Tag Archives: cabernet wine

Aussie Awesome: Lip-Smacking 94-pt Coonawarra Cab!

2009 Penley Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra“Dont hate me because I’m so easy to drink” is what the 2009 Penley Cab would say if it could talk. Righto, mate. This is pure Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, ripe, full of blackberries and hints of chocolate and Oz licorice, smooth and very, very drinkable, and so user-friendly it has a screw cap. But hold that sneer, it’s no candied fruit bomb. Penley’s Cab is extremely well-made, varietally structured, on target and distinctly terroir-torial. Is that a word? Oughta be. In this case, the Phoenix is grown on the distinct soil of Coonawarra, where the Limestone Coast is topped with the red earth called terra rossa. It has a minerally backbone and judicious enough oak to provide perfect balance. And earn a serious 94 from James Halliday, Australia’s arbiter almighty. A Cab you can quaff or savor with equal satisfaction. You can drink a case in the next year easily, especially at this exclusive bargain. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Penley Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon

“Bright crimson; by some distance, the best of the ’09 Penley varietals, with redcurrant and blackcurrant fruit supported by quality cedary oak and fine tannins, the medium-bodied palate long and complete…” 94 Points, James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion


TOP 100: Andrew Will Sorella Cab From Horse Heaven Hills

2008 Andrew Will Sorella, Horse Heaven HillsBeen too long since Chris Camarda was in Tarpon but we’ve been fans of him and his Andrew Will winery for years. Note to Chris: Come back soon. Btw, Will and Andrew are the names of his son and nephew. Camarda is a world leader in Merlot but he’s a Washington state all-star precisely because he champions terroir over grape varietals. My kind of thinking. He’s dedicated to the particular nuances of each region within the state and celebrates each of the nine prize vineyards he uses from Red Mountain to Puget Sound. Of them all, windy Champoux Vineyard in H3 may be tops for Cabernet Sauvignon and that’s where he scores the Cab for Sorella. It’s his kind of blend, long on the Cabernet Franc and a bit of Merlot that grows so well in Washington’s long hot summer. Together they make a heady wine, mixing plums and berries with chocolate, cedar, and spice. The 2008 is explosive if you ask me. Or Wine Spectator or Steve Tanzer (both rave 95 points) or Camarda himself. He didn’t think it could be as good as 2006 but the 08 is better! You’re gonna want that.

2008 Andrew Will Sorella Horse Heaven Hills

“Impressive for its intensity and elegance, packed with black cherry, cherry, plum and spice flavors, hinting at roasted red pepper and a tarry minerality as the finish glides smoothly over refined tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot…”  95 Points, Wine Spectator

’09 Horse Heaven Hills Cab In Top Form Again: 90 Pts!

2009 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon H3 Horse Heaven, ColumbiaThere was a time some people said Washington State couldn’t grow good Cabernet. From the taste of the 2009 H3, I think they’re growing coffee and chocolate up there, and licorice too. But I don’t need to tell you about Horse Heaven Hills, you’ve loved it from the giddyap and go. Besides their great name, these hills are in a special corner of the Columbia Valley, high altitude, southern exposure, and very strong winds, a lot of sun and fresh air. Makes ripe grapes and gives great texture, and the H3 Cab does it without any Merlot in the blend. There’s a bit of Syrah which I think is Washington’s next-great red. No need to say more about H3 ‘cept that the ’09 is here and it’s a smashing 90 pointer. And the price! For holiday parties this is good cheer you can buy by the case. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon H3 Horse Heaven

“Focused, refined and appealing for its open-weave texture around a generous core of plum and currant fruit, finishing with hints of coffee and dark chocolate. Drink now through 2014…”  90 Points, Wine Spectator


Top 100 of 2011That’s the Wine Spectators of America in 2011, when Marvin Shanken’s crew came to the top five of their annual list…The beautiful 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir of Kosta Brown was WS Wine of the Year, big recognition for a small diligent producer. Stuff is grand but hard to get; I had my first two years ago thanks to the generosity and smart palate of a friend at the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

Our hero Kathryn Hall nailed down number two spot with her 2008 masterpiece of Napa cab, and  another pinot artisan, Dehlinger of Russian River came in at number five.  An impressive showing for the Yanks and a surprising call at a time when much of the rest of the world is knocking out great stuff. 2009 Mosels, out-of-reach Bordeaux, gorgeous Spanish reds, killer Rhones and a bootload (cq) of great Italians.

Plenty of time to argue that later. For now looks like 1) Wine Spectator’s waving the flag, 2) willing to spend $50 and up after a few years of prim belt-tightening, and 3) sweet on Sonoma pinots again.  And why not?

Parker’s Must-Have ’07 Cabs: 95+ Mondavi Reserve, 98 Catena Zapata

There are many good Cabernet Sauvignons, you know the ones that regularly hit 89, 90 and 91, but there are very few great Cabernets. For me, breeding always tells, greatness runs deep. The Robert Mondavi Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard is one of them and in 2007 it was a stunner. So intense and and stout hearted Parker rated it at 95+ and it’s at least that much in my book, because this has the tannins and strength to go 20 years in your cellar. This power is a testimony to deep roots, a pioneer Oakville vineyard that goes back 150 years and a winery almost 50 years old. A wine to treasure. For the most brilliant Cabernet of South America, look to Nicolas Catena, the Mondavi of Argentina, and the 2007 Zapata. Laura Catena created this signature wine ten years before in tribute to her
family. The Zapata is exuberant and seductive in its youth, well built and enticingly perfumed with the body and structure to age with elegance. No wonder Parker went head over heels and gave it a 98. I’m in love too. These are two masterpieces from great families of American wine-making, North and South, in the best of vintages. I’ve marked down prices substantially, 10 to 20 percent, to make sure your cellar has a couple of each. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Catena Zapata

2007 Nicolas Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon

“It delivers an enthralling aromatic array of pain grille, pencil lead, mineral, espresso, mocha, incense, lavender, black currant, black cherry, and blackberry. This leads to a full-bodied, powerful yet elegant effort with great depth and volume, precision balance, and a voluptuous personality (a D-cup of a wine)…”  98 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Mondavi Reserve


2007 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)

“The full-bodied, powerful, pure 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is another outstanding effort revealing notes of spring flowers, toasty oak, creme de cassis, licorice, and graphite. One would have to go back to the 1990, 1991, 2001, or 2002 to find a Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve this impressive…”  95+ Points, Robert Parker’s WA

I Rescued a Washington Cab You Absolutely Must Try

2008 J. Bookwalter Foreshadow Cabernet SauvignonYou may not have heard of the 2008 Bookwalter Cabernet. You can’t buy it at the winery, the 2008 Foreshadow is sold out there (they were charging 50 percent more). This is a secret treasured by Washington connoisseurs and the 2008 was a cool beauty. It’s long, lush, and layered with piles of fruit and exotic Asian scents, with cool-vintage class.  Bookwalter put this blend together with Washington’s best Cab vineyards including Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills, and threw in a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. Lovely proof that Cabernet Sauvignon has a home in Washington State. You’re gonna want that.

2008 J. Bookwalter Foreshadow Cabernet Sauvignon

“Ripe and round, with a sprinkle of gritty tannins around a generous core of cherry, rhubarb, orange peel and spice flavors. Shows polish and density that carries everything into the long finish. Drink now through 2018.”  92 Points, Wine Spectator

Malbec, Cab From Scratch: Mendoza’s High-Altitude Decero

DeceroSome of the smartest folks in the Argentina wine business built this winery and vineyard in the 1990’s from the ground up from scratch. Decero as they say in Spanish, “from zero”. And the ground was already up high, 3500 feet, on the slopes of the Andes , hot, dry, and windy, perfect for deep roots and long ripening reds, it’s all they grow. Btw, they don’t call the wind Mariah the name’s “remolinos,” little whirlwinds that breeze through the vineyard and keep the grapes clean and dry. I like the fact that Decero is so focused, all pure varietals and every step done by hand. Doesn’t mean the wines are rustic, the Malbec has big black fruit and dark chocolate, yet it’s quite approachable and suave in its polish. The muscular Cabernet also has smooth fruit that dips into licorice, soy and bacon fat and wears a hint of mint and smoke. These wines demand that you fire up the grill. You’re gonna want that.

2009 Decero Malbec, Remolinos Vineyard

“Medium ruby-red. Complex and inviting aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, bitter chocolate and violet. Sweet, pliant and aromatic, with black fruit flavors enlivened by an inner-mouth floral character…”  89 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC

2008 Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon, Remolinos Vineyard

“Varietally accurate aromas of cherry, cassis, tobacco and licorice are lifted by a floral topnote. Supple, vinous and suave, with good lift to the red fruit and spicy oak flavors…”  88 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC

2007 Decero Amano Remolinos Vineyard, Agrelo

“Dark cherry, currant, mocha, leather, violet and smoky, spicy oak on the nose, plus a whiff of caraway seed. Suave on entry, then tight and minerally in the middle, with lovely lift and perfume to the black raspberry, dark chocolate and graphite flavors…”  90 Points, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC

Double Down on Top ’07 Cabs

Look what I found, two more terrific Cabernets from 2007, in a particularly juicy corner of the blackberry patch. Actually they are from different places, yet both have the power andconcentration of that vintage. The 2007 Freemark is loaded with pricey fruit from the famed Bosche vineyard, thirty percent I am told. Why? They bumped it way up to celebrate their 125 year anniversary. If you love “Rutherford dust” you probably already know Bosche; you got a dust bowl here, medium body, graceful Napa.Celebrate! The Jordan is from gravelly vineyards in Alexander Valley and has a Bordeaux silk around very friendly blackberry and vanilla. The rounded style you expect from Alexander Valley. Two different patches indeed, and they each represent well where they come from. You’ll enjoy them now and again and again from your cellar for ten years or more. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)…………………………. 2007 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley)

2007 Freemark Abbey Cab2007 Jordan Cabernet



92 Points, Bob Sprentall (92W&S, 93WE)                                                                                 .. 91 Points, Bob Sprentall

Inglenook Returns the Bar

"I love the smell of Cabernet in the morning."

Many of you are aware of Francis Ford Coppola’s plan to resurrect Inglenook. And although – in my opinion – old fella’s got a tough row to hoe, he appears to be making strides in the right direction. Pairing world-renowned consultant Stephane Derenoncourt with Margaux alum Philippe Bascaules is a clutch move, Bascaules’s selection a culmination of an intensive look at the Bordeaux elite (I bet Coppola made Bascaules an offer he couldn’t refuse).

“I want to return to elegance,” Coppola avers. “I will go for the Inglenook style – lower alcohol, more freshness, balance, more restrained tannins – and less oak: Stephane hates oak.” I like where this is going. And Coppola feels quite confident in his strategy. “I now have the right wine and the right people behind it. If that doesn’t rehabilitate Inglenook, then no amount of public relations is going to do that for you.”

Color us interested.


Drive Top-of-the-Line Ferrari: 92-pt Cab and Chard at Model T prices

Gardens at Ferrari-Carano

Do you like your Ferraris red or white? Both get me excited (the wines as well as the cars). And Ferrari-Carano’s models are gorgeous and I’m beating every other dealer’s sticker. At B-21, we’ve got the top-of-the-line Cuvee and Reserve at prices the
other guys charge for stripped down models. The ’07 Tresor is luxuriant. Everyone can and should own a few. It’s a Meritage of the full five Bordeaux varietals from dry-farmed, rocky soil in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. This is a keeper you’ll enjoy for years, but you can open a couple now. Their 2008 Reserve Chardonnay is just as plush and thrilling, a full-throttle, white Burgundy-styled wine. Complex, delicious stuff serving up roasted nuts, honeysuckle, stone fruit, and ripe pear. This is Chardonnay for the connoisseur. Very big savings on first-class wine. You’re gonna want that.



Chappellet Winery

chappelletA sash on the shoulders of Pritchard Hill rests the expanse of Chappellet’s esteemed vineyards and winery. Donn and Molly Chappellet began their venture in 1967 with the intent to produce world-class wines with the complexities of the finest first-growth Bordeaux. Unlike their contemporaries, the Chappellets chose to plant well above the valley floor on the steep, rugged hillsides 800-1,200 feet above Napa Valley; this unique terroir creates elegant wines with great intensity and incredible depth. The Chappellet facility is recognized as one of the world’s preeminent sites for Bordeaux varietal cultivation.

We’re are huge fans of Chappellet. From the 97-point Pritchard Hill Cab to the lush and fruity Mountain Cuvee Bordeaux blend, they have a special occasion wine for every budget.

Gotta have ’07 Napas: Grace Family, Pahlmeyer, Lede, Groth. Swoon.

kerne-erickson-napa-valleyRare labels and heady stuff you love — when you can get a hold of it; so I tracked ‘em down for you and knocked off $60 a case or more.

It was an exceptional year for long-time fans of Groth cabs from Oakville and followers of Cliff Lede’s Bordeaux dream in Stag’s Leap where his meritage is rich indeed. I’ve lined up supplies of them.

Pahlmeyer’s Red, well, don’t need to say much except we’ve got more. You’ll buy as much as we can score. It rocks off the shelves as soon as it comes in.

Grace Family Cabernets costs hundreds IF you can get on the waiting list or buy at fancy auctions. Yet when Dick comes to the Naples gala, he’s a funny, humble guy; he’s an ex-Marine and practicing Buddhist so he and Anne designed the winery like a temple and give a lot of wine to charity.

2007 Napa is a vintage not to miss. I won’t let you.

Zoom, zoom: A Ferrari of our own

1960s Ford GT40 Ferrari killer: the only American car to win the 24 hours at LeMans. On sale for a cool $5 milly!
1960s Ford GT40 Ferrari killer: the only American car to win the 24 hours at LeMans. On sale for a cool $5 milly!

The theme of the VIP fundraiser for the Greater Palm Harbor Y was gloriously Italian. Had to be in the sleek, modern Ferarri dealerership. What decor, dozens of sculpted red and black racers on the floor and more on pedestals in the adjoining gallery, oops that was the service department, as pristeen as a museum. B-21 brought Italian wines to match. And a surprise: Ferarri Brut, an exceptional Italian sparkler — not a spumante or a prosecco, but a rich Metodo classico from Trentino. This  is creamy stuff, nice foam with all the yeast and dried fruit of a panettone. And suprisingly racy. Won many fans that night. A Ferrari anyone can afford.

Sunday School: Meritage

meritage_20_yearsCreated in 1988, The Meritage Alliance (previously The Meritage Association) was the brainchild of Napa vintners tired of the Fed’s control over varietal percentages and appropriate labeling. An amalgamation of the words “merit” and “heritage” – and pronounced like “heritage” with an “m” – the name was the result of a contest that attracted over 6,000 submissions. The Meritage designation costs wineries $1 per case with fees capped at 500 cases with the following stipulations:

Red Meritage – a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, and Carmenère with no single grape making up more than 90% of the blend

White Meritage – a blend of at least two of three specific white “noble” varieties — Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or Muscadelle du Bordelais. No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend