Cabernet Shootout -
Notes and impressions from a Cabernet-themed tasting - Saturday, Sept 23, 2000, at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Twenty-two wines were poured for a tasting fee of $20. All of the wines were served single blind, with voting tabulated for the top three wines by each participant.
The wines, in the order tasted:
1997 Antinori Tenuta Belvedere Guado al Tasso - Bolgheri, Italy.
$59.99. Dark garnet color. Nose of cassis, mocha, oak, lots of shaved
chocolate, along with a hint of cedar. Nice semi-sweet cassis fruit, good
balance, with light oak and a slightly acid-driven finish. (60% Cab, 30%
Mer, 10% Syr.)
1997 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Napa Valley.
$89.99. Dark garnet color. Nose of cassis, with a lightly herbaceous
and earthy quality, as well as oak and dark olive. Very chewy mouthfeel,
good concentration, with lots of chocolate/cassis flavors, stays tasty
through long finish. (91% CS, 8% CF, 1% PV.)
1998 Grosset Gaia - Clare Valley. $35.99. Very dark
ruby garnet color. Tight and brooding nose of dark olive and oak, with
cassis and chocolate aromas along with a hint of cedar. Slightly sweet
fruit, big and chewy mouthfeel. Very tasty, if a bit chalky in tannins.
(75% CS, 29% CF, 5% Mer.)
1995 Ch. Lynch Bages - Pauillac. $65.99. Dark ruby garnet
color. Moderately herbaceous nose, with cedar, oak, and camphor. Slightly
and tart fruity initially, the mouthfeel seems to sweeten up a bit with
time. Somewhat chewy mouthfeel, with moderately long finish. (Vineyard:
73% CS, 15% Mer, 10% CF, 2% PV.)
1996 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages - Sonoma County. $79.99.
Dark ruby garnet color. Sweet ripe cassis fruit in the nose, with
a fabulous complex toasty and herbaceous quality. Mouth-filling fruit
and ripe mouthfeel, with a long toasty and tasty finish. (75% CS, 11%
Mer, 8% CF, 3% Malbec, 3% PV.)
1997 De Lille Cellars Chaleur Estate - Washington $48.99.
Dark ruby color. Slightly herbaceous nose of oak, hardwoods, ripe cassis,
with hints of Port and mocha. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, that seems a bit
thin in fruit. Toasty, but slightly thin finish. (66% CS, 24% Mer, 10%
1997 Frazier Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $35.99. Very dark
ruby color. Beautiful complex nose of mocha, chocolate, cassis, oak, and
toast. Slightly sweet and ripe. Thick and chewy mouthfeel, smooth tannins.
Seems very well made, with smooth long finish that has a nice bite at
the edge. (unknown %s)
1998 Cape d'Estaing Cabernet Sauvignon - Kangaroo Island. $39.99.
Very, very dark purple ruby color. Big nose of cassis, toast, dark
olive, cedar, and oak. Huge mouthfeel, off-sweet fruit, with a touch of
tartness that is all but obscured by the massive frame. (unknown %s)
1996 Waiheke Vineyards Cabernet/Merlot Te Motu - NZ. $39.99.
Medium dark garnet color. A bit stinky and cheesy in the nose, with aromas
of oak, cassis and stewed tomatoes. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, but also
a bit chalky through latter palate, leading to a somewhat thin finish.
(56%CS, 44% Mer.)
1998 Clarendon Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Sandown - South Australia.
$39.99. Very dark ruby color. Big complex nose of ripe cassis and
toast, with additional aromas of chocolate, cassis, and cedar. Beautiful!
Huge ripe cassis-filled mouthfeel, with lots of chewy fruit and long smooth
finish. (100% CS.)
1997 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 - South Australia.
$65.99. Very dark garnet ruby color. Nose of black cherry, perfume,
toast, and chocolate-cassis. The fruit seems very concentrated, with slightly
tart edges, and a long toasty finish. The slight hole in the center-palate
is the only shortcoming of this fabulous wine. (100% CS.)
1995 Ch. Leoville Barton - St. Julien. $49.99. Dark garnet color.
Nose of oak, cheese, dark olive, and cassis. Slightly tart and a bit sour
fruit fades to an oaky toastiness at finish. (Vineyard: 72% CS, 20% Mer,
1997 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Napa Valley.
$49.99. Dark garnet ruby color. Sweet ripe nose, with hints of tar
and brandy, sweet toast, and a touch of oak. On the palate, there is tasty
toast and cassis, leading to a long smooth finish. Rather than a chewy
blockbuster, this is a carefully-made complex and elegant wine. Reminded
me somewhat of a Peter Michael style of Cab.(94% CS, 3% Mer, 3% CF.)
1995 Ch. Clerc Milon - Pauillac. $47.99. Very dark ruby garnet
color. Nose of cassis, milk chocolate, cheese, toast cedar and a hint
of herb. Somewhat tart and sour fruit gets saved a bit by the nice toasty
and mouth mouthfeel. (Vineyard: 70%, 20% Mer, 10 CF.)
1998 Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon - South Africa. $23.99. Dark
ruby color. Herbal and leafy in the nose, with aromas of pine and cedar.
Initially acidic and oaky, the wine displays some decent fruit, leading
to a long finish, that's unfortunately thin, oaky, and leafy. (100% CS.)
1995 San Leonardo - Alto Adige, Italy. $42.99. Dark garnet color.
Nose that is inky, cheesy, oaky, toasty, and leafy, yet still remains
interesting. Leafy and steely mouthfeel, that also comes across a bit
thin in fruit. (60% CS, 30% CF, 10% Mer.)
1997 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $64.99. Dark ruby
color. Nose of sweet toasty cassis, cedar, and toast. The mouth doesn't
quite live up to the advance billing, and the fruit seems to be the tiniest
bit thin, yet does continue through long finish. (88% CS, 10% Mer, 2%
1997 Almaviva - Chile. $47.99. Very dark ruby color. Nose of ink,
toast, and cassis. Very toasty mouthfeel, with flavors of anise, and olive,
leading to a long toasty finish. (Vineyard: 70%, 20% Mer, 10 CF.)
1998 Geoff Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon Kuitpo - Adelaide Hills,
Australia. $27.99. Very dark ruby-violet color. Nose of ripe black
cherry, toast, and anise. Decent mouthfeel, with a tart quality to the
fruit and long slightly hot finish. (100% CS.)
1997 Seña - Chile. $42.99. Very dark ruby color. Herbaceous
nose of earth, rose petal, and anise. Tasty, rich, concentrated fruit,
with a somewhat steely long finish. (60% CS, 30% CF, 10% Mer.)
1997 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon - Washington. $47.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Nose of cassis with a bit of leaf and anise. Nice and
toasty mouthfeel; lots of very tasty fruit. (88% CS, 10% Mer, 2% CF.)
1997 Merryvale Profile - Napa Valley. $64.99. Dark ruby
garnet color. Lovely complex nose of toast, cassis, and grilled cheese
with a bit of leaf. Lots of tasty black cherry fruit and toast across
the palate, with smooth tannins and a long finish. (unknown %s of CS,
Overall impressions: well, if nothing else, this was a chance to compare the likes of Caymus, the [in]famous Cinq Cepages, and the Mondavi Reserve, as well as several Chateaux and some Aussies, all in a single-blind tasting. I've done this event each year since it was offered, and although one could arguably say that no comparison between these wines is really "fair," it has always been both instructive and fun.
I imagine the first thing that we all wondered was: which one was the Cinq Cepages? It turned out to be my 5th favorite wine, and was very nice. Probably the next question to cross people's minds was: how will the Caymus do? Well, for me, it finished right behind the Cinq Cepages. I thought both of these wines were very good, although certainly not "bargains" by any means. I was probably most interested in trying the Frazier again. From barrel, this wine just knocked me out. Yet, shortly after release it had seemed very tight and monolithic. However, judging from this tasting, the wine appears to have come through its short closed period and emerged nicely, finishing 4th on my scorecard.
Of my top three favorites, the Clarendon Hills had a beautiful ripeness of fruit, making it my favorite. Considering its price, it was also the bargain of the tasting. Both the Whitehall Lane and the Merryvale were fabulous wines, if somewhat pricier. Surprises? Not really. South Africa and New Zealand still have a ways to go to turn out top notch Cabs. The noses of each the Bordeaux were generally nice. And, although I expected the Bordeaux to suffer a bit in this field of ripeness, I was disappointed to see the '95 vintage drink less well compared to the rest of the wines.
The winners? Well, according to the final votes, the following wines were the top finishers:
'97 Merryvale Profile
Here is my order of preference, listed in order and by tier, of the wines tasted.
1998 Clarendon Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Sandown - South Australia. $39.99.
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