Notes and impressions from a Cabernet tasting - Saturday, Feb 17, 2001, at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Twenty-one wines were poured for a tasting fee of $25.
The wines, in the order tasted:
1997 Ferrari-Carano Merlot - Sonoma County. $19.99. Dark ruby
color. Slightly woody fruit in the nose with a touch of stem. Fleshy and
spicy mouthfeel, slightly coarse black cherry-plummy fruit holds up through
1997 Joseph Phelps Merlot - Napa Valley. $27.99. Dark ruby color.
Toasty and cheesy quality to the nose, with deep rich black cherry fruit,
and some obvious oak. Chewy and fleshy mouthfeel, black cherry and licorice
flavors, long finish. Pretty and impressive.
1998 Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon- Columbia Valley, WA. $18.99.
Dark ruby rose color. Slightly burnished cassis nose, with a rose-stem
quality, and carries somewhat more wood than fruit. Off-sweet fruit, dry
and toasty mouthfeel, with a kind of chalky quality to the long finish.
1998 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon- Seven Hills Vnyd, Walla
Walla Valley, WA. $29.99. Dark garnet ruby color. Nose of plums, cassis,
vanilla, mint, bittersweet chocolate, and some earthy tones. Sweet juicy
and chewy fruit, toasty and slightly oaky mid-palate, very long fruity
finish that show just a trace of heat.
1998 Cadence - Tapteil Vnyd, Columbia Valley, WA. $29.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Nose is mostly floral, with cassis and black cherry
notes, and toast and eucalyptus background aromas. Surprisingly light
and soft in mouthfeel, maybe due to the blend. Seems to be more toast
than fruit in the foreground. 50% CS, 24% CF, 24% Merlot, 2% PV.
1998 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon Mercer Estate - WA. $39.99.
Medium-dark garnet ruby color. Nose of cassis, oak, toast, vanilla, with
a touch of stemmy/earthy notes. Big and chewy mouthfeel, sweet-sour cherry
and black cherry fruit, long and very toasty finish.
1997 Buttonwood Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Ynez Valley. $16.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Stemmy and slightly minty cassis fruit, with a touch
of oak. Surprisingly close to variety for this appellation. The fruit
seems a bit sparse in the mouth, but the chewy slightly astringent body/mouthfeel
still seems well-balanced. Touch of heat shows toward the end of medium-long
1997 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon - Hilltop Vnyd, Paso
Robles. $22.99. Dark garnet ruby color. Nose of cassis, oak, toast,
vanilla, ham, and celery seed. Oaky, celery-influenced flavors seem to
actually compliment the cassis fruit in the nose. Slightly dilute impression
to the fruit on the palate, but the well balanced medium-full mouthfeel
is very drinkable and tasty.
1997 Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon - San Luis Obispo Co. $23.99.
Dark ruby garnet color. Ripe and slightly burnished cassis nose, with
vanilla and oak aromas. Full mouthfeel, sweet-sour fruit that continues
to get a bit more sour through the medium-long finish.
1997 Pas de Trois Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - Napa Valley.
$19.99. Medium-dark ruby-garnet color. Initially, the nose seems earthy,
ripe, and almost praline-like, with oak, vanilla, and tar aromas. Sweet
fruit, with a thick and chewy mouthfeel that get a bit oakier through
1997 Castle Cabernet Sauvignon - Orion Vnyd, Priest Ranch, Napa Valley.
$24.99. Dark garnet ruby color. Nose of cassis, oak, and a bit of
celery seed. Huge mouthfeel, with a kind of Popsicle quality to the somewhat
astringent raspberry and oak flavors. That same Popsicle sweetness gets
a bit cloying in the long finish.
1997 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $27.99.
Beautiful dark ruby color (this ought to get points for its color). Nose
of cassis, vanilla, black cherry, rose petals, and candle wax. Toasty,
slightly chalky mouthfeel, with lots of fruit and a long finish. Nice
1997 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Napa Valley.
$31.99. Medium-dark ruby color. Slightly restrained nose of cassis,
toast, and minty vanilla. Very nice concentration and balance, full mouthfeel,
toasty cassis fruit, long finish.
1997 Del Bondio Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $34.99. Dark
ruby garnet color. Somewhat herbaceous nose of chocolate, cassis, mocha,
and vanilla (smelled a lot like the '97 Karl Lawrence). Huge mouthfeel,
lots of cassis and toast, and a very long finish. Nifty stuff. The fruit's
from Rutherford in this beauty.
1997 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon - Wild Boar Vnyd, Napa Valley.
$41.99. Very dark garnet ruby color. Sweet and smoky nose of cassis
and charred hardwoods, with almost a pinch of BBQ sauce for tang. Full
mouthfeel, tasty and spicy fruit, with much of the smoke and charred wood
quality coming through across the palate, dropping just a bit through
the long finish.
1998 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $47.99. Very
dark garnet ruby color. The nose of sweet cassis and smoked woods almost
mirrors, to slightly lesser extent, the nose of the Flora Springs Wild
Boar. Full and astringent mouthfeel, tart and slightly sour fruit that
extends from mid through latter palate, and finally ducks out a bit during
the long finish.
1998 Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $44.99. Dark
garnet ruby color. Nose of cassis, vanilla, and Philly cheese-steak. Moderate
mouthfeel, the cassis fruit seems a bit thin, with a distinct minty pine
needle quality, and a long and still fruity(?) finish. This is the "regular"
1998 Harrison Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $45.99. Dark garnet
ruby color. Slightly herbaceous cassis nose, with a bit of leaf and sweet
oak. A bit thin in mouthfeel, but fruit and flavors are integrated very
nicely, and it all hangs together through the long finish.
1998 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon 17th Anniversary - Howell Mtn,
Napa Valley. $64.99. Medium-dark garnet ruby color. Somewhat restrained
nose of cassis and oak with a bit of stemminess. Moderately full mouthfeel,
nicely integrated fruit and flavors of cassis, dill and toast, and a long
1997 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley. $49.99. Medium-dark
garnet ruby color. Slightly herbaceous nose, that seems soft by comparison
to many others in the flight. Tasty sweet-sour fruit, a bit soft on the
palate, with more of an acid balance. And a long finish.
1998 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville - Napa Valley. $64.99.
Purple black ruby color. Slightly restrained, yet very concentrated and
herbaceous nose of cassis, toast, vanilla, and pepper. Huge mouthfeel
on the palate, mass of chewy sweet-sour fruit and toast, that is surprisingly
approachable at this point. Fruit is sourced from near Della Valle.
Overall impressions: very good flight. The Turnbull Oakville is a beautiful wine. But, if you want a junior version for 30 bucks less, grab the Del Bondio. I liked the Flora Springs Wild Boar and the Sequoia Grove nearly as much. In fact, after the Turnbull, I have these in a three-way tie, with a minor preference to the Del Bondio due to its excellent price. Two of the three WA Cabs showed quite well, with the Seven Hills slightly fuller in style than the Andrew Will. Now, if you just gotta have a Merlot, the Phelps is very nice, with its almost Cab-like intensity (and almost Cab-like price).
Surprises: the Hess, often uneven from vintage to vintage, was surprisingly tasty this time out. And the trio from the Central Coast were pleasant surprises as well. Both the J. Lohr and the Adelaida were missing the telltale jammy overripe fruit that has been typical of Paso Cabs, and somehow Buttonwood managed to get the green veggie streak out of its Santa Ynez Cab. Now, if they'd just price this juice at $8.99....
The '98 CA Cabs performed about as I expected, generally promising more in the nose than they delivered in the mouth. Big guns like the Harrison, the Lewis, the La Jota 17th Anniversary, and the Plumpjack each seemed a little less concentrated and or diluted in mouthfeel. They were all certainly nice enough, just not killer. And, at this price point, I want killer.
Here is my order of preference, listed in order and by tier.
1998 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville - Napa Valley. $64.99.
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