It’s Go Time here at Everything Wine River District, as everything that I’ve been waiting for all year has started arriving (some of it delayed out of Europe because… you know). Rather than bug you with daily emails, I’ll be sending out deep, comprehensive offers, but don’t skim over them too fast because there will definitely be things you want, herein. To begin, I present to you an immodest collection of Cabernet-based wines from around the world. Straight to the juice we go:
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2007, Margaret River. The Cab/Merlots from Western Australia’s Margaret River region have always struck me as a fairly constant paradigm: Bordeaux + Toaster. The balance is always consistent and proportional, but everything is just a little hotter and a little …more. Case in point: this … let’s say irradiant 2007 from Margaret River’s “Original 3” pioneer Voyager Estate (Jordan’s note to self: no “on fire”/”blazing”/”explosion” analogies when describing buzzworthy wines from Aus. or U.S.), showing a core of cassis and black tapenade under some slight wood notes and balanced tertiary aromas. Smells like a Left Bank but drinks like a Right Bank, rich and well put together, absolutely killer value. 96 points James Halliday, 12 bottles available, $89.98 +tax.
Hickinbotham “Trueman” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, McLaren Vale. Sourced from the high-ish altitude Clarendon vineyard (planted in 1971) which used to go into Grange, and made by guest winemaker Chris Carpenter from Napa’s Cardinale (I met Chris last year and everything you’ve heard about the moustache is real). A neat mix of sweet fruit notes and herbaceous aromas populate the jam-packed nose: mint, cocoa, blackberries and cedar, this has a serious structure and texture, setting it well apart from many McLaren Vale glug-fests (not that I’m against those). Boasts none of the flavours of Cardinale but all of the longevity, I don’t mean to keep ringing the Value Bell, but ding-ding-ding. 94 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $91.98 +tax
Black Hills Nota Bene 2018, Black Sage Bench, Okanagan Valley. There has been even more buzz for this particular vintage of B.C.’s Cult Wine than the usual deafening amount, not necessarily because it’s the 20th anniversary of Nota Bene, but because it’s the first vintage shepherded by their new whizz-bang winemaker Ross Wise, one of the few Masters of Wine with actual skin in the game. 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc 1% Petit Verdot, with familiar but refined notes of black fruit, instant coffee and sage over a deep, tense frame. This is a step up. We are still two years out from the drinking window but who am I kidding? Nobody listens. Peeps are gonna buy it all and drink it immediately and love it then ask me for more, but I’ll be sold out and all I can do is shake my head and sigh disapprovingly like the little pig who built the house out of bricks. 8 cases available, $61.98 +tax
Don Melchor 2017, Puente Alto. The top of the Chilean Cabernet Pyramid still belongs to this iconic flagship from Concha Y Toro, here celebrating its 30th vintage with this gorgeous 2017. That Don Melchor retains its throne despite other stellar Chilean Cabs rising to challenge it (and Santiago’s suburban sprawl now surrounding its single vineyard) is testament to the enduring partnership of winemaker Enrique Tirado and his Bordeaux Buddy Eric Boissenot, oenologist and consultant to 4 out of the 5 Bordeaux First Growths. Every year Enrique visits Bordeaux, barrel samples in tow, and he and Eric pick the Don Melchor blend out of the different parcels, and I guess some of those parcels are planted to blackcurrants because OMG. The Cassis notes drive, ride and fix the bus. Pencil shavings, crushed rocks and plums round out the nose – if it sounds like I’m describing Left Bank Bordeaux, that’s because it’s their North Star. A contemporary classic, first time in several years I’ve managed to land any. 99 points James Suckling, 95 points Wine Spectator, 3 wooden 6-packs available, $150.49 +tax
Pauillac de Latour 2014, Pauillac, Bordeaux. The 3rd wine to First Growth Chateau Latour is a love letter to Pauillac and a distillation of sheer expertise. Blackberry compote stirred with graphite then stuffed into a cigar box with a few bay leaves, over a medium frame held up by minimal, classic structure. 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot, it’s a junior version of the Grand Vin but drinking now, and as textbook a version of Pauillac as can be found. Delicious with a capital Yum, and one of the best deals for premium Bordeaux in my store. 18 bottles available, $168.98 +tax
Ashes & Diamonds Cabernet Franc 2014, Napa Valley. A hidden treasure of elegance and restraint from a region that has misunderstood and mishandled this grape for decades. “Why can’t you go play football and shoot rabbits like your big brother Cabernet Sauvignon”, Napa would say to Cabernet Franc. “Why do you always stay inside and paint pictures of flowers all day?” Napa would then force little Cab Franc to dress and act like Cab Sauv and the results were weird and wrong, as if someone put machine guns on a swan. Steve Matthiasson, however, treats his Franc like a Franc, and this is a stunningly gorgeous expression of the grape from Los Carneros (near the bay), showing herbaceous red fruit over a peppery frame with a touch of Old World funk on the long, velvet finish. Drinking wonderfully now with no caveats, although I’d love to follow its development over a decade. 12 bottles available, $112.98 +tax.
Neal Family Vineyards “Rutherford Dust” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Rutherford, Napa Valley. Planted in 1970, Rutherford Dust is one of the rare Valley Floor vineyards for the Neal family, who tend to favour the mountains and hills (like bears). The emblematic Neal structure and finesse is clear and present, however, in this timeless 2013, with perhaps a tad more weight around the middle (not that I know anything about that). Beautiful balance between the spicy sandalwood notes and the chocolate-covered blackcurrants, with wisps of menthol and coffee surrounding the finish. The “dust” in the vineyard name refers to the coarse, crunchy tannins that the plot is known for producing, but time has softened them to now support the body, not overthrow it. This is selling for about $40 cheaper than before. 12 bottles available, $125.98 +tax
Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley. Chuck Wagner doesn’t have a family crest but if he did it would be a giant barrel shooting lasers out of its eyes (this barrel has eyes, fyi) whilst it stomps over hordes of fleeing grapes. Admirably unafraid of oak and physics, his 2016 is perhaps the apotheosis of the Caymus ethic: bigness for the sake of awesome, a powerhouse Cab that probably has structure, but who can tell? Like Shafer Hillside Select, this ages by dint of concentration – and age it does, I was lucky enough to drink a 2005 of this not long ago. Intense blackberries rule the court with caramelized figs, cedar and dusty spice. The only wine to place at the top of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 twice, although this vintage isn’t yet rated… 1 6-pack available, 199.99 +tax
Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Santa Cruz Mountains. Such a lovely Cab, and I get so little. The mighty Monte Bello vineyard was first planted in the late 19th century, before Prohibition forced the owners to abandon it a few decades later. When Ridge acquired and replanted it in the 1960s, they began to notice that some of the new blocks produced a rounder, more immediately accessible Cab than was desired for the iconic Monte Bello bottling, so Paul Draper began to sequester those blocks into this compulsively gulpable Cab, although the winemaking is similar in the two labels: a hands-off “pre-industrial” ethic and the ultra-rare practice of using nearly 100% American oak instead of French (almost all Napa Cab is aged in French oak). This 2017 matches its cassis and blueberry with equal measures of cola, anise and violets. Predictably delicious. 18 bottles available, $99.99 +tax
DeLille Chaleur Estate 2014, Red Mountain, Washington. So glad I could nab one more 6-pack of this outstanding 2014 Chaleur, one of Washington’s most egregiously unsung Bordeaux blends. Cab driven with Merlot, Franc and Petit Verdot in supporting roles, showing licorice, coffee and cloves around the striking red fruit, this is plush but still quite tannic, I’d cellar this as if it were a 2014 Left Bank, another 4 years should do the trick? 6 bottles available, $130.98 +tax
Mettler Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Lodi, California. The last one I’ll leave you with today is an uber-tasty little gem from Lodi, one of the last regional bastions of value in premium Cali Cabs. It’s so hot in Lodi that CCR wrote a song about being stuck there, but that’s great news for Cab drinkers cuz these wines have built-in body, always drinking big and bold, if sometimes at the expense of nuance (but there are lots of Nuance Shmuance drinkers out there - you know who you are). The Mettler family is one of the largest landholders in Lodi (if this was the Middle Ages they’d be knights), and their son David does double duty both in his family’s cellars and at the local behemoth Michael David. Dark cherry, cola, cedar and fig on both nose and palate, it seems like it’s heading towards a big boozy mess but then lifts up on the surprisingly bright finish. Quite lovely and well balanced, vintage after vintage. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, 24 bottles available, $43.98 +tax
NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS
What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.
Continuum 2016, Napa Valley. 100 points James Suckling, 99 points Robert Parker, 1 wooden 6-pack available, $374.98 +tax (bottle price)
Raymond Generations Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley. 98 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $139.99+tax
Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley. 96 points Robert Parker, 9 bottles available, $187.98 +tax
Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. 98 points James Suckling, 97 points Robert Parker, 1 bottle available, $917.98 +tax
Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley. 96 points Robert Parker, 94 points Wine Spectator, 9 bottles available, $202.98
Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2009, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. 99 points Robert Parker, 99 points James Suckling. 3 bottles available, $608.79 +tax
Until next time, Happy Drinking!!