Vintages Pre-Release

February 27, 2014

Reported by Bruce Ewen

Even though this was a Cabernet Sauvignon tasting, the first 2 wines out of the gate were actually Pinot Noir. A good start to perhaps “set the palate” with a lighter wine and prepare one for the bigger flavours to come.

Flight One

The first two wines were Pinot Noir from Oregon—same valley—but very different expressions of the same grape. Overall both are drinking now, and neither is what I would call cellarable. Drink now or over the next few years. I just don’t think the structure is there for the long haul. But these are nice tasty wines and priced well in my opinion. Both were well received by the group.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir, 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Nice value as an everyday kind of Pinot. Light to medium bodied. Decent complexity. Gives the brambly, red berry fruit expected in a Pinot. Juicy acidity, dry, spicy and a bit of earthiness. Decent length to the finish. The fruit was not overpowering. Fresh tasting, a bit more lively then the Sokol Blosser. Most people in the tasting group preferred this wine to the Sokol Blosser.

Sokol Blosser Delinea 300 Pinot Noir, 2010, Willamette Valley, Oregon

A little more restrained. Aromas were a bit muted with ash, smoke, pepper, sage/brambles and red fruits. The fruit was not as forward nor fresh tasting as the Castle Rock. More structure to this wine, not as “tasty” as the Castle Rock. Medium bodied, dry, with a more pronounced oak presence. Smooth and decent length to the finish. The fruit was slightly heavier in feel (red fruits, bramble) and certainly an earthier feel. Bit of bitterness to the wine (in a good way).

Treaty Tree Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 2012, Western Cape , South Africa

Overall a very tasty wine. At this price it is well worth trying as a weekday quaff. Nice aromas of chocolate (some described as chocolate cake), dark berries. Refreshing, smooth, medium weight. Offers nice up-front fruit (but not heavy nor jammy), with some nice supporting structure in the background. Nice creamy weight to the fruit (a bit more full or rounded probably due to the Merlot to soften it up). Earthy with medium tannins. Not an overly complex wine. Nice basic Cabernet for the price.

Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

From the two Cabernets in this flight, this was the preferred one. Aromas were a bit more intense. Sweeter dark fruit, a touch of medicinal notes, chocolate and some floral notes at the end. Medium bodied, medium tannins, medium fruit. Standard Cabernet. Blackcurrants and cherry, earthiness, drying tannins and chocolate. A bit oaky and chewy initially. Some spiciness (some said green peppers and some got celery salt). Overall a nice pleasant drink.

Both the Santa Rita and the Treaty Tree are well priced for what you are getting. Not overly complex, but nice solid drinking wines.

Flight Two

All three wines in this flight were from the Bordeaux region. Nice examples of an old world style. The Pey La Tour was the preferred wine by most in the group. The Lacombe was second and the Picard was least favourite of the flight. The Picard, in my opinion, shows the best structure and ability to age. But the Pey La Tour was very tasty and drinking now. Overall, none of the wines, although young, are meant for long term aging in my opinion. Maybe the Picard has some aging potential, but short to medium term. None of the three showed signs of heat on the finish, so well integrated alcohol.

Chateau Pey La Tour Reserve Du Chateau, 2009, Bordeaux Superiore

Of the three French wines, this is the one with a bit more roundness, more plump fruit. It is also the one with the most Merlot (Merlot-based Bordeaux) in the blend and also some Petit Verdot. Medium bodied, medium acidity. Plump red fruits, light on the mouthfeel. Dusty, chalky tannins. Medium length finish. Mid palate to finish you get a nice touch of herbs and tea. Nice wine, and for $19, worth a multiple purchase (for drinking, not cellaring).

Chateau La Gravette Lacombe, 2010, Medoc , Bordeaux

Aromas of graphite/mineral, cassis. A bit more complexity then the Pey La Tour, but not as “gulpable”. Medium bodied, medium plus drying tannins. Some chewy toasty oak element. Flavours replay the aromas in addition to some vanilla. An element of greenness—celery salt, green pepper, but just a touch.

Château Picard, 2009, Saint Estephe , Bordeaux

This was decanted for an hour prior to serving. Aromas show nice typical Bordeaux earthy, graphite, dark berry fruit. Some initial bitterness on entry, celery salt, vanilla. Most tannic of the three. Chewy, toasty oak. I think there is some ageability here. Had the most weight on the mouthfeel of the three French wines. The fruit was a little subdued. This may still need time in the bottle to come together more. I found it a bit out of sync.

Flight Three

The last grouping was a mix of Cabernets from around the world and one ringer, a Shiraz, to round out the tasting. The winner of the flight was the Hedges, followed by the Angove and San Fabiano, who tied for second. Not finding much favour were both the Mitchell and the Rutherford. The Rutherford’s one vote for favourite (my vote, although it tied the Hedges as my two wines of the night—so note my biased tasting notes—writers prerogative).

All the wines were fairly definitively new world in style, but none could be classed as over the top or jammy. They were examples of nice drinking wines now, showing good balance. I feel all of them could be accompanied with food easily (as often, jammy big wines have a harder time as a food accompaniment).

Angove Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia

Purple in colour with no sediment. Medium bodied, sweet dark fruits (cassis, cherry) and some mint/ eucalyptus. Iron/mineral component. Also had a bit of a slick or oily mouthfeel. A touch of dill, some chocolate. Dry chalky tannins. Overall a nice tasty wine.

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, IGT Toscana

This one surprised me when it was revealed to be a Tuscan. I did not get any of the typical savoury/umani Tuscan flavours that are often found on these wines. However, several tasters did suggest they got those flavours. Brick, garnet in colour. Medium weight with dry, chalky tannins. Several commented it had lower acidity. Earthy with fading dark berry fruit. Some remarked on the touch of olives and meatiness. Medium finish. Personally I found it a bit oaky and unbalanced—time in bottle may help.

Hedges Family Estate Red, 2011, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington

The wine of the night for many. The wine was decanted for one hour. Well balanced, drinking beautifully now, but could be aged for maybe up to 10 years (who knows until you try). Nice, medium to full bodied. However, the wine plays light and lively on the palate—I find this with more northerly regions.

Ripe cassis and berries (raspberry, blackberry), but not cloying. Balanced by a zippy /juicy acidity. Touch of toasty oak, vanilla, and dusty drying tannins. Nice bit of minerality and slight greenness (dill), mixed with a dash of pepper. Drinks well now, but could age.

Rutherford Ranch Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Napa Valley

My wine of the night. Why? It showed the most signs of being able to age at least 5-10 or more years. A bit shy on the fruit right now as tannins dominate. Medium to full bodied, with chewy tannins that partially dissipated with air time. Shows cherries, cassis, and a nice minerality (graphite). Smooth drinking now, no hard edges but still a touch austere . Needed to open up and fill in a bit more, which I think age will allow it to do. Worth a buy if you can stick it in your cellar for a few years. For a wine from Napa, I found this to be a little more restrained then many Napa wines can be.

Mitchell McNicol Shiraz, 2004, Clare Valley, South Australia

Throw in a Shiraz-based wine to close things off. But this one already has some age to it. Many found it a bit funky on the aromas. Not thick and jammy, but displays more of a cool climate slightly stewed Shiraz fruit. A sweet tannin attack. Very drying. The fruit shows dark slightly stewed fruit, with a bit of savoury and spices (baking spices like cloves), and some pepper. For the money—a bit disappointing.