2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet SauvignonPer Trader Joe’s Ten For The Tasting (pdf) “Come on; get your nose in there. Way in there… the deep crimson hue, the aromas, the body… oh, yes! Handcrafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain appellation, this wine has body. Grown in volcanic ash and clay soils along sloping hillside at elevations well over 1,800 feet, the grapes develop distinctly thick skins and robust tannins. And this vintage demonstrates a little more weight and richness than in years past. A hint of bell peppers on the nose dissipates into warm aromas of cedar-y forest and dark berries. On the mouth, the flavors of succulent black cherry are followed by slight hints of hazelnut and tobacco. And because we are helping the producers move out inventories that had been set aside for on-premise markets (aka fine restaurants), we’re selling this lusty Cab for $14.99 – oh, yes!”

What I Think:

As mentioned in the Trader Joe’s Ten for Tasting post I was tipped off on this one by DP. Likewise we covered that this offering typically retails for $60+, given that you can imagine how eager I was to try it once I brought it home. So I quickly found a steak and pulled the cork on this one…

In the glass I found a great nose of fruit balanced perfectly with spice. Some blackberry, allspice and a hint of green rhubarb. On the palate a bit tart up front but quickly balanced with gorgeous, rich fruit as well as spice and mint/methyl notes. The mid-palate is smooth and silky leading to a chalky, inky, dry and lasting finish. This wine is complex, to me, offering, layers and layers that keep you contemplating exactly what it is you are tasting. Regardless, you know it is good things while going through the exercise. As I look for comparisons I quickly come to the Chateau Chevalier from Spring Mountain which took Grape Madness by storm some months back. Both from Napa, both from TJ’s, both fifteen bones and both with a dry, chalky finish but most of all both great values. That said, thank goodness I didn’t drop $60 here or I would likely be disappointed. Others, here in the comments on the site, haven’t been as big as fans as me so feel free to give this one a pass if it is north of your usual price range.

Rating: Wow!

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18 thoughts on “2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

  1. now TRY THE “Beatty Ranch” Howell Mountain Zinfandel! Yikes, in my opinion it is the best Zin I’ve had from Napa and was a $45 Retail, also for $14.99. Available now at TJ’s – Ropseville, CA !

    A Great wine.

  2. To all-Thanks for the tips.
    Jason- Very excited-am about to try the Howell Mountain Cab with a filet!
    Mark- Is the Hunter Ashby 2005 Cab also at Trader Joe’s?
    Jerry Klein- What year is the “Beatty Ranch” Howell Mountain Zin?

  3. As the Howell Mountain is 100% Cab, I think it offers something most people don’t quite expect. But my understanding with Howell mountains Cabs, and this vineyard, is that any sort of blending dilutes the particular traits of the region. That quality that keeps revealing different layers as it opens. And agreeably, I wouldn’t pay the usual price for any wine from Howell Mountain. One bright spot of this economy is that it allows those of us who cannot afford the inflated, in my opinion, price of upper end wines a chance to sample some good juice. Also, you might find a few bottles of ’04 & ’02 cabs floating around at your local TJ’s.
    I haven’t tried the Hunter Ashby. I’ve heard good things.
    For the Beatty Ranch Zin, the ’06 appeared first, but now the ’05 is available.

  4. Yes the Beatty Ranch ZIN is 2005. It is from a vinyard that produced 90 vintages. 100% ZIN as the CAB is 100% Cab. The Zin originally retailed at $45 and tastes like a $40+ :-). Some of this is still available at many Trader Joe’s. The Roseville, CA store has a good supply of Cab & Zin. \

    I have both and loved them!

    Another little GEM is the 2006 Callabriga Douro from Portugal. It is a lively red colored wine, with purple shades. Complex aromas dominated by notes of cinnamon, cocoa and noble wood. Dense, balanced, with smooth and firm tannins, its finish is dominated by fresh fruits. This vintage has already won 7 Gold and Silver medals in Europe. Previous scored 90-92 points. $8.99 at TJ’s

  5. I was lucky enough to find some 2004 Howell Mountain Vineyards Cab at T.J.’s and thought it was one of the best cabs I’ve ever had. The 2005 leaves a lot to be desired. The main problem is a distracting mineral taste that spoils the pleasure of the fruit. It also needs cellar time, I’d say 2- 3 years minimum, but that’s to be expected. The ENTIRE 2005 vintage by the way, was sold to T.J.’s, along with some 2004 and 2002. Why they sold off some of the earlier vintages is beyond me, as they were made by a different winemaker (not to be confused with a different owner) than the guy who crafted the 2005. If anyone wonders why the 2005 cab which ordinarily would sell for $60.00 would get dumped to T.J’s to sell at $14.99, I think the answer is pretty clear. The 2005 wasn’t made properly and the mineral flavor, the particular mineral flavor of this wine does it in. I’m curious to hear other honest opinions about the 2005.

  6. Hold the line. Mea Culpa. I recant. I misspoke. My taste buds were in a bad mood. I opened and drank another bottle of this 2005 cab tonight. It’s a different story. First of all, though cellaring will make it better, the wine is drinkable now. Tannic, but nice if you like sturdiness. It did open and develop but it tasted fine from the getgo. Whenever the mineral taste appeared, which was hardly noticeable compared to last night, I thought of “bell peppers” which amused me and made the mineral taste fade away. (Bell peppers are good for you I reasoned.) Really. Fade indeed into the complexity of flavor inside this wine. Tonight I tasted chocolate and hazelnut. Really. The fruit balances nicely with everything else you might find; it keeps you guessing. Guess what? I like it. I’m happy I found it. I’m going to enjoy it. Thank you Trader Joe’s. Thank you Howell Mountain Vineyards.

  7. @Mark Hunter Ashby 2005 Cab is at the top of my list. Where is it from? BTW, which TJ’s do you work at?

    @Jerry Beatty Ranch is 1a on my list given your recommendation, hope they still have it! On your other comment, that is the 2nd very positive note on the Douro. Only had one bottle but wasn’t a huge fan. I’ll ponder giving it another try…

    @Susie What’d you think of the Howell Mountain? Able to track down any of the others?

    @DP Thanks for the info, been talking to some folks that make wine in Howell Mountain on how this ended up at TJ’s, all general to date. If I get more details I’ll share more info here

    @Joseph Your 2nd comment did make my life easier :) In speaking to some folks in Napa I am hearing that this was simply a case of having to clear inventory and TJ’s willing to buy it all right away. Hadn’t hear about the different winemaker, I’ll check into that. Thanks for the tip there. Glad this one worked out for you in the end…

  8. Jason, thanks for your comments. I re-read the tasting notes you wrote and find I now agree with them entirely based on the second bottle I had last night. I enjoyed the chocolate taste that appeared toward the middle of the bottle and thereafter, which is a flavor that hadn’t been mentioned before. The flavors keep changing which means this fine wine will never be boring. I like the rich, yet restrained and dry fruit here, much better than the sometimes overwhelming fruit a few cabs possess. You notes and Trader Joe’s notes coalesce, and I can see how you both came to your conclusions. I bought one bottle of the Chateau Chevalier which I plan to try very soon, maybe tonight, and compare. I was also talked in to trying one of Trader Joe’s new Ventjs label 2005 Napa Cabs. At $9.99 it is very good too, but the bright fruit is a little overpowering. The tannins are softer and it has good structure. I prefer the Howell Mountain Cab for its complexity and subtlety. Try the Ventjs if you can and give us your opinion.

  9. @Jospeh How was the Chateau Chevalier? I want to taste these two side by side soon! As for the VINTJS Cab, in communicating with two of my TJ’s Wine Insiders, Angela wants to try it and Peter B says pass on it… It’s on my shopping list but towards the bottom. I’ll let you know if I get to it!

  10. Quick note on the ’05 Howell Mountain Cab. I personally suggest that you open for 3+ hours and then use the aerator. After this process I found this ’05 to be extraordinary. Additionally, I finished off 24 hours later and it was even BETTER! So agreed that cellaring for another year + will make this a great cab. NOW the ’05 Zin is a different story! A great Zin indeed from the Beatty Ranch Vineyard. My personal opinion is that it was one of the best Zins from NAPA that I have had. (I am a huge fan of LODI Zins) Macchia; Klinker Brick are among the best.

    …..and NOW the $3 Koala has arrived! Yikes! Truth be known it is really Yellow Tail Chard brought over in bulk for bottling here but undisclosed on their label! 1 Million gallons is the rumor!

  11. Hi Jason and to all and sundry. I tried the Chateau Chevalier 2004 cab which was okay, but nothing to get excited about. It’s a big wine but doesn’t have the power and complexity of the Howell Mountain Vineyards, for sure. I’d say it’s fairly priced at $15.00 (at T.J.’s, $23.00 elsewhere) but I wouldn’t seek it out and won’t buy it again. It’s funny how the label on the Chevalier served as a turn-off. Labels should be designed to appeal to the senses. The anticipation of pleasure before you open the bottle has much to do with feelings evoked by the label. Chateau Chevalier has a label I’d associate with a cheaper wine. I guess this shouldn’t matter (but it does). I bought all I could find of the Howell Mountain Vineyards 2005 cab, which is 30 bottles, and have considered taking some back because the memory of the bell pepper taste which I equated with a mineral taste, remains on my mind and has me sort of spooked. I’ll try another bottle or two before making up my mind about how much to keep for the long term – to put away for 2 or 3 years. I’d appreciate comments by others who have tried the 2005 Howell Mountain cab a 2nd or 3rd time.

  12. I tried a 3rd bottle and was very disappointed. I don’t think cellaring would help the fundamental problem of taste and aftertaste. All the bottles I stocked up on were returned to T.J.’s today.

  13. This finally showed up at my local TJ’s after keeping my eyes open for it the last few weeks. Grabbed a bottle to try. If I like it–and they still have more–I’ll stock up on a few. The bell pepper/mineral quality Joseph S. mentioned is intriguing–I hope my bottle has some as big Cab is boring without some green qualities.

  14. Tried it. It’s definitely a nice QPR, but I have a decent idea as to why it couldn’t sell at $60. It seems, well, manipulated. The tannins are barely evident and there’s almost no bell pepper on the nose, yet the finish has an off putting medicinal flavor. I’m thinking they over micro-oxygenated the wine to soften tannins and remove pepper aromas, though this is just speculation on my part. The wine just seems too smooth, too much a drink-now wine. Anyway, I like the initial concentration, fresh acidity and flavors a lot, really spectacular on that level, but overall I’m siding with Joseph S. on this one.

  15. After reading your review and the comments, I went to TJ’s today but they only had the 2004 vintage, no 2005. Joseph S. seemed to like that one – anyone else have any comments about the 2004? They had about two cases on the shelf. I passed since I didn’t read these comments before, only Jason’s review and I was specifically looking for the 2005. So should I get the 2004?

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