2007 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Landslide Vineyard Alexander Valley 14.5% $33

A little milky on the nose with subdued dried dark cherry notes topped with menthol, pencil shavings and a touch of carob. Nicely middle-full weight in the mouth with really nice focus early on, fine blackberry fruit tightly framed by polished tannins and a hint of bitter cocoa, all supported by bright acids. The oak pops a bit on the back end, adding a little vanilla top note and perhaps some incipient cedar notes on the finish. Finish is nicely dry, perhaps a whisper hot, but firmly dry and tannic with nice black currant fruit. This is a bit tight, but really presents with good purity and nice tight structure. 89pts

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $25

Quite toasty on the nose with burnt toast and burnt sugar notes over nice red currant/red cherry fruit and a nice, nuanced floral top note. Very soft on entry, then some formidable tannins kick in adding a nice firm base. There are plenty of tobacco, spice and dusty earth tones adding complexity to the core of rather bright, if very ripe, currant fruit. Late notes of coffee and something fruity/floral adding complexity. Very expressive and well balanced, if a bit on the oaky side still. 89pts

2008 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Coast 13.5% $14


Quite chocolatey and black cherried on the nose with a bit of heat showing. Deep smoke and a nice chalky eucalyptus top note add some complexity. Smooth and a bit sharp on entry, with bright acids adding lift to the black cherry fruit. This is rather clear if a bit coarse, with nice backing spice tones offering contrast to the fruit. The tannins are a bit rough and a bit obvious, as is the oak, but are not out of balance with the fruit, which really powers through on the rather long finish. This has a raw quality to it, and is a bit clunky, but at the same time is a bit endearing. There’s no denying the fruit persistence here. 88pts

2008 Sebastiani Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $25

Fairly obvious on the nose with direct French oak notes, bright, moderately rich fruit and nice mineral and floral nuances. This offers up rather broad shouldered red fruit in the mouth. It is fairly well oaken, with lots of nuance. A nice round wine, a touch chewy, nice blackish fruit, bit of savory fruit, with a touch of olive on the back end. Nicely varietal example that shows the winemaker’s touch. 88pts

2009 Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Caberent Sauvignon $17

Smoky on the nose with a nice perfume that features loamy soil tones. Tight and focused in the mouth, with a very clear and transparent core of red berry fruit. A gently earthy tone and a nice mineral edge lead to the moderately long finish. Perhaps a bit simple, but nonetheless a pleasure to drink. Fine richness and good inner mouth tension. 88pts

2007 Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Alexander Valley 15.1% $75

Smoky and dark on the nose with blackberry, plum and powdered sugar notes. This is big and broad with super fine tannins, integrated acids, dark, toasty oak spiced black fruits and a nice dusting of dry earth. There’s even a hint of a floral element lurking in the meaty background. Spicy in a medicinal way, this is big and dense with good balance for medium term aging, but it is a bit heavy and soft. The finish shows lots of mint, licorice and black spices. This is very extracted and a bit clumsy with a noticeably hot finish. Too much oak and extraction for me here, you have to love big chewy wines to love this. 87pts

2005 Hanna Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Bismark Mountain Vineyard 14.5% $50

Coffee, herbs, menthol, vanilla and blueberry fruit all come together in a rather intensely aromatic package. There’s some heat on the nose and the oak is obvious, though the fruit does an admirable job of concealing it. A bit lighter in the mouth than expected with nice acidity, a leathery, cookie dough edge to the fruit on the palate, and rather late arriving, stiff tannins. The finish shows some wood sweetness, a nice bit of spice and jammy black fruits. Overall a bit rough and rustic, but a wine that delivers intensity of flavor with good structure. Finishes a bit short. 87pts

2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 13.8% $14

Slightly musky dark cherry fruit is framed with hints of bittersweet chocolate, toasted oak and a hint of coconut. Rather lean and low on entry, this turns richer with a nice core of red berry/cherry fruit that offer nuanced notes of coffee cream and slightly medicinal red licorice. The tannins are ample but sweet with plenty of balancing acidity keeping this fresh in the mouth. The finish shows of some sour cherry, a hint of vanilla and some nice cedary spice. A touch of pomegranate on the finale. A solid, ready to drink Cabernet with a few years upside. 87pts

2008 Pezzi King Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Sonoma County 15.2% $20


Lots of toasty oak and vanilla notes on the nose over deep, dark earthy fruit. A bit closed now, with a nice almost dusty mineral edge. Rather lovely on entry, transparent if dense, with rich black currant fruit framed with notes of cedar, vanilla, root beer and some delicate herbal nuances. The tannins are fairly soft and well to the side of the mouth, and the acidity, while low, is adequate. The oak becomes more obvious on the back end and the finish lacks a bit of stuffing, though it does offer nice, dry black berry fruits. Nice wine, holds its alcohol exceptionally well, but lacks some varietal character. 87pts

2005 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% $60

Rather evolved on the nose with a bit of caramel showing through the light red fruits. Smoky tobacco/vegetal aromas and light vanilla top note. With air, this turns a bit greener, with less tobacco and more bitter greens, though still well integrated. Bright and juicy on entry with finely textured, powdery tannins that spread across the tongue. They are a bit on the dry side and lend a peppery bite to the palate. The fruit is red cherry and somewhat modest in scale, with a very gentle green element emerging on the back end. The finish is a bit lean and dry, firm with a nice echo of fruit and some pepperiness. Definitely Cabernet and well balanced if a bit tough. 87pts

2008 Clos du Bois Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $20

A little toasty on the nose with light black currant fruit. Bright and tall in the mouth with a medium weight that shows nice fruit sweetness without being weighty or sticky. This is clear and transparent with a somewhat simple taste profile of black fruit and toasty oak spice, but in a well balanced, rather restrained package. 86pts

2008 Sebastiani Sonoma County $16

Toasty but not overtly raw oak on the nose with lots of vanilla and chocolate notes. A lighter style of wine on the palate. This is gentle, round, bright and crisp. It has a nice oak backing but still shows great fruit. A bit simple perhaps, but full of raspberry and currant notes that echo nicely on the finish. A solid, accessible style of Cabernet. 86pts

2007 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Cabernet $25

Pretty toasty on the nose with lots of spice notes and an overlay of charcoal. A little earthy on the palate, with some loam notes and a bit of herb accenting the dark core of fruit. Finishes a bit on the chocolatey side with small but mouth-grabbing tannins. A touch simple and formulaic but well balanced. 86pts

2006 Ferrari – Carano Prevail Back Forty Cabernet Sauvignon 14.9% $80

A bit tight on the nose. This is dark with earthy black fruit framed by vanilla, modest toasted oak spice, an edge of brett and some cracked pepper notes. Very broad in the mouth at first, though the acids come up strong on the mid-palate. The tannins are very finely polished and the wine has a rather creamy texture with lots of toasty, gingerbread spice up front and plummy, dark cherry fruit on the mid-palate. The alcohol shows through somewhat on the palate and the wood tannins begin to assert themselves on the back end and onto the finish. The fruit, while big and bold on the palate, can’t hang with the fruit on the finish. Lots of extraction and a bit hollow, this falls short today. 85pts