A Case of Cabernets (and a stray shiraz)


Prices are current in Ontario and in Canadian dollars.

Robert Mondavi ‘Private Selection’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
4 stars

California $17.95
The back labels reads: “Smell: Red berry, spice Taste: Cherry, blueberries, vanilla Pair: Grilled steak, pasta”  That’s why I don’t use fruit and other descriptors; they tell you nothing about the weight, balance, tannins, or style – the qualities you really need to know.  This cabernet is fruit forward, as you’d expect a California cabernet to be, and the fruit in question is fruit-sweet, as in the sweetness of ripe fruit.  It has all the assets of a drinkable wine: some lusciousness in the flavours, fresh and clean acidity, and unobtrusive tannins. It’s not a challenging wine, but who want to think about wine all the time? Who takes Anna Karenina to read on a long flight? 

Santa Carolina ‘Reserva de Familia’ Cabernet Sauvignon  2014
4.5 stars

DO Valle del Maipo, Chile $19.95
This is a robust cabernet that manages to achieve some finesse at the same time. The flavours are rich and concentrated, with impressive layering and depth, and the texture is generous, mouth-filling, and smooth. The acid is well measured – it cuts through the fruit and freshens the texture – and the tannins are fine and well integrated. It’s drinking very well, and I suggest drinking in the next two or three years to enjoy the primary fruit flavours. 

Casillero del Diablo ‘Reserva Privada’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
4.5 stars

DO Maipo Valley, Chile $17.95
[Tasted October 2016] Winemaker Marcelo Papa is moving to earlier picking within the harvest window as Concha y Toro moves away from the very ripe flavours that have dominated until recently, and towards wines that show “more precise” fruit character, are less sweet, and have lower alcohol. This cabernet, from Chile’s best region for the variety, is juicy and lively, but retains the depth and complexity of fruit you expect of cabernet. It has much less of the mint/eucalyptus character often found in Maipo cabernet – something Papa also attributes to earlier harvesting. This is a young cabernet that needs a little longer to integrate. Drink it 2018-21. In Ontario: coming to Vintages stores in March 2017.  

Yalumba Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
4.5 stars

Coonawarra, South  Australia $19.95
This is a delicious cabernet that delivers quite intense fruit flavours right through the palate while never losing sight of structure and balance. There’s plenty of complexity and breadth in the flavours, the acid is clean and fresh, and the tannins are present and perceptible but integrated so as to let you drink this now, when it’s quite young. It’s not for long cellaring, but enjoy it’s youthfulness through to the end of the twenty-teens.

Errazuriz ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
4.5 stars

DO Valle de Aconcagua, Chile $19.95
The ‘Alto’ in the name refers to the location of the vineyards this wine was sourced from, lying at 600m above sea level on a terrace overlooking the Aconcagua River. This is a rich cabernet with a concentrated and multilayered flavour profile. The fruit is backed by well-measured acid, and the texture is smooth, generous, and tannin-dry. (The wine was aged 12 months in oak.) Drink it now and over the next four years. In Ontario: coming to Vintages stores in March 2017. 

Nederburg ‘The Winemasters’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
4 stars

WO Western Cape, South Africa $11.95
Look for some very pretty fruit flavours here. They’re bright, young, and vibrant, and together with the almost crisp acidity make for a lighter style of cabernet, despite the fact that the fruit is quite concentrated. The tannins are drying and easily manageable. I like the balance and the vibrancy here and they set the wine up for a wider range of foods than the heavier and more tannic style of cabernet. It’s very good value. 

14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
4.5 stars

Columbia Valley, Washington $18.95
This is an excellent cabernet that displays focused and layered fruit right through the palate. Half of it was made in stainless steel, the other half aged about 12 months in oak (10-15% new), so that the fruit retains a lot of purity. The acid is well measured and adds juiciness to the texture, while the tannins are sweet and manageably drying. It’s drinking very nicely now and will hold its very attractive freshness to 2020 or so. In Ontario: coming to Vintages stores in March 2017.  

Fetzer ‘Valley Oaks’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
4.5 stars

California $13.95
The flavours here are really quite substantial in depth, with very good layering, and there’s good breadth to the complexity as well. The texture is dry to somewhat astringent (the finish is very astringent) and the acid is clean and refreshing. This is a quite impressive wine for the price and represents very good value.

Torres ‘Gran Coronas’ Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
5 stars

DO Penedès, Spain $19.95
This is a powerful cabernet that delivers densely layered, well-defined fruit right through the palate and out the other end to a long finish. The acid is clean and fresh, with an attractive bite, while the tannins are drying on the palate with a slight grip at the finish. There’s a lot going on here, and all the components are well integrated and harmonious. It’s a wine for robust food, but it shows some finesse and grace. Drink now to 2020. 

Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
5 stars

DO Valle del Maipo, Chile $22.95 (353086)
It’s not surprising to see this 100% cabernet labelled by the Maipo Valley appellation. It’s not that every cabernet from the region is superlative, but it’s the source of most of Chile’s finest cabernets, and this is one of them. Although it’s young (I tasted this in September 2016, when the wines was two-and-a-half years old), it’s drinking beautifully and has the wherewithal to hold well for another five or six years – although I have to say I like the way it us now, and I would drink it in 2017-18. There’s great concentration of flavour, with an intensity that’s positive rather than full-on fruit, the complexity is impressive, and the acidity is calibrated perfectly. The tannins are ripe and drying rather than grippy. It’s a deliciously drinkable wine at a very good price, well worth buying in multiples. In Ontario: coming to Vintages stores in March 2017.  

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
4 stars

DO Valle Central, Chile $13.95
Concha y Toro’s ‘Casillero del Diablo’ range delivers very good quality and value vintage after vintage. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, fruity, flavourful, well-balanced cabernet, you really can’t go wrong with this. It has good depth of flavour, very decent complexity, and the acid to keep it fresh and juicy. The tannins dry it out, but are unobtrusive.

A cabernet (and a shiraz) aged in whiskey barrels

Many whiskies are aged in barrels that have previously been used for aging port or sherry. It’s such a popular style that, with the downturn in the sherry market and a shortage of used sherry barrels, some whiskey producers buy barrels and have sherry producers custom age them with sherry for eventual use at their distilleries. Now some winemakers have turned the tables (rolled the barrels?) and are aging their wine in barrels previously used for whiskey. How long before we get a wine aged in a barrel that was previously used to age whiskey and that was first used for sherry?

Robert Mondavi Private Selection ‘Aged in Bourbon Barrels’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
4 stars

Monterey County, California $15.85
Don’t expect to taste bourbon in this cabernet. It would be interesting to taste the same wine aged in non-bourbon-affected barrels at the same time as this. There’s certainly a note of something different here, but if I tasted it blind I would identify the source. It’s certainly a delicious wine, with lots of lively flavour, bright acidity, and tannins that are very drying, making the wine astringent at the finish. A nice drop. 

Jacob’s Creek ‘Double Barrel’ Shiraz 4th Vintage
4 stars

Australia $19.95
There is a ‘Double Barrel’ cabernet sauvignon, but I haven’t tasted it. I first tasted this shiraz alongside the same wine aged in conventional barrels, and there is certainly a difference: more depth of flavour, a little more intensity. You’ll find it here, but the wine is still light on its feet, with fairly bright fruit flavours, decent complexity, and a nicely pitched dose of acid. It’s dry, but without much in the way of perceptible tannins. Easy-drinking then, and a very tasty wine.