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January 14, 2002 • The Ripe Tomato

Our criteria for this tasting were Current Releases from California Wineries with Appellations more specific than "California". Reflective of the current retail market, we wound up with half the flight from the 1998 vintage and half from 1999. Neither vintage dominated the ratings and there was no clear price-to-quality relationship. Most of these wines did show distinctly stronger aromas 20 to 30 minutes after pouring. There was also a wide range of styles, from fruity with no wood to spicy and oak-dominated; from lean and elegant to brawny and rustic. Three bottles were very good, most were adequate, one was unfortunately awful.

Wines are judged Equal Within Categories or Recommendation
and listed Alphabetically by Brand

Ray greets Jon at the Cabernet tasting.

Vintage Varietal or "Name"
Appellation, Vineyard
TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Varietal composition. Summary. ($ paid)

KEY: consensus (flaws?)


Chimney Rock 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.Chimney Rock
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
Stag's Leap District

Medium plum color; attractive, clean, complex, medium-intense cassis, blackberry fruit, oaky, smoky and meaty aroma that develops perfume with airing; round, ripe entry, somewhat spicy, cherry, candy, vanilla, anise-licorice flavors, could use extract; pleasant mouth feel, medium body, slightly rich, soft tannins; well-balanced (awkward?); fairly long, pleasant, faintly hot finish. 13% Alcohol. This seems to be one of the better wines from a much-maligned vintage. ($43) WEBSITE

Marietta 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.Marietta
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County

Inky ruby; young, clean, ripe, sweet, berry, cassis, slightly spicy, cinnamon, bubble gum, earthy and oaky aromas; big, sweet, ripe, extracted, fresh, juicy, spicy, deep, powerful, currant and raspberry, fruit-bomb (over ripe?) flavors; big, full body with some richness and a lush mouth feel; harmonious balance; very flavorful, long finish is also slightly hot and softly tannic. 14.7%. Ripe and highly extracted, this one nevertheless maintains good balance and, in spite of its power, is easy to enjoy and quite reasonably priced. ($19) *WEBSITE

Raymond 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.Raymond
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Dark ruby-plum; complex, rich, ripe, fruity, blackberry, spicy, lilac, oaky, cedary, minty, vanilla and perfumed aromas with a touch of earthiness; slightly sweet, quite fruity, fresh and attractive entry, complex, ripe, cherry flavors with a touch of spicy oak; good mouth feel, medium body, rich, soft tannins; slightly tart, very well-balanced; long, smooth finish. 13.8%. Very complete wine, distinctly varietal, delicious and balanced. ($40) WEBSITE


Frog's Leap 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.Frog's Leap
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Medium-dark ruby; complex, clean, ripe fruit, raspberry, cassis, chocolate, bell pepper, spicy, dill, oaky, earthy, gamy aromas (stemmy?); complex, with plum, berries, spice, pepper, cedar, licorice, earth and game in the ripe, round flavors; medium body, slightly rich; good balance, fairly big tannins are soft, slightly chalky; medium long finish. 13.5%. The herbal-vegetal component always seems to polarize the panel, although it was hard to deny the balance and overall appeal of this wine. ($33) WEBSITE

Kunde 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.Kunde
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County

Medium ruby-plum; oak dominates fairly intense fruity aromas with cassis, berries, melon, herbs, licorice, cedar, vanilla; nondescript fruity, faintly berry, earthy, mushroom, round flavors; light to medium body, some richness; balance is oaky, somewhat tart; round, soft, ripe tannins (bitter?); lightly leathery finish is faintly astringent, hot. 13.8%. One of those that started with stage fright, this had an attractive nose, once it opened up; more fruit in the flavors would have earned it higher marks. Fair price. ($18.50) WEBSITE

Murphy-Goode 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.Murphy-Goode
1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley

Inky ruby-plum; pungent, powerful, toasty, coffee grounds, cola, burnt sugar, earthy, leesy, vegetal, meaty, oak-dominated aromas (sulfur dioxide? rubber hose?); toasty, charred, smoky, oaky, earthy, cinnamon, faintly vegetal and dull fruit flavors; medium body, rich; oaky, slightly tart balance; finishes with a tannic backwash. 13.5%. No-holds-barred with this wine, as toasty oak body slams fruit and pins it to the mat without so much as a protest, let alone struggle. Fairly priced, if the style suits your palate. ($19) WEBSITE

Volker-Eisele 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.Volker-Eisele
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Dark ruby; light, tight, vinous, raspberry, slightly spicy, musty and barnyard aromas; very ripe, juicy, fruit flavors with some toasty, smoky elements; good mouth feel, medium body with some richness and a very tannic grip; tart balance; long, oaky, slightly rough, faintly hot finish. 14.3%. Another reticent performer, this nose remained restrained to the end of our ninety minute tasting. While muscular tannins may support this wine for a few years of cellaring, will the fruit remain? ($29) WEBSITE


Mont Pellier 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.Mont Pellier
Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium-light ruby; new, freshly-fermented aroma, spicy, vegetal, sweet, caramel, cinnamon, strawberry candy-like; sweet, fresh, youthful entry, light, simple, fruity flavors; anemic, light body; balance slightly tart, low tannin; quick finish. 12.5%. Although pleasant and sound, this light, simple, non-distinct wine was less than the ringer hoped for (some tasters thought it tasted more like Zinfandel than Cabernet). ($6) WEBSITE n/a

Steven Kent 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.Steven Kent
Cabernet Sauvignon
Livermore Valley

Medium ruby-plum; shy, closed aroma suggests fruit, sweet cocoa, dill, fennel, American oak, smoke, celery, stems, with a faint off aroma (filter pad? oxidation? sulfur?); ripe fruit flavors are simple, light, mint, candy-like, somewhat lean, austere; medium body, mildly tannic; slightly tart, good balance; finishes long, slightly hot, harsh. 13%. Not hard to drink, but also not particularly inviting. ($42) WEBSITE


Bargetto 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon.Bargetto
Cabernet Sauvignon
Santa Cruz Mountain
Harvest Moon Vineyard

Medium-dark ruby; very closed in, tight, herbal aroma with wood and a faint mustiness (stale? rubber? corked? dirty?); bright fruit flavors are slightly spicy, musty, thin, green (medicinal? burnt rubber?); light to medium body; tart, sour, acidic, angular balance; tart and somewhat tannic finish. 13.5%. What happened here? The consensus decided that it wasn't corked. It simply should never have been bottled. Although we generally give the benefit of doubt, there is very little to recommend this bottle. ($34) WEBSITE

This Panel included Regulars Kevin, Deanna, Glenn, Bob, Jon, Ray, Tammy, Jim, James, and Guests Tim and Steve
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