2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede Vineyards

Yes this is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Lede Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, California. Great juice, here, and no surprise that it resonated so powerfully with this aficionado of the region and the varietal.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This AVA is one of the best known in the world, and the small 60-acre lot that produces the fruit for Cliff Lede fuels a state-of-the-art processing operation set into the California hillside. The winery’s technology is well-described here if you’re curious for a deeper dive; more interesting to me was learning of the ‘rock blocks’ (My Generation, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.) used to name each segment of the vineyard. Love that kind of fandom…

…and speaking of fandom I loved this  2014 Cab. How could you not? Crafted by winemaker Christoper Tynan it is a real beauty of a wine, with grapes sourced from their Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard, and a few gracious (and surely well-compensated) neighbors in the District. Given the terroir described for these areas there are some really interesting layers at work in the Cliff Lede Stag’s Leap District Cab. Of course there is plum and blackberry, and some things hinting at vanilla but not quite. It is crazy dark purple in your glass and amazing on your tongue, layers of something that reminds me of high-end soaps and their subtle fragrances.

Says the winemaker: “Interwoven into the floral notes are unctuous layers of plum, blackberry, and black currants.  Loads of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice unwind onto the palate where the vibrant acidity carries the long finish to a state of balance and equilibrium.

Whoa. Said in short? Helluva wine. Yeah it’s got the mash up that I so enjoy in Bordeaux-style red. This one comprises a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. They made 7,246 cases of this stuff, bottling it in July of 2016 after aging in French oak barrels for 21 months.

Do yourself a favor and read about the sorting, fermentation, and related production notes…and then get a bottle for the next big celebration you have. You can thank me later.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates

The 2008 Rued Estate Cabernet Sauvignon packs a powerful cherry punch. You can taste it right away, a red fruity salvo that announces cherry to anyone sampling this Sonoma County Cab.
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2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

I still don’t know if this is pronounced “red” or “rude” but it is striking in label design and obviously in its taste. Regardless, the winery is located in Dry Creek Valley, a fertile 2-mile stretch of land that receives cool morning fog and abundant afternoon sun. Notes has profiled a Dry Creek wine or two in its day, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, and you can see the overall semblance of this red gem to those wines if you care to explore those tastings further.

This bottle I had with a hearty winter dinner, a sheet pan deviled chicken (slathered with a smoky spice / Dijon coating) and a really delicious side of collared greens (accented with yellow onion and garlic) and a baked sweet potato. All tasted great and probably would be even better if not for the head cold that has plagued me and my taste buds as of late.
I don’t have as much experience with the 2008 vintage but this one is worth a repeat. The initial production was less than 400 cases, though, so you may not have many options for doing so. This 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is barrel-aged for 30 months in French oak (more old oak than new) and smells of cherry from the very first pour. Consequently, you see the color as red but probably veers closer to purple than you’d initially think. There is a hint of pepper in play too, but not like a Syrah, and the ’08 from Rued has gentle, dry tannins.  I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I did and thanks for your continued readership of Notes.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2017

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

Back in July I had occasion to taste test several amazing Orin Swift wines at my favorite wine store. The 2014 vintage of The Cuttings was instantly a new favorite, and I’ve since taken home two of these bad boys and enjoyed each immensely.

2014 Cuttings, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Let me tell you, The Cuttings deserves a more experienced palate than mine. It is layered, it is juicy, it is nuanced in ways I appreciate very much and have not the vocabulary to do full justice. This Cabernet is clearly a red blend of some exquisite kind, a black berry backbone with some spices carefully interwoven in my glass. The Cuttings smells heavenly, a clear contrast to lesser wines I have had over the past week. I am positive Dave Phinney (the winemaker) would object to the comparison but this wine of his reminds me a lot of a Michael Davis creation or one of Jeff Runquist’s “kitchen sink” wines–both profiled here in Notes in 2017 and in years past.

The wine is right, the glass is right, and even the day is right on this one. Hell, even the bottle feels substantive when you hoist it. The 2014 Cuttings was a reward from time well spent and poured all too quickly into my excited Riedel stemware.

The Prisoner Wine Company describes more effectively the goodness you’re in for when you uncork The Cuttings for yourself. There’s a reward in that glass and one I’m looking forward to again in the near future myself. Get one yourself and enjoy!

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley Estate

This full-bodied road bottle hails from Australia’s Barossa Valley. The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Barossa Valley has some tannin bite to it, but some enjoyable fruit flavors too. As it’s a bottle keeping me company on a travel week in NJ, this post is more “snapshot in time” than it is a true review; hoping you’ll look past it on this occasion and continue exploring some of the truer gems that Notes can offer.

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2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley Estate, Barossa Valley, Australia.

2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon

This Napa Valley red jumps immediately to my Top 5 all time, an amazing thank you gift from a long-time author friend. The 2012 Cardinale is flat-out spectacular and the best wine Notes has covered all year. Many thanks, Steve, and definitely raising a glass to our continued friendship.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The 2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot grapes, and truthfully is a whole lot more than that. It is a superfluous wine for which I entirely lack the vocabulary even after several hundreds of tastings covered here over the past decade. Upon initial tasting I could hit on dark cherry, on blackberry–even plum is a possibility–and some definite wisps of vanilla and peat (not sure that’s the right term for what I’m trying to describe in the latter) that I’m sure is driven by the terroir here.

A little online research shows that seven different AVAs (Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Stags’ Leap, Yountville, and St. Helena) were sourced by winemaker Chris Carpenter in developing this black cherry beauty. There are so many little subtleties in play that each time your brain seems to seize on one particular nuance it suddenly registers another flavor. Makes the 2012 very difficult to describe but spectacular to drink.

Just so I don’t leave you entirely bereft of actionable information, here’s a review from The Wine Advocate: “With enormous complexity and richness as well as full-bodied power and voluptuousness, it is a wine of exceptional purity, intensity, and well-integrated acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood. This seamless, majestic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 should drink well for two decades.

Now, that’s a ton of technical jargon and very high praise to include on a website that’s declared purpose is to be the opposite of pretentious. Certainly not my intent, but the 2012 Cardinale Cabernet was really stunning and even thinking back I’m so amazed and privileged to try this. Many thanks Dr. G and looking forward to our next occasion!