla. Enough complexity to keep it interesting, but this is a bright and approachable wine, easy to drink and ready to go now. Dashes of Cab Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot in here, aged in 20% new French oak. (87 points)
2012 Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
Ruby-purple color. Smells of black cherry ice cream, currant jam and roses, a unique and fun aromatic display. Acid provides freshness while the tannins are smoothed out and approachable. The fruit (black cherry, blackberry and currants) tastes tangy and tart, but also some jammy elements. Hints of tobacco leaf and cedar mix with mocha, clove and vanilla. Well done for the price. Includes some Petite Sirah and Merlot. (87 points)
2013 Belle Ambiance Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California
So sweet on the nose, like violets and cherry pie and red licorice, rich oak. Soft tannins, medium acid, a juicy and sweet wine with cherry and currant jams, some spicy oak and candied apple peel, sweet roasted nuts as well. Juicy and candied, not really food friendly at all. (74 points)