All Hail the King, Cabernet Sauvignon
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From Bordeaux to Napa Valley, and almost every major wine region in between, Cabernet Sauvignon is treated like a King. The style, taste and intent can vary greatly. There are several things incredibly appealing about making Cabernet Sauvignon. First of all, the grape can make approachable, food-friendly wines ready to drink from the word go, and it can also produce blockbuster wines capable of aging for many decades (not to mention just about everything in between). When they are big, structured wines sure to improve with age, the price can rise dramatically -- and let's face it, commerce is an appeal. Not to mention that vintners are trying to create the best art with the grapes from their little patch of land. Today I'll review three Cabernets with widely divergent price-points and intents.
The first selection is from Twisted Wines. They're a Central Coast producer in California that makes wine for everyday consumption. There are five different selections under the Twisted label: a couple of whites (Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay); and three reds (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel). Fruit for this selection was sourced from vineyards throughout California. Alcohol is a modest 13.5 percent, and this wine retails for $7.99.
The Twisted Wines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon has a bright nose that features a ton of red raspberry and lighter hints of vanilla. When you take the first sip you'll find a medium-bodied wine that alternates between dark and bright berry fruit characteristics. Touches of candied black cherry emerge, and lead to the finish which continues the berry theme, along with spice notes in the form of white pepper and nutmeg.
This offering is a great selection for everyday drinking. Pair it with hot dogs slathered with onions and chili -- your senses are bound to be pretty happy. This Cabernet is not looking to be contemplated for hours -- it's meant to provide simple pleasure. It does that. With its colorful packaging and low price it seems to be aimed at the Yellowtail crowd. For my money it's a far more interesting choice.
The next selection is from Martin & Weyrich. Their history in Paso Robles dates back almost 30 years, to 1981. When they bought their first parcel of land, only a handful of other wineries existed in the area. Today Paso Robles is a hot region recognized by more and more folks as an area with distinct wines, often at excellent prices. The array of offerings in the Martin & Weyrich portfolio is impressive. Initially focusing on Italian varietals, they have expanded to include Bordeaux and Rhone offerings as well. In fact, they have one of the widest selections in Paso Robles; but none of that would matter if they weren't making excellent wines (which they are). Today I'll look at their current release of Etrusco. This 2005 wine is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with 15 percent Sangiovese blended in. This offering spent 24 months in French oak, and half of the barrels were new. Fewer than 2,000 cases were produced, and the suggested retail price is $22.
The Sangiovese shows its influence in this wine immediately via baked cherries in the nose. The palate is mouth-filling and vibrant with continued red cherry as well as plum pudding spice notes. Oodles of earthy notes appear on the finish of this wine, along with some chocolate-covered berry notes. This wine has excellent acidity and will be a tremendous match for dishes featuring tomato sauce.
What I really like about Etrusco is that it's delicious now, but has the ability to age and improve for a number of years. At the $22 price-point, that's no small feat.
The final selection is from Cornerstone Cellars. This boutique producer of Cabernet makes just a few thousands cases of wine per year. At just over 1,200 cases, their 2005 Napa Valley designated selection is their largest current production. Their wines are made by Celia Masyczek, who is highly regarded and sought after. The offering is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was aged in French oak for 21 months. The suggested retail price is $65, and Half Bottles ($33), and Magnums ($130) are also available.
Violets, eucalyptus, vanilla, blackberry and leather are the most prominent elements of this wine's nose. It's a bit reticent at first, and decanting is certainly recommended. The palate of this wine is incredibly persistent. It simply keeps coming with deep, dark fruit flavors and copious spice notes. Espresso, black tea, kalamata olive, touches of flint and a ton of earth (that becomes increasingly prominent as this Cabernet opens up) are all part of a finish that is memorable in its length and visceral impact. This wine has tremendous structure and good acidity. It will be best paired with bigger, bolder foods. Grilled red meat and game are two solid options.
This wine from Cornerstone Cellars is a tremendous example of Cabernet Sauvignon. It does a great job of showing off what truly great Napa Valley Cabernet is all about. If you're drinking it in the next few years, decant it to really allow this wine to shine. If you can, tuck it away in your cellar for 8 to 12 years, and you'll be amazed how much it has evolved and come together. For $65 this is a special occasion wine for most of us. If you're going to spend that much, even for an occasion, you want some assurance you're going to get what you pay for. This wine is sure to impress.
Each of these Cabernets was made with different goals. I believe each of them hits its mark. Twisted is a tasty party wine you can pour anytime without pinching your wallet, and the Cornerstone Cabernet is a stone cold classic powerhouse Napa Cabernet. However, the Etrusco from Martin & Weyrich really over-delivers in its category. The complexity and age-worthiness it shows would be more common around a $40 price-point. Tip some bottles and drink some Cabernet, but if you do, don't forget to salute the King!