Judgment of Geyserville IV – An Impressive Round of Grenache

Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes

 Wine writers, Eric Degerman, Mike Dunne, Dan Berger, Bill Ward, and I met for our fourth annual Judgment of Geyserville, with Grenache taking center stage.  This year we also welcomed Stag’s Hollow Winemaker Dwight Sick, and April Reddout, Wine Director of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center.  Wines from Australia, British Columbia, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington were represented in this blind tasting.  I see a growing trend for Grenache rising among consumers.  This is attributable in part, I believe, to how well this wine pairs with food.  Give it a try with balsamic glazed salmon, smoked trout, chicken gumbo, pork tenderloin, ribs off the grill, tofu stir-fry, caramelized roasted beets, and vegetarian lasagna; it is quite versatile!   The judges agreed that the overall quality of the flight was remarkable, with nearly every entry securing a Silver Medal or higher.  The winery capturing the only Bronze medal, Andis Wines (2012 Grenache), went on to capture GOLD and Best of Class honors for its 2014 Grenache at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January.  Here are my impressions for the Judgment of Geyserville IV wines (with the overall group score noted in parentheses):


Abacela 2014 Barrel Select Estate Garnacha; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Full bodied with a deep, dark hue, this concentrated Grenache is tightly wound.  With aeration, enticing aromas of wild raspberries and savory spice waft from the glass.  Layers of black cherries, plums, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, a dash of white pepper and sandalwood unravel onto the palate and lead to a sumptuous, long-lasting finish.  (GOLD) SRP: $29  www.abacela.com

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Hebron Bloc Estate Grenache; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  The brilliant hue catches your eye, and the aroma is engaging and expressive.  Pure and well balanced on the palate, with black raspberry, pomegranate, citrus and mineral notes interlacing with a touch of fresh cracked peppercorns, and immaculate oak integration. Finishes with elegance and plenty of length.  (SILVER) SRP: $27 www.reustlevineyards.com

Folin Cellars 2014 Estate Grenache; Rogue Valley, Oregon:  Lush and rich from the sun-kissed berry scents that pave the way, to the cohesive, mouth filling flavors of spice-dusted raspberry compote and Santa Rosa plums, accented by minerality and underlying oak.  Fruit, acids and tannins are exactly balanced, and the finish is vivacious and persistent.  (SILVER) SRP: $35 www.folincellars.com


A Tribute to Grace 2014 Highlands Vineyard Grenache; Santa Barbara, California:   Delicate floral notes and a basket full of fresh mixed berries greet the nose.  Aerate this well-structured wine to fully unleash layers of cranberries, red cherries, huckleberries, orange zest and spicy oak nuances.  The refreshing finale is upbeat and clean.  (SILVER) SRP: $45 www.gracewinecompany.com

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014 Rancho Solo Vineyard Cuvee R Grenache; Monterey County, California:  Energizing scents of a walk in the forest rise from the glass.  Fresh spiced cranberry sauce, subtle earthiness, and juicy raspberries join savory notes and a thread of minerality creating a burst of flavors on the palate.  The mouthfeel is silky and the wine remains lively through the extended finish.  (SILVER) SRP: $48  www.bonnydoonvineyard.com

Andis Wines 2012 Grenache; Amador County, California:  Highly aromatic, this wine tempts the senses with floral and spice notes.  In the mouth, pleasing flavors of cherry and raspberry compote, a hint of toast, and tangerine accents entwine.  A nice level of acidity keeps the wine balanced and energetic.  (BRONZE) SRP: $26 www.andiswines.com


Sawtooth Winery 2013 Classic Fly Series Grenache; Snake River Valley, Idaho:   Floral notes and hand-picked berries fully engage the senses.  Richly fruited with red raspberries, huckleberries, and juicy loganberries at the core, highlighted by blood orange accents and a touch of clove spice.  Pure and spirited with racy acidity balancing the juicy fruit.  Bright and perky through the lingering aftertaste.  (GOLD) SRP: $32 www.sawtoothwinery.com


Stag’s Hollow Winery 2013 Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia: Ripe black fruits open the door to this opulent Grenache.  Black cherries, black plums and black raspberries intertwine on the palate, with anise and a nice smoky note adding depth. Full bodied, velvety smooth and well balanced, with plenty of verve.  (GOLD) SRP:  $30 www.stagshollowwinery.com

Stag’s Hollow Winery 2014 Renaissance Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Perfumed aromas of berries and a hint of earth at first whiff.  Deliciously fruity, multi-layered and complex, with pomegranate juice, ripe raspberries, tangerine, minerality, and a dusting of sweet herbs interlacing in harmony.  Lacy and ethereal with a silky texture and an everlasting finish.  (DOUBLE GOLD) SRP: $40 www.stagshollowwinery.com

Stag’s Hollow Winery 2015 Grenache; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  The fruity aroma sets the stage for this gem.  Tightly knit, the wine broadens with aeration, unveiling spiced plum pudding, black cherries, and cranberry notes on the palate. Bracing acids, good depth of fruit, and firm tannins speak to years of enjoyment ahead.  (GOLD) SRP: $30 www.stagshollowwinery.com


Palencia Wine Company 2013 Grenache; Yakima Valley, Washington:  This intensely aromatic Grenache shows off gobs of ripe berry fruit.  Robust on the palate as layers of juicy boysenberry, raspberry, Bing cherry, black licorice and spice elements unwind.  Brisk acidity offsets the lush fruit, and the tannins are firm, creating a lovely balance.  (GOLD) SRP: $36 www.palenciawine.com

Columbia Crest 2013 Reserve Grenache; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  The alluring toasty, vanilla scented nose draws you in.  Black raspberry, Black Splendor plum and loganberry fruit spiked with licorice and a splash of fresh squeezed orange juice enliven the palate.  Succulent and well balanced from first sip to lip-smacking finale.  (GOLD) SRP: $35 www.columbiacrest.com

Maison Bleue Family Winery 2012 “Bourgeois” Grenache; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a Grenache that struts out with raspberry coulis and herbs on the nose.  Streamlined and zesty on the palate, with cranberry relish, raspberries, blueberries and subtle hints of spice and forest floor notes.  A firm backbone of acidity keeps it bright and lively. (GOLD) SRP:  $30 www.mbwinery.com


Kilikanoon Wines 2012 Prodigal Grenache; Clare Valley, Australia:  This wildly expressive Grenache shouts out deep black fruit on the nose.  Powerful from the get go, with blackberry, black plum, and pomegranate seeds marrying with chocolaty notes and impressive oak management.  Fruit, acids and tannins are perfectly balanced.  (GOLD) SRP:  $33 www.kilikanoon.com.au

Yalumba Family Vignerons 2014 Samuel’s Garden Collection Old Bush Vine Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia:   This lighter style Grenache offers up pretty scents of red fruit.  Flowing onto the palate are flavors of strawberries and cream, fresh raspberries, cranberry soda and a sprinkling of fresh cut herbs.  Elegant, nicely balanced, and easy to quaff.  (SILVER) SRP: $20  www.yalumba.com

d’Arenberg 2013 The Derelict Vineyard Grenache; McLaren Vale, Australia: Take a good whiff and enjoy the essence of a plum orchard ready to be harvested. This intense Grenache broadcasts succulent purple plums, black raspberries, a touch of earth and savory spice wrapped around firm tannins.  Nicely structured with a velvety texture.  (SILVER) SRP: $29 www.darenberg.com.au

My hope is that this variety continues gaining well deserved accolades and upward traction in the marketplace.  Why not gather up a few bottles and discover which suits your palate?  I think you’ll find Grenache to be a very nice addition to your cellar, and your next dinner party.

Judgment of Geyserville III – Scintillating Syrah

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes

Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah.  The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim.  After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued.  Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).


Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge:  Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma.  Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess.  Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate.   Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish.   GOLD SRP:  $45  www.drewwines.com

Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose.  This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice.  Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package.  GOLD SRP: $48 www.lagiermeredith.com

Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley:  Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff.   Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate.  This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35 www.qupe.com


Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley:  Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses.  The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents.  This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence.   GOLD SRP: $38 www.rossandrewwinery.com

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley:  Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose.   Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak.  Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley:  This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas.  On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core.  Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on.  GOLD SRP: $30 www.palenciawine.com


Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose.  The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate.  Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste.   SILVER SRP: $29 www.abacela.com

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley:   Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah.  Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff.  Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish.    GOLD SRP:  $39 www.reustlevineyards.com

Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley:   Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose.  Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth.  Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish.  SILVER SRP: $36 www.zerbacellars.com

British Columbia

Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass.  Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate.  Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor.  SILVER SRP: $40 www.nicholvineyard.com

Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley:  This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier.  Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice.   Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries.   SILVER SRP: $39 www.vanessavineyard.com

C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley:  Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate.  Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine.   GOLD SRP: $30 www.ccjentschcellars.com

In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character.  Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews.  Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs.  In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!

Judgment of Geyserville II: Riesling

Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes

Wine writers joined up recently for our “Judgment of Geyserville II” blind tasting.   This year’s focus was Riesling from AVA’s located in California, Michigan, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and New York.   As you might imagine, there was a good measure of stone fruit, minerality and lively acidity tickling our palates.   Yet each wine also unveiled its own uniqueness, and a sense of place was often recognized.  My impressions below are listed in the random order in which the wines were arranged for this blind tasting:

Chateau Montelena Winery 2013 Riesling; Potter Valley, California:  Earthy spice and minerality join hand in hand on the nose and entry.  In no way bashful, this nicely composed wine unfolds on the palate with layers of peach skin, juicy pear, gooseberry, lemon verbena and lime zest framed by spirited acidity.  The finish expresses itself confidently with an emphatic lift.  SRP:  $25 www.montelena.com

Wild Goose Vineyards 2012 Stoney Slope Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Aromas of a diced peach and nectarine compote highlighted by pleasing spice greet the nose.   Weaving through the palate you’ll find juicy nectarine, fresh chopped herbs and stony minerally interlaced with a potent level of acids.  Feisty and bright with a finely tuned integration of flavors through the finish.  SRP:  $20.10 www.wildgoosewinery.com

50th Parallel Estate 2013 Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Wow, the intense mineral aroma really awakens the senses.   The wet stone minerality stays focused on the palate interlacing with bright flavors of nectarine, lime peel, Asian pear and oyster shell brininess.  Impressive balance and precision throughout, with plenty of length.  SRP:  $18 www.50thparallel.com

Trisaetum Winery 2013 J&A Vineyards Estate Reserve Dry Riesling; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Inviting aromas of fresh pineapple and citrus blossoms entice the nose.  This Riesling, with flavors of just baked peach pie, tangerine and hints of lemon oil, has a nice creaminess about it.  Earthy notes evolve from the back palate through the aftertaste.  SRP:  $38 www.trisaetum.com

Jones of Washington 2013 Estate Riesling; Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, Washington:  Searing acidity out of the gate with this spunky Riesling leaves a pleasant tingle on the tongue.  Sun ripened peach, apricot and citrus flavors burst in the mouth like colorful fireworks.  Focused and luminous with tangerine and lemon zest accents throughout.  For all its flamboyance, it’s at the same time beautifully elegant.  SRP:  $11.99 www.jonesofwashington.com

Black Star Farms Winery 2013 Arcturos Dry Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Resplendent aromas of wet stone minerality and fresh cut peaches elaborately engage the senses.  Cascading onto the palate are juicy papaya, peach and nectarine flavors accented by a sunny squeeze of lemon.  The glorious fruit interlaces with racy acidity; a focused, classy Riesling.  SRP:  $15 www.blackstarfarms.com

Bitner Vineyards 2012 Reserve Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  Initially reserved on the nose, this Riesling opens with aeration to kumquat, baked pear and hints of petroleum.  It is round on the palate, where flavors of fruit cocktail abound.  The back palate broadcasts tart citrus notes that linger through the finish.  SRP:  ~$17 www.bitnervineyards.com

Chehalem Wines 2012 Corral Creek Vineyards Riesling; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  The expressive mineral laced stone fruit aroma proudly shouts out Riesling.  This wine, skillfully constructed with bracing acids outlining the juicy peach, gooseberry and apple notes, dances vividly across the palate.  The texture is silky, and the finish is both lifted and pleasingly persistent.  SRP:  $29 www.chehalemwines.com

Coiled Wines 2013 Dry Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  Reserved aromas up front, this Riesling opens with further aeration to a wide array of citrus blossom and fruit cocktail aromas and flavors that remain consistent from entry through mid to back palate.  A good level of acidity remains ever present, enlivening the package.  SRP: $17 www.coiledwines.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Demonstrative aromas of minerals and nectarines richly fill the senses with this snappy, energetic Riesling.  Spice enhanced fresh white peach, nectarine and clementine join rockin’ acidity sashaying effortlessly across the palate.  Wonderfully balanced and pure, finishing bright and fresh.  SRP:  $9 www.ste-michelle.com

Zocker 2009 Paragon Vineyard Estate Riesling; Edna Valley, California:   Displaying a fragrance of white flowers and delicate flavors, the age of this wine speaks to its subtleness. The peachy, citrus notes and minerality presented clearly confirm it is Riesling.  This vintage showcased more vibrancy in its youth, yet still displays classic components of varietal character at this age.  SRP:  $20 www.zockerwinery.com

Charles Smith Wines 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Floral aromas are entirely engaging with this succulent, easy to quaff wine.  It’s round on the palate, where waves of sweet sliced peaches, lemon drops and creamy pears join bracing acidity.  The wine is juicy and fresh, finishing with a kick of peach schnapps.  SRP: $12 www.charlessmithwines.com

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2011 Riesling; Umpqua Valley, Oregon:  Herbaceous on the nose and entry, here is a lean, mineral laden Riesling with flavors of sliced kiwi, tart lemon candy and a touch of earthiness.   A bit Sauvignon Blanc like in its flavor profile yet also offering up Riesling characteristics, you may think the two were blended. Dynamic acidity is displayed throughout, and the wine finishes bright and clean.  SRP: $16 www.brandborgwines.com

Tierce 2012 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  Imagine walking along a flowing stream and catching the aromas of river rock, wild herbs and fresh spring air.  That is vividly captured in this well-crafted Riesling.  Lean and exuberant, you’ll find layers of peach skin, lime zest, tart green apple, wet stone minerality and a pinch of herbs fully invigorating the palate.  Purity and elevated acids thrive through the lingering final sip.  SRP: $30 www.tiercewine.com

Fox Run Vineyards 2013 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  Earthy, floral aromas rise from the glass with this smoothly textured Riesling.  Flavors of crisp apples and peaches join stimulating jalapeno accents creating an arousing impression.  The wine builds intriguingly through the finish with a nice level of acidity keeping it vibrant.   SRP: $17.99 www.foxrunvineyards.com

Tantalus Vineyards 2013 Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  This finely balanced Riesling is immensely enticing on the nose with floral nuances and perfectly ripe nectarine flavors flooding the senses.   It flows seamlessly across the palate with layers of fresh peach, nectarine and apple/pear compote entwined with a generous twist of lime.   Steely minerality and unreserved acidity captivate through the upbeat finish.  SRP: $34.90 www.tantalus.ca

Smith Madrone Vineyards & Winery 2013 Riesling; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California:  A bit restrained on the nose initially, minerality peeks through after aeration.   Granny Smith apples and sweet citrus fruit unfold in the mouth with lemon taffy, freshly squeezed lime and orange rind flavors playing off one another.  This is a sassy, edgy Riesling with liberal acidity from start to finish.  SRP:  $27 www.smithmadrone.com

Huston Vineyards 2013 Riesling; Snake River Valley, Idaho:  A thread of minerality engages the nose and leads to spiced peach pie and canned apricot flavors copiously filling the mouth.  Silky on the palate with nice level of acidity offsetting the bountiful fruit.  SRP:  $19 www.hustonvineyards.com

Brengman Brothers 2013 Crain Hill Vineyards Estate Riesling; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Tightly wound, this is a sophisticated Riesling.  Layers of nectarine, peach and Meyer lemon interweave with minerality, a pleasing herbal component and bracing acidity.  This complex wine is just beginning to show its potential; expect it to further develop as it matures.  SRP: ~$25 www.brengmanbrothers.com

Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Dry Riesling; Finger Lakes, New York:  This inviting wine’s expressive aromas of white peach and hint of earthiness effortlessly charm the nose.   Sweet stone fruit, well defined minerality and a tinge of herbs flow across the palate with ease.  The fruit and acids are nicely balanced, and the finish is focused and uplifted.  SRP: $17 www.anthonyroadwine.com

Gehringer Bothers Estate Winery 2013 Private Reserve Riesling; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia:  Tempting notes of wet stone and mango on the nose unfold fully in the mouth with lemon-lime, peach skin and guava flavors joining in mid palate.  This well balanced Riesling is sinewy and streamlined through the bright finish.  SRP:  $14.99 www.gehringerwines.ca

Chateau Grand Traverse 2013 Lot 49 Cuvee Molly Devine Riesling; Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan:  Mouthwatering aromas of fresh juicy peaches and nectarines wow the senses with this vivacious Riesling.  The stone fruit bursts forth on entry, and a trace of sweetness tiptoes onto the palate entwining with the juicy, citrus-infused fruit.  A deliciously mesmerizing wine from first sip to lingering aftertaste.  SRP: $21 www.cgtwines.com

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon, Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville

Judgment of Geyserville I:  CABERNET SAUVIGNON from the Pacific Coast

Four of my fellow wine colleagues and I took part in an enlightening Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in Geyserville this month.  We blind tasted twelve Cabernet Sauvignons produced in three different wine regions along the Pacific Coast; Sonoma County and Napa Valley in California, and Horse Heaven Hills in Washington.  High marks were awarded to wines in all three wine regions, with price points ranging from $28 to $200 per 750ml bottle.  Here are my impressions of each wine tasted:


Alder Ridge Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Black fruit aromas temp you into the glass, where you’ll find a lush and full bodied wine made of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Malbec. Dark berry and cassis fruit dusted with chocolate and spicy forest floor notes expand broadly in the mouth with a nice richness and a solid backbone of tannins. Well balanced and extremely palate pleasing.  Subtle oak from the 100% French oak aging (new and seasoned) lingers on the lovely finish.   SRP: $30  www.alderridge.com

DenHoed Wine Estates 2009 Andreas Cabernet Sauvignon; Wallula Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, WA:   Earth driven aromas lead to tart berry and black cherry flavors mingling with brown spice and wild mushrooms through the mid to back palate.  The essence of oak (100% Vicard French oak; 90% new) is pleasantly integrated in this 100% Cab Sauv. Tannins are firmly placed front and center, promising ageworthiness.  The wine displays leanness with a hint of minerality on the lingering finish.  SRP: $80  www.denhoedwines.com

Double Canyon Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Alluring aromas of concentrated black cherry and a subtle hint of roasted meat lead to a ripe and round entry with this Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 15% Syrah.  Bing cherry and black plum flavors are accented by freshly ground multi-colored peppercorns. Aged 20 months in French oak (35% new), it features a lightly toasted note that adds complexity. Seriously structured tannins and well placed acidity pulls the package together beautifully.  SRP:  $40 www.doublecanyon.com

Januik Winery 2010 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Inviting scents of tobacco and dark fruit rise from the glass.  Immensely flavorful upon entry with layers of dense blackberry, cassis and juicy black cherry fruit enhanced by minerality and a kick of fresh chopped herbs.  The finish is satisfying as it lingers with a whisper of chocolate and sweet oak notes.  Although approachable now, the firm backbone of tannins suggests this Cab is also cellar worthy.   $55 www.noveltyhilljanuik.com


Chateau Montelena Winery 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  Enticing black fruit and spicy aromas shout out Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine opens with rich, lush flavors of black cherry and black currant interlacing with savory herbs, tobacco and spiced oak notes in the background.  The texture is velvety smooth and the wine shows wonderful depth and complexity.  Approachable now yet still tightly wound with powerful tannins.  Decant for full enjoyment now, or wait if you can; as this Cab will cellar handsomely for many years.  SRP: $150 www.montelena.com


Antica Napa Valley 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  The dazzling mixed berry compote aromas that grab your attention are deliciously echoed through the engaging entry.  Roasted coffee bean and savory spice accents dance around wild blackberry, olallieberry and blueberry fruit at the core.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is sleek and brightly elevated on the palate with vibrant expression of fruit and acidity, and shows off chalky tannins and persistent length on the gratifying finish.  SRP:  $55  www.anticanapavalley.com


Corison Winery 2010 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  Resounding black cherry and perfumed floral notes fully capture the nose with this complex, deeply structured, energetic Cabernet Sauvignon. Layer upon layer of blackberry, cassis, spiced plum, tobacco and a touch of earthy minerality converge and flow in harmony across the palate.  This gem engages the senses completely through the memorable finish.  Lively acidity keeps it vibrant, the oak is exquisitely integrated, and firm, assertive tannins promise longevity; unquestionably an ageworthy wine.   SRP:  $135 www.corison.com

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2010 Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California:   Evocative eucalyptus, raspberry and sweet tobacco spice aromas rise from the glass and speak distinctly to Dry Creek Valley terroir. Enticing flavors of red currant, blackberry, licorice and a suggestion of spearmint fill the mouth luxuriously.  Precisely balanced and powerfully structured, this wine is thoroughly enjoyable now, and will continue to open up delightfully over the next several years.  SRP:  $40 www.sbragia.com

Stonestreet Winery 2010 Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma County, CA:  Alluring earthy aromas with hints of capsicum captivate the senses.  Loganberry and black raspberry fruit adorned with freshly cracked peppercorns, a hint of eucalyptus and allspice coat the palate fully.  Tannins are firmly structured, and the wine boasts elegance and a velvety texture.  A kiss of bittersweet chocolate lends a tasty surprise to the memorable finish.  SRP: $45 www.stonestreetwines.com

Smith Madrone Winery 2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA:  This multi-layered Cab Sauv blended with Cabernet Franc is intense right from the focused berry and cherry aromas that waft from the glass.  The tight yet flavor packed palate offers up blueberry, black cherry, cassis, savory spice and hints of capsicum and a broad beam of tannins.  Aged for nineteen months in 100% new French oak, the oak is ever present but sits properly in the background.  The texture is silky and the spirited acidity keeps the wine in balance through the finish. This Cab, in its youth now, will continue to develop more fully with age.  SRP:  $200 www.smithmadrone.com

Kendall-Jackson Wines 2010 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma County, CA:   Aromas that ooze blackberries and spice are echoed on the palate with this plush wine. Crafted of 90.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.4% Malbec, 3.5% Petit Verdot, .4% Cab Franc and .2% Merlot this wine is deeply fruited.  Mixed berry, juicy plum, black currant and olalliberry berry pie flavors swirl delectably amidst polished tannins while mineral and tobacco notes add further dimension.  The aging in French and American oak is nicely portrayed in the long lasting aftertaste with a pretty touch of vanilla and cinnamon-spiked cocoa. SRP: $28 www.kj.com

Jordan Vineyard & Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA:   Scents and irresistible flavors of blackberry, wild berry and cassis are framed by restrained oak, sweet pipe tobacco and hints of earthy, forest floor notes; simply stunning.  This complex wine showcasing chalky tannins and bright acids is skillfully crafted with impressive purity. The depth, complexity and precise balance speak volumes about its promising cellarability.  SRP: $53 www.jordanwinery.com

The increase of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in wine regions around North America over the past four decades is astounding.  Many believe this grape still reigns supreme. Our professional review this month included the above dozen well-crafted Cabs within a mid to higher price range ($28 to $200) from just three of the many highly touted wine regions across North America.  This lends credibility to the belief that there are terrific wines from different regions to be discovered for every wine aficionado’s palate across a wide range of pocketbooks.  There are thousands and thousands of wine choices out there and every vintage brings something new; no one has tasted them all.   Remember, it’s YOUR unique palate; taste and choose what suits YOU; no one can tell you that you’re doing it wrong!