Good Wine is Where You Find It: This is about Cabernet Sauvignon

7 Apr

I tend to favor small relatively unknown wineries with small production and passionate owners and winemakers. The wines tend to be excellent values and one can get to know the people and the wines, which is fun. However, I also try to keep an open mind; good to great wine can come from many places. Recently, we had an all-Cab “Seminar” led by Michael Meagher who, in addition to being down to earth and eminently knowledgeable about wine, represents a group of well known wineries. He’d already been cluing me in that being a “famous California cab” doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, over-extracted, over-the-top wines. This seminar was living proof.


The Line-up

The line-up (see picture, along with Lori, Ray and Susan Santos, of The Educated Palate), in order of price low to high (and the tasting order), was as follows:

Beringer Knights Valley

Stags’ Leap

St. Clement Oroppas

Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages


Beringer Steinhauer

Beringer Private Reserve

Penfolds 707

This is not a review about the specific wines…more of a comment on the group as a whole. What was surprising is the complexity and balance of these wines…..integrated tannins….cabernets that for the most part are good food wines, not limited to steaks and other meats with the necessary fat content to neutralize big tannins and make them more palatable. These wines are enjoyable to drink, unlike many big fruit bombs which, for me personally, tire my taste buds during the first glass.

We divided the seminar into two flights. We tried the wines and then tried them again with a variety of foods, which over the course of the seminar, included a Blue Cheese, Aged Truffle Cheese, Rosemary cheese, Cab Beef Stew (with crusty bread and a simple salad) and Dark Chocolate.

All in all, tasting these famous cabernets was a great experience without and with the food. Each was distinctive from all the others, yet distinctly cabernets sauvignons. They counter the image of expensive Cabs that have big fruit and extraction to go along with their big prices. “Cult Wines” are another story….

Interesting, the one wine not from CA, the Penfolds 707, was the only one that absolutely needed decanting, and which clearly could use many more years in the bottle. At the same time the fruit was restrained and the wine complex, but the beef stew improved the tasting experience. This also is a wine in great demand and small supply. We have a few bottles at Pairings, along with most of the other wines on the list, and now can confidently recommend (and pair) any and all of these wines.


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