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"Cabernet Sauvignon over $20"

November 11, 2002 • Murphy Bank

Cabernet tasting group.In spite of popular coups attempts, first by Chardonnay and then by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon still reigns after more than 30 years as the general wine aficionados' favorite variety. To the consternation of all wine drinkers, save the excessively-well-heeled, prices for this varietal have gone ballistic. In search of examples that balance good flavors and reasonable prices, we tried eleven nominees. There was overall consensus that these wines were very good and in no way disappointing. In particular, we noticed how well the two wines from Lodi fared, showing strong varietal characteristics and no signs of warm growing area origins. Could it be that wine pricing often reflects excess ego and greed, rather than consumer value and an honest profit margin?


Brand Varietal / "Type"
Appellation, Vineyard

TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Alcohol. Varietal composition
(if known). Summary. ($ paid)

Wines are considered Equal Quality
Within Categories of Recommendation
(Listed Alphabetically by Brand)

consensus terms appear in bold
(possible flaws? are in brackets)
* indicates a second or third party


Domaine Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.Domaine Napa
Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Napa

Dark ruby; warm berry cobbler, cherry, peach, vanilla, cedar, cinnamon, mint, olive, dill, caramel and alcohol aromas (slight volatile acidity?); ripe, sweet red fruit flavors, cherry, earth with well-integrated toasty oak, vanilla; light body, supple, mellow, silky texture, slightly rich, viscous, good mouth feel; good balance (flabby?); soft, light to moderate tannins; somewhat quick finish. 12.5% alcohol. Although one taster thought the vanilla element was over-the-top (more than half remarked on it) and the varietal character is subtle, the wine has appealing mouth feel and is very nicely structured for current enjoyment. ($21 - available in restaurants only) WEBSITE n/a

Z D Cabernet Sauvignon.Z D Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Dark ruby with a brick edge; complex, very distinct Cabernet aroma with plum, cassis, spice, vanilla, anise, black pepper, cedar, tobacco, flint, tar, oak, alcohol and a hint of onion; ripe, sweet fruit flavors, cherry, mint, very well-integrated with some earth, oak, lees; medium body, light to medium tannins; excellent balance; harmonious, fairly long finish. 14.2% alcohol. While the flavors at present seem rather straightforward and dull compared to the classic nose, this is an exemplary and complete wine and should be a very good choice for two or three years in the cellar. ($37.50) WEBSITE


Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon.Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley "Signature"

Dark ruby; initially closed-in, tight, bright fruit, berry, candied, herbal, spice, smoke and earth aromas also suggest new leather, caramel, paraffin, terpene and Graham cracker; young, clean, attractive, deep, fruity, juicy, berry, cherry, cedar, char and tar flavors, deep and layered; medium to full body, fat, slightly rich; nice mouth feel, round, very smooth and very well-balanced with soft tannins; slight heat in the long finish. 14.5% alcohol. While the nose is moderately attractive, this wine's excitement is loaded into its flavors, balance and richness. ($34) WEBSITE

Mettler Cabernet Sauvignon.Mettler
Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Lodi

Very dark violet, magenta-purple; complex, young, fresh, clean, sweet, bubble gum, floral, violet, perfume, spice, eucalyptus, gobs of ripe fruit, grape, cherry, blackberry, pear aromas with roasted spices and oak vanillin; clean, ripe, sweet, cherry, extracted flavors with some earthiness, cigar box, smoke and charred oak; full body, mouth-filling; balanced, slightly tart with soft, dusty tannins; tannic, flavorful, slightly hot and long finish. 14.6% alcohol. Very much the "fruit bomb" of the flight, with clean, correct varietal aromas and flavors, good balance and plenty of intensity and complexity. ($20) WEBSITE


Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon.Cherryblock (by Sebastiani)
Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Sonoma Valley

Dark ruby-garnet; attractive, clean, ripe, fruity, cassis, currant, faintly eucalyptus, green olive, mint, cedar, oak and musty aromas remained closed-in through the tasting; sweet, chocolate, port-like, light fruit flavors with green olive, toast, tarry oak (too much?); light body, slightly astringent, light tannins; fair balance, a little flat, low in acid; finishes tannic, faintly bitter. 13.8% alcohol. Overall aroma impression, while varietally correct, is somewhat more subtle than the other wines in the flight and its fruit is simple and lacking depth. ($23) WEBSITE

Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon.Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles

Ruby with a garnet or brick edge; a little closed-in initially, but soon reveals clean, ripe, distinct Cabernet aroma, black cherry, red fruit, berries, vegetal, cedar, cinnamon, caramel and oak with a slight earthiness; big, ripe, bright, fruity, grape, blackberry, black cherry and oaky, tarry flavors; light body (thin?), firm, somewhat chalky, astringent tannins; good balance; slightly hot, very long finish. 14% alcohol. Slightly tight and restrained with well-integrated flavors of fruit and oak; probably a cellar-worthy candidate to gain harmony and smoothness. ($22) WEBSITE

Justin Cabernet Sauvignon.Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles "Unfiltered"

Dark ruby-purple with a garnet edge; light, ripe fruit, some berries, grape preserves, anise, cedar, tobacco, chocolate, vegetal, pepper, red meat and black tar aromas; pleasant, simple, ripe, fruity, cherry, raspberry, almond, eucalyptus and moderately oaky flavors; medium body, soft, mildly astringent tannins; good balance, slightly tart; medium-long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Nice wine, all elements in place, no flaws, but simple, with little to make it stand out in a crowd. ($20) WEBSITE

Mayo Cabernet Sauvignon.Mayo Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma "Los Chamizal"

Dark ruby, amber-brick edge; complex, jammy, blackberry and currant fruit, cassis, cola with eucalyptus, vegetal, dill, earth, dust, meat, leather, lees, smoke and oak aromas (Brettanomyces?); pleasant, clean, sweet, dried or Bing cherry, black currant and dusty, earthy, barnyard and cedar flavors; light body, mild tannins; well-balanced, slightly tart; medium-length finish, faintly tannic, bitter. 13.4% alcohol. Elegant, claret style wine. ($45) WEBSITE

Raymond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.Raymond Reserve
Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Napa Valley

Dark purple; ripe to overripe fruit with characteristic licorice, spearmint and cedar aromas and some initial volatile acidity (ethyl acetate?) and funkiness (sulfur?); good flavors mix berry, black cherry, mint and oak; medium-full body, snappy, quite tannic; round, good balance; moderately long finish. 13.8% alcohol. After revealing the identity of this wine, there was general agreement that we would like to try another bottle, since this one seemed unlike other Raymonds we've had and on the borderline of being flawed by oxidation. ($35) WEBSITE

Westbrook Wine Farm Cabernet Sauvignon.Westbrook Wine Farm
Cabernet Sauvignon
Lodi, "Peterson Family Vineyard"

Very dark magenta-garnet; young, sweet, bubble gum, perfumed, rose and a "fruit bomb" of grape, cherry, raspberry and blackberry pie aromas with hints of cola, vanilla, mint, dill, cedar, oak and mustiness; clean, sweet, fruity, grapey, cherry and faintly dusty flavors (medicinal?); medium body, somewhat soft tannins; good balance; long finish is slightly astringent. 13.75% alcohol. Another very good wine with plenty of Cabernet personality, flavor appeal and a Lodi appellation. ($25) WEBSITE


Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon.Smith-Madrone
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Dark ruby-purple; big, pungent, perfumed, herbal, green, vegetal, dill, beet, briary, weedy, eucalyptus, dusty, earthy, cedar, burnt toast and oak aromas (sweat sock?); strange, dill, briary, perfumed, barnyard, eucalyptus, vegetal and oaky flavors with some cherry fruit poking through; medium body, chewy, very astringent, drying tannins; balanced, but lacks fruit flavor; slightly hot finish. 13.6% alcohol. Very different flavors would add nice complexities and "terroir" identity to a core of varietal fruit aromas and flavors, but as the central theme, they come off as odd, strange. This wine also borders on the too-tannic. ($38) WEBSITE

This Panel included Regulars Mark, Deanna, Bob, Roy, Jon, Ray, Tammy, Jim L., Ron and Jim V. and Guest Peter
About Cabernet Sauvignon




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