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Monday, February 16, 2009

Tasting Notes (Feb. 12): Cabernet Sauvignon, Or, Hail to the King

Cross-posted from Grape and Grain.

As much I've been into syrahs lately, I have to admit that cabernet sauvignon is still the one grape that, when it soars to the heights it's capable of, can mesmerize like no other wine, with simultaneous strength, balance, concentration, elegance, and sheer flavor. As (potentially) an "iron fist in a velvet glove," cabernet, when done well, deserves its reputation as the king of grapes.

Now, the notes:

1. Clos du Marquis 2002 (Bordeaux, France; $49.99/bottle)
Still somewhat young at seven years old, this medium-full-bodied Bordeaux (the "second" bottling of Chateau Leoville la Cases) is nevertheless drinking beautifully, with a spicy, earthy nose and gorgeous flavors of black currant, tar, leather, dried leaves, and a hint of wet stone. Balanced and very smooth. Excellent. Rating: 93

2. Cignale 2001 (Tuscany, Italy; $72.99/bottle)
Full-bodied, sweetly ripe, and incredibly sensuous, with almost primordially earthy flavors and aromas of black plum, mushrooms, animal hide, chocolate, and spice. Beautiful. Rating: 94

3. Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington; $34.99/bottle)
The first time I tried this wine (last week) I thought it was lackluster, but it was my first sample of the day, and I didn't go back. This time, with some warm-up samples under my belt, I saw this wine's charms: bright acidity and sweet, jammy plum and rhubarb fruit are laced with rich vanilla and lead to a lively, licorice-tinged finish. A bit one-note, but it's a good note. Rating: 91

4. Schweiger Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Napa; $49.99/bottle)
Full-bodied and very smooth, with black currant, black earth, spice, and tar notes. Ripe, well-integrated tannins and acidity from the cool Spring Mountain fruit lend a hard-to-resist elegance. Drinking beautifully now, but may not hit full stride for another 3-5 years. Rating: 93

5. Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Reserve 2004 (Colchagua, Chile; 16.99/bottle)
Very big, bold, and concentrated, this South American cabernet is not for the faint of heart. Full-bodied, with assertive flavors of blackberry, earthy leather, and (telltale Chilean) baked stuffed bell pepper. A bit rough around the edges, but overall not bad (and a decent value). Rating: 86

6. Vinum Africa 2006 (South Africa; $17.99/bottle)
With a nose of currant, plum, smoke, and pepper, this medium-full-bodied cabernet is super-smoky on the palate, with round but penetrating blackberry fruit and chewy, peppery tannins. Bold, classic South African wine. Think BBQ. Rating: 88

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