2007 Hidden Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 55% slope 14.9% $40

Dark and earthy with some saddle leather early on the nose. A hint of cooked vegetables, mostly celery and peppers, adds some nice underlying complexity to the core of black cherry fruit. The oak is well judged and adds some framing spice and a top note of vanilla. This explodes in the mouth with bold yet fresh tobacco and earth-tinged black cherry fruit. There’s a long vein of a slightly medicinal aspect that drives through the back end with some gingerbread and toasted almond oak.  This is big and full flavored, but its intensity does not come with thickness or excessive weight on the palate. A beautiful Cabernet, this is bold and structured with super fine yet firm tannins, solid length and emerging complexity. 94pts

2008 Stuhlmuller Vineyards Alexander Valley 14.5% $38

Piercing and focused herb-tinged black currant nose supported by a firm base of oak and topped with notes of eucalyptus and damp sawdust. Rather silky on entry with rich blackberry flavors and a light impression of sweetness. The fruit really spreads out in the mouth, gaining notes of espresso bean, licorice, dried herbs and integrated cigar spice adding complexity. The finish is a touch short at this stage and a bit dominated by the fine-grained tannins, but the fruit, nicely black currant, squeezes out on the final, along with a hint of nutmeg. The fruit here is quite pure with good complexity in a rich, dense style. 93pts

2006 Dry Creek Vineyard Endeavour Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $55

Earthy on the nose with plenty of nuanced elements coming together. Licorice, fresh leather, a bit of tomato leaf and hints of mint all accent the big rich, soft black fruit aromas. On the palate this is big and rich, though it does show a very pure expression of the grape. It’s full of black cherry fruit that’s not sweet or overtly fruity, but rather dry and well framed with herbal and earthy details. There’s a ton of power here and the richness shows on the long finish, which has a touch of heat and is dark and rugged but not rough. The oak is well judged here and through on the finish but the fruit wins out in the end. This deserves several years in the cellar to reach its full potential, but it delivers a lot today. 93pts

2007 Rodney Strong Rockaway Alexander Valley 15.2% $70

Big and a bit fumy on the nose with lots of earthy notes and chocolaty, toasty oak spices dominating. Big, sweet purple berry and plum fruit on entry is intense and covers bright acids and powdery fine tannins. This has a rather nice core of clear, sweet fruit. The finish shows some heat and more of the creamy oak and chocolate notes, but the fruit remains intense and very long if a touch sticky. Big and fruity, yet muscular and complex. 92pts

2006 Chateau St. Jean Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $90

Deeply smoky on the nose with nice framing notes of black olive and toasty oak which help to focus the black currant fruit. Smooth, rich and packed with fruit in the mouth. This is slightly chewy with a polished feel. The red and black fruits pop up above the tannins on the mid-palate, though the tannins are still quite firm and obvious. Lot’s of flannelly fruit lends an impression of soft opulence even today, but the purity of the fruit is revealed on the long, slightly drying finish. The fruit and tannins here are set for a marathon. Will be interesting to watch this evolve over the next 20 years.  92pts

2007 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon $46

Very balanced and attractive aromatics feature black currant fruits against a backdrop of toasty oak and hickory nuts, framed with notes of violet, musk and mulberries. In the mouth, this is rather focused. Crisp acids and very nicely polished tannins support a core of black cherry and black berry fruit nicely framed by vanilla oak. The finish shows solid fruit persistence accented with hints of licorice and ending on a nice, lightly spicy blackberry note. Really quite restrained and elegant, showing the nature of the vintage. Should age well though it is approachable today. 92pts

2008 Rodney Strong Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 15.5% $75

Soil, oak and a bit of gasoline combine on the nose over tobacco scented black currant fruit. Very smooth I the mouth with good richness. This is deep, dense and broad in the mouth, though it lacks amplitude. Creamy and soft, there’s a lot of black cherry fruit here. With the nice underlay of oak and the hint of herb and soil in the mouth this is actually quite varietally correct. The oak and, more specifically vanilla, pops on the back end, showing more creamy, chocolatey, toasty oak on the moderately long finish. Definitely veering towards the milkshake end of the spectrum, but with solid Cabernet fruit at it’s core. If you like that style you’re gonna like this wine. 91pts

2007 Ch. St Jean Cinq Cepages $50

Nicely complex on the nose with some leafy/floral nuances and toasty wood spices over dark berry and lightly plummy fruit. On entry the sweet, ripe fruit and toasty oak spice are both rather bold, and there is nice depth to the layered fruit. The tannins are a touch astringent in the mouth, lending length to the finish which reveals a nice red fruit character. There’s really nice acidity here, and this softens nicely with just a bit of air revealing a gentle elegance. 91pts

2008 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon $80

Nicely complex on the nose with a blend of pencil lead, rosemary, chocolate, a bit of wet almond, some toasty almond and rich black fruits. In the mouth, this is pretty large scaled with lots of French oak induced spice and big black currant and cherry fruits coming together. The texture is rather creamy and soft with slightly astringent tannins showing up late on the palate. Smooth, opulent and creamy, the fruit flows onto the finish, which is long and rich displaying plant of fruit persistence to match the lingering notes of coffee, cigar box and peppery spice. 91pts

2008 Sebastiani Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon $80

This has plenty of smoky, toasty, walnut oak notes on the nose. While this seems a touch closed, one can sense the firm, dry black fruit lurking under the wood. There’s not a lot of fat here. This is a firm, focused style of wine that is showing plenty of oak at the moment. The finish allows glimpses of bright, firm sweet black fruits. Fairly closed at this point though this does show really fine balance and potential for improving in the cellar. 90pts

2006 Arbios Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Very fine nose here with floral elements, pencil shavings, black tea, a hint of ash and a touch of ivy greenness accenting the core of bright red fruit. In the mouth, this shows a warm climate feel, though it isn't fat or sticky. Nicely cut and lovely ripe tannins add volume to the rather purely expressed core of black raspberry/black currant fruit. The acidity helps this remain clear and vibrant right through the moderately long finish. 90pts

2009 Alexander Valley Vineyard Wetzel Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $18

Lots of black spice on the nose with nice herbal elements over a pure cassis base. Bright and crystal clear in the mouth, with ripe tannins and fine acids supporting a core of beautiful black cherry fruit. There’s some nicely integrated oak here, though it’s adding a bit of sweetness on entry. This is classic California Cabernet, full of fresh black fruit and accented with hints of herb and bell pepper. The weight is medium to medium-full, and while there’s plenty of richness here, the wine is far from heavy. Perhaps is a bit simple, but what it does deliver, it delivers exceptionally well. 90pts

2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 13.9% $60

Nice dill and black cherry fruit on the nose with some vanilla and raw oak character adding detail. This is big and broad in the mouth with juicy acidity. Just a bit dense and extracted, there remains a liveliness to the wine and a fresh crispness to the fruit. Very much in the red plum/red currant end of the spectrum, this has a fine tannic spine supporting the fruit. Smooth, rich and modestly powerful, this is a wine that is essentially ready to drink, though it is well balanced enough to age well for a decade or so. The fruit really is quite attractive, fresh yet sweet. While the wine is a touch tight on the finish, the fruit ekes out past the sweet tannins. 90pts

2006 Clos du Bois Briarcrest Cabernet Sauvignon $45

Very fine and focused on the nose with spice tones, leafy tobacco nuances, gravel, earth and cool black fruit all coming together nicely. Very finely textured on entry, the tannins slowly emerge adding a firmness to the core black cherry fruit. The acid is nice and bright, adding some freshness though the concentration here makes this a bit chewy on the mid-palate with late arriving chocolatey oak. The finish reveals fine fruit and nice mineral notes. The structure cuts the finish a bit short today with perhaps a bit too much wood tannin, but the underlying fruit is lovely and the finale of vanilla should tone down with another 2-3 years in bottle. 90pts

2008 Pedroncelli Morris Fay Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $19

A bit of herb greets the nose, along with a hint of chili which accents the big, deep core of black currant fruit. This is fresh with nice complexity, featuring a dose of wood spice. Soft and rich in the mouth. The youthful tannins remain a bit angular, but are well covered by the red cherry fruit. This is rather big and round in the mouth, and very smooth on the back end. Finish is fairly long with black raspberry and spice tones. The tannins are really lovely here, with their palate cleansing astringency. While this is no blockbuster, it is pretty classic.  90pts

2009 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 $25

Very young and tight on the nose with plenty of charcoal oak and reticent deep, dark fruit. Big in the mouth with rich roundness full of polished tannins and fine acidity. There’s more chocolatey oak here than on other Pedroncelli Cabernets, and the chewy, smooth richness of black currant fruit is more typical of high end modern Cabernets than some of their other bottlings. The finish shows some nice spice tones and a flourish of herb, but this remains tight and wrapped up in its oak today. A wine destined to improve in the cellar. 89pts

2006 Clos du Bois Marlstone Cabernet Sauvignon $45

Layered and complex on the nose, with plenty of nuanced wood spice, soft fruit, and a delicate profile. In the mouth, this shows much like the nose. Well judged oak, nuanced currant flavors and nice spice tones on the back end, and a moderately long finish that brightens nicely due to the firm acidity, helping to freshen the black cherry and black raspberry fruit tones. This is rather well done with rich fruit in a nicely balanced style. 89pts