Tag Archives: cabernet sauvignon

Napa Valley makes wine? (2 reviews)

Yeah. Napa Valley. California wine. We all know it. We’ve all heard/seen the accolades and the high scores and the higher prices. We’ve heard the history. The famous year of 1976 and how that changed everything. New world wine (can we really still call it that?).

You know what though? I haven’t done any reviews of California wine. I thought it might be time.. Actually I’m not sure if I have. But we’re gonna look at some anyway. This time around we have 2 Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley.

Are they cheap? Depends on your definition I suppose but if you asked me I’d say yes AND no (see what I did there?). For fine wine in today’s world, and by today’s standards, Yes, they’re kind of cheap. For a person on a budget (like yours truly) spending money out of their own pocket, No… not so cheap. But I digress.

For this foray into the world of wine, I was going for big. Extracted. Powerful. I think I did okay in that regard. But I didn’t exactly break the bank. And I also didn’t go into any great lengths to get either of these wines, so don’t expect a Screaming Eagle review here…

Anyway, let’s get to it I guess..


Venge Vineyards – 2011 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon – about $47 – Napa Valley, CA – 14.7% alc


So, I gotta say, even with 1-2 hours of airtime on the bottle before I poured a glass, this wine was not ready yet. It screams for a decanter. Two hours in a decanter would’ve been perfect.

Day 1: Pours a deep deep purple.

Smell is heavy with vegetation, leaves, bushes and underbrush. Powerful dark fruit. Slight spiciness, almost gingery. Biscuits and a bit of chocolate with some mint.

Taste is huge spicy dark fruit. Almost stinging. Hot. Branches and vegetation.

Mouthfeel is big in body. Moderately drying.

Long, fruity, spicy finish.

The stinging hotness was honestly a little much on the first day. Very concentrated and felt a little closed off.

Day 2: Okay. Now it’s strutting its stuff. The body died down to a hefty medium and the heat has died down considerably, making way to sweet dark chocolate and plums with the underbrush thing going on underneath. Baking spices and vanilla. Peppery spice. Really really enjoyable. Complex. Interesting. Easy to drink.

Be patient with this one if you want a big Cab Sauv and don’t mind ponying up the dough needed to get a bottle of this. It’s definitely worth it if you can swing it and give it quite a bit of airtime.



Cade – 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley, CA – about $60 – 15% alc


The Napa Valley Cab Sauv from Cade is not the most renowned wine they make. That would be the Howell Mountain version that costs just 5-15 dollars more, depending on the vintage. But in an effort to buck a trend or two I was curious about the NV version. After the first day and about 2 hours open in the bottle, I was prepared to agree with some reviews I’d read saying this particular wine would best be served with several years in the cellar. Day 2 changed my mind yet again (a trend with these big Napa Cabs today).

Pours a dense purple. Smells of tightly packed plums, little bit of graham cracker/pie crust, super slight vegetation, blue/blackberry and surprisingly coffee with some airtime.

Taste is of plums/dark fruits. Concentrated. Huge flavors but has the feeling of being pretty wound up. Medium acidity. Jam. Light blueberry. Pie crust.

Mouthfeel is big. Huge big. Very drying.

Finish is long and dominated by the plummy dark fruits. And some pepper. Coffee hangs around a bit too.

Definitely big, concentrated, highly extracted. Gets a little savory and the dark fruits get a little bruised with even more airtime. Slight dirt to back up the little bit of vegetation. Good but a little closed off during the first day.

Day 2 evolved into even more savory components. More vegetation with some underbrush. Waaaayyyyy more spices (cracked black pepper, slight cinnamon maybe, baking spices) and a big chocolate component. Dark fruit flavors even bigger. Exploding from the glass. Honestly, day 2 gave way to a completely different wine, it seemed. Super big and complex. Amazing. Couldn’t help but say wow during the entire length of the last 2 or 3 glasses in the bottle.

YES. Worth it. Decant for several hours and this wine should reward you with big flavor and complexity. Get it.

Look out next time for some more California wines of a couple different varietals from some different towns.


Last Trip to Argentina for the Foreseeable Future, but Today’s A TWO-FER!

I know we’ve done a lot of Argentinian wines (or it seriously seems that way at least).
I know that. But they’re so good. And so cheap. And usually YES’s so please forgive me.
This will be our last foray into Argentina for awhile I think. France and Italy and Ohio are nipping at our heels here
and I honestly can’t wait to see what they all have in store. But those are for another day.

This is kind of a funny story. Well maybe not a “funny haha” as much as a “oh shit I didn’t realize I did that” kind of funny. But we’ll call it funny all the same.

So I was at THE STORE. (Random tangent: Usually I’d refer to most liquor/wine/spirits/beer stores as Beer Stores as I’ve always done when referring to my local haunts out here in Chicago. Reason being is when I lived in PA there were only two types of stores you could really go to get your alcohol; beer distributors ‘which eventually gave way to Giant Eagle, a grocery store, being able to sell beer’ and State Stores for your liquor and wine and whatnot. And when I lived there I really only went to the places that sold beer. So since I would now just as well walk into a place that sells everything like we have here in Chicago and walk out with some combination of all of them, I’ll probably stop calling it the beer store and just refer to it as THE STORE.)

So I was at The Store and I was kind of in a hurry to get a couple bottles. I saw a Malbec with a nice description and grabbed it. Then I saw another Malbec (one I’ll be reviewing tonight) that I’d been on the lookout for and grabbed that as well. Then I passed a Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice write-up and a good price and thought “what the hell” and grabbed that too. Can’t really remember what else I grabbed that day, but I’m sure there were a few more. Turns out all three of those that I earlier referred to are from Mendoza, Argentina and TWO of them are from the same producer!

So I thought, “Great! Now I have a theme for a blog post.” and went with it. Yeah, in retrospect, just a random coincidence and not so much funny but I got a chuckle out of it.

On to the wines!!

Chakana Wines – Maipe Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2012 – 14.5% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $13


This Cab pours dark and inky. Brooding even. Purple, garnet, deep red. I don’t wanna say blood red but I can’t think of another descriptor.

First thing that hits with my nose to the glass is vegetation. That Green Bell Pepper smell. More whiffs and a few swirls brings out super concentrated dark fruits, brown sugar, sugar cookie, vannila, oak and a bit of heat (detectable but not overwhelming). Other baking spices present as well. Little bit of tar and tire rubber eventually. Cracked black pepper as well.

First thing that hits when tasting is the vegetation and the green pepper. Then the big fruits and that sticky brown sugar sticking around. Hints of smoke, tar and pepper in there as well. Medium complexity. Seems a little tight. A little closed. Opened up nicely over time and over the second day.

This might be a good candidate to decant if you know you’re going to finish the bottle in a night. Give it an hour or 2 and you should be good. Otherwise open it and let the bottle breathe for a good hour or so and give your glasses a few good swirls to bring it to life.

Mouthfeel is BIG. Like really big. Huge. Wow. Not syrupy or cloying in any way. Just… BIG.

Finish is medium in length. My notes again mention the tightness of the wine on the first night. Nothing else sticking out. Fresh dark cherry and other dark fruits stick around awhile with a little bit of everything else mixed in. Oak is definitely felt on the finish as well.

(Straight from the Night One notes: “so far so good on night one. really excited to see how this keeps opening up. pretty sure it’s not slowing down any time soon.)

Night two is still big and bold. Acidity and juicy fruits coming to the fore and the vegetal notes of yesterday kept in check.

Okay. So, a big ass wine for 13 bucks? Ageability if you wanna go there for sure. Really a lot going on for the money. Gotta be…


Chakana Wines – Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2012 – 14.5% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $20


So this guy is a 100% Malbec aged 18 months in French Oak. Crazy that you can get something that spent the last year and a half in oak for $20 with this kind of quality. Gotta love Argentina and Malbec. No wonder people are eating them up (or drinking as it were) these days.

This one pours deep purple/red. Lookin good my friend.

Aromas of bright red cherries, plum, a little bit of chocolate, and some baking spices. Eventually, after many hours there’s a floral, almost potpourri aroma wafting from the glass. This is complex as hell actually. Everytime you go back to it there’s something else there. Or some other crazy combination of all of the above. Nice.

Taste is of cherry and plum up front. Small hits of acidity. Super slight vegetation but really hardly any at all compared to the Cab. Not apparently drying on day one. Day two, however, gets really grippy in a great way. Cocoa peaks out here and there. Spices, and maybe a little bit of cinnamon as well.

Mouthfeel is medium plus in body. Not as big as the Cab, but still very satisfying for sure.

Finish is relatively long. Call it medium plus. Cherry and cocoa with a small amount of sneaky dryness throughout most of the first day. Day two brought out a lot more of that wonderful grippy dryness as mentioned before. Heat is felt but not tasted on the finish. Baking spices and vanilla come to the party at times as well.

Pie crust and a nice pleasing vanilla dryness come more and more to the fore as it opens up. Slight savory notes hit eventually as well.

This is quite complex. Different flavors coming out each time I touch my lips to the glass. It’s big-ish but not a super bold wine. More silky and elegant instead of a big bruiser like the Cab. Not as much weight in comparison.

This one I’d honestly drink more just for enjoyment than for analyzing and looking at the technical aspects, which you certainly need sometimes. This would be awesome to open with friends and family. It’s an easy drinker, as are most Malbecs, which only adds to their appeal. Definitely recommended.


See you next time folks.


Here’s lookin’ at you, you Argentinian Cab Sauv…

So it’s no wonder a lot of people that enjoy red wine enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon’s. The issue with the style/varietal is that the cost of admission for the highly rated, big, brash, in-your-face, mind meltingly awesome Napa (and other CA regions’) Cabs can be pretty high. So most of us are left to wade in the shallow end of the pool where the drinking is much thinner and doesn’t have a lot going on as far as complexity is concerned. 

Then we can remember there are actually other places that can make a Cabernet Sauvignon (it came from France for chrissakes) that you don’t have to trade a first-born (or any-born for that matter) to take home. And, as it turns out, Argentina is pretty good at it. For a place I’d usually think of when it comes to their Malbec and grapes of Spanish descent, they can apparently do a pretty nice Cab as well. 

And that brings us around to tonight’s wine, a Cab Sauv from Mendoza, Argentina. 



BenMarco – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.9% alc – Mendoza, Argentina – about $18



As per usual, this was drank over 2 nights to see how it develops over time and whatnot. We have these nifty stopper/pour-er thingys that do a pretty good job of keeping me entertained (I’m rather easily amused, as it were). 

It looks like wine..
Uh, like… red wine?
Wait, that’s not a question.
It looks like wine!
Okay, let me start over..

In the glass it’s a very deep dark purple; kind of inky and…
You know, the description of how a wine looks, to me, is kind of rather silly. Possibly a little redundant. I know it CAN be important. But is it always? Eh. Maybe in a couple years I’ll look back at Past-Me and say, “Man that guy was an idiot.” But for now, I’m gonna stick with this. It looks like red wine. (Also, I’m partially colorblind.) (Ed. note: Iain formally apologizes for that rant. Please forgive him.)

Well at least it smells good! And, seriously, it does. On day 1, first whiff brought lots of baking spices and brown sugar. A little cocoa and dark cherries with some greens barely peeking through. Toward the end of the glass a hint of cinnamon. Not too hot but you could definitely tell it is nearing 14%. Day 2 brought the heat a little more, but not unbearably so. Also, the green notes, which it turns out are more brambly with grasses and dead leaves, are more pronounced on the second day. The fruit grew overnight as well, with the spices and brown sugar taking a back seat. Enticing to say the least.

A few sips and it is pretty clear from both nights that this is a big wine with a small pricetag. Big brown sugar, dark cherries, a savory thing here or there (soy sauce almost), with the baking spices and cocoa at times. Day 2 followed the nose with the bigger fruits to balance the spices. Really really nice. 

In the mouth, it feels silky smooth. Very lush and full, like a medium mouthfeel that’s a little too big for his britches. It’s funny because I didn’t realize how big a mouthfeel I was dealing with on Day 1 until I later drank another red that I knew to have a decent, medium body. Day 2 I’m feeling a little silly cause, damn if this isn’t a big wine. Not syrupy. Just full. And fun. Worth taking out to at least a dinner AND a movie on your next date. 

The finish is pretty tidy as well. And I don’t mean tidy to mean short, just that it keeps the niceness moving along throughout the drink. Long but not unwelcomingly long. Day 1 was immediately drying with lingering cocoa and brown sugar. The only difference on day 2 is a little more fresh fruit and less drying.

Okay, I gotta say, honestly I wasn’t exactly excited about opening this up. It just happened to win the eenie-meenie-mieny-moe of the the night. Well I’m glad this is what I ultimately went with because it’s definitely worth picking up if you see it. Kind of a no brainer when you consider the fullness and complexity for the price. 


See you next time folks!

Shotgunning some Yes/No’s to pass the time..

Today I’m gonna do some shotgunned mini-review-style Yes’s and No’s as I work my way through tomorrow’s full-write-up review..

The idea here is to go over some recent wine purchases and say a few words for each and give it a rating.
Yup. Reviews. Shotgun style!


Dreaming Tree – 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.7% alc – Napa Valley, California – about $13:
Light, easy drinking, lots of berries with a hint of vanilla. Does a body good and doesn’t break the bank. 

Barista – 2012 Pinotage – 13.5% – South Africa – about $14:
Bacon! A little espresso and dark chocolate. Spend a little more time with it and you’ll find ripe dark cherries hidden under those smoked meats. If you want something interesting and want to go against the grain with an oft-maligned varietal, try this Pinotage.

Santa Ema – 2010 Merlot Reserve – 13.5% – Maipo Valley, Chile – about $13:
I gotta tell you I was avoiding Merlot for awhile. This guy brought me back to the camp with it’s fun vanilla spices and soft, silky texture. Seriously worth a look.

Bodegas – Luis Canas Crianza 2009 – 14% – Rioja, Spain – about $17:
This made me want to try more spanish wines. Damn. Tempranillo is a special grape when you get it in some wood for awhile. Not the most complex thing out there but what do you want for under $20? Oh, right. A good wine. Yeah, this one’s good. 

Oro De Castilla – 2011 Hermanos del villar Verdejo – 12.5% – Rueda, Spain – about $15:
Okay, it smells amazing. And then tastes mostly like cat pee. Letdown for sure.


Well there we have it. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s full write up!