Current and New Releases of Cabernet Sauvignon: California, Chile, Argentina and Elsewhere

The most widely planted grape variety on earth, Cabernet Sauvignon wines made in the Western Hemisphere are some of the world’s best. We’ve been fortunate to taste many of them over the years, and we’ve written about them in several in-depth reports. See, for example, our report on the Cabernet Sauvignons of Paso Robles and those of Chile. In this article, we review several new releases from California, Chile and Argentina and other growing regions as well as report previously published reviews on some of this year’s outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon releases.

CALIFORNIA

Eden Estate  This boutique winery established by a former Apple executive is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  Talented winemaker Bill Brosseau, who also makes the wines at Testarossa makes these wines. See Selections from Eden Estate, a Boutique Winery in Saratoga to read more about this winery and its wines.

Eden Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains ($50) 91  Cassis, red plum, cooking spice and a hint of vanilla show on the nose of this mountain Cab. It’s soft in the mouth with well-integrated oak and notes of red cassis and cola nut with ripe tannins. While it doesn’t have the depth of the Reserve Cab, it’s better value, Clones 4 and 7 sourced from organically farmed estate vineyards and matured 2 years in 60% new French oak. TA 6.3 g/L, pH 3.68, 14.4% alc. Eden Estate 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains ($100) 93  Appealing, multifaceted nose of black raspberry, violets and dark cherry. The Cabernet Reserve has a lively, perfumed, dark fruited palate showing exotic, cedary spice with a resinous edge. Smooth and flavorful, it’s especially spicy at this stage of the wine’s evolution, so we would give it some time in bottle before consuming. Clones 4 and 7 from a vineyard and barrel selection from the organically farmed estate vineyard, matured 2 years in 80% new French oak. TA 6.4 g/L, pH 3.65, 14.4% alc.

Flora Springs.  Located at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range, Flora Springs is renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon.  Earlier this year, we reviewed their portfolio, including the Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon. Here we review their outstanding single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  See the blog article Flora Springs’ Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons: New Releases for more about this winery and its wines.

Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Holy Smoke Vineyard Oakville Napa Valley ($125) 93  Dark red. Shows an expansive nose of black currant with deeper notes of loam soil and chocolate shavings that are mirrored on a deeply flavored, mouth filling palate. The texture is silky with a firm structure, juicy acidity, and an overall sense of refinement. The oak is seamlessly integrated with just a hint of toast. And the finish is persistent with moderate tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a single block planted to Clone 4 and matured 18 months in 80% French and 20% American oak. 14.2% alc. Flora Springs 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Wild Boar Vineyard Napa Valley ($125) 94 The Wild Boar Cab is a supple wine with good intensity of fruit. It begins with savory, earthy aromas married to cassis fruit. The attack is soft and refined, leading to a palate of dark fruit with hints of chocolate and loam. Surprisingly accessible with round tannins and a long flavorful finish. Of all the Flora Springs single vineyard Cabernets, this is the one we would choose to drink now. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in 30% French and 70% American oak. 14.2% alc.  Flora Springs 2018 Dust & Glory Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Napa Valley ($175) 93  Dark red. On the nose, gorgeous up-front aromas of blackberry, cassis, and tobacco leaf. Silky smooth attack followed by a beautifully refined mouth feel and concentrated, layered flavors of dark cherry, dark berries and savory dried herbs. A youthful wine, it has a distinct stony, chalky mineral character. Finishes with a long flavorful finish with soft round tannins. Surprisingly evolved for a mountain wine, but then 2018 was an exceptional vintage. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from one of the highest vineyard sites on the volcanic soils of Howell Mountain; matured 22 months in 94% French and 6% American oak. 14.2% alc. Flora Springs 2019 Rutherford Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley ($150) 93  On the nose, the Rutherford Hillside shows earthy, dark fruit complemented by smoky oak and cooking spice. It’s soft and silky on entry with a beautifully balanced and pure, refined character. Black currant and black raspberry show on the firmly structured and densely flavored palate, but despite its youth this wine is accessible now. Finishes long with dark fruit, cocoa dust, and earthy notes. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a small block of vines on the northwestern edge of the Rutherford appellation aged 18 months in 90% French and 10% American oak. The Rutherford Hillside Cab has been produced as a single vineyard wine since 1994. 14.2% alc.

Smith-Madrone.  Stuart and Charles Smith established this steeply sloped vineyard on the top of Spring Mountain in 1971.  It was originally planted by George Cook in 1884.  It wines are excellent examples of mountain Cabs. See the article Smith-Madrone: Wine, Fire and Economics in Napa for more on this winery and its wines.

Smith-Madrone 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley ($62) 93  The Smith-Madrone vineyard is at high elevation where temperatures are cool and the soils are sparse, and this is an excellent example of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s dark fruited and spicy with mineral and herbal nuances. On the palate, it’s unctuous yet silky with bright acidity and freshness and super long on the finish. It has a long life ahead of it. A blend of 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Merlot sourced from the estate’s dry farmed, mountain vineyard; matured 21 months in 50% new French oak. 14.3% alc. Smith-Madrone 2013 Cook’s Flat Reserve Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley ($300) 94  Named after George Cook, who planted this 8 acre parcel on the top of Spring Mountain in the 1880s, this is a singular, expressive Cabernet Sauvignon. Showing dark cassis and slate like minerals on the nose, it’s refined and light on its feet in the mouth, yet packed with flavor. An elegant expression of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Made from a mountain top parcel replanted in 1972. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The Farm Winery.  Established in 2009 by Stanford alums Jim Madsen and Santiago Achaval, The Farm sources fruit from high altitude vineyards with mainly calcareous soils in the westside hills of Paso Robles. Yields are kept very low, resulting in concentrated, rich wines.  See the article 2018 Vintage Releases from Paso Robles’ The Farm Winery for more on this winery and its wines.

The Farm Winery 2018 Cardinal Paso Robles Adelaida District  94  Sourced from Paso Robles’ oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard (Old Bailey, planted in 1964) with excruciatingly tiny yields (1/2 ton/acre), this is The Farm’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon and has been consistently impressive in our tastings over time. The nose and palate offer dark red berries, cassis, and exotic cooking spice. This is a refined, finely textured wine of excellent purity, extract and freshness. It’s a superbly balanced, fruit driven wine that finishes long and fine. 13.3% alc. The Farm Winery 2018 The Big Game Paso Robles Adelaida District 93  The Big Game, also sourced from the limestone soils of the Adelaida District, is pure and vibrant. It reveals exceptional purity in the bouquet, the palate, and the finish. The Big Game is also complex with dark red fruit accented by herbal and briar like notes. Firmly structured but with round tannins that make this wine approachable early on. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 66%, Syrah 27%, Malbec 5%, and Petit Verdot 2%; 14.1% alc. The Farm Winery 2018 LPF Paso Robles Adelaida District  93 This wine, LPF, is named after Keynes’ Liquidity Preference Theory, revealing the business school training of Jim and Santiago.  Somewhat reticent on the nose but offering pure scents of black currant and dark red berries. Densely flavored but tight and firmly structured on the palate. Still, there’s incredible fruit purity and a long, extracted finish with pliable tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon 99%, Petit Verdot 1%; 14.8% alc.  The Farm Winery 2018 Old Union Paso Robles Willow Creek District 94  The only Farm Winery Cabernet sourced outside the Adelaida district, Old Union is sourced from the Willow District just to the south with a strong marine influence from the Templeton Gap. Old Union shows high toned dark fruit with an herbal, spicy edge. The cooler terroir is revealed on the palate with red fruit, firm acidity and a leaner, refined character. This is still a youthful wine that ideally should be aged a few years or, at least, decanted prior to serving. All Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.3% alc.

Titus Vineyards.  Established by Lee Titus in 1968, the Titus Ranch Estate is located in the heart of the St. Helena Appellation.  Their specialty is Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. See the article Titus Vineyards: Impressive New Releases from Napa Valley for more on this winery and its other wines.

Titus Vineyards 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($65) 92 Showing a pretty, fruit forward nose of cassis and red berry with a cedar nuance, this Cabernet has a silky mouth feel. It’s bright and fresh with high toned fruit, spice and an attractive brambly note on a well-balanced palate. There’s a lingering sense of purity on the long finish. Tannins are nicely integrated, making this Cabernet drinkable now. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot, and 4.5% Malbec primarily sourced from the Titus Ranch Estate and matured in 60% new French and Hungarian oak. 14.5% alc. Titus Vineyards 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Family Estate Reserve Napa Valley ($115) 94  Gradually emerging, vibrant aromas of dark berries, cocoa powder and cedar spice. The attack is silky, leading to a refined and well balanced palate with lovely dark fruit and minerals with savory notes finishing impressively long. A firm tannic grip suggests cellaring for 4-5 years, but it’s approachable now with the right food. An impressive, elegant Napa Cab. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot primarily sourced from the Titus Vineyard on Ehlers Lane. All free run wine aged in all new French oak for 22 months; the Family Estate Reserve is a selection of the best barrels. 14.5% alc.

WASHINGTON STATE

Milbrandt Vineyards was founded by the Milbrandt brothers in 1997.  They now have 23 vineyard sites within the Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs of the Columbia Valley. See the article Milbrandt Vineyards: New Releases from Washington State for more about this winery and its wines that offer outstanding quality for the price.

Milbrandt 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Northridge Vineyard Wahluke Slope ($42) 90  The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Northridge Vineyard is part of Miibrandt’s  single vineyard series. A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 5% Malbec, it offers rich aromas of ripe black currant fruit with hints of black cherry and herbs. It is medium-bodied with moderate concentration of black currants and dark cherry flavors. The tannins need some time to soften a grippy finish.  Milbrandt 2018 Sentinel Wahluke Slope ($55) 92  The 2018 Sentinel is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. Sourced from the Northridge, Clifton and Ravenscliff vineyards, it offers aromas of ripe and juicy black and red berry fruit with hints of toasted oak. It is nicely concentrated on the palate revealing flavors of black cherry and chocolate. It is a wine of considerable complexity with good tannic grip and a clean persistent finish. Although high in alcohol (15% ABV), it is well integrated.

MARYLAND

Boordy Vineyards 2017 Landmark Reserve South Mountain Vineyard Maryland ($50) 92  Introduced by a melange of savory and fruity scents, fully ripe Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with other Bordeaux varieties to offer a continuation of the savory-fruity theme on a balanced, medium weight, mineral-inflected palate. Cassis, huckleberry, savory herbs and hints of toasted oak all put in an appearance. Will pair with a wide variety of meat and fowl dishes. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc aged in French oak for 18 months. 13.5% alc.  Established in 1945 by Phillip Wagner, one of America’s most influential post WWII winemakers, Boordy was Maryland’s first winery.  See the article Boordy Vineyards: New Releases from Maryland for more on this winery and its wines.

CHILE

Chile is one of the world’s largest producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, and it grows more Cab than any other grape variety.  We’ve often reviewed Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon in the past.  See Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile: Quality and Value for more of this year’s reviews.

Viña Quebrada de Macul 2019 Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon Upper Maipo Valley ($75) 95  New Review.  Is there another Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon as consistently excellent as Domus Aurea? We’ve tasted many vintages of this wine, and it never fails to impress. The 2019 vintage offers pure dark red fruit complemented by toasted oak and eucalyptus. In the mouth it’s refined and beautifully balanced with dense flavors of dark cassis and sage. Amazing depth of flavor and a firm structure suggest a long life ahead for this, one of Chile’s premier Cabernets. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from a 45 acre single vineyard in the foothills of the Andes. Matured 18 months in 80% new French oak. The winemaker is Jean Pascal Lacaze. Alc 14.9%.   Importer: Global Vineyard Importers

ARGENTINA

Funckenhausen 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($15) 90   New Review The Funckenhausen Cabernet Sauvignon is sold in a one liter bottle at a very reasonable price like other wines from this producer. The Cabernet is solid with a briar-inflected nose of fresh dark red fruit followed by a smoothly textured palate showing good depth of flavor and freshness. There’s dark red fruit with hints of tobacco and herbal spice and nice tannic grip. No one will mistake this for a first growth Bordeaux, but it’s hand harvested, 40% aged in French oak, and better than many Cabs twice its price. A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. The winemaker is Jimena López.  Importer: Global Vineyards

Orfila 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Selection Mendoza ($15) 89  New Review  Bodega Orfila is located in Mendoza, Argentina, with high altitude vineyards in Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, and La Consults-San Carlos. It’s a large winery producing over 3 million cases of wine annually, which enables it to produce quality wines at low prices. The Estate Selection Cabernet Sauvignon tasted here is a flavorful wine combining fresh dark fruit with exotic spices and sweet oak. It’s suave on the attack with medium plus palate weight and a clean, dry palate. 70% of the wine is aged in oak barrels for 6-8 months and 30% aged in stainless steel. 13.9% alc. The winery’s spokesman, Alejandro Orfila, who sadly passed away last year, was a graduate of Stanford University, governor of Mendoza province, and ambassador to the US. Importer: Palmateer Wine Group

 

 

 

 

 

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