The Hedges La Haute Cuvee is top-notch Washington state cabernet sauvignon
Hedges Family Estate has been part of the good fight for quality wine, transparency, and fair value for years. Its $13 CMS red and whites are well made and almost always worth buying, and the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys tasting its more expensive wines, like the Hedges La Haute Cuvee whenever I get a chance.
Hence, my anticipation when I opened the Hedges La Haute Cuvee ($50, sample, 13.5%). It’s Washington state caberent sauvignon that speaks to terroir and the difference between the state’s Red Mountain appellation and those in California and France. It’s not as rich and opulent as a Napa Valley caberent, nor as taut and firm as a great red Bordeaux. It’s different – and that’s the joy, for all wine is not supposed to taste the same.
Look for lots of black fruit (blackberry?), though aging has mellowed the fruit’s power a bit; some baking spices (cinnamon?) and even a intimation of cocoa; beautifully soft and integrated tannins, and a fine balance. One key to this wine: aging in older oak, to complement the fruit instead of overwhelming it. This is a wine that has aged magnificently, and should continue to do so for at least another five to seven years.
Pair this with red meat (I drank it with homemade mushroom and pecan sausage), and enjoy what Washington state has learned about making top-notch red wine.
The Justin cabernet sauvignon shows off Paso Robles’ terroir in an enjoyable and value-oriented approach
The Justin cabernet sauvignon is so approachable and so well put together that I had to look twice at the label. Could this really be a red wine from the Paso Robles region of California, which is best known for ripe, almost over the top efforts?
It is, and is yet another label from Justin that shows off the wine and not the winemaker. In this, the Justin cabernet sauvignon ($27, sample, 14%) does something I wish more high-end California producers did: Make wine and not points. This vintage shows it’s possible to to combine Paso Robles’ rich, full style with wine that most of us will enjoy drinking.
Call the Justin cabernet sauvignon a surprisingly well mannered Paso Robles cabernet. That means structure, with aromas of cedar, mint, and green herbs, and flavors of rich black fruit. The tannins are soft, but they’re there, so they balance all that fruit. Perhaps most surprising? That the wine is still quite young, and will get deeper and more complex as it ages. It’s amazing how interesting a wine can be when the producer takes the terroir into account.
Highly recommended, and a value at this price. And yes, it’s even a Thanksgiving wine, and especially if the alternative is a sweet, insipid, 14.5 percent pinot noir that costs $35.
The Bogle pinot noir is, as always, $10 Hall of Fame wine. The same can’t be said for the label’s cabernet sauvignon
How amazing is the Bogle pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%)? It mostly tastes like pinot noir. This is unheard of in a $10 wine, and it’s not all that common for pinot noir that costs as much as $30, either. That Bogle can do it speaks to the producer’s emphasis on quality and value.
That’s the good news. The bad news, and it pains me to write this, is that the 2015 Bogle cabernet sauvignon ($10, sample, 13.5%) is as disappointing as the pinot noir is not. The cabernet is soft, flabby, and bereft of almost any varietal character. In this, it’s another example of winemaking by focus group; someone, somewhere, decided that U.S. wine drinkers don’t want tannins or spice or pepper or earth or anything that adds interest to cabernet. Instead, all we want is great gobs of gushy fruit, so any number of red wines that were once worth buying aren’t (like this one and this one). I never thought to add a Bogle wine to that list.
Regular visitors here know of my respect – almost reverence – for Bogle. That is borne out in the pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%), which is as subtle and elegant as a $10 pinot noir is going to get. Look for cherry fruit, some peppery spice, a little foresty something or other, and oak that is there to be barely noticed. Again, all qualities I rarely seen on wines at this price.
Hopefully, the decision makers at Bogle will realize wine drinkers prefer wines like the pinot and will return the cabernet to its former style. That, more than anything, is why I included it in this review. Because it’s easy to buy cheap wine; it’s much more difficult to buy cheap wine that reminds us why we love wine.
The Beringer private reserve cabernet sauvignon is a beautiful wine – the kind that reminds me why I love wine and how lucky I am do this
The Beringer private reserve cabernet sauvignon ($100, sample, 14.5%) is Napa Valley red wine made to showcase the grapes and the terroir, something that is becoming a quaint, old-fashioned notion. That the wine has aged so well also speaks to its quality and the care taken to make it.
There is just the right amount of ripe fruit (black cherry? blackberry?), so that it fills your mouth but doesn’t overwhelm it. The fruit is preceded by a delightful green herb and mint aroma, and complemented by fine grained tannins, just the right amount of acidity, and a chalky sort of finish. Even the chocolate oak in the back is spot on – noticeable but not the wine’s reason for being.
Highly recommended, and if not a value, a fair expression of what a $100 wine should taste like. The 2007 will be difficult to find, but more recent vintages are readily available, though appreciably more expensive.
The Cannonball cabernet sauvignon is honest wine, made to taste like its grape and where it’s from – something missing in too many California wines these days
The amount of California cabernet sauvignon that costs as much as $20 that tastes like boozy fruit juice – sweet, even – should embarrass anyone who cares about wine. What’s the point of making wine at that price that doesn’t taste like its grape or where it’s from? Fortunately, we have the Cannonball cabernet sauvignon to remind us that it’s possible to buy quality and not spend $30 or $40.
The Cannonball cabernet sauvignon ($14, purchased, 13.8%) comes from the same company that produces the top-notch Angels & Cowboys rose, so it’s no surprise that the wine is as well made as it is. In fact, given how much wretched California cabernet I’ve tasted over the past 18 months, the Cannonball is a revelation. And it’s especially welcome with the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame coming on Friday.
This is honest winemaking, and not something put together by the marketing department. Look for mint, green herbs, and dark fruit aromas, followed by rich, but not too ripe black fruit (black cherry?, blackberry?), fine-grained tannins that add to the wine and don’t make you wince, and a chalky, pleasant finish.
A tip o’ the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Ray Isle of Food & Wine, who recommended the Cannonball. Pair this with any winter red meat dish – something as simple as meat loaf or gooey cheeseburgers, but even Saturday night prime rib or roast lamb. Highly recommended.
Duckhorn’s Washington state Canvasback cabernet sauvignon speaks to terroir, value, and quality
California producers have been buying land in Washington state recently, something that surprised a lot of people. But why not? Land prices in Washington are a fraction of what they are in Napa Valley, where Duckhorn Vineyards makes its highly-rated red wines. So Washington gives it a chance to make quality wine, like the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon, for half of what its Napa wine costs.
And the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon ($37, sample, 14.5%) does Washington proud. In this, it tastes like Washington state wine, and not an extracted, overripe Duckhorn Napa knockoff. The company and Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin deserve much credit for this; given the way wine works, it would have been much easier – and more expected – to do it the Napa way.
Instead, look for more freshness, juicy cherry fruit, some green herbs (thyme?), and even some spice. It’s not a heavy wine, and as young as it is, should age a little – the fruit will become less juicy and the wine will get rounder and fuller. Best yet, Rudin didn’t get carried away with the oak. There’s enough there to do what needs to be done with cabernet, but not so much that it gets in the way of the wine.
Highly recommended, and just the thing for a dinner party or spring holiday with prime rib or any fancy red meat.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, the 2016 closeout edition.
• Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel 2014 ($25, sample, 14.5%): OK California zinfandel that isn’t what it once was, when it ranked with Ridge for quality. But it fits the parameters for what zinfandel is supposed to taste like today. Lots of sweet black fruit, though a bit of spice and earth on the back.
• Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2007 ($45, sample, 15.5%): No, not a typo, but a California red that I got as a sample when the blog started and has been sitting the wine fridge since then. It’s made to taste exactly the way it tastes to wow the Winestream Media. In other words, rich, elegant, not quite sweet grape juice with some oak. If you like that style, you’ll love this wine.
• Bodegas Salentein Killka Malbec 2014 ($13, sample, 14%): Competent premiumized Argentine red wine, with less fruit than most. But in the end, it’s still sweetish and not very interesting – another in a long line of malbecs made to taste a certain way and do that one thing very well.