In search of Excitement

Checking on on some of the top Cabernets from California


Blind tasting. It’s the great equalizer, and while many people doth protest too much about the results, and often their results when undergoing such an exercise, the results tend to be irrefutable.

Yes it’s easy to argue that less expensive wines may win because they are more approachable, ready on release while the big boys always need time but that is frankly not always the case. Sometimes the big boys just aren’t very good. Over oaked and over ripe are their two big sins. With their labels revealed it’s amazing how quickly we make accommodations. With the labels hidden they remain simply flawed.
And so I look forward to my blind tastings. I love the mental challenge one has with each tasting. A recent discussion on the relative merits of blind tasting left me scratching my head when one participant commented that in blind tastings it’s always about finding the winner as opposed to tasting the wines. A comment that says far more about the commenter than the technique. 
I guess it’s much easier to taste the wines knowing before the corks are pulled which wine is the winner. Definitely makes the rest of the evening easier to handle. If you think blind tastings are all about picking a winner it’s time to hang up your waiter’s friend and find a new hobby. For blind tastings are about typicity and terroir. They are about deductive reasoning. They are about everything that makes this hobby so much fun. They are about humility, and this might very well be the problem our commenter is dealing with.
We all like to think we know much more than we do about wine. We all have a tremendous amount invested, both literally and figuratively, in our favorite wines. To go to a tasting and have your favorite wines perform poorly, or worse, have your palate perform poorly is a sin worthy of seppuku in the histrionic world of Manhattan’s wine tasters. As I age, and become smoother and more complex I’m sure, I find I have increasingly less patience for those who treat this hobby as a competition of sorts. It’s not. It is a game. Blind tasting is a game. It’s done for fun and to have an unbiased experience with a wine. The results are often surprising, except of course when they’re not. 
Such was the case with my recent foray into California Cabernet of recent vintages. While I may not have been able to predict the specific order in which I would have rated the wines, it was easy to pick those wines that would finish towards the top of the heap Less so for those on the bottom. iI’s impossible to drink without bias, but at least you can do what you can to minimize bias. And then have your biases confirmed! If you’re looking for great California Cabernet to enjoy now and over the mid-term it will be hard to find better wines that the 2010 Ridge Estate Cabernet or the 2009 Domaine Eden Cabernet. Vintage charts and blind tastings be damned. 

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  • Snooth User: Tiakittie
    1041141 89

    Should have tried the 2010 Beringer Knight's Valley Gregory!...firm Tannins, a good backbone of black fruit, eucalyptus and earthy notes. Well balanced and drinking exceptionally well right now...$45 in Canada!

    Nov 14, 2013 at 11:17 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    I'll make sure to include it next time. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:21 PM

  • Your description of the Mt. Eden is unclear to me as it included the following comment: ... transparent on the palate with a tense mouthfeel ...

    What do "transparent on the palate" and "tense mouthfeel" mean?

    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Heurich
    1266839 2

    I suggest you make it a lot interesting: not saying beforehand that they are from Napa and better yet, putting at least one from the rest of the world.

    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM

  • Snooth User: swimdad
    474451 36

    Beringer Knight's Valley has been our "go-to" for many years!

    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:40 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    There are lots of ways to carve up blind tastings and adding a ringer from outside the appellation or something with a much lower or higher price is a good way to keep prejudices in check. I said it elsewhere: We don't know anything about wine, we just have our prejudices, so wines made in styles we like at whatever price will generally get our better scores, if we give scores. I do think it is a bit odd to say that a tasting is blind when the taster knows that these are all wines from a certain place and within a certain price range, since that seems to insure that everything falls into a tight range of points, or so I have noticed with at least one major magazine. That range skews upward when the high end cabs are tasted for the major cab issue and downward a bit for the less expensive bottles tasted throughout the year.

    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:44 PM

  • Snooth User: lingprof
    Hand of Snooth
    155607 1,110

    GDP: this is why we love you, and we love snooth. One of my favorite articles so far, even before I got to the actual recommendations. Yes, wine tasting is a joyous game, not a calculus test! If more people at the helm of the wine media projected this view, I bet we could double the number of "players"... Pro tip: just try to work a "humans vs zombies" analogy in next time, but otherwise good job. ;-)

    Nov 14, 2013 at 7:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    BTW, we had a bunch of that Mt. Eden from an older vintage a while back, gift of the winery for using their wines for an event. It's an under the radar stunner. And that Ridge? If you don't want to shell out for Montebello (awfully pricey, tho it's a steal compared to a first growth, which is its real competition if you intend to drink rather than collect to impress), the Estate is only a "second wine" because they have so much great material to work with. Routinely blows away much more costly bottles.

    Nov 14, 2013 at 7:55 PM

  • Snooth User: qutiful
    1333123 36

    Like blind tastings. Thank you.
    Years ago one of my favorite wines was Peter Michael Les Pavots from Sonoma, (Knights Valley). Just looked it up and was chocked by how expensive it now is. Is it because of small
    quantity production? Yes, I know it is a great wine but so are many other wines for lesser
    I am in love with italian amazons right now and haven't kept up on Cabernets.
    Any info. out there?

    Nov 15, 2013 at 2:20 PM

  • Snooth User: saddledoc
    981085 1

    Why all the "tense mouthful" why not just say "pucker?" If it was to be a blind tasting then it should have been blind without knowledge of area or grape. I tire of all of the imaginary flavors such as tobacco and earth. Why not just say "drinkable" or not.


    Nov 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

  • Lets not forget St.Frances Cabernet 2007. Thought this was very nice !

    Nov 15, 2013 at 7:08 PM

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