Stars of Cabernet has come and gone but there were some shining stars at this wine tasting highlighting the attributes of Cabernet Sauvignon. It goes without saying that Learn About Wine and Ian Blackburn have the knack for giving you a broad range of quality wineries to choose from. Obviously each person’s palate will discover the best of the best on a given day or evening and here are my picks from this tasting event.
Searching for those hard hidden gems of wineries that are often off the beaten path is one of my goals at any wine tasting I venture to and Learn About Wine’s Stars of Cabernet had quite a few that I found notable. Many are boutique wineries that are often the grape growers for larger wineries but have chosen to showcase their own expression of the grapes they grow.
Although I found many excellent Cabernet Sauvignons, Gamble Family Wine had what I considered the most impressive wine of the day. The Gambles are not newcomers to the business. They have been farming since 1916 and in the 1980’s Tom Gamble began his vineyard in Oakville. They are one of the grape growers for Beringer. The 2010 Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon was fragrantly balance. The floral aromas gave way to the wonderful cherry flavors and hints of spice. The wine has a low alcohol level of 13.9%. As Tom Gamble describes his wines “they are not bombs, nor are they French, they are a balanced Napa Valley wine.” I also tasted the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, which showed the longevity Gamble’s wines are capable of.
Le Chaneux presented both a 2007 and a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from their Belle Fillies Vineyard in Napa Valley. Both wines were excellent representations of balanced 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that comes from the Coombsville appellation. The wine is aged 2 years in French oak and 2 years in the bottle. Le Chaneux means the lucky one in French and one feels this lucky quality in the wine. In 2002, the McNerney’s planted one acre with Cabernet Sauvignon and named the vineyard Belle Fillies for their daughters. Unfortunately Susan Mcnerney’s husband passed away in 2010 from cancer. As her life was coming apart from this loss, the one thing that held her together was the vineyard. She wanted to fulfill her husband’s dream of making wine and this she has. In essence she was the lucky one to fulfill his goals and share it with others. You will be the lucky ones when you try these beautifully handcrafted wines.
Last year at Stars of Cabernet, I discovered Hawk and Horse Vineyards. I was so impressed with their wine; I wanted to experience their new vintages. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is elegant and bright with red fruit. It is a one that could go with almost any type of cuisine. I also had heard that the winery had just released their first Petite Sirah and although not a Cabernet, I was intrigued to sample it. This 2011 Petite Sirah is rich and smooth. It is a lighter and brighter than most Petite Sirah’s found in California. In speaking with Mitch Hawkins, owner of the winery, I discovered that the exact time to harvest their grapes becomes a family affair. The entire Hawkins including daughters Nina and Francesca, come together to make the decision. They pick 100 berries from different clusters of Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the vineyard and squeeze them into a plastic bag. The family than drinks this juice and with the girls playing an active role they decide when is the optimal time to pick their grapes.
Modus Operandi 2012 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville was fragrant and displayed flavors of both black and red fruit with hints of licorice. What caught my eye and encouraged me to sample was the decanter used to pour the wine. It was a hand blown swan made in Hawaii. The artsy decanter fit this artisan wine served as winemaker Jason Moore has an inherent art for making wine. His is one of passion. Jason pulled up stakes in Dallas, selling everything to move to Napa and make his dream come true. Jason is self trained and started as a garagiste. The name Modus Operandi represents what Jason’s wines are all about. It symbolizes the method he uses to create and produce his wine. Jason believes he must listen to what the grape or wine tells you. Listening to the synergy between the grapes, the wine and the winemaker establish the foundation process and method of operation.
Other wines worth mentioning are the both the 2009 El Alma de Jonata, which emphasizes the Cabernet Franc grape and the El Desafio de Jonata. These wines come from Ballard Canyon in Santa Ynez. Bacio Divino 2012 Pazzo, which means crazy and stands for what they call their crazy blend of Sangiovese, Syrah, Petit Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 Janzen were wines of interest.
These were just a few of the outstanding wines offered at Stars of Cabernet.
I highly recommend getting involved with the tastings offered by Learn About Wine. Stay tuned for the upcoming Stars of Santa Barbara on January 21, 2015 where you will get excellent selection different styles and types of wine from Santa Barbara County and Stars of Napa, which will be held some time in March.
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