Artisan Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

What do you do when the weather turns fierce, and you’re stuck indoors for two-and-a-half days?

A couple of weeks ago, my area was blessed with 30 inches of snow.  Not an event that occurs frequently in my town, it brought things to a screeching halt.  Everything, I mean everything shut down.  I’ll give the meteorologists their kudos, we were forewarned.  So I put together a plan to wile away the hours by watching movies on my bucket list and enjoying some wine along with them.  I’m happy to say that is precisely what I did!  I ended up watching 5 movies and binge-watching a couple of TV shows to boot.  As for the wines, I started with a California Cabernet from Artisan Winery on the evening the storm arrived.

Winemaker:  Artisan
Wine:  Vintner’s Guild Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $12.99

Notes:  This was a dark Cab with scents of earth, pepper, currant and cedar.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and fairly light tannins for the varietal.  Alcohol was at 13.9%.  It was a very flavorful wine.  I’d call it “fruit forward” with flavors of dark berries along with notes of cedar, pepper, tobacco, and a hint of dry herbs.  It also came across a little sweeter than it’s 13.9% alcohol would suggest.  The finish was nice and long for a wine in this price range.  I liked it.  Made a nice wine to enjoy on it’s own, but I’m sure it will pair nicely with a variety of dishes.

Morro Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Morro Bay states very clearly that this selection is “Lodi Rules Certified” as being produced using sustainable practices.  With so much emphasis on the label touting this certification, I wanted to know more.

Ten years ago the Lodi Winegrape Commission established their “Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Program.”  Their website describes the program like this.

The Lodi Rules has two key components. First, the Lodi Rules promotes winegrape grower adoption of 101 sustainability practices, which we term “standards”. The standards were collaboratively developed by a team of Lodi winegrape growers and viticulture professionals, and were accredited by Protected Harvest in 2005. The Lodi Rules standards are the backbone of the program, and are organized into six chapters: 1) business management, 2) human resource management, 3) ecosystem management, 4) soil management, 5) water management, and 6) pest management. The standards meet three criteria: first, they are measurable; second, they address at least one of the three aspects of sustainability (environmental health, social equity, and economic viability); and third, they are economically feasible to implement. We believe that the Lodi Rules standards are the most thoroughly and rigorously vetted set of sustainability practices in California’s viticulture industry. All standards have been peer reviewed by third-party scientists, members of the academic community, and environmental organizations. Certified growers are required to implement a minimum of standards.

The second key component of the Lodi Rules is the Pesticide Environmental Assessment System (PEAS), which is unique to the Lodi Rules. PEAS is a model used to quantify the environmental and human impact of all pesticides applied in a vineyard. The PEAS model generates an Environmental Impact Unit (EIU) for each pesticide, which is based on the pesticide’s impact on 1) acute risk to farm workers, 2) dietary risks from acute and chronic exposure to people who consume the product, 3) acute risks to small aquatic invertebrates, 4) acute risk to birds, and 5) acute risk to bees and pests’ natural enemies. Pesticide use by Lodi Rules certified growers must fall below a specified level of PEAS impact units.

There’s more – quite a bit more, actually.  You can go to for additional info on the Lodi Rules.  One can see, though, that this is a serious endeavor to address sustainability on many levels.  I can totally understand why Morro Bay would highlight their certification on the label.  So, now back to the wine.

Winemaker:  Morro Bay
Wine:  Cabernet Sauvignon White Oak Estates
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  California
Price:  $10.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Cab was so dark it was almost opaque.  On the nose I smelled mostly balsamic vinegar.  There were touches of dark fruit and oak notes, but my schnoz thought the bouquet smelled mostly like balsamic vinegar.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.9%.  Don’t let my schnoz scare you away, though.  This wine had not turned.  Flavors I detected were a fruit foundation of cherry with pepper, ash, and eucalyptus notes along with a hint of raisins.


Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

I seem to be feeling the influence of Basque Country all around me.  First, I went to a restaurant where the proprietor and his cuisine hail from the Basque region.  At the restaurant, SER, I also had some Basque wine.  And now I have inadvertently sampled a bottle of wine from a Chilean vineyard whose name, Los Vascos, means “the Basques.”  What an unexpected alignment of the stars and grapes!

Owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild since 1988, Viña Los Vascos produces a full line of 4 reds (two blends, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Carménère), a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosé.

Winemaker:  Los Vascos
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2013
Appellation: Colchagua, Chile
Price: $8.99

Notes:  This Los Vascos was dark ruby and had scents of tangy berries, earth, moss, oak, and spice in he bouquet.  Medium-bodied and high in acidity, it was dry at 14% alcohol.  Tannins were medium with a quick, firm grip.  It took a good twenty minutes for this selection to breathe.  Once it settled, I caught pepper, brambly woodiness, tobacco, camphor and red berries on the palate.  Pretty decent at this price point, I think.


Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

I love it when somebody recommends a wine to me, especially when their recommendation is on point for my personal preferences.  I’m happy to say that’s what happened with this budget Cab.

Winemaker:  Dark Horse
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  California
Price:  $12.99*

Notes:  This purpley Cab had a bouquet including oak, barnyard, mint, vanilla and dark berries.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  Flavors I detected were a fruit foundation of plum and dark berry, sweet clove, pepper, oak, and a touch of tar.  This wine was a pretty good mouthful of viniferous enjoyment.  It was especially round and full right at opening, but it remained quite nice throughout for an inexpensive Cab.  A decent value.

* This was the retail price listed at the store where I bought my bottle.  I got it on sale, but I’ve also seen it available for a much lower price (while supplies last, I suppose) at Trader Joe’s.

McWilliam’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

What do you sip to help you wine down from a busy Saint Patrick’s Day?  I’m not talking about a day spent celebrating dear old Paddy, but a long day at the grindstone after which you are in no shape to play bar games into the wee hours!  Well, how about popping the cork on a bottle of something from another island nation but round the other side of the globe for a quieter celebration at home?

Winemaker:  McWilliam’s
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  South Eastern Australia
Price:  $12.99

Notes:   In the glass this Australian Cab was a deep dark red – almost murky.  The bouquet was quite loud with scents of dark berries, oak, menthol and earth.  Acidity was good, the body was medium, and I felt the tannins were medium as well.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the tongue I tasted plenty of oak, menthol (at times minty), dark cherry, tea leaf and tar.  Fun stuff, but the flavors are not well integrated at all.  Perhaps it needs some cellaring.  Even so, this McWilliam’s Cab was an acceptably decent wine experience for the $8.99 sale price I paid for the bottle.

[Brief Aside: My spell check tells me cellaring is not a word. Ha!]

BV Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

According to their website Beaulieu Vineyard, founded in 1900, is “the longest continually operating winery in Napa Valley.”  Evidently, BV founders Georges and Fernande de Latour had a thriving cream of tartar business.  Of course, cream of tartar or potassium bitartrate is a natural byproduct of the winemaking process, crystallizing in the wine casks during fermentation.  It has many important uses – especially in cooking – including as a component of baking powder.  But the de Latours wanted to move up the process chain to making the wines out of which the potassium bitartrate precipitated.  And so they purchased a ranch in Rutherford, CA to begin their winery.  Not only a good vintner but also a wise businessman, Mr. de Latour forged a strong relationship with the Catholic church which kept him in business even during prohibition.  Now some 114 years after it’s beginning, BV continues to produce quality wines with a full complement of offerings – Cabs, Chardonnays, Merlots, Sauvignon Blancs, Port, Pinot Gris, Muscats, and a variety of blends.

Winemaker:  Beaulieu Vineyard
Wine:  Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  California
Price:  $11.49

Notes:  This coastal Calilfornian was a deep, dark, velvety red in color.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and fairly light tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  To me the flavors hewed toward the darker side.  I tasted a core of baked blackberries, some pepper, distinct notes of rubber, tea leaf, and a touch of oak.  I liked that it was a bit darker than many inexpensive Cabs.  I would personally have preferred a little more tannin, but I still think it might do very well with casual meat dishes.  In my opinion this is not one for cellaring, so drink up.

Nights of Wine and Chocolate

We’ve all heard about “the days of wine and roses.”  Well how about “the nights of wine and chocolate?”

It’s a blessing to have friends and family who understand and encourage you in both your vocation and avocation – especially when your job or your hobby (as in my case) entails wine appreciation and exploration.  Right?  Some time ago I related the story of Xmas Eve Dinner at Mary Ann’s house and the Parducci Petite Sirah we enjoyed.  Well, she is one of those supportive family members!  An enabler in the best sense of the word.

A few weeks back she and her daughter, Ashley, traveled to our area for a volleyball tournament.  Ashley was playing, not Mary Ann.  Although I would pay big bucks to see Mary Ann out on that court.  No doubt she would be a fierce competitor.  lol   We went to see Ashley play, of course, and Mary Ann very generously showered us with gifts for being loyal fans.  Those gifts included a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and a box of chocolate wafers that the wine store clerk recommended as an accompaniment.  Formidable!  What a sweetheart, this Mary Ann.  I did my best to exercise self control and didn’t open them right away.  But I could only resist temptation for so long.

Winemaker: Eddy Family Wines
Wine: Elodian
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2006
Appellation: Napa Valley, California
Price: $35.00

Notes:  Let me say right at the outset that I tasted the wine first without any chocolate.  It was a pretty deep ruby in the glass.  It’s bouquet was a pungent mix of earth, forest floor (sous bois), spice, a touch of wood and ripe blueberry.  It was medium-bodied with fairly high acidity and medium tannins that were somewhat aggressive in their onset.  Alcohol was at 14.5%.  Flavors included considerable woodiness – much of that attributable to the grip of the tannins – as well as plenty of pepper, some leather, a bit of dark cherry with an underlying blanket of ripe blueberry.  The finish was what I consider of medium length with menthol and tart cranberry as it left the palate.  I think this Napa Cab was downright good.  It was complex and interesting.  It could also cellar another few years with the amount of structure it has.  Could be fascinating to see how it settles.

What about the chocolate?  First, let me name it properly.

Chocolatier:  Eclat Chocolate by Christopher Curtin
Name:  Aleppo Pink Peppercorn Mendiant
Price:  $14.50

I really enjoyed these little wafers!  I do like spicy, peppery things.  And it’s true that the peppercorns and the chili pepper in the chocolates were complementary to the flavors of the wine, creating almost a MAD effect on the taste buds.  You remember that from the old Cold War days, don’t you?  MAD was mutually assured destruction.  [a horrible thought]  With all the capsaicin hitting the taste buds from both sides, the effect was to lessen the perceived heat from each source and smooth out the experience of both wine and chocolate.  Most interesting was the aromatic effect of biting into one of the pink peppercorns.  It brought almost a floral scent to the nostrils.  Good stuff.

Yep, I’d say this was a very nice night of wine and chocolate, indeed.  Thanks, Mary Ann!

Révélation Cabernet-Merlot 2011

According to the Oxford Dictionaries a revelation is “a surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.”  In some ways you might say that’s what my journey through wine is all about – the search for a surprisingly good wine at a dramatically inexpensive price.  Yes, it just might take a miracle.  But I have faith.

Winemaker:  Révélation by Badet, Clément & Cie
Wine:  Cabernet-Merlot
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Pays d’Oc IGP, France
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot was very dark red with a bouquet of earth, cherry, and hints of spice.  Alcohol was at 13.5% on this medium-bodied Vin de Pays d’Oc while acidity was moderately high and tannins were medium and grippy.  To me the flavor profile came across as fairly dark with black cherry, oak, menthol, and pepper.  I didn’t have a religious experience while drinking this wine, but I wasn’t especially disappointed for $5.99.  While this selection wasn’t a true revelation for me as it’s name might suggest, I bet it would add some inexpensive enlightenment to a nice chuck steak or some beef ribs.

Like The Corners Of My Mind …

Memories, that is.  Yeah, I’m referencing the theme song from an old Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford movie (1973).  Why?  First, it won the Oscar for best song.  Second, it’s apropos because …

J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon holds a special place along my journey in wine.  See, I remember several years ago — no, not 1973 — when my wine mentors were telling me about red wines that had flavors of cocoa and chocolate in them.  As a neophyte at the time, I didn’t really believe them.  I mean, I listened, nodded, and made appropriately excited and amazed rejoinders to keep them sharing their knowledge with me.  But deep in my heart of hearts, I just didn’t buy it – not completely. After all, I hadn’t as yet tasted a wine that had such a non-grapey flavor.  Until, that is, I popped the cork on a bottle of a J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon.  I don’t remember the exact vintage.  I want to say it was 1992 which, as folks know, was a pretty good year for California Cabs.  I can’t be absolutely certain because I wasn’t recording tasting notes, so it’s all just misty water-colored memories.

Anyway, I do remember the experience.  I took my first sip and let it run the palate.  “Wait,” I thought, “What was that?”  I took another sip.  Holy cow!  It was there!  It wasn’t a heavy-handed one-note thing, but there was a definite chocolatey flavor.  Those tall tales of wines from my friends’ pasts – they were true!  It was a moment that made me realize I needed to be just a bit more open-minded about the kinds of flavors vintners could coax out of grapes.

They say you can never go back, and in many ways that’s true.  Certainly, I don’t expect every vintage of a wine to taste exactly like the previous.  Part of what I enjoy about exploring wines is that changes in the weather or changes in the wine-making process can produce noticeable and notable differences in the final result.  Thus, not expecting to repeat my previous experience, I recently popped the cork on another bottle of J. Lohr’s Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles to see what was in store this time around.

Winemaker:  J. Lohr
Wine: Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2011
Appellation: Paso Robles, California
Price: $19.98

Notes:  Color on pour was very purple; in the glass it was a deep red plum.  The bouquet was really very enjoyable with loads of barnyard (sous bois), tangy plum, earth and a touch of cedar.  Acidity was high and the body was on the lighter side of medium.  Alcohol was at 13.5%, and I’d say the tannins were in the medium range.  On the palate I tasted lots of plum, oak, black pepper, coffee grounds, a little tar and some green bell pepper.  It was pretty good.  As you may know, I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog with a splurge here and there.  This was a splurge but not a very big one since I snagged it on sale for $13.99.  I think this would be a nice compliment to just about any beef or game dish.  It isn’t so expensive that you shouldn’t serve it with a casual meal, but it could also do fine with a juicy steak.

Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2012

No experiment is valid without a control.  Right?  Something to compare the experiment’s results to.  So after having tried that Penfolds Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz Cab that I happened upon recently, I decided to grab another Australian blend of the same grape varietals for a comparison.  Admittedly, they aren’t from the same vintage and the wines aren’t blended in the same percentages.  Not exactly a true scientific method.  Still, I was curious.

Winemaker:  Jacob’s Creek
Wine: Shiraz Cabernet
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage:  2012
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $6.99

Notes:  Jacob’s Creek has blended 56% Shiraz and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon for this selection.  Color was a … drum roll, please … dark garnet.  OK, no real surprise there.  The bouquet?  Well, it held aromas of earth, mushroom, eucalyptus and dark plum.  Body – medium; acidity – fairly high; tannins – medium with an aggressive attack (some use the term grippy); alcohol – 13.9%.  Flavors?  Yes.  LOL  No, seriously, the major player on the palate was oak.  It’s what hit me first and kept on coming.  In addition there were plum and pepper with hints of cocoa and bitter coffee bean on the finish.  Bottom line – it was OK, but I would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the preponderance of oak.  Of course, that’s based on my own personal preferences.  You may enjoy the starring role that oak plays at the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabaret – I mean, Cabernet.  Then again, maybe this is a wine that needs a little time in the bottle for the flavors to balance out.