Cabernet Sauvignon

Clos LaChance, Meritage 2005

by Tim Elliott on January 3, 2009

Clos LaChance MeritageI think we’ll eventually see a renaissance in wine blends here in the U.S. I’m not exactly sure when this will be but it’s clear from the wine I’m reviewing tonight that a blend can be so much more than the sum of it’s parts. A few years back, producers in California recognized that they needed to come up with a marketing term for blends inspired by the wines of Bordeaux and came up with Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”). The term was intended to signify wines of merit that exemplified the heritage of the best wines made from traditional Bordeaux varieties in America.

And this wine from Clos LaChance really delivers on that promise. This family winery started in the late 1980’s as a backyard winery that has grown into over 150 acres of vineyards located just 20 miles south of San Jose.They make a number of wines in three different tiers with the “special select” being the top of their range. I was not familar with this producer, but from the wines I’ve tasted so far, this looks like a winery to seek out.

Tasting Notes:

Clos LaChance, Meritage, Estate Vineyard, “Special Select” 2005 ($50/sample) – Dark purple color with aromas of black cherry, eucalyptus, licorice and vanilla. Blackberry and dark currant flavors with mint and bell pepper finishing with sweet oak and moderate tannins. Well balanced and quite enjoyable now but will continue to gain complexity with another 2-3 years of cellaring. This wine is throwing a fair amount of sediment now, so you might want to decant before serving.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Quick Picks 10 – Santa Ema Rivalta 2003

by Tim Elliott on December 19, 2008

Vina Santa Ema Rivalta 2003I’m back in action on the 4th anniversary of my first podcast with a high-end Carmenere-led blend from Chile.

Vina Santa Ema, “Rivalta” 2003 – ($68/sample) Dark purple in color with aromas of black currant, plum, blueberry, fennel, mint and vanilla. Rich and concentrated dark currant and blackberry fruit with black pepper and dark chocolate finishing with firm tannins. A delicious Carmenere-led blend that will age at least 4-6 more years.

13.8% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Rodney Strong, Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

by Tim Elliott on August 23, 2008

My wine education started with Cabernet Sauvignon in the early 1980’s. After a brief time with Bordeaux blends, I discovered California Cabernet and used to almost exclusively drink this variety daily. I soon discovered the magic of single vineyard Cabs and the majority of my most memorable wines are from these vineyards. Places like To Kalon, Fay, Martha’s and Monte Bello are etched into my taste memory.

So I was pleased to be included in the blogger sampling program for a new single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Rodney Strong Vineyards: Rockaway. In a move I expect to see more of in coming months, Rodney Strong has pre-released samples to a few wine bloggers before submitting them to more traditional critics such as Jim Laube and Robert Parker. This gives you, dear reader, the short-lived opportunity to acquire this wine before 90+ scores are published elsewhere and demand exceeds supply. I’ll be posting a bit more on this from a marketing perspective over on my company blog, as well.

This wine is made from 3 blocks of the Rockaway Vineyard in Alexander Valley which is located between Napa and Dry Creek Valleys. These small areas of the vineyard are where the viticulture and winemaking teams have found the best fruit that expresses the terroir there. The vineyard soil is primarily sandstone on a clay subsoil at an elevation that rises to 700 feet above sea level. Rodney Strong Vineyards acquired the Rockaway vineyard in 2003 which covers a little over 100 total acres of mostly Bordeaux varieties but this wine is made exclusively from the best fruit the vineyard provides.

To maximize the expression of the Rockaway Vineyard a team of winemakers was brought on including Rick Sayre, Gary Patzwald and consultant David Ramey. Readers may recognize Mr. Ramey’s work from wines he’s made at Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, Rudd Estate and his own eponymous winery. The viticulture team on this project includes Doug McIlroy and consultant Bob Steinhauer who’s worked at Beringer for three decades.  So it’s clear from the vineyard selection to the viticulture and winemaking teams to the 2 years in new French oak that Rockaway is intended to compete with the best Cabernets in the world.

Like other wineries, the folks at Rodney Strong have decided to allocate Rockaway on a mailing list. This is becoming more common after cult Cabs such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate pioneered this direct marketing technique a few years ago. The heavy glass and beautiful graphics on the bottle also signal a cult-style effort but the true test would be tasting the wine contained therein. To be honest, other cult Cabernet blends I’ve tried have not lived up to their reputation or price level so when I opened this wine I cast a somewhat skeptical eye, nose and palate on the subject.

Tasting Notes:

Rodney Strong Vineyards, “Rockaway” Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2005 ($75/sample) – A blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot, this wine is very dark purple-black in color right now. The wine’s aromas unfold with a complex mixture of dark cherry, black-currant, green olive, sage, cocoa, fennel and vanilla. Tightly wound and concentrated blackberry and dark currant flavors with mint and black pepper finishing long with moderately firm but well integrated tannins.

A fine, well balanced California Cabernet blend with 5-10 years of additional cellaring recommended before it begins its drinking window. This will be a brand to watch for the next few years as it delivers quite good value when compared to other wines at its expected release price. I recommend you sign up for the mailing list soon before this wine is unavailable.

15.4% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 93
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Related Links:

A Master Sommelier Candidate Takes on the Allocated Rockaway Release

Finding a Wine You Love? Priceless.

Rockaway—A New Allocated Brand from Rodney Strong

History in the (Wine) Making: The Inaugural Vintage of Rockaway Vineyard

Rockaway Baby in the Vineyard

Rockaway Cab, Rodney Strong, and Allocations

2005 Rockaway Cabernet

2005 Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet, Sonoma ($80 est.)

Disclosure (posted 8/27/08): Due to posts and comments from other wine bloggers, I would like to state that I received this wine as a sample from the winery. At no time did I communicate directly with anyone at Rodney Strong Vineyards or feel any pressure to write a positive review. Jeff Lefevere of Good Grape arranged for the samples to be sent to us and asked us to post our reviews last week. I complied with this request as a personal favor to Jeff.

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Pillar Box Red 2005

by Tim Elliott on December 4, 2007

Henry's Drive, Pillar Box RedI first heard about this wine on the 3 Wine Guys podcast (thx, T-bone) so I picked up a bottle when I saw it at a wine store this summer. And I’m glad I did as it really shows off what blending young vines can do for a wine.

This is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from noted winemaker Chris Ringland. I’ll have to check out his other efforts given what magic he casts on this modest wine.

Henry’s Drive, “Pillar Box Red” 2005 ($10) – Deepest purple-black in color. This one needs to unwind a bit before it shows it’s best but once fully open it features nice black and red fruit aromas with fennel and a bit of chaparral. Full and rich black cherry and strawberry fruit gives way to a bit of licorice, vanilla and spice on the finish. A delicious fruit bomb for everyday drinking.

15% ABV
Stelvin closure
Score: 90
Rating: ★★★★☆

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