Top 6 High-Scoring Red Wines

The best of Sonoma Cabernet


Almost every great wine region that is currently producing Cabernet Sauvignon makes wines in a full blown, opulent, so-called "modern" style. Sonoma is no exception. While these wines are distinctive Cabernets, what tends to set them apart is their pricing. We are talking about expensive wines here. Then again, in the scheme of things, these wines are perhaps relatively less expensive than other Cabernets of the same ilk.

Of course spending this sort of money on any bottle of wine is viewed as nuts by many people, but the decision to do so can only be made on an individual basis. What I can say for sure is that, in the abstract, this group of Cabs offer the world's best in this price category some stiff competition.

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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

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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

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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

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2007 Rodney Strong Rockaway Alexander Valley 15.2% $70

Big and a bit fume on the nose with lots of earthy notes and chocolatey, 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

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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

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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

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