Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Review: Kendall Jackson Stature, 2003 Oakville, Napa Valley

Kendall Jackson Stature 2003

Kendall jackson Stature, 2003

80% Cabernet Sauvignon

10% Cabernet Franc

5% Merlot

5% Petit Verdot

14.6% alcohol

Oakville, Napa Valley


395 cases made

I know what some of you are probably thinking – Kendall Jackson produces a $100 bottle of wine?! Yes they do, and it’s perennially rated and regarded very highly (the current 2004 release is priced at $120, and this 2003 vintage scored between 94 and 98 points by numerous sources). I found it hard to believe myself when I first wandered into KJ’s tasting room in Healdsburg, CA a few years back. The guy behind the counter comped us a reserve tasting, and eventually gave us a pour of this red bordeaux blend. We were all impressed, it was great. I just had to pick up a bottle of this very limitedly produced wine.

Well, here I am nearly two years later ready to see how this wine held up, and if it would wow me again. The wine is deep red, nearly purple in the glass with a crimson rim. I popped this bottle open just 20 minutes before heading out to make a dinner reservation and decided to get an early taste of what was to come. The nose revealed classic Napa dark fruit dominated by cherries, floral notes, and a little coco. The wine was clearly very tight at first, and offered up complex flavors of cherries, mocha, and spice.

After 4 hours in the decanter, the wine was still opening up. Despite a 2003 vintage, this wine is drinking like a baby right now. Without question it could benefit from another 5 to 10 years in the bottle. The nose had not altered much, but the flavors were really starting to reveal themselves now. Gobs of cherries intermingled with mocha/chocolate. Some nice plum fruit was now apparent with a touch of spice. This is a very complex wine with well-balanced tannins and a quite dry, lingering finish. Clearly a bottle you want to open up with a big steak.

Overall, a superb wine. I can see why it was rated so high, and much enjoyed when tasted on both occasions. My only complaint would be the overly dry finish. It was more a finish that one would expect out of a Merlot forward blend – not Cabernet. I would also prefer another 2 years of age minimum before opening this particular bottle, but that is hardly the wine’s fault. This wine is a 94 pointer to me. For its incredible complexity and well-balanced tannins, the finish just isn’t there to justify a 95 plus point “classic” rating.

Ryan O’Connor

Wine Review: Columbia Crest 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

Columbia Crest 2006 Reserve Cabernet


Price: $22.99

Where from?:  100% Columbia Valley, Washington State

Blend: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 14.7%

I am a huge fan of the 2005 version of this wine.  The 2006 is nothing like that.  Not that it’s bad, it’s just not a 95 pointer.  I think the 92 points it got from Wine Spectator is maybe a little enthusiastic.  It’s a good Cabernet, no doubt, but…

On the nose:  Nothing special here…Black fruit?  A little bit of oak?  I wanted to be wowed but was not.

On the Palate:  Much better, loads of black fruit.  Not overly fruity.  Mocha.  It’s quite bright, the wine is still young and a bit tight.  I actually decanted for an hour before taking my first sip.  Much much later, after 4 hours in the decanter the wine really started to show itself.  I recommend a minimum of 3 hours in a decanter if anyone wants to consume this wine in the near future.  Otherwise you are going to miss the complexity.  Later on the ripe fruit grabs you and says “Hey! How do you like me now?!”  At that point it goes down smooth, delicious with a solid back bone of tannins ala concentrated pomegranate.

Finish:  The finish is deliciously mouth-watering, but only after a long time in the decanter.

The Next Day:

24 hours later, very nice.  Fruit forward…Black Berry Black currant, simple and smooth finish.  A decent wine, I will buy it again.

Wine Review: Grgich Hills Estate, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


Alcohol: 14.7%

Blend:  93% Cabernet, 2% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

Aging: 21 months in 60% new French Oak, after blending another 18 months back in the barrel

Price: $46.99 at AZ Wine Company

Production: 14,520 cases (750ml) plus an assortment of larger sizes, including (6) 9L bottles!

Nose: Cherry Tobacco Licorice

Palate: Ripe Blackberry, black cherry, dark chocolate–I mean DARK chocolate.  Spicy Licorice

Finish: Lingering, silky smooth mouth watering.

I tasted this wine at a wine tasting, so the sample that I made this review from was rather limited.  My reviews usually consist of consuming the whole bottle…half one night, and then the other half 24 hours later…Tim.

Henry’s Drive, Pillar Box Red, 2007

The Technicals:

Shiraz 65%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25% Merlot 10%

14.7% alcohol

75% French oak, 25% American Oak


from the company literature:  “Displaying a dark colour and a vibrant purple hue, the 2007 Pillar Box Red has bright aromas of blue and dark berry fruit entwined with liquorice, spearmint and cigar box complexity. The palate is rich and fleshy, with flavours of fresh blackcurrant and blueberry fruit combined with orange rind, dark chocolate and spicy smoke oak characters. Whilst the tannins are full, the palate is round, soft and well balanced, leading into a lingering harmonious finish.”

First, I must say that is quite a well written wine description!  I have seen this wine at Costco for quite some time, it’s usually around $10.  I am sceptical of wines that use unusual marketing and graphics to try to promote the wines.  Maybe its some of those Big House Wines that sort of soured me on buying wines because they look cool.

How is it?

Yes, the wine is dark, its red wine, its Shiraz, pretty dark.  It actually looks like dark pomegranate juice.

The nose:  The nose is a little intriguing, I can’t quite place the aromas.  Sweet liquorice and sweet cigar is as close as I can figure,  it’s pleasant.

The Palate:  Ripe blackcurrant, ripe blackberry, very ripe fruit on the edge of being too sweet, but I can handle it. Rich milk chocolate, and the spicy smoky oak is there too.

Tannins are there, they’re strong, and they’re not soft or round, but they are well balanced. But then again, young tannic wine is not a problem for my palate.

I reviewed Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office a while back, and I was quite hard on them about it, so I wasn’t really looking to be wowed by a wine that is a half to a quarter of the price depending on where you buy it.  But I was pleasantly surprised.

At $10 a bottle , this could be a daily drinker for me.  I know I like to drink mind blowing wines all the time, but my wallet and actually my palate can’t handle it.  This wine would be perfect for newer wine drinkers.  Wine drinkers that can handle the tannins in red wine, but not yet the earthiness, or dry spicy oakiness, or other features that are difficult to process when you are just getting into wine.  This is by no means a substandard one dimensional Shiraz, it’s far better than most especially at this price point.  Overall, decent, I will buy it again.

Wine Review: Cameron Hughes Lot 143, 2007 Howell Mountain District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


90% Cabernet, 6% Tempranillo, 4% Syrah

Alcohol 14.9%

$22 online only (only 10 cases left as of January 13th, 2010) ya I bought it with my own money.

From the company literature:  “Rich mulberry color with the fragerance of violets and Cassis. The nose quickly opens to aromas of ripe plums and savory roasts with a  subtle background of cigar box.  On the palate are juicy and penetrating flavors of currants, rose petal and earth layered with an opulence of wild dark fruit.”

I like to first taste the wines and then read the company literature to compare the two.  Firstly, is that not an awesome description?  Yes it is Tim.  It is an awesome description because it is extremely accurate.  Do ever wonder what kind of psychedelics wine description writers were on when they come up with their descriptions?  Well not to worry with Lot 143. It’s bang on.

It is another one of Cameron Hughes’ mind-blowing steals, coming from a $95 bottle program that consistently scored in the mid 90’s!

So yes, Violets on the nose and Cassis, ripe fruit on the palate and a little bit of earth on the back-end, not a lot, just a nice little bit.  Complex, multi layered, beautiful knock your socks off wine.  I paired it with Filet Mignon and the Arizona Cardinals playoff victory over Green Bay, followed by a late night viewing of The Big Lebowski. Dude, if I hadn’t already blown The Weekly Wine Journal’s budget for wine this quarter I would be buying a case of Lot 143.

Wine Review: Cameron Hughes Lot 146, 2006 Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley

From the Company Literature:  “Deep crimson center with a  matching rim; A focused nose of blackberries and Cassis.  A pronounced mid-palate follows ripe, tender fruit, and notable acidity.  Tannins are firm yet balanced, displaying a full-body and dense structure…distinctive depth and viscosity provide a long, complex finish and fleshy mouth feel.”

Production: 980 cases

$22 online only

I had no idea what to expect from Lot 146 as I did not read the literature before tasting it.  I was impatient and only decanted for about 10 minutes before the first swirl.

On the nose blackberries and Cassis, yes.  The nose is not over powering.   The first sip was not what I expected and really surprised me in a good way.  I thought the wine would have been a lot drier.  Lot 146  was tenaciously sweet at first and so I let it breath another 30 minutes.  After it had opened up the sweetness had subsided to a ripe fruit.  The mid palate is definitely pronounced.  Powerful ripe fruit backed up by a Phalanx of tannins lead into a sensual and glutenous finish.  Lot 146 is sexy! The kind of sexy that you just can’t find in a $15 bottle of California Cabernet.  And now I know why:  Lot 146  was sourced from a $90 program. Good thing I bought 3 bottles!


Wine Review: Cameron Hughes Lot 100, 2006 Stag’s Leap Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon

Appellation:  88% Stag’s Leap, 9% Coombsville, 3% Mount Veeder

Grape: 97% Cabernet, 3% Petite Verdot

Production: 4,000 Cases

$21 online, and available at select Costco’s for under $20.

From the company literature: “…almost pitch black with a red rim.  Classically beautiful notes of cassis, raspberry, and blackberry in an intense nose are echoed on the palate…chewy fine tannins…a rich and powerful cuvee.  Structurally dense…excellent aging potential.

This wine really wows me.  Not because it smacks me in the face saying “Hey I’m a big monster cab!” .  It wows me because of its grace.  And also because has anyone ever heard of a Stag’s Leap Napa Valley cabernet for anything close to this price??  Lot 100 is a serious wine, decant it for an hour to let it open up.  Pair it with a nice juicy steak, drink it slowly over the course of the night, or if you can’t pace yourself be sure to get the second bottle ready before hand.  Out of all the Cameron Hughes Wines I’ve tried lately this one is the most ready to drink.  It will age, but it certainly doesn’t need any more time in the bottle.  I ordered a few bottles just before Christmas and then I ordered another couple on New Year’s Eve and I am drinking it while I am writing this post…sip..mmmm.  I just went online to order some more and it’s SOLD OUT! OH NOOOO!! I really should have bought a case.  You see, I have plenty of wines that I am holding on to, wines that actually need aging to be enjoyed, but I don’t have a lot that I can drink now.  And I don’t really want to spend $50 to $100 a bottle for a decent bottle of wine once a month.  Sure I could buy a case of $10 to $15 wine and make do…but it’s pretty tough to do that when you’ve been spoiled.  C’est la vie.  Really kicking myself though. Anyways if you happen to be cruising through a Costco and notice any Cameron Hughes Lot 100 do yourself a favor and buy a case.  Actually you should probably cash out of your stocks and buy 5 or 10 cases.  I think Charles Schwab would say that is a good strategy for retirement.

Wine and Champagne for New Year’s Eve

It’s hard to believe that we are already celebrating the arrival of 2010.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were getting panicky about Y2K and the impending end of civilization.  So lets celebrate that not happening!

I know times are tough, but you know what?  Sometimes you just have to go out and treat yourself!  Plus the economy depends on it.  So I suggest that everyone spends at least 2 times what they would normally spend on a bottle of wine or champagne.   You only live once, you can’t take your $$$ to heaven and numbers like 2010 don’t come around very often.

In no particular order: (I’m not going to get into flavor profiles, because these suggestions are all based on “prestige, $$$, and point scores) Those are the things that you are going to  brag about at your New Year’s parties when someone asks you what you are drinking.

1. d’Arenberg “The Dead Arm”  Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia.  Retails for around $60 (US). Consistent 94,95 point scores.  Big bold Shiraz

2. Elderton Wines, Barossa Command Single Vineyard Shiraz. Saw it at Costco for about $80. 97 points Robert Parker.  Buy one for New Years, and hold the other because they say it’ll be good through 2035.

Those are two good suggestions if you like big bold wines and Shiraz in general. But what if you don’t?  How about something like a Cabernet Sauvignon then?

1. Chimney Rock, Stag’s Leap Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Retails for around $50. Nice 90 point wine, great with grilled meat, or by itself.

2. Spring Mountain Vineyard, 2004 Cabernet.  Great for drinking slowly over the course of the night, maybe get two bottles if there is more than one true wine lover at the party.  Retails for around $60

**Note** I would be suggesting the much less expensive  Cameron Hughes Wines but they are not available at most retail outlets, so I’m just going with wines everyone should be able to find at their local wine merchant.  If your local merchant doesn’t have these wines, it might be time to think about shopping elsewhere. (wow how wine snobby does that sound?!)

Okay so Shiraz and Cabernet are still just to big and acidic for you.  You need Pinot Noir.  You still want to be featured on Robin Leech’s Life Styles of the Rich and Famous though, so don’t be skimping and buying a regular $15 bottle of Pinot okay?

1. Hartford Court, Pinot  Noir, Land’s Edge, 2005 Sonoma. Retail $55.  96 points

2. 2006 Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard” Santa Maria Pinot Noir.  Retail $25.  I know this one isn’t that expensive but the accolades are impressive.  93 points, Editors Choice and #1 wine of the year in Wine Enthusiasts top 100 for 2009.

Okay on to Champagne!  What no white wines?  Yup thats right. No whites.

If you want to make a big impression and look like a super star you need to pick up a bottle of Dom Perignon.  And if you want to take it even farther and really rock it this New Year’s you need to pick up a bottle of Cristal.

1. 2002 Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut Champagne.  98 points about $200+  but I have seen it at Costco in the metro Phoenix area for $167.  Nothing says “It’s good to be the King” like Cristal.  Name that quote…

2. Okay so the Cristal might be a couple bucks too much so try Louis Roederer Brut Premier instead.  90 points and about $40.  42,000 cases were imported so if your local wine merchant doesn’t have it then maybe it’s time to find a new place to buy your wines.

2010 will hopefully be a better year than 2009.  Let’s drink to that this New Year’s Eve.  Or if you had an awesome 2009 then drink to that.  All joking aside, I am serious about laying down some serious dough for some seriously good wines this NYE.  We all deserve it!  You can’t just keep squeaking through life missing out on the finer things, something has to eventually give!

Cheers, Happy New Year!

Cameron Hughes Lot 116, 2007 Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 1012 Cases


From the company literature:

“Deep, dark brooding Cabernet, ruby-plum color with deep crimson rim. On the nose blackcurrant hits you right between the eyes with Cassis intermixed with blackberries, chocolate, and damp earth.  Nuances of moist underbrush are braced by cedary oak and excellent fruit purity…charming texture…rich mid-palate tannins…lingering finish and full-bodied elegance…”

Once again this is another wine sourced from an $85 dollar bottle-program.  The wine maker sourced the blend from the vineyards in Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, and Spring Mountain.  Under it’s original label it receives consistent 91, 92 and 93 point scores.  And this is the really GOOD part… many of Cameron Hughes wines are made from leftover barrel lots from high-end wineries, however, this wine is the actual bottling blend.

It’s tough to decide which one I like more, Lot 164 or Lot 116.  Lot 164 is immediately amazing whereas this wine becomes more and more amazing over several hours.  Until it reaches a peak which I enjoy more than Lot 164.  Great nose of blackcurrant, doesn’t quite hit me like I expected.  And I’m glad it didn’t, I don’t really want to be completely whacked in the face by the wine. Not right away anyways…

definitely rich mid-palate tannins.  And later on they become richer and richer, until the concentrated chocolate is so awesome it literally began to give me goosebumps!  I had this wine with slow cooked Tri-Tip, sautéed mushrooms in worchestire sauce, a green salad and a little bit of Quinoa.  It was awesome!  The wine really came alive and made my steak taste better too. In fact it made it taste so good that I ate a second steak!  It’s the kind of wine that turns you into a ravenous carnivore.  And later on I had to bake some chocolate chip cookies.  I am putting this wine in my top 5 favorite wines of all time right now.  Wow!  Incredible, and by the end of the bottle I was wishing for more, but alas it was about 2am.


2nd tasting:

I paired it with a slow roasted Filet Mignon.  Once again, it really made the steak come alive.  Rich rich mid palate tannins, but not harsh tannins.  Very well done.  2nd night of the 2nd tasting is fantastic as well.  The blackberries and cedary oak are coming through and it has now been 24 hours since I opened the bottle.  Still no trace of alcohol!

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 121

Cameron Hughes, Lot 121  2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley

Cameron Hughes Spring Mountain Cabernet

1 of only about 5,500 bottles made



Alcohol: 14.2%

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

460 cases made.

Rating: 90 points Wine Enthusiast


From Cameron Hughes Literature:

“…incredible fruit, colossal structure, gorgeous oak (80% new and 20% one-year old barrels for 20 months) and a remarkably supple mouthfeel for this district.  Deep purple red color and gorgeous nose reveal red stone fruits on the palate with plenty of tannin…’03 and ’04 recieved 92 points from The Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

I really have to agree that this wine is very accessible for the Spring Mountain District. The tannins are a little more laid back than the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2004 Cabernet that I reviewed a while back.  Equally delicious though, and needs similar amount of time in the decanter.  Minimum an hour, but two would be better.  I am always really interested in the story behind the wine.  Cameron always has a “Cameron Confidential” on his website where he gives you some clues and insights into the wine.  The remarkable thing about this wine is that not only does it come from the anonymous wineries $85 program but it is also the wineries entire production for 2006!

2nd Review

November 2010.

I made this!

After holding onto this wine for a year I recently celebrated the Weekly Wine Journal’s 1st birthday.  I went all out and bought a Kobe New York Strip to pair with this wine.  I also grilled some golden beets and carrots on a cedar plank, and also sautéed red onions and mushrooms in Worcester sauce.  This wine was an incredible pairing with the tender fatty juicy steak.  The bold chewy tannins were able to cut through the fat.  Absolutely fantastic!