I hope you've been enjoying Jul-vember! I for one am more than happy with the cooler summer for a couple reasons 1) I work in a fridge, pretty much, and can never quite acclimate to hot weather, and 2) Scottish people don't tan so much as rust.
I’ve been collecting a number of awesome Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines over the last few months, I present them to you here. We’ll go in a different order today and start with the US first, beginning with the unofficial cult wine of 2020:
Leviathan 2018, Napa/Sonoma. What do you get when the former winemaker of Screaming Eagle assembles some of California’s best hillside fruit? Beats me ‘cause I can never keep it on the shelf. Leviathan, a Cab-based blend (Merlot and Syrah ride shotgun) from higher-altitude sites in Lake Country, Sonoma and Napa, has already been a runaway hit with California drinkers, it’s a deeply hued powder keg of dark berries beneath a floral veil of violets and vanilla bean; given the structure I’d say you can easily cellar this but no one has ever done that – it calls to you across the house like your kid’s Hallowe’en candy and you will invariably surrender. Winemaker Andy Erickson strikes the perfect balance between power and grace, most people who buy a bottle come back for a case. This spanky-new 2018 hasn’t been rated yet but the last vintage I had was rated 94 Parker. You’re going to start seeing this at all your wine-friends’ houses so you may as well bring it first to make it look like your idea. 3 Cases available, $67.98 +tax
Hoopes 2014, Napa. Lindsay Hoopes never intended to take over the family winery from her dad Spencer, she was busy working Homicide in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, but a family illness brought her back to the farm and she never left. I wouldn’t leave either, her family owns the oldest pre-phylloxera vineyard in Oakville, and the other contributing vineyards in Yountville combine to make Hoopes some of the best value for Valley Floor Cab in Napa. This 2014 – reduced about $30 from its previous price – wears its drought conditions on its sleeve, showing intense red fruits surrounded by chocolate and cigar box with a full body and spicy finish. Generous and rich (like Bruce Wayne), Hoopes always leaves you feeling better so you can probably write it off as therapy. 2 6-packs available, $98.98 +tax
Honig 2016, Napa. Michael Honig calls me every December to thank me for carrying his wines. I don’t mention that because it makes the wine taste any better (it’s certainly not why I continue to carry it, I’m not that needy), but it does give you a sense of how literally down to earth his family’s approach to winemaking is. The Honig estate in Rutherford is a kind of Eden, they keep bees, birds and pest-sniffing dogs and build habitat for owls and hawks, in addition to pioneering a new, carbon-capturing way of farming that, if widely implemented, could be the climate equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road (I won’t get into it here, for further details on Carbon Farming follow the link at the bottom or allow me to corner you at a party). Sourced from Rutherford and St. Helena, this 2016 Cab exudes fresh blackberry and candied raspberry with Ceylon tea and toasted coriander seeds. Drinking lusciously now but could hold a decade, great Napa value. 4 6-packs available, $76.98 +tax
Austin Hope 2018, Paso Robles. No ratings in yet for the latest vintage of Paso Robles’ rising star, but if past is prologue it should earn raves. The decidedly modern and maximalist approach to Cabernet Sauvignon that Mr. Hope takes (that he learned from apprenticing at Caymus) easily blows the doors off of an Escalade; the layers of ripe blackberry, nutmeg and cherry cola keep their fat intensity from front to back, leaving a lasting footprint with hints of mint and licorice. Not all hand grenades are harmful. Not yet rated, 4 6-packs available, $69.99 +tax
Caymus 2018, Napa. Brand new vintage! Since I’ve run out of new words to describe this perennial benchmark Napa Cab, I’m going to perform an interpretive dance with the help of my friend Yves providing descriptive narration:
“Ok, Jordan is on the ground hugging his knees, now he’s rising slowly, up, up, up… is he?… he’s being born! Now his arm is rising, he’s holding something invisible, what’s in his hands? Is that… I think it’s a wine glass? It Is! He’s taking a sip – oh, now he’s sad – oh, because the glass is empty, of course. He’s curling down, back towards the floor in deflation, how sad! Oh – he hears something, he’s lifting his glass – someone is pouring him Caymus, I believe? He’s taking a sip – oh look the lights have turned purple, cool! Oh, a loud thunder clap! He lurches backwards, like he’s been blown back – oh, he’s happy! He’s so happy! Now he’s spinning around – wow the music is fast now – now he’s jumping, no real pattern, he’s just bouncing everywhere… OMG look at all the puppies! Someone has let a bunch of puppies on stage and they’re rushing towards Jordan, so cute! Now he’s playing with the puppies and drinking Caymus, so happy, and the lights are going down, I think it’s over? I’m thirsty…”
2 cases available, $106.99 +tax
Yarra Yering Red Wine No.1 2015, Yarra Valley. What a wondrous brew, this blend of two-thirds Cab with Merlot and Malbec from 50-year-old vines in the mysterious (to us) Yarra Valley. Winemaker (of the Year 2017) Sarah Crowe came to Yarra from the Hunter Valley, taking over this legendary house that almost single-handedly revived a wine region that hadn’t made wine since the 1920s. Several shades cooler than Barossa or McLaren Vale, the region makes Cabernet Sauvignon in a noticeably more herbaceous style – savoury herbs rather than mint – and this “Red Wine No.1” drinks like the improbable love child of Medoc and Sonoma, albeit with brighter fruit (it is Australia, after all). Mulberry and cherry vibes interlock with cassis and tobacco, dried herbs and vanilla; nice and round with present but balanced acidity and a loooong finish with eucalypt and blueberry. This is a real treat, guys. 99 points James Halliday, 18 bottles available, $91.98 +tax
Segla 2010, Margaux. The Second Wine to Bordeaux Second Growth Rauzan-Segla is classic Margaux, in that the lavender-hued nose of cloves and blueberry gives one the impression that the wine is softer than it is, before correcting that presumption with understated structure and power. Rauzan-Segla was cleaved off of a huge Russian-owned estate in the 1600s before getting classified in 1855, and is generally considered to be just under Palmer and Chateau Margaux in quality for that village. Now owned by Chanel, this 2010 Segla was blended by a winemaking team formerly of (First Growth) Chateau Latour before they retired in 2014. Two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cab Franc. 17/20 Jancis Robinson, 12 bottles available, $87.98 +tax
Croix de Beaucaillou 2010, Saint-Julien. The Second Wine to Bordeaux Second Growth Ducru-Beaucaillou stands apart from other Second Wines (although the term itself is nebulous and not quantifiable) in that it comes from its own vineyard with its own kick-ass black and gold label (designed by Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade), and is very much styled to be a Grand Vin in its own right, with a more pronounced oak treatment than many contemporaries. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Merlot from a hotter site further away from the water, this 2010 Croix is round and rich with plum, cassis and pencil shavings – standard sniffs, yes, but still outstanding – and is firmly in the Zone Of Awesome™ although another decade is more than doable. 17/20 Jancis Robinson, 94 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $163.98 +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.
Chateau Léoville Las Cases 2009, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. 99 points Robert Parker, 99 points James Suckling, 98 points Wine Spectator, 3 bottles available, $608.79
Blind Creek Collective “Consensus” 2014, Similkameen Valley, BC. 12 bottles available, $59.98
Quilceda Creek 2015, Columbia Valley, Washington State. 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 5 bottles available, $336.98
Cardinale 2012, Napa Valley, California. 98 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $404.98
Kathryn Hall, Napa Valley, each bottle $256.98
2012 97 points Robert Parker, 2 bottles available.
2013 96 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available
2014 97 points Jeb Dunnuck, 6 bottles available.
2015 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 3 bottles available
The link to the carbon-farming article:
Until next time, Happy Drinking!