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California Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The Fifty Best California Sauvignon Tasting of 2018

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 19 recent release California cabernet sauvignon wines priced, with 18 members of our wine judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the wines were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles. Only ice water and crusty white peasant bread were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each wine on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. Prices indicated do not include tax.

 



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

William Hill Estate Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Napa Valley)  $45

This wine is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon (99%), plus a very small amount (1%) of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (combined). Fermentation of the grapes (97% from the company’s Napa Valley estate) took place in small, stainless steel tanks and then aged as individual lots in a combination of new French oak (27%), used French oak and American oak (10%) barrels for 19 months before “assemblage” and bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, raspberry, deep black briar fruit, light red plums, black currant, cassis, prune, lemon peel, chewing gum, mint, anise, cinnamon, baking spice, coffee, oak, smoky, heavy concentration of juice, intense, full aroma hints of dense extraction.

Palate: Blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, cassis, currants, black currant, plums, lush juicy hedonistic black fruit, stewed cherry and strawberry, vanilla, coconut, licorice, nutmeg, black pepper, eucalyptus, tobacco, oak, tannic, smooth, balanced, well-integrated, very pleasant, good energy.

Finish: Black cherry, strawberry, dates, raisin, licorice, mint, spice, oak, touch of tannins, medium acidity, smooth, soft, nice, delicate, balanced, well-integrated fruit with wood, deep balance between fruit oak and tannin, nice balance and structure—should age well.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



William Hill Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

 



Trinchero Napa Valley
2013 Mario’s Cabernet Sauvignon

(Napa Valley)  $52

Grapes for this wine (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc) hailed from a vineyard noted for deep, loamy, alluvial soil and ample sunshine. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak (75% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Dark cherry, black cherry, ripe berries, concentrated berries, blackberry, cassis, black currant, ripe plums, blueberry preserves, stewed cherry, cola, vanilla, herbs, thyme, olives, grassy, mint, oak, nice high tones.

Palate: Dark cherry, raspberry, mixed berries, blueberries, blackberry, black currant, cassis, plum, jam, vanilla, chocolate-covered strawberries, creamy, toffee, caramel, licorice, coffee, eucalyptus, tobacco, leather, oak, smoky, balanced, complex, bright, smooth, pleasant.

Finish: Black currant, cassis, orange, stewed cherries, raisin, chocolate, mint, wood, integrated oak, made to age, flavorful, tannic, chewy, really nice, pleasant, delicious.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Trinchero Napa Valley Mario’s Cabernet Sauvignon



Darioush
2014 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon

(Napa Valley)  $97

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 82%), Merlot (9%), Cabernet Franc (3%), Malbec (3%) and Petit Verdot (3%) that was aged in 85% new Chateau Traditional French oak for 22 months.

Aroma: Dark cherry, ripe cherry, sour cherry, sweet berries, black currant, cassis, plum, cola, caramel, vanilla, toast, bell pepper, pepper, earthy, mineral, oak, smooth, nice promises, fresh, aromatic.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, blackberry, plum, dark stewed fruit, jammy, fig, cassis, candied cherry, chocolate fudge, vanilla, bell pepper, black olives, brown spice, spicy, peppery, earthy, sits well on the palate, velvety tannins, high intensity.

Finish: Cassis, fig, dates, raisin, cola, cocoa, licorice, mineral, earthy, soft oak, flavorful, gripping tannins very soft, pleasant.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon



Cornerstone Cellars
Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Napa Valley)  $76

This wine, made from grapes harvested from vineyards at over 1,000 feet high – featuring long cool days – was aged in French oak (70% new) prior to bottling.

Aroma: Bright cherry, black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberries, expressive briar fruit, cassis, black currant, pear, fruit punch, fig, stewed cherry, prune, raisin, fruit in your face, vanilla, floral, menthol, spearmint, nutmeg, baking spice, spicy, leather, minerals, oak.

Palate: Cherry, plum, black plum, raspberry, blackberries, black currant, dates, fig, apple, intense burst of fruit, juicy, jammy, stewed cherry, prune, raisins, fruitcake, cherry cola, vanilla, violet, eucalyptus, vegetal, tobacco, coffee, spicy, black pepper, oak, nice acidity, mild tannins, very complex.

Finish: Black cherry, candied fruit, floral, green tea, lingering spice, pipe tobacco, leather, tannins, well-balanced, complex, deep balanced fruit prevails, needs time, smooth, pleasant.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Cornerstone Cellars Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2014



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS


Cornerstone Cellars
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon "Benchlands" 2014

(Napa Valley)  $65

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (92%), Merlot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (3%) grapes harvested from vineyards in St, Helena, Oakville, Oak Knoll and Yountville. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels (80% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Dark cherry, briar fruit, blackberry, raspberry, black plum, cassis, currant, black currant, cherry cola, prune, raisin, mint, pepper, tobacco, red slate, minerality, oak, char, nice bouquet.

Palate: Red cherry, dark cherry, black cherry, raspberry, ripe blackberries, blueberry, black plum, subtle stewed fruit, fig, coconut, vanilla, chocolate, mocha, licorice, spice, black pepper, tobacco, meat, funk, mineral, oak, sweet tannins, medium acidity, well-integrated, well-rounded, full of flavor.

Finish: Blueberry, chocolate, cassis, Dr. Pepper, subtle citrus, spicy, licorice, mocha, rancio, minerality, oak, balanced, good length, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Benchlands



Monte de Oro
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Estate Grown 2012

(Temecula Valley)  $80

Following fermentation, 71% of this Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 42 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, cherries, sweet berries, cassis, aged fruit, citrus peel, stewed plum tomatoes, black olives, eucalyptus, herbal, coffee, peppery, white pepper, tobacco, minerals, oak, Christmas tree, earthy, clean.

Palate: Wild cherry, sweet cherries, ripe cherries, blackberry, plums, dates, figs, cassis, stewed blackberry, slightly cooked red fruit, strawberry preserves, sweet raisins, vanilla, dark chocolate, Christmas spice, nutmeg, spicy, PX sherry, eucalyptus, earthy, minerals, woody, oak, smoky, slight tannins, good acidity, balanced, big, complex, soft, very pleasant.

Finish: Blackberry, dried cherries, strawberry jam, anise, mint, baking spice, spicy, leather, wood, oak, great balance, memorable.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Monte de Oro Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Estate Grown



Darioush
2014 Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon

(Napa Valley)  $48

This blend (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot) – a composition reminiscent of a French Bordeaux “Right Bank” wine – was aged for 22 months in 70% new French and European oak before bottling.

Aroma: Bright cherry, blackberry, smooth briar fruit, ripe black plums, cassis, black currant, stewed pear, citrus peel, mossy, mushrooms, baking spice, tobacco, roasted coffee, smoky, bright.

Palate: Black cherry, cherry explosion, blackberry, plums, red plums, currants, cassis, stewed strawberry, vanilla, licorice, mint, nutmeg, black pepper, earthy, smoky, oak, nicely balanced, extraction balanced between fruit oak and tannins, chewy, soft and silky tannins, pleasant.

Finish: Blueberry, vanilla, cola, smoked meat, spicy, mineral, oak, tannins, deep and balanced, great finish.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Darioush Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon



Dearden Wines
2014 Little Giant Cabernet Sauvignon

(Lamonica, Napa Valley)  $55

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine was made from hand-harvested grapes grown in well-drained rocky soil. It was fermented over 28 days and aged for 25 months in French oak barrels (75% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, red cherry, dark berries, blackberry, sweet blueberry, briar fruit, fragrant cassis, currant, dried berries, chocolate, cola, citrus, stewed citrus peel, black olive, mint, bay leaf, thyme, tarragon, clean and fresh.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, sweet berries, blackberry, blueberry, sharp briar fruit, cassis, black currant, plum, stewed fruits, melon, banana, coconut, vanilla, milk chocolate, cola, root beer, mint, thyme, tarragon, spicy, tobacco, brandy, earthy, oak, tannins and oak prevail over fruit, sits nicely on the palate, pleasant.

Finish: Cherry, plum, cassis, apricot, chocolate, spice, tobacco, oak, tannin prevails, just the right amount of tannin, needs time, soft, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Dearden Wines Little Giant Cabernet Sauvignon



Pedroncelli
2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon
Dry Creek Valley Estate Vineyard

(Sonoma)  $36

Grapes for this wine (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot) hailed from a vineyard on the west slope of Dry Creek Valley that features rocky, loamy soil, foggy nights and warm days. Following fermentation in small stainless steel tanks, the wine was pressed and a few months later transferred to small French oak barrels for 19 months of aging before bottling; after which it was bottle-aged for a year prior to release for sale.

Aroma: Black cherry, soft elegant berries, raspberry, blueberry, black currants, cassis, grape, floral, grassy, nutmeg, grappa, mineral, oak, birch, intense.

Palate: Black cherry, blueberry, raspberry, juicy dark berries, black currant, fig, stewed melon, vanilla, herbal, nutmeg, spicy, bell pepper, pepper, oak, smoky, medium acidity, soft velvety tannins, good balance, surprisingly full flavor, pleasant, generous.

Finish: Black cherry, mango, dates, spicy, oak, puckering tannins, subtle funk, soft undertones, smooth, balanced, needs time.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Pedroncelli Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley Estate Vineyard



Three Sticks
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

(Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County)  $75

This blend (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 6% Merlot) was fermented in open top tanks and then aged in French oak (50% new) for 26 months before bottling.

Aroma: Dark cherry, black cherry, ripe berry, blueberry, cassis, black currant, plum, raisins, key lime, melon, vanilla, cola, mushroom, minty, menthol, white pepper, cedar, earthy, pleasant.

Palate: Dark cherry, black cherry, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, cassis, currants, plum, raisins, cola, vanilla, chocolate, red pepper, pepper, tobacco, eucalyptus, minerality, oak, mead, meaty, good acidity, soft and velvety tannins, full dense extraction, rounded, excellent balance between fruit and oak.

Finish: Strawberry-vanilla ice cream, raisin, cola, green apple, citrus, lemon peel, eucalyptus, mint, tobacco, oak, loaded with tannin, balanced, bright, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Three Sticks Cabernet Sauvignon



William Hill Estate Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon Benchland Series 2014

(Napa Valley)  $60

The grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine were hand-picked and fermented in small open-top tanks. The lots were separately aged for 17 months in French oak (69% new), and following “assemblage” was aged for another 2 months in oak and 9 months in the bottle before release.

Aroma: Dark cherry, cherry, blackberry, black currants, cassis, raisin, stewed chestnut, vanilla, cola, mocha, vegetal, bell pepper, herbs, mint, mineral, tobacco, smoke, dense—jumps out of glass.

Palate: Dark cherry, black cherry, sweet berries, raspberry, blackberry, plums, currants, black currant, cassis, black cherry soda, candied fruit, apple, apple skin, toasty vanilla, eucalyptus, herbs, red bell pepper, mocha, mineral, earthy, oak, medium tannins, excellent fruit, balanced, complex.

Finish: Strawberry, dried cherry, prune, raisin, candied fruit, mocha, spicy, wood, oak, big balanced grippy tannins, fruit prevails, needs time.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



William Hill Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Benchland Series



Dearden Wines
2014 Sleeping Giant Cabernet Sauvignon

(Coombsville, Napa Valley)  $90

For this wine, hand-harvested Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) was fermented in an open-top tank for 28 days after which it was aged in small French oak barrels for 24 months.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, berries, blackberries, blueberries, black currants, cassis, plum, stewed raspberries, lavender, mint, cinnamon, spicy, tobacco, mineral, wine cellar, earthy, oaky, old wood, cedar.

Palate: Bing cherry, cherry, sweet berries, blackberries, intense briar fruit, plum, cassis, raisin, coconut, vanilla, cocoa, cognac, stewed citrus, bell pepper, spice, pepper, licorice, tobacco, leather, minerality, oak, wood nicely balanced, fruit empowered by wood, medium acidity, soft tannins, creamy mouthfeel, pleasant.

Finish: Dried strawberry, caramel, vanilla, slightly vegetal, anise, spicy, flavorful, oak-dominated, soft, pleasant, needs some time.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Dearden Wines Sleeping Giant Cabernet Sauvignon



Taken
2014 Red Wine

(Napa Valley)  $32

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%) that following fermentation was aged in French oak (50% new) for 16 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Bing cherry, black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, light strawberry, plum, currants, black currant, cassis, apple, mixed berry jam, floral, mint, menthol, tobacco leaf, woody, oak char, earthy.

Palate: Black cherry, Bing cherry, cherry, blackberry, ripe pomegranate, strawberry, cassis, currant, black currant, dried cherry, raisin, violet, vanilla, bell pepper, brown spice, pepper, nutmeg, spicy, oak, very soft velvety tannins, very smooth, delicate, bright, will be great with time.

Finish: Plum, floral, herbaceous, vanilla, smoked meat, leathery, musty, earthy, balanced, decent balance—decent structure, big tannic finish, smooth, snappy.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Taken Red Wine



Kenwood Vineyards
2014 Six Ridges Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

(Alexander Valley)  $23

Following fermentation in stainless steel, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine was aged in a combination of small French and American oak barrels for 23 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, dark cherry, sweet cherry, cranberries, red plum, currant, black currant, vanilla, cola, licorice, floral, violet, musty, leather, pronounced, hints of good extraction.

Palate: Black cherry, dark cherry, bright cherry, juicy cherries, dark berries, sweet berry, raspberries, cranberry, plum, red apple, fig, dates, dried fruit, plum tomato, green pepper, vanilla, violet, spice, oak, prosciutto, earthy, nice ratio of fruit and acidity, good balance of fruit and oak, smooth, complex, bright.

Finish: Cherry, plum, prunes, dried raspberry, dried fruit, chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, mineral, earthy, flavorful, smooth, needs some time.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon



Grgich Hills Estate
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

(Napa Valley)  $72

Grapes (a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 4.5% Petit Verdot and 2.5% Cabernet Franc) hailed from vineyards in Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga. Following fermentation (using indigenous yeast), the wine was aged in French oak (60% new) for 21 months before bottling.

Aroma: Dark cherry, cherry, blackberry, black currant, plum, vanilla, cereal, toast, vegetal, sweet moss, earthy, funky, mineral, fireplace smoke, light oak.

Palate: Dark cherry, juicy berries, blackberry, cassis, black currant, deep rich fleshy fruit, slightly sour black fruit, dried raspberry, cola, cinnamon, green pepper, white pepper, spicy, tobacco, earth, mineral, oak, nicely balanced fruit and oak, pleasant.

Finish: Currants, black currant, dried stone fruit, vanilla, slightly earthy, woody, tannic, beautiful.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Kenwood Vineyards
2013 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

(Sonoma) $15

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (89%), Malbec (4%), Merlot (4%) nad Cabernet Franc (3%) grapes that following fermentation was aged for 23 months in a mixture of French, Eastern European and American oak barrels.

Aroma: Cherry, dark cherry, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, pomegranate, dark rich plum, black currant, mint, basil, licorice, black pepper, tar, leather, earth, cedar, oak.

Palate: Dark cherry, black cherry, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, red plum, cassis, black currant, dried strawberry, prunes, chocolate, coconut, violet, grassy, spices, baking spices, white pepper, licorice, tobacco, oak, tannic, nicely balanced, bright.

Finish: Raspberry, sour cherry, stone fruit, apple skin, tart, spice, mineral, ash, smooth, flavorful, tasty.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon



Cult
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(St. Helena, Napa Valley) $20

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (87%), Petite Sirah (6%), Zinfandel (4%) and Merlot (3%) that following fermentation was aged in American (70%) and French (30%) oak for 15 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, cherry, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, apple, melon, dried blueberry, raisin, licorice, cola, peppercorn, mineral, light earthiness.

Palate: Ripe cherry, black cherry, bright cherry, blueberry, black currant, cassis, plummy fruit framboise liqueur, cocoa, dried fruit, mint, grassy, licorice, tar, woody, oak, medium tannins, high intensity, very smooth, pleasant.

Finish: Blueberry, chocolate, cola, mineral, earthy, oak, tight, high tannins, classic cabernet sauvignon finish.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Cult Cabernet Sauvignon



Kenwood Vineyards
2014 Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

(Sonoma Mountain) $28

Grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine were fermented for over 25 days in stainless steel, following which it was aged in French (75%) and American (25%) barrels for 23 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, raspberry, black currants, cassis, cranberry sauce, stewed berries, raisins, chocolate, toast nutmeg, allspice, dill, mint, minerals, leather, funky, barnyard, oak.

Palate: Smooth cherry, sour cherry, blackberry, cassis, plum, stewed raspberries, jammy, dried strawberry, sweet raisins, candied cherry, chocolate, honeydew, ginger, mint, green peppercorns, nutmeg, oak, chewy, mild tannins, pleasant, good energy.

Finish: Cherry, vanilla, coffee, spicy, oak, tannins, flavorful, balanced, smooth, complex, unique, needs time.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon



Three Sticks
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County) $75

Following fermentation in open top fermenters, this wine was aged in French oak (60% new) for 20 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, dark cherry, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, black currant, plum, orange, melon, chocolate, rose, herbal, olive tapenade, spice, eucalyptus, menthol, earthy.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, blackberry, strawberry, red plums, black currant, blackberry wine, blueberry wine, port-like, cola, licorice, cinnamon, baking spice, pepper, eucalyptus, tobacco, oak, tart, tannic, bright.

Finish: Cherry, blackberry, cassis, tobacco, tannic, mineral presence, fruit prevails, smooth, needs time.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Three Sticks Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

 

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