2009 Midsummer Cellars Canon Creek Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.1% $45

My 8th place wine - The group's 8th place wine

This starts out with hints of savoriness, olives, spice and floral notes over a base of sweet fruit, but with time the aromatics turn matte with a dominant vanilla fragrance filling the glass. Starting out rather light and dilute on the palate, this fills in nicely with clear, slightly earthy dark fruit but as with the nose, the heavy oak load takes over with air, adding bitterness to the finish and obscuring the fruit. This seems to have some potential to age well, but for early drinking it's just too oaky tonight. 80pts

2009 Rodney Strong Alexander's Crown Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 15.5% $55

My 7th place wine - The groups 7th place wine

Opening with nice leather and spice aromas this quickly becomes dominated by lots of spicy, nutty oak on the nose. Dark, full and slightly dense on the palate, there's a lot of dark chocolate wrapped around dark fruit here with a spicy, almost peppery finish. This feels and tastes extracted, a bit of a black hole of a wine with a powerful if hot finish. 85pts

2009 Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 15% $90

My 6th place wine - the group's 4th place wine (tie)

Fine and focused on the nose with a simple expression of sweet blackberry fruit framed by hints of grilled meat and mint. A little sweet on entry, though nicely red-fruited, this turns a bit hollow on the mid-palate with lots of fruit tannins adding richness to the texture. It seems to lack a little intensity of flavor, but feels friendly enough in the mouth. 86pts

2009 Caymus Vineyards Special Select Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.9% $125

My 5th place wine - The groups' 4th place wine (tie)

Sweet and gingery on the nose with a classic modern Napa Cabernet profile that shows plenty of candied black cherry fruit and lots of coffee-toned oak. Smells a bit spoofy. Smooth, polished and extracted in the mouth with lots of black fruit framed by notes of chocolate, licorice, and toast. Fine grained tannins nicely match the density of fruit here, and in its style it's quite good if quite hot, particularly on the finish. 88pts

2009 Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5% $30

My 4th place wine - The groups 6th place wine

Dusty and a bit sweet on the nose but showing nicely layered green olive, licorice, cedar and black cherry fruit with a hint of dried herbs. A bit diffuse on the palate, but showing a nice balance of integrated acidity and soft tannins that supports the light and lean core of red cherry fruit. This is a touch on the simple side but is drinking well with an attractive mouthfeel. 88pts

2009 Stuhlmuller Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.2% $30

My 3rd place wine - The groups 1st place wine

This opens with a nose of used wood, wild herbs, red cherry fruit and nuanced mineral and leather notes. It opens slowly with air but shows a very attractive bouquet already. Velvety on entry with a modest and attractive richness that is supported by fine grained fruit tannins. This has lovely grip in the mouth with soft, polished red currant and cherry fruit nicely framed by a hint of green herbs and some mineral earth. A very appealing wine tonight, and the wine I built this tasting around, but I scored it a bit lower than the next two wines only because it is a bit atypical for a North Coast Cabernet. It's still a fantastic value and a wine I highly recommend. 91pts

2009 Chappellet Signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.9% $50

My 2nd place wine - The groups 1st place wine (tie)

Dense and oaky at first with buttery notes and a deep whiff of coconut which integrates with air, allowing the pure core of simple yet intense black cherry and mineral fruit to emerge with time. Starting off a bit hollow, this fills in in the glass, showing freshly crushed black currant and black cherry fruit supported by earthy and medicinal flavors. The wood is present but well-judged and lessing in impact over the course of the evening. Not the best wine tonight but the wine with the best potential for improvement in the cellar. Give this three to five years and it should show quite well. 91pts

2009 Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 14.5% $30

My 1st place wine - The groups 1st place wine (tie)

At first dark and earthy in the nose, this quickly shows attractive black currant and weedy aromas that gain a modest sheen of oak spice along with hints of candied blackberry and wild berry fruits. Fruity on entry with a rather natural, unfettered feel, this reveals a fine core of bright and juicy black currant fruit supported by fine tannins that allow the almost delicate fruit to shine clear as a bell. With air this does turn a touch soft, and there is a hint of pruny-ness on the moderately long finish, but the texture and purity of this wine is very attractive.  91pts