Media Contact: Joe Gargiulo
FRUIT-FORWARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Big is increasingly the word as holidays draw near, especially in the
often machismo-charged world of fine wine. Seems every guy with
dreams of a cellar starts measuring wine by prices, bottle heft and
Robert Parker scores. But is "big" always better?
The latest collection of pricey California cabernet sauvignons just
might help answer that question. Soft, fruit-forward and accessible
now, these 2006 vintage reds easily can christen the fall/winter
"They are balanced and enjoyable," said Master Sommelier Evan
Goldstein of the wines. "While I think a number have a way to go,
many now are drinking well, a reality of their balance."
Goldstein, president of the San Francisco-based Full Circle Wine
Solutions, noted the 2006 cabs may become something of a
"forgotten" vintage because of "all the hoopla" directed at the 2007s.
For Baltimore restaurateur Tony Foreman, co-owner and wine
director of The Charleston Group, the 2006 cabs are a "soft,
generous vintage" and a good restaurant wine because they are
more easily paired with food.
"Cab in California, in general, is chasing a very particular style for all
but about 10 percent of winemakers," he said. "The style moves
more every year toward opulent, fruity, softer, nothing too tannic."
Rick Lewis, owner of the Madison Wine Shop in Madison, Conn., is
not a big fan of these cabs.
"Wines from Napa are probably 40 percent to 50 percent higher in price than they ought to be," he said. These
"cookie-cutter cabs" that don't realize their full potential are sparking a consumer rebellion, he added, fueled by
good, affordably priced wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.
The vintage is not meant to cellar long, said Foreman, adding that consumers should keep the wines only for five
to six years. That may not trouble many Americans, who prefer to drink wines fairly quickly after purchase. The
fruit-forward, ready-to-drink quality of a number of 2006s should fit the bill.
Surprisingly smooth and drinkable now
Every fall, the wine-tasting panel meets to do a tasting of expensive California cabernet sauvignon. "Big reds" are
what we call them, and frankly, not every taster looks forward to them. Most years, many of the bottles hold tannic
monsters needing a decade or so of cellaring to be tamed. Not so with the 2006 vintage. Whether it was the
two-hour decanting or whether California winemakers were just in a mellower mood or working with a distinctly
suave crop of grapes, all six bottles tasted were smooth, sophisticated, ready-to-go reds perfect for your holiday
table this year. For the first time in the five years of tasting, all six wines earned "very good" ratings.
Pine Ridge Vineyards: A big but balanced Napa cab with berry, spice, cassis flavor notes and a touch of
mushroom and earth on the nose. An appealing dark cherry red; mouth filling in a nice way. Serve with beef
Burgundy, roast goose, leg of lamb. $54; three corkscrews.
Adelaida Viking Estate Vineyard: This Paso Robles cab tied with the Rocca for second place. A classic cab, with
the slightest bit of woodiness in the beginning followed by jammy berry flavors that end with a touch of chocolate.
Serve with rib-eye steak, roast duck with cherries, sweetbreads. $75; three corkscrews.
Rocca Family Vineyards: A Napa cabernet with a cherry and cinnamon nose and a velvety berry-cherry flavor.
The tannins hold the fruit in proper check. Lovely cherry red color. Serve with braised short ribs, roast turkey, roast
beef. $75; three corkscrews.
Corison: So purple it almost looks like blueberry juice, this Napa cab is smooth and silky, with a nose of plum and
incense and a slow-building berry flavor that fades into a long finish. Deceptively powerful. Serve with beef
roulade, filet mignon, rack of lamb. $70; three corkscrews.
Kenwood Jack London Vineyard 30th Anniversary Special Edition: This Sonoma bottling is probably the
"oakiest" of them all. Dark chocolate notes and tobacco infuse the flavor. Serve with prime rib, veal roast. $50;
Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge: This Sonoma cab smells like earth and cinnamon with a berry flavor dosed with
a touch of sweet vanilla. Strong tannins offer balance. Serve with beef Wellington, stir-fried beef with onions,
T-bone steak. $75; three corkscrews.
You want that wine. But your store or area distributor may not choose to carry it. State law may prohibit you from
ordering a wine online. What to do? Ask your wine retailer for a wine similar in flavor, style and price.
-- B. D.
Ratings key: Four corkscrews, excellent; three corkscrews, very good; two corkscrews, good; one corkscrew, fair;
no corkscrews, poor