MORE CALIFORNIA CABERNETS
- RIDGE VINEYARDS & WINERY
2015 Santa Cruz Mountains Cab, etc. $54.99
vineyard easily merits inclusion on the list of California "Grand Cru"
sites. The track record for Monte Bello is long and reasonably consistent.
The vineyard is atop Monte Bello Ridge. Cabernet from this site is sometimes big and
tannic, but almost always elegant and refined.
The winery was founded by Dave
Bennion and some pals from Stanford Research Institute. They had several other
partners and made wine in a cellar closed in the 1940s. The wines were like Dave:
big, bold, intense and a bit rustic.
Winemaker Paul Draper arrived on the scene in 1970 and those wines of the early part of the decade were huge. They're still young
and backwards. Draper made a sensational wine from a vineyard called Eisele in 1971
and this, too, is a candidate for the Hall of Fame. This wine
really established the Eisele Vineyard as a potentially great site and
Phelps made a few vintages of it in later years.
Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains appellation appears on Cabernets from time to
time. Ridge has segmented their Cabernet vineyards into three dozen
different parcels. The best, most structured and cellar-worthy wines
go into the Monte Bello, while the Santa Cruz label is the
Their 2015 Santa Cruz Mountains blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon , 16% Merlot,
2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.
This is made of fruit from their Monte
Bello vineyards. The wine is medium-full bodied and has a wonderful
perfume of the Cabernets. Wood is in the background, enhancing the
wine rather than covering it. This is drinkable now, especially with
food. We expect it to develop and soften in the bottle over the next
5-10 years. Good value, too.
The Monte Bello "Cabernet" is routinely a wine we view as a
leading ambassador for California wines. The wine has a great track
record, being worthy of comparison to top Bordeaux. It's typically a
much different animal from its Napa Valley competitors, as it's not a
"fruit bomb" and we're fairly certain they don't blend in the
grape concentrate called "Mega Purple" in hopes of gaining
impressive numerical scores from those who critique California wines.
These are some of California's best wines...as it's grown in notoriety, the
wine has become a bit scarce. They used to sell it in a 12 bottle
box. Then in a 6 bottle box. These days it's offered in distribution
in a 3 bottle box.
We periodically have a few bottles, but don't count on it.
- ROMBAUER VINEYARDS
- Rombauer is, these days, famous for its hugely-oaked
Chardonnay (is it a Spńtlese or merely a Kabinett level wine?), but they make a nice, medium-full bodied Cabernet.
They used to purchase fruit for this, and then for a while, it was solely
from estate grown vineyards. Apparently sales have increased (as has
the quality of the wine) and now they augment their own Cabernet vineyards
with some grapes from growers.
The 2014 has 11% Petit Verdot and 5% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
We used to view this as a pretty ordinary bottle of wine, but we must admit
the quality level has been increasing, it seems, each vintage and we know
our snobby wine-geek friends would be quite surprised if presented this wine
"blind." They're using 70% brand new French oak, too,
another enhancement. As a result, this is nicely cedary and can be put
on the dinner table instead of, or along with, a number of other well-known
- Currently in stock: 2014 ROMBAUER Napa CABERNET SALE
ROUND POND ESTATE
MacDonell had a farm, ee-eye-ee-eye-oh.
And the farm is in Napa Valley's town of Rutherford, a prime site for
The place is named after a childhood camping place in New York near West
Point...Round Pond. MacDonnell named his Rutherford retreat as Round
Pond and today they grow grapes and olives on the property.
It's a beautiful property, planted in fairly rich, fertile soil on the
We're fans of their Cabernet...and now they offer three bottlings.
The 2015 Rutherford Estate is a deep, dark, full-bodied red. They fortify the Cabernet
with a bit of Petit Verdot and the wine is very showy. We like the intense dark
berry notes and the moderately oaky character. It's approachable now
and it ought to cellar nicely for another 5-10 years.
One of the best values in Napa Valley Cabernet was their "Napa" bottling.
This is now labeled "Kith and Kin." Perfectly okay wine,
but we've not carried it for a couple of vintages.
We advised them to consider having a bit of oak showing in future
vintages...the last one we tasted was well-made by a bit
"standard." Stay tuned on that one.
They sometimes have a "Reserve" bottling costing
triple-digits. The last one we tasted was very fine...nicely oaked
and showing dark fruits.
Currently in stock: 2015 ROUND POND Napa-Rutherford CABERNET
SAUVIGNON SALE $67.99
2010 ROUND POND Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON Sold
- The Sbragia name may
be familiar to you if you read any wine publications. Winemaker Ed
Sbragia has been with the Beringer winery for more than 25 years. They
have put his name on a reserve wine or two.
Sbragia's father cultivated plums in Sonoma County in the 1930s and later
planted a vineyard. His efforts at winemaking were not so successful,
apparently. But Ed came on board at Beringer in the 1970s, working
with winemaking legend Myron Nightingale. Sbragia took over the helm
in 1984 and this coincides with Beringer's making tremendous qualitative
strides. The 1984 Reserve Cabernet really established Beringer as,
finally, a source for major league quality wines.
Well, Sbragia's son is now working in the wine business. Adam Sbragia
is employed at Beringer's "Souverain" facility in
So now there's a "Sbragia Family" winery, featuring a range of
We included the "heavy hitter" bottling of Sbragia's line-up in
our May 2005 blind-tasting of 2001 Napa Cabernets. The wine was the
group's favorite wine. I also had it ranked first.
- In October of 2006 we had Sbragia's 2003 "Monte Rosso Vineyard"
wine in a blind-tasting of Cabernets. It was the group's top wine as
it showed sweet oak and a wonderful fruit fragrance and flavor. I
knocked it a bit for its "currently fashionable styling," but
there's no denying the wine is quite good. The nose shows sweet
fragrances and the wine is full and deep on the palate. It will
probably cellar well for 5-10+ years, but it's most showy now.
The Monte Rosso vineyard was, of course, owned by Louis Martini and it's now
part of the Gallo empire.
The soils are decomposed volcanic red rock, a wonderful environment for
The 2010 was very good, but we've not found the 2011 or 2012 to be
especially showy or of similar quality and complexity.
- Currently in stock: 2010 Sbragia "Sonoma Valley"
Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon Sold Out
- SILVER OAK WINE CELLARS
2014 Alexander Valley SALE
2014 Alexander Valley SALE $179.99
2013 Napa SALE $112.99
- Brother Justin Meyer started his
wine career, I believe, at the Christian Brother's facility. He was involved at
Franciscan Vineyards in the early days of that property before striking gold with Silver
The recipe has been simple, the winery creating a Cabernet styled along the
lines of the old-time Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernets: lots of American oak and no
We've liked these for a long time, but it took Robert Parker (The Wine
Advocate) until the early 1980s to finally praise these wines. Having been
beatified, the wines had been more difficult to acquire. No
longer the new kid on the block, Silver Oak wines are routinely viewed
derisively by hot-shot sommeliers who have dubbed the wine "Silver
Joke." We know a number of wine biz people who look down their
pointy little noses at Silver Oak's wines.
Okay...the wine might not be the most complex Cabernet on the planet, but it
is still a rather nice wine with a steak. We opened a 1997
Alexander Valley in July of 2012 and this was a beautiful bottle of
wine! Anyone deriding this is simply an arrogant snob. I'll bet
the same folks would gush about similarly-styled wines from Spain's Rioja.
A Napa bottling is produced
at the Napa facility and, having bought the old Lyeth winery in Sonoma, their Alexander
Valley wine is vinified in Geyserville. The single vineyard "Bonny's" is
no longer in production at Silver Oak, but the Meyer family still owns the
vineyard and they are offering "Bonny's Vineyard" Cabernet under
their own banner.
like this style of wine, which we do, please have a look at some of my Spanish
selections---these are matured in American oak as well, and many offer as much pleasure as
do the Silver Oak wines. The wines hold up beautifully, but we've found they are fully
developed upon release. While they may soften with time, you won't find subtle
nuances in an aged Silver Oak bottle...what you see is what you get. Delicious with
grilled or roasted red meats.
The 2014 Alexander Valley was the latest release. It is a wonderful,
classic example of Silver Oak Cabernets...lots of woodsy fragrances on the
nose and palate. The tannins are approachable and the wine can easily
be consumed now, in its youth. It ought to last well for another 10-15
years if stored properly. This is particularly satisfying
when paired with a grilled steak.
The Napa Cabernet is a fine example of what Silver Oak Cabernet is all
about. It's a throw-back to the great old bottles of Private Reserve
Cabernet from Beaulieu Vineyard back in the 1960s and 1970s. Those
were wines which showed lots of dark fruit notes and plenty of American oak.
We currently have the 2013 Napa...quite good.
Silver Oak now owns a barrel-building company in Higbee, Missouri.
They had purchased a 50% stake in the company back in the year 2000, but
these days they own the place outright.
It allows them to control and maintain the quality of the barrels that are
so important to the style of Silver Oak's wines.
As you can see, the price of a bottle of wine has changed slightly.
We checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics "Inflation
Calculator." That allows you to select a year and dollar figure
and calculate how much that money is worth today.
The $6 bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet would have been sold, likely, in
1976. That $6 calculates to $26.59 in 2018.
As you can see, the inflation rate for the wine industry is far different.
The cost of vineyard land, barrels, labor, etc. are far different today than
in the 1970s!
There was a wine shop in San Francisco some years ago that
had a marvelous little catalogue and they worked with a local cartoonist to
have great art work on the covers, always barbing some aspect of the wine
There are always people who will tell you they used to buy "such and
such a wine and it was only ten bucks back in the day."
Yes...you were once in diapers and now look at you.
(Uh, some of these old-timers might once again be in diapers.)
- The Summers
family has been growing grapes and making wine for a few years now, having
traded in his banking career for one in winemaking.
We are saddened to have learned Jim passed away in August of 2018...not sure
what the future holds for the winery...
They're on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga, a neighborhood anchored by a little
winery called Chateau Montelena.
A 2014 "Andriana's CuvÚe" is one of the few bargains in good
California Cabernet. This is a blend of Napa (41%) and Sonoma (59%)
fruit. It's a medium-bodied Cabernet, intended for
immediate drinking, rather than extended cellaring. It's a wine which
is quite drinkable in its youth...very fine. Made predominantly of Cabernet
Sauvignon (there's a bit of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Petite Sirah in
the mix) and matured for 16 months in French oak, half the barrels being
2014 Summers "Andriana's CuvÚe" Cabernet Sauvignon SALE
Famous Barolo winemaker Luciano Sandrone and Famed Calistoga Vintner, Jim
Jim Summers and that's winemaker Ignacio Blancas, who despite his name,
makes some terrific red wines.
In the Summers' winery...Tasting Cabernet from the barrel...
MORE CALIFORNIA CABERNETS
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