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Jake’s Corner: Cabernet Around the World

December 12th, 2013 No comments

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine

One Monday evening last month, six people sat down for a blind Cabernet (and Cab-based blends) tasting. There were no experts on the panel. There were two people that prefer whites to reds. There was one experienced craft beer person, and there was me, representing Vintage Cellars (and I hold an advanced certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust).

The one amazing thing I enjoyed in the tasting was watching the participants get more excited as the tasting progressed. There was one cheat sheet with basic descriptions of primary to secondary red wine aromas and tastes. The cheat sheet was in constant use as the participants tried to figure out smell and taste. Each person became more and more involved and interested as we progressed through the wine. Keep in mind, this was a completely blind tasting.

The instructions were simple: Note the sight (color), smell(aroma) and sip(taste) of each wine. Each time, we had to guess which wine we had just tasted (we had a list of the six bottles) and also guess the price point. Here are a couple of points I discovered:

  1. With a few exceptions, everybody was within $10-15 when guessing the price point of each wine.
  2. With one exception, everybody was able to guess the Bordeaux.
  3. The most guessed right was four of six. The beer guy had two of six.
  4. Most were amazed at the quality of the Cabernet from Mendoza (Argentina), as their familiarity with Argentinian wines is “cheap.”

Here are some combined notes on each wine:

2008 Melanson Vineyard Matthews Block Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

  • Deep purple with long legs on the rim. Allspice, blackberry jam and dried fruit on the nose. A hot smell from the alcohol. Blackberry and prune on the palette start fading to leather and smoke. Fruit forward with soft silky tannins and a nice long finish

2009 Chateau Martinat Cotes de Bourg

  • Tawny color fading to brown on the rim. Cedar planks with an earthy animal nose. Very light on fruit with a hint pepper. Very dry with under developed tannins, tar, pepper and barnyard characteristics with little discernable fruit. This was the least favorite wine tasted by the group (of course I had a budget, so it wasn’t a first growth).

2011 Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Mendoza

  • A deep intense ruby color. Aromas of blueberry, blackberry and full of herbs: sage & basil. A deep silky texture that took over your mouth with a sweetness of dried fruits like raisins. Attractively sweet like blackberry cobbler. A long finish with smooth tannins that develop a thought of violets.

2007 Korbin Kameron Cuvee Kristin Sonoma Valley

  • Equally split between ruby purple, with aromas of black cherry, chocolate and tobacco. All fruit on the palate, concentrated cooked down blackberry, boysenberry and dried cherry. The tannins are soft and well-rounded.

2007 Guilliams Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District

  • Intense purple that appears almost black. Pepper, blackberry and chocolate on the nose with hints of cedar & cigar. It’s chewy like stewed black fruits. Hints of licorice, almonds and even basil. Very tannic with a dry finish. More licorice on the finish.

2088 Mazzei Philip Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana

  • Garnett in color. Black cherry, baked red apples, even dark red Jolly Rancher. Lots of black fruit aromas. A peppery zing when it first hits your palate with spice, chocolate and young firm tannins. A spicy finish.

Overall, there were three first place votes for the Korbin Kameron, two for the Melanson and one for the Susana Balbo. As mentioned in the tasting, the Bordeaux was the least favorite on each scorecard.

I’m looking forward to setting up a white tasting with Rieslings from around the world. Want to be invited?

-Jake

Categories: Tasting Wine Tags: ,

Wine Review: 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

August 30th, 2013 No comments

For many years, experts thought that the only worthwhile wines in the world came from Bordeaux, France. All that changed in 1976, at a wine competition in Paris known as the “Judgement of Paris.” There, French judges did a blind taste-test that pitted Bordeaux wines from France against Cabernet Sauvignons from California. Much to everyone’s surprise, the California wines blew away the competition.

Since the Judgement of Paris, California has been recognized as one of the world’s best wine regions. One grape California is especially known for is Cabernet Sauvignon. Different California regions produce different kinds of Cabernet Sauvignon. The hillside vineyards in areas like Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder have thin, less rich soils, producing intense wines that, very like the wines of Bordeaux, need to be aged for years to come to maturity. In contrast, wines from the more mountainous vineyards are often big, bold, and fruity, with deep, dark colors and intense berry characteristics.

In Healdsburg, California, above the Russian River Valley, below the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains, and east of the ocean, sits Clajeux Vineyards. Well-drained, rocky, volcanic soils and cooling breezes late in the day make this area a fantastic producer of Cabernet Sauvignon.

One wine that truly showcases this area is the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has aromas of red licorice and black fruits that are sweet like jam or preserves. There is a hint of flowers: violets and roses. On the palate, the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with blackberry and black cherry. The finish is long and complex, with solid but soft tannins.

The 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a rare wine that is suited to both be drunk while young, and also being aged for several years. If you want powerful fruit, drink it now. However, this is also an age-worthy Cab from the Mayacamas, and is likely to benefit from six to eight years in the cellar. For maximum enjoyment, purchase a case: drink one now, and open another every couple of years to experience how this wine changes with age and judge when it has matured to perfection.

 

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.

Upcoming California Wine Events

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Good morning, wine lovers! At Vintage Cellars, we know you love wine, and we’re pretty sure you love California, too (we sure do!). There are dozens of fantastic wine events in California–in fact, you could probably go to a different California wine event every day for the rest of the summer if you really wanted to. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like us, you simply don’t have the time for a wine event per day. But we’re here to help. Here’s a list of some upcoming California wine events you might want to visit.

  1. Magic & Wine: Really! On August 5 in Malibu, you can hit a wine tasting followed by a David Minkin magic performance. This unusual wine event only has a few tickets left, but other dates are available.
  2. Make a Wish: Drink wine for a good cause. On August 12 in Ventura, you can taste from a list of 100+ wines and bid in a silent auction, all to benefit the Make A Wish foundation.
  3. Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival: From August 9-12, the LA Food & Wine festival will be dishing out fabulous food and wonderful wines. Wolfgang Puck is already sold out, but there’s lots of other options available including Asian themed and caviar events. Check out the lineup–this is about 15 wine events in one!
  4. San Diego Wine Classic: Right here in San Diego, this one’s a bit further off but that just gives you time to plan! November 14-18 in San Diego, it’s billed as being the largest Southern California wine event. There’s a detailed calendar on the website, and it looks like there’s something for everyone.
  5. Cabernet: If you’re into Cabernets, this one might be for you. It’s a pre-release tasting of two 96 point Cabs: the 2009 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder and Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons. August 29 in Carlsbad.
  6. 5 Course Dinner Tasting: Also on the 29th, Groth Vineyards is having a 5 course dinner and wine tasting in the Normal Heights area of San Diego. Also heavy on Cabernets!
  7. Foxen Winemaker Dinner: August 12 in San Diego, Wine Vault & Bistro is hosting a tasting dinner. The food and wine menu are both available and it sounds like a truly delicious evening.

If you’re looking for a great wine event in southern California, these are all great picks. There’s also an extensive calendar of SoCal wine events (as well as other regions) at this website.

Have you been to a recent wine event in California, or know of a San Diego event we missed that’s a must-drink? Tell us about it in the comments!

Some Dry Red Wines

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Are you new to the world of wine?  Unsure what wines are considered to be “dry?”  Read on!

Quite simply, dry wines have the greatest alcohol content; their juice ferments until almost all of the grape’s sugar is utilized.  Thus, dry wines contain little residual sugar and are not “sweet.”  What common wines are considered dry?  Here’s a little list for the eager wine student:

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  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir (the wine that “goes well with everything”)
  • Merlot
  • Sangiovese
  • Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Red Zinfandel (it’s the White Zinfandel that’s the sweet stuff!)

Keep in mind that some of these wines may taste “fruity,” but do not confuse a wine’s fruitiness with its “sweetness.”  Fruit flavors often naturally balance a wine’s absence of sugar.  Also, don’t confuse a wine’s tannins with how dry it is.  Tannins can give sweet wines a “drier mouth feel,” but their abundance does not make a wine dry.  Remember: it’s all about the sugar!  Curious about how these wines taste?  Why not buy a bottle of each and host a few mini tastings, yourself?  You can easily save any leftover wine with the WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system. Cheers!

Red Wines For All Foods

April 5th, 2012 No comments
Chicken, traditionally served with white wine, can also be enjoyed with red wine.

Traditionally served with white wine, chicken can also be enjoyed with red! (Photo by Steven Walling)

If you’ve read our recent post, If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!, you may be wondering how to effectively increase your red wine consumption by substituting it for white.  The good news is that there’s a red wine alternative to just about every “traditional” white-wine dish!

Though it may take you (and some of your guests) a little time to get out of the mindset that certain foods must always be enjoyed with either whites or reds, specifically, the rewards are more red wine consumption at your table and (quite often) more interesting pairings!

Let’s start with fish!  When it comes to the creatures of the sea, white wine has been given dominion.  However, there are excellent reds that will not overpower your fine, flaky fillets.  Try a baked or grilled fish dish with a bottle of Cabernet Franc or a nice Cote du Rhone.  These red wines, because of their low acidity, blend quite well with almost all of your typical fish dishes.

Next comes pasta!  If you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce, experiment with almost any red!  Reds, in general, are fantastic with tomato sauces (especially those with meatballs!)  If your pasta is covered with a tantalizing cheese sauce, consider pairing your plate with a light Burgundy or Merlot.  These two wines are excellent compliments to cheese sauces of all kinds, even ones that incorporate a bit of spice!

Lastly, we come to chicken!  Like the numerous reds that go well with tomato sauce, I urge you to experiment!  For a few starters, consider pairing your bird with a bottle of Pinot Noir, Chianti, Barolo, or (a personal favorite) Beaujolais.  Beaujolais works especially well with recipes involving cornish game hens sprinkled with rosemary, as well as barbecued chicken.  Have fun, be adventurous, and keep track of the reds you find work best with your favorite “white wine” foods.  Enjoy!

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

Wine and Chocolate: What Really Works?

February 9th, 2012 No comments

So, you want to get your sweetheart a special wine to accompany the heart-shaped box of chocolates you’re giving him or her this Valentine’s Day?  What wine do you select?  Unlike “standard” wine and food pairings, pairing wine with chocolate can be a bit more tricky.  However, if you pair them well, the result is truly divine!  No matter if you’re pairing your wine with white, milk, or dark chocolate, here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction…

Chocolates for Valentine's Day: Pick the Perfect Wine

Photo by John Hritz (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Try to pair lighter, less complex wines with lighter, simple-tasting chocolates.  The reverse also goes; try to pair rich, robust wines with darker, richer chocolates, including dark chocolate covered cherries.  Since dark chocolate displays more tannins, combining dark chocolate with a wine packed with tannins has sort of a “cancelation effect” on the wine’s tannins, bringing out more of the wine’s inherent fruity flavor (which is just what you want!)

Because white chocolate is more subtle than milk or dark, it pairs very well with Sherry and Moscato d’Asti.  Though some people like to pair white chocolate with red or white Zinfandel, the counterpoint of flavors can sometimes provide a dissatisfying contrast (if not “sampled” for approval beforehand.)  Our advice: play it safe and stay away from Zinfandel unless you know your mate has enjoyed such a combination before!  Milk chocolate goes well with Pinot Noir, several Rieslings, and Muscat (one of our favorites!)  Ruby–not Tawney–Port is almost always a perfect fit for milk chocolate, so we recommend serving this dessert wine when in doubt.  Dark chocolate craves to be paired with wines that also display hints of chocolate.  A good red Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for a box of dark chocolates.  Merlot and Tawney Port also pair exceptionally well with dark chocolate.

We hope these suggestions aid you on your quest to find the “perfect” wine to accompany the chocolate delights you plan to present your lover.  (Remember, there’s no harm in buying a few extra bottles of wine so you can sample some combinations yourself before February 14th, just to be sure!)  Cheers!

Recipe: Wine & Lemon Sauce for Chicken

January 5th, 2012 2 comments

Every family seems to have a unique, coveted lemon chicken signature dish.  Perhaps this easy wine and lemon sauce recipe will help liven up your current poultry preparatory practices, or perhaps you’ll be inspired to add additional ingredients to make this sauce truly your own?  Here’s all you’ll need:

Sliced lemons, ready to make a white wine and lemon sauce.

A photograph of lemons by André Karwath

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine (we recommend any good Sauvignon or Fumé Blanc)
  • 2 lemons, or more
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

While your chicken is cooking, mix the flour, pepper, and salt together in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and wine.  Mix well!  Pour the mixture into a small pan, and heat on medium until the sauce reaches a desired thickness.  Next, cut your lemons, and squeeze as much juice from them as possible into the pan.  (You can add more lemons, if desired, and bottled lemon juice will suffice if you’re in a pinch.)  Stir quickly, then remove the pan from heat.  Transfer the sauce into a serving bowl, and top with parsley.  Spoon the sauce over your fully-cooked chicken, and enjoy!  As always, be sure to serve the wine you used to make the sauce with the meal.  If you have wine left over, don’t throw it out; consider using a nitrogen-based wine dispensing system like The Keeper Wine Preservation System to keep it fresh for the next time.  And to bring out the flavor of your Fumé Blanc even more, consider adding one or more of the following ingredients to your sauce: dill, basil, chives, crushed hazelnuts, mustard, or capers.  Mmmmm!

Wine for Christmas

December 22nd, 2011 No comments
wine in a gift basket

With Christmas and other holidays fast approaching, stores are packed with last-minute shoppers.  If you are among them, consider giving a loved one something very special this season: a basket of assorted wines.  Unlike socks, ties, and bolder clothing items that can be gambles (and unlike gift cards which, according to recent statistics, are rarely used in full), wine is a gift that virtually everyone of legal age can enjoy.  What is more, if some wines in your assortment do not suit your recipient’s fancy, she or he will often gladly open them for company.  (This means that none of your present goes to waste!)

A Polish Fruitcake

Polish Fruitcake, photo by Alina Zienowicz

Since some wines given at Christmas are opened the same day, it’s good to include a couple bottles that can pair with various holiday dishes like roast duck, turkey, beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, various pies, chocolates, peppermints, fruitcake, prune cookies…  In other words, be sure to include a couple wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc that will not clash wildly with the barrage of disparate food items they may be stuck accompanying!  Because some odd dishes do appear during the holiday season, perhaps it’s not too off the mark to include a bottle or two of a novelty wine?  For example, consider cranberry wine.  This sweet, curious wine will certainly generate conversation.  Like comparing apples to pears, it can’t be adequately described with the same terms used for grapes.  This wine goes well with poultry, fried chicken, and chocolate among other foods, and can also be sipped by itself.

On the more potent side, you may want to consider a plum wine.  This wine ranges from tart to sweet, and can nicely complement a variety of pies.  If you’re unsure about what wines to include in your gift basket, you may want to include a few reds and a few whites.  One example of a nice variety of wines is as follows: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  You could also substitute a bottle of port for one of the reds, or gift a bottle of port with two whites.  No matter what you eventually select, rest assured that someone will enjoy your gift! To encourage them to enjoy your gift right away, consider including in your gift basket a Rogar Estate Bronze Wine Bottle Opener. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

Rogar Estate Wine Bottle Opener