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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year’s Resolution: 12 Months – 12 Cabernets

With every year that passes we set out new goals, new challenges and new experiences for ourselves. But often that doesn’t translate to our wine habits, which can get old and tired. So for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers, here’s a road map for a new Cabernet Sauvignon to try each month from various places, each with its own unique quality and character; a road map that will entice your senses and open you to new wines you may never have considered. (NOTE: The original holiday version of this article was published in The Hollywood Reporter-DEC/2014)

Amici Cellars 2011 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon: From Calistoga, winemaker Joel Aiken has a pedigree worth toasting. He made the BV Georges de Latour, one of Napa’s most iconic wines for a quarter century. Now he crafts killer Cabernets from choice vineyard sites around the Napa Valley. Once poured you’ll find flavors reminiscent of violets, oak and vanilla, blackberry and blueberry. This is a smooth drinking wine that makes you realize how approachable a high end Cabernet can be, without all the fussy tannins and aging time. ($125,

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Reserve Speciale Pauillac 2010: Bordeaux is not Napa. That might seem obvious, but many people expect Bordeaux to drink like Napa Cab. The differences in this wine are obvious from the subtle and nuanced flavors to the berry notes of black cherry, and blackberry. However the earthiness, acidity and quiet nature of Bordeaux is a counterpoint to aggressive American Cabernet’s. This is a terrific example of reasonably priced Bordeaux, and a wine meant to work with food. ($49.99,

Beaulieu Vineyards 2009 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: Long used as the go-to juice for the Emmy Awards Governor’s Ball and a benchmark of Napa Cabernet since 1936, this BV is as smooth and suave as George Clooney himself. There is upfront acidity, black cherry, huckleberry, blackberry seamless oak and vanilla and a textural weight all delivered with a silky and smooth wine that makes you wonder why all wine can’t be this tranquil and creamy. ($80,

Clos Pegase 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: With renowned architect Michael Graves behind the design of this Napa winery facility, their Cabernet should be just as world class, and it is. Ready to drink now this 2011 Cabernet is very accessible for everyone and presents black cherry, rhubarb, plum, blueberry, mild acidity and though still a young wine, it is nonetheless quite structured and amiable for your dinner table. ($50,

Frank Family 2012 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Though owner Rich Frank is producer on the hit TV show Royal Pains (he was former Chairman of Walt Disney TV) he also produces wine from his northern Napa Valley property. This lithe, supple wine is replete with mild notes of blackberry, blueberry, cedar, and black cherry, balanced and structured with soft delectable oak, acidity and tannins showing the firm control of a veteran producer. ($50,

Hourglass Vineyards 2012 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Like a classic timepiece this wine, grown on the slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, exudes black cherry, lavender, blackberry, cedar, soft but noticeable minerality and a touch of caramel. The tannic structure is evident but not overwhelming and a brief decanting will enhance the floral aromas. Easy to drink, it might be gone in a few minutes if you’re not careful. ($125,

Jordan 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: Though Napa gets most of the Cabernet attention, Sonoma too has its own choice spots in which to make excellent Cabernet. Served at several of the Academy Award Governor’s Balls in the 1990s and served at the White House in 1988, this current iteration is all cassis, bright cherry, blueberry, with a mild acidity and oak program balanced along with tame tannins which makes this an easy drinking wine with a bit of heft. ($53,

Justin Vineyards 2011 Isosceles: Paso Robles has long been a producer of Cabernet and it is this wine that actually put this region on the map. The current vintage celebrates its 25th anniversary of this now iconic wine with rustic dark red fruits like rich deep black cherry, black currant and ripe blueberry. The judicious use of oak is tempered by a befitting acidity and an easy drinking quality. ($70,

Kimmel Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: From Mendocino comes this delightful wine full of rhubarb, blackberry and dusty black cherry with a touch of oak, mild acidity and mild tannins. Owner Jim Kimmel (not Jimmy Kimmel) employs certified sustainable growing practices, which shows that great wine can be made in a responsible, yet tasty way. There is a nose of sandalwood, cedar, cassis, black cherry, dark chocolate and a whisper of dark spice. ($48,

Mastroserio Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: When gold was discovered in El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills in 1848 signaling the gold rush, wine was not in the mix. But when the gold ran out, pioneer-entrepreneurs planted grapes. One of the better Cabs to come from this region is this lush rich Cab heavier on its barrel fermentation program, which results in lots of cedar, resin, blackberry, black cherry and dried chervil with a surprisingly buoyant acidity. ($50,                        
Pepper Bridge 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: Walla Walla Washington is the source of the fruit for this earthy Cabernet with plenty of rustic cherry and blackberry, blueberry fruit, minimal tobacco and aged oak - a combination of new and used French oak to be precise. 2011 was a cooler season in the state therefore there is less bright crisp fruit and more of a dense and dark nature to this wine for those who crave a more mysterious and brooding wine. ($60,

Spottswoode 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: One of Napa’s premier under the radar producers, Spottswoode goes about quietly making first-rate wine. Their Cabernet opens with rich black cherry and a nose of oak and vanilla and a slight cocoa, but is rewarded with decanting time to reveal, cedar and ripe blueberry, roasted oak and the flavors smooth out with a mature ripe red fruit note, changing the complexity to a velvety, deep berry. ($150,         

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