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Archive for May, 2013

Jake’s Corner: A Great Cabernet Sauvignon

May 21st, 2013 No comments

Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the “King of Red Wine Grapes.” Though it’s grown in nearly ever major wine-producing country, it is most famously cultivated both in the soils of the Left Band of Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley, Cabernet is one of the world’s most sought-after wine grapes.

Part of what makes Cabernet so special is its versatility. It yields many different styles of wine, from fruit-forward, smooth styles to big, complex wines that showcase their tannins. The flavors it imparts commonly include blackcurrant, plum, raisin chocolate, blackberry, spice and leather.

There are four distinct styles of Cabernet Sauvignon. First is the fruity, fresh, and easy-drinking style. These make great everyday wines, and are smooth with little to no tannins. Then there is the intense fruit category, which makes a big impact on the palate and has detectable tannins. Third is a more complex and elegant style, with soft tannins and smooth, rich fruit flavors. This type tends to be excellent with food. The fourth style is a big-bodied, dense one. These Cabernets tend to be big, with distinct tannins that soften well with aging.

Like most people, I love Cabernet Sauvignon, and am always on the hunt for a great one. On Saturday, I decided it was time to open my only bottle of Backus by Joseph Phelps. Back in 2007, I purchased one bottle of the 2004 vintage and have cellared in ever since waiting for the right time. Well, Saturday, with a dinner of a ribeye, creamed spinach and scalloped potatoes, was it. Here is my opinion:

The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus is absolutely mind-blowing. It has a deep ruby color with blackberries, licorice, and black cherry, with a hint of chocolate on the nose. The fruit is extremely well-focused and balanced. The 2004 Backus is a powerful wine with soft, elegant tannins. It is silky, yet pleasantly sweet. It’s a full-bodied, powerful Cabernet — very fruit-forward with balanced acid. The wine danced on my palate with cedar, ripe plums, black cherries and currant.  The finish had a nice hint of mineral a sweetness that lasted a long ten seconds.

After enjoying a wine like this, it makes me wish I had another glass (and an unlimited wine buying budget). If you can get your hands on a bottle (or a case), I’d highly recommend this great wine.

Jake’s Corner: Wine Spectator Grand Tour

May 2nd, 2013 No comments
Jake Austad at Wine Spectator tasting

Vintage Cellars’ Jake Austad at Wine Spectator Grand Tour

Last Saturday, on a warm Las Vegas evening, representing Vintage Cellars, my wife Lindsay and I were able to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour.  Wines were poured from more than 225 producers, representing 15 countries and four states.  If you’re interested in good wine or learning about good wine, this is the place to be.  Though I think it’s impossible to taste 225 different wines in 3 hours, by the end of the night, it looked like some people tried.

As for Lindsay and I, we had a specific tasting plan that started with Champagne/Sparkling wines.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Nicolas Fuillatte Brut Rose.  I wanted to do a true side by side comparison of the Pinot Noir grape.  I selected Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Cote-D’ Or (France), Kosta Brown Russian River Valley (CA) and Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills (OR).  The Latour was a deep ruby color & showed a great expression of red fruits, raspberry & strawberry.  The silky tannins were exactly what I expected from a Burgundy Grand Cru.  The Domaine Droughin was a vivid red with berries fading into a very floral nose.   I picked up cola and licorice on the palate.  And finally the Kosta Brown had a ruby red color with nose and palate moving to from red to black fruits, strawberry to dark cherry.  I loved the long mineral, spicy finish.  I knew from the start I was destined to return to the Latour for another sip before the evening ended.

At this point, I had to change up my palate.   We were pleasantly surprised by the light buffet provided at the event.  From artisan cheeses, a couple of pasta dishes, a carving station and desert plate, it was enough to satisfy our dinner plans.  Just a quick stop before we were back focused on the next stop.

Next was the face off of California Cabernet and Bordeaux.  Though the list was extensive (and we eventually tasted more), I focused on 2 of each to start.  From France,  I selected Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Chateau Lynch-Bages.  From CA, I selected a couple of Napa Cabs, Kathryn Hall and Joseph Phelps.  To be completely honest, the Bordeaux’s were young and they need some time to rest.  Sure it would have been nice if there were a Premier Cru there, but I guess when you sell bottles for over $1000, you don’t pour them in Vegas.  I enjoyed the Joseph Phelps but the 2009 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet stole the show.  A deep ruby-red. Ripe aromas of dark fruits, baked berries and a hint of chocolate. Sweet , intense but balanced and ends a hint of oak, coffee and black licorice.  This was powerful wine with plenty of ripeness and depth.  In my opinion, buy now or forever hold your peace.  Put a case in your cellar and enjoy today, opening one every year to follow its development.

From this point on, I was done with the “professional” portion of the evening.  Lindsay had been enjoying all along and it was time for me to drink the wines and not spit.  Together we did a tour through Italy, Spain, Portugal and some new world wines (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa).   I found the Sangiovese grape to be a favorite, especially from Brunello di Montalcino.  Riojo might be my favorite region in Spain, especially the Grand Riserva’s which have a minimum of 5 years of aging.  There is so much more “research” to be done in both of these countries.  I enjoyed the Graham’s 20 year Tawny Port, but then again, who doesn’t like the rich toffee notes a good tawny provides?  As for the new world, I found something I don’t like, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  I couldn’t find any fruit notes over the green pepper and jalapeno nose.  The palate had an intense salsa punch.  I like salsa with chips but not in my Sav Blanc.

Of the 225 producers, we did our best.  I took tasting notes on 37 wines (remember, I had to spit for about half of those).  One last highlight, we did finish with the 2005 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes.  If you have no experience with Sauternes, I highly recommend you take your nose and palate for a ride.   We are looking forward to the event again in the future.  The Grand Tour was classy, with quality wines, good food and surprisingly not crowded (even though the tickets were sold out).  A fantastic experience, as long as you can control yourself in the casino before the 7PM start time.

Jake is Vintage Cellars’ Wine Cellar Specialist.  Each month in Jake’s Corner, he shares his wine insights, reviews, and tips with you! Check out Jake’s last post here.