2 Cabs and a Zin

Thursday, October 11, 2012 7:40 PM

California Cabernet Sauvignons in the $15-$30 category is a tough slot to fill especially if you expect the grapes to come from a premium wine growing region and also be from a small production bottling. Tough yes, but not impossible. I just discovered two terrific Cabernets, one from Paso Robles and the other from Napa Valley that fit the criteria beautifully. And because I can’t seem to settle on just one wine to write about this week, I have also included a Russian River Valley Zinfandel, an old favorite, that has started a new chapter in its long history.

End Post is produced by Adelaida Cellars who established themselves on the west side of Paso Robles in 1981. Their vineyards are at 2000 feet elevation and only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The Cabernet Sauvignon for the 2009 End Post comes from their famed Viking Vineyard, which lies on ancient calcareous soils of limestone and chalk. I was blown away by the deeply concentrated, expansive fruit-it is all plump, juicy black cherry and plum fruit, teetering on the brink of too juicy but stays anchored with chewy tannins, pleasant acidity and judicious use of oak. This is an amazing value for those looking for fruit impact. The End Post Cabernet was introduced to me by a broker for whom I have great admiration and who represents some very high end/prestigious California wineries. As I was tasting the End Post and listening to him describe the vineyard, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself,“how is he going to sell any of the expensive stuff, if he’s pouring something this good at this price?” I guess not everyone is looking for a bargain like myself, but seriously this tastes far more opulent than the $17.98 price suggests. This unabashedly Cali Cab is quite the delicious drink and at under 400 cases produced, it is not likely to stay on the shelves for long.
2009 Adelaida Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon End Post Paso Robles

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Central Coast;
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Sensorium was created by two Silicon Valley electrical engineers, Lee Ritchie and John Zasio, in 2002. They hired Lee’s son Jeff, a UC Davis alum, to be their winemaker. Sensorium’s 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon comes from two vineyard sources, one in warmer Pope Valley and the other from the cooler Coombsville district. What drew me to this wine is the balance of ripe cassis and pomegranate to the silky tannins- the overall elegance, really. This Napa Cab is approachable and drinkable now, so no cellaring required. And despite the boutique production level of 189 cases, it can be purchased for under $30. This is truly a rarity these days as my experience shows that most Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa start at $50, even from large-scaled wineries. And frankly, not all of them are worth the price of admission. Sure, most of California’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignons come from the Napa Valley but being from Napa in and of itself doesn’t always equate to quality. I’m confident you’ll find much to be pleased with Sensorium’s fair-priced, elegant 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon…it’s a beauty!
2007 Sensorium Cabernet Napa Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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I was re-introduced to Limerick Lane’s Zinfandel recently and it truly felt like bumping into an old friend. Limerick Lane is a 30-acre estate that has vines dating back to 1910. The estate was purchased by the Collin’s brothers in the mid-70’s , who produced their first estate bottling of Zinfandel in 1986. Last year, right before harvest, Mike Collins sold his beloved property to Jake Bilbro, whose family runs Marietta Cellars. Apparently, Mike didn’t want to sell his estate to just anyone or even to the highest bidder. He had approached Jake in 2009, proposing the offer to sell Limerick Lane to him. Two years later Jake was finally able to arrange the finances and is now the proud owner of Limerick Lane. Though Limerick Lane’s reputation as a premium producer of Zinfandel has remained intact over the years, I think we’re going to see a new infusion of passion and enthusiasm into this estate. I’m expecting some terrific Zinfandels to be released from this new, old producer. The 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel is a charmer. On the nose there is blackberry patch aromas and dried late-summer grass and dustiness. On the palate, vivacious berry compote flavors linger warm and cozy and then finish with an unexpected burst of acidity. This tangy finish gives off a real savory-ness and gets the mouth juices flowing. I’d love to pair this with a Moroccan lamb tagine dappled with prunes. Yum!
2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Sonoma County

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
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“Expectation is the harbinger of disappointment”, a classic Pete-ism, that pretty much sums up my week. Each day was tightly scheduled and planned for both work and pleasure but alas my daughter fell ill with the flu and that was that; we stayed home and nothing got done (expect the laundry!). At least the dog was grateful for the company. Thankfully Sascha is on the mend, but our weekend plans have been scrapped and our post-anniversary celebration has to be put off (yet again!) for another day.Wine, yes wine, will have to be the remedy for my let-down…which reminds me of an interesting article I read recently that asked women to write in on the topic of why they drink wine. There are many, many reasons why I drink wine, but high on my list is the pleasure that a glass of fermented grape juice will inflect on my mood. So here’s to pouring your self a glass of Sensorium, End Post, Limerick Lane or other such goodie and START FEELING GOOD!Anya Balistreri

CA Cabs: 3 Under $20

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 4:51 PM

Tis’ the season when one should have stock of that reliable Cabernet Sauvignon that you grab and tie with a ribbon as you run out the door to your next party. This Cabernet Sauvignon should be of exceptional value, this goes without saying, but it should also have an attractive outside appearance (I know this is a consideration when it comes to gift giving, so why pretend it’s not), and it shouldn’t have to cost a small fortune. I have a few favorites that meet these criteria that I’d like to share with you. BUT before I do, I’d like to boast that along with our vast budget-friendly offerings, we have in stock many hard-to-find, high-scoring California wines for those wine lovers on your list that are tough to WOW…to that end check out our offerings fromBedrock Wine Company, Carlisle and Varner. Ok, back to the task at hand, here are my recommendations for that last-minute gift for your neighbor who looks after your cat while you are away on vacation, the “within your budget” red for your legendary Boxing Day party, or that tasty boost needed to make wrapping gifts until 2am all the merrier…



At Humanitas, “Drink Charitably” is the motto. Proceeds from the sale of every bottle of Humanitas go to charity. Judd Wallenbreck, who moonlights as GM for Michel-Schlumberger in the Dry Creek Valley, began this new concept winery in the late ’90s. His thirty plus years of experience in the wine business has uniquely positioned him to be able create this charitable winery. Of course this concept wouldn’t go anywhere if the wines weren’t any good. The 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is marvelous; mountain fruit from the western part of the valley with a small percentage of Malbec and Merlot blended in for complexity.Because we’re in San Francisco, every time we sell a bottle of the 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a donation is made to the San Francisco Food Bank. What a brilliant concept: you buy a stunning Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in French oak and tastes of crushed blueberries and tart dried cherries, pay far less then what you would expect to pay for a comparable wine AND in the process do something good for someone else!
2009 Humanitas Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma;
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Twenty Rows

This gem of a wine comes from Lori and Brian Nuss who also own Vinoce atop Mt. Veeder. The 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is primarily made up of fruit from Mt. Veeder and Yountville, so power and structure are its hallmarks. Lots of dark red cherry fruit, hints of chocolate and vanilla bean spice greet the palate. Like Humanitas, you get more (pedigree, quality, winemaking) than what you pay for. Plus, this isn’t some large-scaled, faceless operation with a big marketing budget to promote their wine. Twenty Rows is simply about a winemaking couple who understand that not everyone can, or will, pay top dollar for a Napa Cabernet, and are able, with skill and know-how, to fashion a wine that can bottle up all the pleasure of a top-notch Napa Valley Cabernet into a sub $20 bottle. Kudos to Lori and Bill!
2009 Twenty Rows Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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The 2009 Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is Chris Broc’s fourth vintage. This single-vineyard Cabernet outperforms its price range by a wide margin. Margarita Vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles appellation, is only 14 miles from the ocean and has limestone soils, making this a Cabernet Sauvignon that along with supple rich fruit has a mineral thread that adds energy to the finish. Each time I drink Broadside’s Margarita Vineyard Cabernet, I am struck by this thing…this other thing that makes this Cabernet way more interesting than 99% of what I taste in this price category. Is it the limestone soil, the natural fermentation, the judicious use of oak (only 2% new in this vintage), or just magic? You be the judge.
2009 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita Vineyard

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Central Coast;
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I went from humbug to ho-ho-ho overnight. I haven’t yet started Christmas shopping (if you are over 21 and on my list, this year you’re all getting wine!), but strangely I’m not panicking. It’ll get done, it always does. And besides it isn’t about that anyway, right? Sunday I’ll be having dinner with my “adoptive” parents for our annual “before Christmas get-together”. It is all the more special this year because last year my other father was at Stanford hospital recovering from heart-transplant surgery. I’m relieved and thankful to report, he’s going great! The menu is set for magret de canard, so I’m bringing Burgundy! Some occasions call for the good stuff! I’d like to wish all of you good health and plenty of time with loved ones, Cheers

Anya Balistreri

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