Archive for March, 2009

March 2009: Cabernet Sauvignon – WA vs. CA


And the winner is …
A customer who came across the Tasting Circle blog requested this month’s head to head competition, asking if the panel would taste Washington vs. California Cabs and see if there was a clear winner.  Well, you could say this was a landslide, with California taking first, second and third place.  The only point worth mentioning is that there should have been a twelfth wine:  Reininger 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla ($41).  Reininger produces delicious, award-winning Washington wines, but sadly this wine was corked and was disqualified from the tasting, putting the Washington lineup at a disadvantage.  Check out what the tasters had to say about the wines.  (I think they were surprised what they had to say as well!) …

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Beckmen 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (93 points)
Region: Paso Robles, CA; Retail $27
Very pretty, good color. Good smells of dark cherries and black olives. Beautiful on the palate. A mouthful of great balance between herbs, terroir & fruits. (Giuseppe) Black, opaque color. Complex aromas of mixed fruit and old wood. Nice berry fruit palate. Tangy, balanced acidity and nice finish. (Matt)

O’Shaughnessy 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (93 points)
Region: Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, CA; Retail $85
Great bouquet of dark fruit & mocha. Full-bodied, great structure. Complex and elegant. Very good acidity. Wonderful fruit, mainly black currants, blackberries & cassis. Long finish with great tannins. (Jens) Color: dark garnet. Nose has more complexity and subtlety [than other wines in lineup]. Dry licorice finish, with mild sweetness on palate. (Ari)
Volker Eisele 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (92 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Retail $46
Dark ruby [color]. Flavors of dark chocolate. Smoky spice & lingering black fruits. Very lovely – rich & velvety. It’s a big boy – great leather notes. (Gina) Very intense flavors, balanced tannins, black cherries linger on the palate. (Russell)

Abeja 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (91 points)
Region: Columbia Valley, WA; Retail $50
Dark fruit with nuts and caramel – milky, creamy, caramel. Lush, lush fruit with a fabulous texture. Red fruit pops on the palate with nice acidity – darn tasty. (Theresa)  Wonderful aromas of dark fruit, raspberries and blackberries. Medium-bodied, very elegant and complex. Smooth and velvety with several layers of dark fruit with notes of milk chocolate. Great acidity. Long finish with fine-grained tannins. (Jens)

Kiona 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (90 points)
Region: Red Mountain, WA; Retail $25 (no longer available)
Dark red. Tight. Nuances of dried apples, stewed fruit. This is the thinker wine. Contemplating, mature. Not too altered. A truly pleasant and elegant red. I would feel very happy if I bought this wine and drank it with friends. (Giuseppe) Nose: earth & tar mixed with raspberries & huckleberry. Medium-bodied with tart red fruit flavors. Smooth finish – light spice. Very balanced. (Gina)

VERY GOOD (85–89 points):
Amavi 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (89 points)

Region: Walla Walla, WA; Retail $32
Light cigar in the nose followed with black cherry. A blast of ripe cherries and raisins. Velvety fruit with smooth finish. (Gina) Aromas of sweet dark fruit, blueberries. Smooth, velvety, medium-bodied. Vanilla bean upfront, followed by blackberry, mocha, espresso flavors. Fruit builds up to the finish. Fine tannins. (Jens)

Caymus 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (89 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Retail $76
Beautiful aromas of blackberries & dark fruit. Medium- to full-bodied, elegant and complex. Flavors of cassis and dark fruit with hints of mocha and dark chocolate. Fine tannins with notes of vanilla on the finish. (Jens) Dark, black cherry color. Slow, big legs. Black cherry follows through on the palate. High alcohol. Has a rich, tar-like finish that I‘m strangely liking. Young? Could use a bit more tannin. (Gina)

Rutherford 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (88 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Retail $25/sale $19.50
Petrol wrapping blackberries & blueberries with pops of vanilla. Silky rich with all the blue & black fruit on the palate. Oak well integrated with a nice long finish. (Theresa) Dark red color. Aromas more mixed red berries than cherry, herbs, and hints of oak. More berry jam flavors on palate with long finish. A bit too sweet, probably from too much oak. (Matt)

Lowden Hills 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (86 points)
Region: Horse Heaven Hills, WA; Retail $25
Pretty ruby red. Smells like a good plate of infused Kalamata olives with a tickle of red berries. Taste is full & well-balanced. Clean, but persistent. I’m sure it would pair great with pork roast. (Giuseppe) Fine, nice aromas of forest floor and black currants. Well-balanced, good acidity. Flavors of ripe dark fruit mixed with some herbal notes. Strong finish with a good tannic frame. (Jens)

Milbrandt 2005 Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon (86 points)
Region: Columbia Valley, WA; Retail $34/sale $27.99
Dark, ripe, brambleberry fruit, clove spice, hints of tar & herbs.  Medium weight, tangy red & blue fruit. Acid makes for a zippy finish. (Theresa) Cedar nose, rich soft palate, hint of bacon on finish, soft tannins, balanced acidity. (Russell)

Leaping Lizard 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (85 points)
Region: Napa Valley, CA; Retail $15
Nose: oak & red fruit preserves. Elegant. Sweet finish. (Ari) Sweet jammy fruit, balanced tannins, slight vegetal character. (Russell)

The following wines are in-stock or can be ordered at the following local wine shops:
Portalis Wine Shop + Wine Bar
phone: 206-783-2007

Tasting Panel:  Giuseppe Carraturo, Gina Gregory, Matt Gubitosa, Ari Munzin, Theresa Slechta, Jens Strecker; Guest Taster: Russell Gladhart

We would like to dedicate this tasting to Catherine Reynolds & Ken O’Hara, original members of the Tasting Circle.  Catherine suffered a brain aneurysm last month and is still on intensive care recovering.  Our best wishes for a full recovery so that (among other things) you can join us again at the Tasting Circle with your enthusiasm and your wonderful, descriptive tasting notes – both of you!


March 19, 2009 at 6:29 pm Leave a comment