2007 Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvee Mount Veeder Napa Valley 14.5% $32
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot

A bit figgy on the nose with plenty of cocoa, coffee and vanilla accents. This does show a nice, low green herbal note as well. Smooth and opulent, this sits heavily on the palate with a chewy texture and deep purple fruit tones. This is a big, creamy wine but at the same time it is a bit of a black hole that takes from your palate rather than delivering flavors. Intense matter. 85pts

Less than 85pts

2006 Murphy-Goode All In Claret Alexander Valley 15.2% $24
61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot

Rather subdued on the nose with gentle aromas of red cherry, toast, vanilla eucalyptus and wood spice accented with a hint of lime oil. Fairly large scaled but low on the palate with soft black currant, plum and cherry flavors wrapped in a blanket of vanilla, wood spice and a touch of mushroom. The flavors perk up a bit on the back end, gaining a rather distinctive graphite note that brings out a plumminess that forms a bridge with the finish. A nice cocoa note follows only to be replaced by drying wood tannins. This also shows noticeable heat on the finish. 84pts

2007 Christiansen Cellars Canyon Wind IV Red Table Wine Grand Valley Co. 13.1% $100

A big candied cranberry note greets the nose followed by some assertive but crisp wood tones, some fine low herb notes, more candied fruit, wild cherries and a little milky, ashy wood. This smells lively. The entry is a little rough here, at first with the sweetness of new oak, but then is rather tough and disjointed with assertive American oak flavors over the modest fruit. Some jammy raspberry tones emerge from under the wood on the back end, then quickly recede on the woody finish. The texture is rather smooth and appealing. With air the wood does begin to integrate, but there’s a lot of vanilla and coffee cream going on here. 84pts

2009 Arrogant Frog Lily Pad Red Pezenas, Sud de France 13.5% $10
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45 % Merlot

This smells a bit stemmy, woodsy and raw with a bit of mulch and some dried leaves accenting the light red fruit tones. Oddly both light and heavy on entry with a lean structure and some early sweetness. The mid-palate is a touch muddled, with some over-steeped tea notes and a touch of earthy tobacco accenting a dry, mineral flecked black fruitiness. The back end shows a hint of blueberry and some spice, which dominates the modest finish. A bit rustic and coarse but not unappealing in this vein. 83pts

2009 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage California 13.5% $10
41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Verdot, 10% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc

Toasty wood on the nose with herbal hints and a bed of astringent camphor notes topped with light raspberry fruit. This is soft and round, medium bodied with bitter tannins and low acid making this easy enough to drink with some slightly pruny accents to the black cherry fruit on the mid-palate. The finish actually shows pretty well, decent length and more black cherry fruit making this perfectly serviceable if undistinguished. 83pts

2005 Emiliana Novus Limited Selection Valle Central Chile Organic 14.8% $20
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot

This is very aromatic, full of earthy, funky, forest floor and decay aromas. Smooth and soft, this is easy to drink with modest depth to the small ball of dark, carob laced dried plum fruit on the palate. It’s seamless, if a bit on the soft side with a streak of caramel running through the back end to an abrupt finish that leaves you with a bit of a metallic, moldy plum pit flavor in your mouth. 76pts