Cabernet Tasting at the Bentley Reserve

This afternoon I tasted Cabernet Sauvignon from a variety of CA vineyards at a Cabernet barrel tasting. The annual event is sponsored by the California Cabernet society to showcase barrel samples from the most recent vintage.

All of the wineries had 2009 barrel tastings which were honestly not really drinkable because Cabernet needs to mature and age to taste good but, with a bit of imagination, the barrel tastings provide insight into what the wines may taste like once they develop and age.

In addition to the barrel samples, the wineries all had current releases which were drinkable and in some cases delicious and provided further insight into what the barrel samples would likely become.

Cabernet Sauvignon is generally a fuller bodied wine with tannins and complexity meant to be aged and meant to be enjoyed with food. Cabernet Sauvignon is especially good with a juicy steak or any kind of red meat and they did have some yummy marinated flank steak at the tasting to accompany the wines along with some strong cheeses.

The wines at the tasting varied in price from $45 to $150 a bottle (at least those I tasted) and varied from big corporate to small family owned wineries. These wines are not meant for the entry level consumer but for people who know and can appreciate good wine and who are willing to pay for it.

The best high end wine in my opinion was the Carter 2007 Coliseum Block Cabernet at $125 a bottle. A small production wine that delivers a big powerful and well balanced taste. A close second in the high end category was the Charles Krug 2006 limited edition at $100 a bottle. This wine is a cabernet of 10 different clones it is a limited edition and quite tasty. The third best high end wine in my opinion was Cliff Lede 2006 Staggs Leap Poetry Vineyard Cabernet at $150 a bottle. This wine is made from grapes on a steep hillside which provide nice complexity with a good finish.

Rocca at $75 was far and away the best mid-range wine and gave the high end Cabernets a good run for their money. Made by a young winemaker of Italian origin Paul Colantuuori, the wine is supple and well balanced with nice structure. This wine won a well deserved double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I suspect that as Paul gains notoriety, the price of this wine may sadly increase, though I hope I am wrong!

At the lower end in price, Varozza Vineyard’s 06 Cabernet was my definite favorite. A family owned vineyard around since 1913, the original owner’s grandson Jack and his wife Dianna have again begun to produce wines after a break in production in 1946 with the death of Joseph Varozza. The wine is tasty, well crafted and at $45 a good value. ZD’s 2006 Cabernet at $50 a bottle was also tasty and in my opinion tasted like a more expensive wine.

All in all a fun afternoon and a great chance to taste some high end Cabs with an interesting and diverse group of people.

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