A Heavenly California Cabernet Tasting

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - July 06, 2011
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Sleeper of the tasting

I recently attended a wine tasting party that was like heaven for anyone who loves California Cabernets. It was completely over the top! There were at least 80 bottles of wine on the counter with names that would make your head spin. Harlan Estate, Colgin, Bryant Family, Grace Family, Quilceda Creek, Bond (all of them), Corra shall I continue? Among all the reverie I happened to taste a few of them, maybe all of them, in fact. There are too many too comment on. Some were good, some were great and then there were those that were simply unforgettable. Those are the ones I include here.

* 2007 Harlan Estate is still a baby, but oh such a beautiful baby with wonderful potential. Robert Parker gave it a 100-point rating, and although I could never think a wine to be perfect, I can see why this wine is in his palate. It has tons of extract, liquid beef, blueberries and blackberries ooze from the glass. But it is polished and sleek. It is massive, but somehow, for all of that, it doesn’t seem to have anything out of place. Can you say Mr. Olympia?

* 2005 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon was a huge standout. With a few extra years in the bottle, this wine has added some beautiful complexity. Along with its hedonistic fruit essences and well integrated cedar-like scent of vanilla, it also melded in some earthy notes that really made it stand out from the crowd. The finish was like the sting of a man-of-war. You think it’s gone, then you taste it some more. It was really quite impressive.

* 2005 Winter Cabernet Sauvignon was a sleeper of the tasting. It had even more ripe fruit than some of the more expensive (relatively speaking) and more highly regarded wines. It is explosive on the midpalate with sweet cassis nuances framed by vanilla and anise. This is a wine that is a candidate for at least another 10 years of cellaring to find its true potential. This was rock solid.

* 1985 Louis Roederer Cristal I know it isn’t California Cabernet, but it was unforgettable. It has amazing complexity, roasted nuts, toasted coconut, figs, poached fruits and even a hint of vanilla. It is stunningly stylish on the palate with a plethora of flavors, gingerbread, cooked lobster shells, minerals and even a hint of chamomile. This stuff is so sexy I would take a bath in it.

* 2008 Levy and McClellan Ampersand was a new wine for my palate, and it was quite impressive. It has more than a fair dose of vanillin wood on the nose, but when you put it on your palate it melts into mocha and cocoa, which frame loads of dark cherry and blueberry flavors. I would imagine that this would be a great pair for dark bittersweet chocolate. It has a texture that is palatestaining.

* 1966 Chevaliers du Tastevin Corton Grand Cru is not something you would expect to drink at a California wine tasting, but man was it a treat! It has that ineffable mature Pinot Noir fruit with mushrooms, pebbles, sandalwood and dry cherry that I really enjoy and covet. On the palate it was pure silk, not a single hard edge on its lithe body. Ooh la la! Earthy and regal, just what aged Burgundy is all about.

Too many more to name, Opus One, Corra, Ridge Montebello, Aubert, Peter Michael, Yquem, the list goes on. I want to thank my generous hosts who put together this fabulous and motley crew of wine and wine lovers. You guys really know how to party!

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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