Merlot & Cabernet
Results of a merlot and cabernet tasting July 31, 1999 at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Eighteen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $25.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'97 Ravenswood Merlot Sangiacomo - Sonoma Valley. $18.99. Very
dark color; very nice nose of cassis, pepper, and sweet licorace. Tannic
fleshy mouthfeel and good fruit.
'97 Savanna Merlot - Napa Valley. $18.99. Medium dark color.
Nose is fleshy and candied, with black cherry, and anise notes. Sweet
fruit, fleshy mouthfeel. Very tasty.
'97 Emmolo Merlot - Napa Valley. $19.99. Garnet in color. Very
lush and cab-like nose, with complex aromas of casis, black cherry,
toast, shoe polish, and sweet sawdust. Slightly tart or semi-sweet fruit,
with somewhat "square" corners. Tongue-coating mid and after-palate.
'97 Neyers Merlot - Napa Valley. $24.99. Fleshy nose of shoe
polish, black cherry, toast, vanilla, and anise. Nose is somewhat shy
at this point. Big core of sweet fruit, with a good chewy fleshy and
'96 Astrale e Terra Merlot - Napa Valley. $29.99. Medium-dark
color. Fascinating vanilla and floral nose. Aromas of toast and cassis,
with hints of leaf and sweet sawdust. Extremely rich, sweet and inviting
nose. Fleshy soft fruit that is mouthfilling, if not quite chewy. Sweet
soft taste, with a very long finish that just goes on and on.
'96 Arrowood Merlot - Sonoma Valley. $31.99.Burnished garnet
color. Nose of cassis, cab franc, sweet tar, with a bit of stem, floral
aromas, vanilla and sweet burnished wood. Fleshy semi-sweet fruit that
gets sweeter through mid and after palate. Obvious core of fruit, though
slightly soft and smooth mouthfeel. Very long finish.
'96 Judd's Hill Merlot Orchard Creek Vnyd - Napa Valley.
$29.99. Ruby purple color. Leafy and stemmy nose of cassis, bing
cherry, black cherry, sweet sawdust, and floral aromas. A bit more prolonged
on the stemmy aromas than others in the flight. initially sweet entry
is overcome by some tartness. Fleshy and a bit sweet/sour with still
tannic edges, this one could evolve well if the tongue clinging acids
don't overstay their welcome.
'97 Quintanna Cabernet Sauvignon - North Coast. $11.99. Sweet,
peppery casiss fruit. Decent cassis fruit, but a bit hot and coarse
'97 Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon - Sonoma County. $12.99. Nose
of sweet cassis, vanila, cookie dough, tar, and anise. Medium fruit
and slightly coarse and hot in mouthfeel.
'97 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $13.99. Medium
dark ruby garnet color. Warm nose of plummy cassis and shoe polish,
with a candied touch. Bordering somewhat on tart, with some rough edges
apparent. Lacks depth, but the acids and a slightly tannic bite help
it finish up okay.
'96 Swanson Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $19.99. Dark ruby
garnet color. Less than effusive nose of rubbing alcohol, cardboard,
and toast. Nose does improve a bit with time and swirling, but stil
comes off a bit too medicinal. Sweet fleshy and slightly tannic mouthfeel.
Chewy texture, with mouth coating fruit, and very long finish. Some
of the cardboard qualiy seems to come through on the palate.
'96 S. Anderson Cabernet Sauvignon - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley.
$19.99. Nose is smoky sweet and a bit sharp, with aromas of cassis,
maple syrup, toast, and blue cheese. Sweet/sour fruit, with a somewhat
watery mouthfeel, especially at mid-palate. Very long acid-induced finish
that manages to conceal the shortage of fruit.
'96 Lewelling Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $28.99. Nose
of smoky sweet cassis, vanilla, and anise. Nice and chewy mouthfeel,
and toasty mid-palate. Exhibits a bit of coarseness initially, but this
smooths out through long complex finish.
'96 Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon Estate - Napa Valley. $29.99.
Nose of cassis, olive, and cocoa. Big and chewy mouthfeel with semi-sweet
fruit, toast and vanilla flavors. Toasty long finish, with a bit of
sourness noted in fruit.
'96 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville - Oakville District,
Napa Valley. $31.99. Deep and complex nose of herbal cassis, mint,
and eucalyptus. Semi-sweet chalky fruit, with a dusty quality to the
mouthfeel. Mouth-clinging tannins and oak. The fruit shines initially,
but seems to disappear after mid-palate, with antringency carrying the
wine through a long finish.
'96 Frazier Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $32.99. Wow! Here's
a Smorgy of strange aromas. Nose of BBQ, turkey gravy, potatoes, fresh
bread, and fountain pen ink! Not protypical, but very interesting. Semi-sweet
or sweet/sour fruit, and lots of it. Slightly chewy, and very tasty.
Long smooth finish.
'96 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $33.99.
Dark ruby-garnet color. Toasty and smoky nose of cassis and bacon. Big
chewy and fleshy mouthfeel, off-sweet fruit. Mouth-clinging flavors,
smooth finish, if slightly sour.
'96 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley - Sonoma
County. $49.99. Nose of cassis, tar, anise, aspirin, and ...concrete!
Good mouthfull of fruit, with moderate tannins contributing to a hint
Overall impressions: this cross-section of merlots and cabs produced very few stars. Though the Emmolo merlot was probably the best bargain in the merlot category. The Astrale e Terra was a very nice wine, and was the best of the merlots, followed closely by the Arrowood and the Neyers.
On the cabernet front, the Lewelling was my favorite, with the Merryvale being the best cab bargain. The Signorello and Silver Oak were both surprises, due to inconsistancy on Signorello's part, and to some dull flavor profiles often wearing the AV Silver Oak label. Both were quite nice this time. On the down side, the Spring Mtn and Swanson were both disappointing offerings this time around - the Spring Mtn can often be a real beauty, and the Swanson can be a real sleeper.
Finally, the S. Anderson is a "junior" offering, augmenting
the line's big brother, "Stag's Leap Richard Chambers Vnyd". It's an
interesting effort, but is really just a $12 wine in $20 clothing.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Astrale e Terra Merlot - Napa Valley. $29.99.
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