2003 Rocking Horse Garvey Family Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $9.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery “Great structure and layers of complexity are the hallmarks of this full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Sumptuous upon entry and showing a dark crimson hue, this delectable wine hints of classic bell pepper, violets and a lingering suggestion of chocolate before bursting into a full bodied black cherry finish. This hand crafted wine was aged in hand selected oak barrels and will be rewarded by proper cellaring.”

What I Think:

Trying to have some patience as I type, yet again what a ridculous value! $24 for the same bottle on the winery site! You have to love TJ’s! That said I can’t help but cut to the chase, get this wine now! Read this when you come back….

Okay good, I opened this after the Marietta as I knew we were having steak and this would be an appropriate pairing. Before I opened it I read the above and thought to myself; Bell Peppers are classic? Who would have ever known? Back to the wine, how high can I sing the praises? On opening this it had a true cabernet noise, what is that? I think I now, so I’ll say this was it. The complexity was apparent at that point. The aromas were briary fruit with oak and a bit of spice lingering behind. On the palate you are struck immediately by dryness. I mean almost puckering dryness that ends up opening to some fruit and then fades back to this (with some time I determine the dryness equals this) earthy and dusty finish. Somewhere you can catch floral notes, I think violets, intermixed with those earthy tones. The texture seemed almost velvety, there is so much to describe here that I feel like I have ADD. The look is deep purple, almost silky. I wonder what the vintage rating was this year, let me add that to my list of things to do… Does this taste older than it is? I want someone that really knows wine to tackle this one and tell me why it seems so unique to me. Either way I want to watch this one age so I’m going to get more now.

Rating: Bulk Buy (for me, you should just grab a bottle until you are sure this style agrees with you)

2003 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel

Price: $30.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “2003 Zinfandel, York Creek, bottled May 2005
84% zinfandel, 16% petite sirah

Since 1999, this dry-farmed Spring Mountain vineyard has produced a series of opulent, late-picked wines. In this vintage, weather conditions and close attention to varying ripeness within each block have resulted in a zinfandel reminiscent of the seventies and eighties, more in the style of a fine table wine. The eight parcels fermented separately on their natural yeasts, and were pressed at eight days; a natural malolactic finished in four weeks. The firm structure of this classic York Creek required extended barrel aging. Beautifully balanced and approachable now, it will benefit from a year or two in bottle, and develop fully over the next ten years. PD/EB (2/05)”

What I Think:

I can count the number of times that I have paid more than $25 for a bottle of wine on one hand. Before finding this one the amount that I thought were worth it didn’t even require a hand to count on. This was my second, yes I bought two at once, and last bottle of this wine. I had it for the first time a few years back at their tasting room in Sonoma. Shortly before visiting I had read a story about “field blended” wines, which are quite hard to find and usually pricey, and the difference from the normal blends you see on the shelf at the store. A normal blend, to me, is almost scientific. Each grape in the blend is grown individually in different vineyards (or at least separate parcels at the same one), harvested individually and barreled individually until it becomes time to put it in the bottle. At this time, we begin playing science. Let’s try a bit of this, a bit of that until we get it right then voila! We have our blend. This is obviously a laymen’s impression of how this works, I am sure it is much more difficult and requires much more attention than indicated here but I obviously have a bias here. The field blends on the other hand were planted that way. When you get out in the vineyard they are all mixed up, no separate parcels here. You have them all growing intermixed, they are all harvested together, barreled together, aged together until they find their way to the bottle. In this case it seems you get what you get!

And with this wine you sure do get it! In a word, Awesome! This is likely the best bottle of wine I have ever had. I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even really want to take the time to analyze why I was doing so. The nose is full of dark fruit and very inviting. The structure is round, rich, plush any good word you can think of. This wine is perfectly balanced and integrated, showing layers upon layers of varying flavors and complexity. The finished is smooth, long and lasting. I had the wine a week ago and I can almost still taste it. My friend, whom we had over to dinner that night, remarked that it was better than most of the $100 bottles he had and he has had plenty! A few days later we went to the store and split a case of the 2004! It is going to take a lot of restraint to leave those alone! I would have loved to see what this wine is like in a few more years. The winery still has the ’03 available, maybe I will swing by. If you want to splurge, this is money well spent.

Rating: Cellar It

2003 Franciscan Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $19.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per the winery “Aromas of rich chocolate, coffee, and cassis with notes of mixed dark fruit and raspberry. Extraordinarily rich and mouth-filling, with flavors of cassis, coffee and toasted oak that grace a well-structured body, full of texture with ripe, supple tannins on the lingering finish. 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot.”

What I Think:

So last Friday I had some friends over for dinner and we had a few bottles of wine which has led me to some consternation as to whether or not I should attempt to chronicle those wines here. I have already decided that those consumed at a restaurant are out, those at friend’s houses are in most cases to be out, but what about these.

There is one major issue in that I’m not going to be sitting there with a pen and paper with guests present. Meaning at the end of the night, if the bottle is gone which is all but a certainty, I am left with an impression of the wine but find it hard to reconstruct the details, especially after the second or third bottle has been opened. Perhaps in the future I will try to siphon off a taste to jog my memory. Or I could just not post them and mitigate the risk of friends getting mad at me for giving their wines bad ratings…

So now on to this one, I remember a wine that was very well structured, a pleasant texture in the mouth with nice rounded fruit flavors that lasted throughout, The finish was smooth as the fruit gradually gave way to the oak and tannins that lingered on to the end. I don’t remember it being overly complex as the flavor profile stayed largely the same, on the up side it the taste lingered in your mouth long after the wine was down your throat. Would I buy this bottle myself, in a restaurant? Yes, if I didn’t see something else I knew that appealed to me. Going to the store to get a bottle? Likely not as I would prefer to get two $10 bottles. This is certainly a good bottle of wine well worth consuming if you are comfortable dropping that kind of money on a bottle. I’m not so at this price point my expectations have extended to having a memorable wine tasting experience. While there is nothing bad to be said this one simply didn’t have that “Wow” factor.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “All of the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was whole cluster pressed. Whole cluster pressing gives us juice of incredibly high fruitiness and softness. 30% of the blend is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks; this aging process allows the juice to retain its fruitiness, flavors and aromas. The remaining 70% of the juice was moved to small oak barrels where it was put through a long, cool fermentation. Within two weeks, the wine completed fermentation and were allowed to age “sur lie” for a total of five months in the small oak barrels. This fermentation and aging program adds rich complexity to the aromas and flavors.”

What I Think:

We had some friends bring this over for dinner the other night so I wasn’t able to take as good of notes as I liked. This was the one of two bottles they brought over and it was the first to be opened. I had long wanted to try the Groth Sauvignon Blanc but had yet to have a bottle make it to the house so I was certainly happy to see it. This wine is very fresh and dry in the mouth, quite refreshing. The nose and palate are zesting with mainly lemon and perhaps a trace of apples coming to the front. I wasn’t even able to identify the semillon until after I checked my tasting notes. The winery said this vintage is a “keeper”. If you want to spend some money on a bottle of sauvignon blanc, especially from the US, I couldn’t think of another one to get!

Rating: Wow!

2005 Napa River Zinfandel

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Looks like the Zin must be a newer effort by the Bronco team because I couldn’t find anything on this one…

What I Think:

I do know that this is a Bronco Winery, aka the maker of 2 buck Chuck release. This is a textbook example of what a $5 wine should be. It tastes like a wine that is manufactured to taste like just about every other red wine on the market. Ever had a word is your jead that you are not exactly sure what it means. I am thinking “plonk” not sure what it means, but pretty sure this is it. That being said, there are many worse $5 wines out there but I would prefer to keep digging in hopes of finding a gem.

Rating: Skip It

2003 St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $18.00 @ Safeway (regular price is $36.00 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per wine.com “This elegant Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit grown on the valley floor throughout Napa Valley and represents distinct growing regions from southern Napa to St. Helena. The addition of Cabernet Franc creates structure in the wine while a touch of Merlot adds length to the mid-palate and a layer of fruit aromatics on the nose. Aged 18 months in 66 percent new French oak, the lots were aged separately until blended before bottling.

Red cherry, rhubarb and spice aromas are the introduction to this elegant wine as flavors of raspberry, cherry and rhubarb pie co-mingle with anise, clove and hints of cocoa powder on the palate. Soft tannins carry this well-balanced Cabernet to a lengthy and flavorful finish.”

What I Think:

First off the list price for this wine is $36.00. At $18.00 it was certainly close to delivering that wow factor. I liked that there was some Cab Franc and Merlot included, it gave it a nice level of balance. On the tongue it seemed to start with lighter fruit and move darker before finishing with cloves on a longer finish. Saw in the write above multiple mentions of rhubarb, didn’t get that. This was a nice wine. The question that I ask myself when ranking it was if I was in the store and was going to spring $20.00 for a Cab would I grab this one that I know or try something else. I can’t quite decided which makes me think that I must be leaning towards the later.

Rating: Pricey