California Cab
 

California Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The Fifty Best California Sauvignon Tasting of 2021

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 14 recent release cabernet sauvignon wines from California (priced at under $100 pre-tax), with 10 members of our wine judging panel. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Strict tasting rules were applied. 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 highest. 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. Clicking on the brands' names will link to their websites.

 

DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Darioush Caravan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa)  $55

This wine was made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (14%) and Malbec (8%). Following fermentation, the wine was aged in a combination of new French and European oak barrels for 20 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, blackberry, plum, chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, musk, leather, earth notes, graphite, oak.

Palate: Cherry, strawberry, creamy, vanilla, chocolate, dusty cocoa, toast, smoky anise, pepper, tobacco, leather, earth, oak, nice minerality, soft, balanced.

Finish: Smoky chocolate, green bell pepper, jalapeño, peppery, hot, spicy, soft tannin, smooth, well balanced.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Darioush Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon



Pedroncelli 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
Block 007 Estate

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma)  $26
BEST VALUE

The grapes for this wine were grown in well-drained, gravelly soil that, following harvest, were fermented in small temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, and then aged in American oak (30% new) for 18 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, plum, blueberry, cassis, chocolate, vanilla, perfumed with floral notes, tomato leaf, pepper, spicy, minerality, earthy, muddy field, woody, oak, rich.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, sour cherry, blackberry, plum, deep notes of black currant, cassis, dried dark fruit, red licorice, green apple, bell pepper, black pepper, vanilla, earth, old & new oak, good acidity, big tannins, fruit forward, balanced.

Finish: Cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla, anise, clove, slightly spicy, toast, buttery, oak, balanced tannins, smooth, rich, classy.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 Estate

 



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Treana 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Paso Robles)  $30

Following harvest, grapes for this wine were fermented as separate lots and aged separately for 11 months in French oak (100%). After blending, the wine was aged in a combination of French oak (85%) and American oak (15%) for an additional 3 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, plum, jammy blackberry, cassis, fresh herbs, minty, green peppers, toasted peppers, nutmeg, mushroom, earth, cigar box, oak, soft tannins.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, chocolate, vanilla, ribbon candy, green bell pepper, herbaceous, nutmeg, clove, black pepper, light toast, tobacco, leather, earth, cedar box, round, mouth filling.

Finish: Dried cherry, lingering strawberry, chocolate, palate cleansing anise, oak, smoky.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Treana Cabernet Sauvignon



Austin Hope 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Paso Robles)  $56

Grapes for this wine were sourced from Paso Robles and fermented as separate lots in stainless steel. Following fermentation, the lots were individually aged for 11 months in French oak, and after blending for another 3 months in new (75%) or used (25%) French oak.

Aroma: Rich black cherry, plum, raspberry, cassis, chocolate, black olive, tobacco, leather, earth, woody.

Palate: Cherry, blackberry, black currant, rich currant, sweet blueberry pie, chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel, tobacco, leather, oak, smoky, strong tannins, rich.

Finish: Plum jam, earthy notes, wood, smoky, nice tannins, good mouthfeel.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon



Grgich Hills Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa Valley)  $72

This wine was made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (10%), Petit Verdot (6%) and Cabernet Franc (4%) grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak (60% new) for 21 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, red currant, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, toasted coconut, clove, minerals, earth, oak.

Palate: Cherry, bright cherry, blackberry, chocolate, caramel, herbs, green peppercorns, toast, high acid, tannic, cedar, lean, well balanced.

Finish: Clove, wet stone, earth, dusty, light smoke, woody, tannic, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon



Dearden Wines Sleeping Giant 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa Valley)  $95

Grapes for this wine were grown in alluvial soil and fermented using indigenous yeast. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak (75% new and 25% once used) for over 2 years before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, raspberry, jammy blackberry, cherry cola, apricot, figs, tea, basil, pepper, black pepper, spicy, salt terroir, leather, woodsy, cedar.

Palate: Cherry, plum, black currant, cassis, chocolate, rich chocolate, dusty cocoa, vanilla, toast, herbs, thyme, clove, black pepper, mineral, incense, earth, burnt leather, smoky, smoke, tannins, balanced, rich, velvety, soft, smooth, mellow.

Finish: Palate cleansing mint, black pepper, toast, light leather, lingering earth tones, rich, well balanced.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Dearden Wines Sleeping Giant Cabernet Sauvignon



Kerr Cellars 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa Valley)  $50

Grapes for this wine, composed of 82.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot and 1.5% Petit Verdot, were hand-harvested and following fermentation were aged in French oak (70% new) for 21 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, dried cherry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, plum, cassis, rich dark chocolate, sweet basil, earth, oak, smoke, soft, round.

Palate: Cherry, berry, cassis, smoked cassis, jammy, lavender, herbs, herbal, nutmeg, chocolate, dusty cocoa, leather, tobacco, earth, cedar, oak, woody, smoky, minerality, balanced, rich, savory.

Finish: Chocolate, violet, perfume, anise, licorice, clove, mineral, earth, smoky, oak, extremely smooth, mellow, sumptuous, provincial.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kerr Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon



Jordan 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Alexander Valley, Sonoma County)  $58

Grapes (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec) were harvested from vineyards in 3 areas (89% Alexander Valley, 9% Mendocino and 2% Dry Creek). Fermentation of grapes as separate vineyard lots was conducted in large open-top oak casks, and after blending the wine was aged for 11 months in French oak (69% new and 31% one year old barrels) before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, cherry, currant, dried currant, green apple, tomato leaf, clove, menthol, minerality, slight oak, smoky, dark, mysterious, elegant.

Palate: Black cherry, tart cherry, cassis, green apple, lavender, bell pepper, licorice, clove, black pepper, leather, earth, smoky, soft tannins, balanced, complex, lean, tasty, elegant.

Finish: Black currant, sweet red currant, sour cherry, creamy, vanilla, anise, soft, rich.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon



Miro Cellars 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
Single Vineyard Reserve

(Alexander Valley)  $38

This wine was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown at 2600 feet above the Russian River Valley in a vineyard noted for cool days and warm nights. Following harvest, the grapes were fermented in stainless steel and aged in 35% new French oak and 67% neutral oak for 18 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, cassis, dried prunes, chocolate, black olive.

Palate: Cherry, black cherry, strawberry, black currant, jammy, cassis, chocolate, mocha, vanilla, bell pepper, green peppercorn, peppery, cinnamon, clove, cedar box, soft tannins, balanced, pleasant.

Finish: Cherry, light chocolate, licorice, black pepper, cedar note, firm tannins, smooth, mellow.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Miro Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard Reserve



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Lorenzi Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
Double Down Reserve

(Temecula Valley) $75

This wine was made from 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 2% Malbec grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 34 months in new French oak barrels and then aged for 14 months in the bottle prior to release.

Aroma: Cherry, dried cherries, cassis, chocolate, minty, nutmeg, spicy, peppery, spring fields, loamy, earth, leather, smoke, oak.

Palate: Cherry, raspberry, plum, rich red plum, black currant, chocolate, mocha, vanilla, toasted almond, coffee grounds, clove, leather, tannins, big, very tasty.

Finish: Lingering cherry, currants, plum, herbal, spicy, cedar, medium tannins, lean, savory, sumptuous.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Lorenzi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Double Down Reserve



Frey 2018 Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon
(Mendocino County)  Organic  $20

This wine was made using indigenous yeast for fermentation with no added sulfites and aged in stainless steel, with the introduction of French oak staves during aging.

Aroma: Cherry, blackberry, cassis, nutmeg, red pepper, musk, leather, earth, smoky wet moss, oak.

Palate: Black cherry, tart cherry, plum, dried plum, cassis, red licorice, coconut, lavender, sage, thyme, clove, amazing exotic spice notes, leather, earthy, minerality, lean.

Finish: Black cherry, dark cherry, plum jam, floral, cloves, salty, seacoast breeze, mineral, lingering earthiness, wood, oaky, soft tannins, good mouthfeel.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Frey Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon



Pacific Redwood 2019 Organic Cab
(North Coast California)  $15

This stainless steel aged wine (with the introduction of oak staves) was made without the addition of sulfites, sugar or acid alteration.

Aroma: Black currant, dried cherry, fresh fig, bell pepper, herbs, eucalyptus, grassy, mossy, earth, minerality, bright, lively.

Palate: Cherry, red currant, plum, violets, mint, anise, herbs, dill, green olives, vegetal, clove, mossy, earth, burnt toast, wood, cedar, very lean.

Finish: Light cherry, plum sauce, dried fruit.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Pacific Redwood Organic Cab



Dearden Wines Little Giant 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
(Napa Valley)  $65

This wine was fermented in stainless steel over 3 weeks and aged in small French oak barrels (80% new, 20 % used) for 26 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, strawberry, dried plums, dark chocolate, chocolate toast, mint, thyme, clove, leather, cedar, oak.

Palate: Cherry, plum, dried fruit, dried green apple, bell pepper, mint, clove, vanilla, leather, earth, smoky, cedar.

Finish: Cherry, black cherry, dried cherry, black currants, hint of cassis, leather, earth.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Dearden Wines Little Giant Cabernet Sauvignon



Frey 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
(North Coast California)  Organic  $17

This wine was organically-produced, with fermentation and aging conducted in stainless steel tanks (with the introduction of oak staves), and contains less that 1ppm of naturally-occurring sulfite.

Aroma: Black cherry, blackberry, plum, currant, green olive, green grass, graphite, minerality, leather, earth, oak.

Palate: Cherry, plum, black currant, cassis, herbal, clove, baking spices, spicy, vanilla, leather, damp earth, oak.

Finish: Black cherry, cherry cola, herbal, black tea, tannins.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Frey Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

 

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