A Cabernet and Merlot Tasting

No pictures from our tasting this past Friday, because, out of some silly dare we made, the guys wore dresses for the tasting. 🙂

It was a fun evening – and not just for the sight of men in dresses. Dot and Miles had volunteered / were volunteered (details, details) to be in charge of the wine and food respectively, and they went all out. We had a stellar line-up from mostly Napa Valley with a sly bomb from Chile thrown in to confuse the taste buds. Miles had originally planned on just grabbing Thai take-out, but at the last minute decided that steaks would better justify the caliber the wines we were going to taste.

He showed up at my door an hour before the tasting, his 75 liter backpack crammed to the brim. What on earth did he bring? First he pulled out a bag of garlics and two loaves of freshly baked baguettes. Then a muffin pan. Next was a neat package of smoked pork tenderloin from his favorite (and now will be ours) butcher, Paulina’s. Then a gigantic ziplock bag of homemade caprese salad, and two ziplock bags of steak marinating in his specialty lemon-spice marinade. And finally, an electric grill, because he knew we didn’t have one. It was most astonishing. and we were most impressed. The food turned out delicious of course!

We tried blind tasting again, because everyone had a blast guessing and second guessing themselves the first time around. This time, while we didn’t quite succeed in identifying the wines down to their specific vineyards, everyone was able to quite easily discern the difference between Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. And we unanimously agreed that the best and favorite of the evening was the 2009 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five from Napa Valley. It had the most fragrant perfume of flowers, berries, minerals and earth, flavors that chased one another as we strove to pin them down in our long sniffs of our glasses.

Cabernet/Merlot Tasting – 5th April 2013

1) 2008 Silver Oak Cellars Twomey Merlot; Napa Valley $45-$50
This is a luscious wine of moderate alcohol that achieves a beautiful balance between ripeness and freshness. It has a garnet color with purple edges and an enticing nose of perfectly ripe, fresh black cherries, violets, nutmeg and dark chocolate. It has a bright attack and a satiny mouth-feel. The fresh cherry fruit returns on the palate and the wine is full bodied without being cloying. The finish is vibrant with notes of dark chocolate and enough tannic grip to ensure good cellaring.

— This was another one of our favorites of the evening (bottle #6 in our tasting line-up). Only Miles had tried it before, and he was quick to pin it down as Silver Oak. Aaron and I had our doubts, primarily because we’d had plenty of Silver Oak before and hadn’t been impressed. But now we know – Twomey.

2) 2009 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot; Three Palms Vineyard, Napa Valley $80-$90
With abundant red fruit notes and signature minerality, this is a classic expression of the qualities that have made this vineyard legendary in the world of Californian Merlot. Aromas of cherry, raspberry and red currant are underscored by hints of cola and freshly rained on river rocks. On the palate, the tannins are firm and structured, supporting ample currant and fig flavors, as well as enticing spice.

— The priciest wine of the evening, and as it turned out, not the best value for money (#1 bottle in the line-up). Nobody was much impressed with it when we first tried it without food. It tasted almost too sweet, without a lingering finish. But as the wine opened up, and as we stuffed slices of that delicious pork tenderloin into our mouth, we began to sing a different tune. Now the finish was rounder, heavier, and we tasted more of the minerals.

3) 2010 Shafer Vineyards Merlot; Napa Valley $50-$60
Gives everything that a Merlot should and more – lively, enticing red fruit with a core of deep, lush black fruit – red cherry and black cheery, red plum and black plum, spice and berry with hints of earth and smoke. This plush package is held together in a structure of fine, ripe tannins.

— #5 bottle in the line-up. Everyone quite liked it. I think I did too, but my attentions were more focused on identifying the #6 bottle.

4) 2007 Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon; Howell Mountain, Napa Valley $75
As a true mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, there is an unmistakable wildness to this wine—both in its robust structure and in the character of its fruit. Notes of forest floor, wild herbs, dried fruits and coffee support intense bramble fruit flavors, as well as layers of cassis and mulberry. Though the tannins are abundant and a little rustic, they frame the fruit perfectly giving the wine excellent balance.

— I wasn’t paying much attention when this bottle was revealed, though it appears to be bottle #4 (appears, because not everyone’s notes are in agreement). But my notes for bottle #4 were not complimentary ones – I thought it tasted cheap, with a disappointingly short finish. I guess I shall stick with Duckhorn Merlots then.

5) 2009 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five; Napa Valley $70-$80
A rich, boisterous wine endowed with tremendous palate presence and depth. Juicy dark red berries, flowers and mint literally burst from the glass as the 2009 opens up with some time. Year after year, the One Point Five is one of the most consistent and fairly priced wines in the highflying landscape that is the Napa Valley.

— #3 bottle in our line-up. The clear favorite of the evening. I was happy to just sniff at the wine the entire night. And I wish we had more room in our wine fridges so we could run out to buy a case. Just can’t get enough of its bouquet!

6) 2009 Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas; Maipo, Chile $20
91+ points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: Cedar and fragrant black fruits, outstanding volume with elegance, 5-7 years aging potential (Dec 2010). Last year, critic Jay Miller lavished some serious praise upon the 2007 vintage of this wine, calling it “one of the finest Cabernet values anywhere” and adding “if I were a young collector just starting a cellar, this would be an ideal wine to lay down.” This vintage the review is 1+ point higher, and I would call the wine a bit more crowd pleasing and generous, as well. There is more stuffing in the mid-palate, with generous fruit, though it does have a very similar sense of structure.

— Bottle #2 in our line-up. None of us had been very taken with this bottle, though we liked it more with some food. But it’s difficult to make a fair comparison when we were drinking it next to the One Point Five. For its price though, I’d gladly drink it again.


3 thoughts on “A Cabernet and Merlot Tasting

  1. Pingback: A Tour of 2009 Stags Leap District | grapeful

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