Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for December, 2008

Faust – 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on December 30, 2008

For more than ten vintages Quintessa in Napa Valley has been producing a Bordeaux style blend that does an excellent job of showing off its faust-logoRutherford lineage. A few years back they also started producing Faust. Faust is a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine with a Napa Valley appellation.

The 2005 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon is 77% varietal. 18% is Merlot and the balance is Cabernet Franc. Fruit was sourced in Rutherford and a vineyard south of Atlas Peak that will be called Tulocay in the future. The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months. 30% of it was new and the balance was one year old. The suggested retail price for this wine is $55.

Cherry, cedar and vanilla notes are prominent in the nose. From the very first sip and throughout the palate, there is a ton of berry fruit underscored by lighter vanilla notes. Earth, bramble, spice and mineral notes emerge in the mid-palate and continue through the finish which is long, lingering and incredibly smooth in nature. Throw in good tannic structure plus solid acidity and you have a classic example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This offering is a textbook wine to pair with Prime Rib.

What I like best about this wine is that it’s bigger, firmer and more structured than the average 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet. Many of the 2005’s I’ve tasted are on the softer side. The Faust is certainly approachable now, especially after an hour in the decanter, but it’s got the structure for mid-term aging too. I tasted this wine a second time after it had been open for 24 hours. It held up quite well.

This wine isn’t inexpensive. However there are many Napa Cabernet’s in this price range that aren’t as tasty or well made as the 2005 Faust. So if you’re inclined to spend the bucks on a 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet, here’s a fine example.

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Owl Ridge Wines – 2005 Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on December 27, 2008

or1The fourth wine I’m looking at that was made by winemaker Joe Otos is another Cabernet Sauvignon from Owl Ridge Wines. This time the fruit is from Dry Creek Valley. While Zinfandel is the first thing most people think of when it comes to this appellation, there are actually more acres of Cabernet Sauvignon under vine.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit sourced at the T.R. Passalacqua Vineyard. The wine was aged in all French oak, 40% of it new. 773 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $38.

Cassis, plum and blackberry fill the nose of this Cabernet. I was hit with a touch of Eucalyptus on the first sip followed by a ton of rich, mouth-filling berry fruit. In the mid-palate a hint of chicory comes put accompanied by tobacco and dust that is so typical of Dry Creek. Black tea notes emerge as a lead in to the finish which is filled with crushed cherries, white pepper and vanilla. Sweet chocolate notes slither in and out of the palate making their presence known from time to time. This wine has approachable tannins and good acidity.

My favorite component of this wine is the rich berry fruit that really comes to the forefront throughout the palate. Time in the decanter allowed this wine to express itself fully. Once it opened up a good bit of earthiness exposed itself that had previously been hidden. As with the other wines I’ve looked at made by Joe Otos this is lovely expression of the varietal. I look forward to keeping up with his wine-making in the future.

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Owl Ridge Wines – 2005 Brigden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on December 22, 2008

A couple of weeks back I looked at some Pinot Noir’s from Willowbrook owlridgeheadCellars. Joe Otos is the winemaker for those wines. He’s also the person who makes the two Cabernet Sauvignons I’m looking at today and tomorrow. These two Cabernet’s are from Owl Ridge Wines. Their focus is to produce Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County fruit.

The Owl Ridge Wines 2005 Cabernet was produced from fruit sourced at Brigden Vineyard. That vineyard is located in the hills between Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain. This wine was aged for almost two years in French oak, 40% of it new. 256 cases of this Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and the suggested retail price is $48.

This Cabernet opens with a big, fragrant nose full of violets. Blueberry and blackberry fruit dominate the palate, underscored by dark, dusty baker’s chocolate. Around the mid-palate cherry notes emerge and stay in play through the finish. Speaking of which, the finish is impressively long, lingering and memorable, featuring earth, spice (most notably white pepper), and mocha notes. This wine has firm but approachable tannins and good acidity. This is a very well built wine that lets the fruit shine on through. A steak would be an excellent match for this Cabernet.

The finish is what most impressed me about this wine. It goes on for quite a long time. While this Cabernet is drinking well now, especially after a solid hour in the decanter, it should improve for some time. My bet is that it shows positive evolution over the next 3-5 years and drinks well for 5 or so after that. The Brigden Vineyard Cabernet from Owl Ridge Wines is an excellent effort well worth the price. This is the sort of wine to consider for your holiday meal.

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Introducing Gabe’s Cocktail View!

Posted by Gabe on December 21, 2008

sake2me_front_pear1I’ve Just launched Gabe’s Cocktail View. As the name indicates this site will focus on cocktails, spirits and other non-wine beverages.

Take a peek today and check out my first post. It’s a story about sparkling Saké from Saké2me. They’re a California company that’s importing Saké from Japan and giving it their own twist by infusing Asian inspired flavors.

As Time goes on I’ll look at a wide array of spirits and mixed drinks. In addition to my own reviews, Gabe’s Cocktail View will also feature contributions from others from time to time.

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Barra of Mendocino – 2004 Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on December 19, 2008

The last wine from Barra of Mendocino I’m looking at this week is their Petite Sirah. This is a varietal that absolutely fascinates me. What seems to really get me excited about Petite is how much it can change over time. When they’re young they can be dense and monolithic and at the same time exuberant and bold. With age, well made Petite Sirah gains a lot of secondary characteristics and complexities. There are a number barra2of well made, reasonably priced Petite Sirah that will age nicely for a long while. One of the questions I set out to answer when tasting this wine is, would it be one of them?

The 2004 Petite Sirah from Barra of Mendocino is 86% varietal and the balance Zinfandel. 507 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $23.

If you’re going to drink this wine over the next couple of years, I recommend decanting it for a couple of hours. That time allows it to really come into its own and express its charms. Once it does, plum fills the nose with a touch of cinnamon underpinning it. The palate offers blackberry and cherry notes interspersed with dark, dusty baker’s chocolate characteristics. The finish has a bit of earth and some prominent chicory and spice notes that linger. Much like the other wines from Barra, this Petite Sirah is nicely balanced and built for food. Strong cheeses, roasted meats or a nice Italian Sunday dinner would be my recommendations.

I went back to this wine twice, once after it had been open for 24 hours and a second time after 48 hours.  In both cases, this Petite Sirah had simply continued to evolve and was even more exciting to drink. This wine will likely improve in the bottle for at least four or five years. I’d expect it to drink well for a decade or more. When you choose to drink it is going to come down to personal taste. It’s deep, dark, bold and brash right now. A decade from now it should have more subtle fruit and more prominent earth characteristics. Either way this is an excellent example of Petite Sirah. Barra of Mendocino is making some really nice, reasonably priced wines, I recommend checking them out.

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Barra of Mendocino – 2006 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on December 18, 2008

Pinot Noir is the next release I’m tasting from Barra of Mendocino. Along with Chardonnay, this Burgundian varietal is one that can be very hit and miss for me. While I love both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir when they are well made, there are way too many poor examples out there clogging up wine shop shelves. These poor examples often bastardize the grapes by over oaking them. In the case of Pinot Noir some wineries barraofmendologo300dpiblend in Syrah or even Petite Sirah to darken the color. All that said I approach every Pinot with a combination of great anticipation and little bit of fear.

The 2006 Pinot Noir from Barra of Mendocino is 100% varietal. This wine was aged in small French oak barrels. Just under 2,000 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $22.

Aromas of wild strawberry and cola fill the nose of this wine along with lighter vanilla notes. Throughout the palate black cherry dominates along with spice notes. The finish lingers and provides light mushroom as well as continued cherry and a hint of cedar and mocha. This is a very well balanced wine with terrific acidity. Decanting this wine for 45 minutes is recommended to get it to really open up and shine.

What I like best about this Pinot Noir is its balance. Truth be told that has been a hallmark of each wine I have tasted from Barra of Mendocino. I retasted this wine after it had been open for a full 24 hours and found it to be even more expressive. It’s drinking very well right now, but some earth should emerge over the next couple of years, if you’re patient enough to lay it down. Another lovely wine from Barra of Mendocino.

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Barra of Mendocino – 2006 Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on December 17, 2008

barra1A  couple of months back I tasted a Zinfandel from Barra of Mendocino. It was my first experience with their wines. I knew immediately it wouldn’t  be my last. After tasting well over 50 Zinfandels in a short period of time, the modestly priced selection from Barra emerged as one of my favorites. Over the next couple of days I’ll look at three more releases from this family winery. Their current release of Chardonnay will be the first.

The Barra of Mendocino 2006 Chardonnay is 100% varietal. 280 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $18.

Dueling apple and pear notes underscored by vanilla fill the nose of this aromatic Chardonnay. Throughout the palate this wine is soft and lush. Orchard fruit notes are prominent along with spice characteristics that all come together towards the middle for a striking reminder of apple pie. The finish features more abundant spices that bring fruitcake to mind as well as toast, mineral and a richness that builds as this Chardonnay lingers quite awhile. Excellent acidity and good balance make this wine a good selection to pair with lighter foods or medium strength cheeses. It also drinks quite nicely on its own.

This Chardonnay from Barra of Mendocino hits my sweet spot for the varietal. It’s full of fruit and spice notes. The oak is clearly present and adds complexity but never detracts from all of the fresh flavors. This wine is a clear bargain. It offers much more complexity and charm than the average Chardonnay in its price range. Stay tuned for looks at their current Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah releases.

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Valentin Bianchi – 2007 Elsa Syrah

Posted by Gabe on December 16, 2008

I’ve looked at quite a few wines from Valentin Bianchi over the last year. This Argentine Winery makes offerings in many price categories. Today I’ll elsalook at their Syrah.

The 2007 Valentin Bianchi Elsa Syrah is 100% varietal. There was some minimal oak aging, however the goal was to keep fresh fruit at the forefront. 3,000 cases of this wine were imported and the suggested retain price is $8.99.

Cherry pie notes underscored by vanilla and light nutmeg burst from the nose of this Syrah. Throughout the palate cherry continues to dominate along with some darker fruit notes in the form of plum. The finish adds a subtle layer of earth and a good amount of black pepper. This wine has good acidity and a light tannic structure. Hearty meats, mushroom based dishes and strong cheeses will be fine matches for this wine.

For less than $9 this wine offers good varietal character, nice balance and enough elements to keep things interesting. An offering to open on one of the nights you don’t want to break the bank, but you do want a decent glass of wine. Another solid and affordable offering from Valentin Bianchi.

Imported by Quintessential Wines

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Dry Creek Vineyard – 2006 Estate Fumé Blanc DCV3

Posted by Gabe on December 15, 2008

dcv3A couple of weeks back I looked at one of the Sauvignon Blanc’s from Dry Creek Vineyard. Today I’ll look at one of the others. They make three different Sauvignon Blanc’s. What’s impressive about that, is the distinction between them.

The 2006 Estate Fumé Blanc DCV3 from Dry Creek Vineyard is produced from fruit sourced in a single vineyard. The DCV3 stands, in fact, as the very first vineyard in Dry Creek Valley planted to Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was fermented in stainless steel. It’s made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc. 497 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $25.

The nose of this Estate Sauvignon Blanc is predominately filled with grapefruit and lemon notes. Throughout the palate both citrus and grassy notes are resplendent. White pepper accompanies incredibly fresh citrus flavors from the mid-palate through the finish. That long, persistent finish has drying mineral notes and a final hint of grass. This wine is crisp, clean and buttressed by excellent acidity.

A couple of things stand out above everything else about this particular Sauvignon Blanc. First of all it does an excellent job of combining both the grassy and citrus laden sides of the varietal. That leads to the second thing that impresses me. This wine has a vast array of subtle layers and complexity that reveal themselves if you take the time to consider this wine.

Compared to the Musqué the DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is leaner and crisper. Each is impressive in its own right, it just depends on what you’re looking for. Stay tuned as I’ll look at a third Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Vineyard later this month.


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Rosenblum – 2006 Vintner’s Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on December 11, 2008

Rosenblum Cellars makes a wide array of wines. Some are vineyard designated, some are region specific. Most people probably know them best for roslogotheir Vintner’s Cuvee Zinfandel which is widely available, and has been a positive value vintage after vintage for many years now. They’ve recently expanded that series and I’m looking at a couple of those wines,

The 2006 Vintner’s Cuvee from Rosenblum Cellars was made from fruit sourced from throughout California. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12. As with the Chardonnay it can often be found for $10 or less.

Black cherry, hints of cigar and emerging jam fruit elements make up the nose of this wine. Throughout the palate blackberry, cassis and white pepper are prominent. The finish has continued hints of each along with emerging dust and earth. This wine has light tannins and fair acidity. It’ll match with lighter meats, pasta or a slice of pizza.

What I like best about this wine is how smooth it is for its price category. The elements of fruit sourced from throughout the state make themselves known in different aspects of this wine. For $12 or less this wine has enough varietal character and complexity to keep things interesting. Its wide availability makes it a safe bet to locate.

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