Those of us who want to do more than just write reviews of wine samples face a dilemma. The samples are mostly wines from the big wine producers, but they tend to be a bit overpriced and not always very interesting. On the other hand, they're free, they're usually widely available (which is not always true of the wines that I buy), and it's not like there is anything obviously wrong with them.
Hence my indecision with something like the Norman ($15, sample), which has been sitting in the wine closet for 18 months -- so long, in fact, that the current vintage is the 2008, and the 2009 is probably just around the corner. Did I do the wine a disservice by letting it sit so long?
Probably. This is a well-constructed California cabernet, with more herbal qualities than similarly-priced Napa or Sonoma wines (like the Hayman & Hill). It's still fruity (black cherries?) but the difference in terroir is noticeable -- and welcome in a wine at this price. And, in letting the Norman sit so long, I probably did it a favor. The age helped it, though I wouldn't let it sit any longer than it has. The 2008 is probably ready right now.
Drink this wine with red meat, barbecue and similar dishes. It's probably too big to drink on its own, save for the manliest of red wine drinkers. But as something to keep around the house in case someone drops by, it's a good choice.