GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Snooth PTP - California Cabernet

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 22, 2008.

Wines tasted for this report

Flight 1
2005 Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 13.5% - $ 20 85pts
2006 Toasted Head North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon - 13.5% - $15 86pts
2006 Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Cabernet 13.8% - $17 90pts

Flight 2
2005 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet - 14.4% - $50 92pts
2005 Duckhorn Cabernet - 14.5% - $75 87pts
2005 Bennett Lane Cabernet 14.7% - $60 91pts

Flight 3
2005 Bennet Lane Maximus Feasting Wine - 14.5% - $30 90pts
2005 Rodney Strong Symmetry Alexander Valley 14.9% - $50 92pts
2005 Dry Creek Valley Vineyard The Mariner 13.9% $40 8pts

Flight 4
2005 Rodney Strong Reserve Alexander Valley - 14.9% - $50 90pts
2004 Simi Reserve Alexander Valley - 14.5% - $50 88pts
2004 Dry Creek Vineyards Endeavor 13.9% $50 94pts

Flight 1 - Sonoma Entry level wines

1) 2005 Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 13.5% - $ 20 Very sweet and assertive on the nose, but the integrated spice notes meld well with green and smoked peppers. Lot’s of emergent red cassis notes. Smells pretty fresh and well balanced. Medium bodied, a bit too much drying tannin right up front and a touch lean on the mid-palate but with nice freshness, and a good balance of fruit, earth, and wood spice notes. Refreshing acidity and decent length but the finale is a bit bitter. This ends up feeling a bit too extracted and comes off a touch clumsy in the end. 85pts

2) 2006 Toasted Head North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon - 13.5% - $15 Smoky, tarry and jammy with a lot of black, medicinal spice notes dominating the nose. Very easy and fairly fruity in the mouth with soft, easy tannins and good acidity supporting the bright red fruit, a bit plummy, and with raspberry jam tones this is easy and fresh with good finishing length and purity though it turns a bit chewy on the backend. Something not quite Cabernet like in here reminds me of slightly unripe fruit and while it’s fruitier than one would expect from the nose it is not typical Cabernet. 86pts

3) 2006 Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Cabernet 13.8% - $17 Soft on the nose with gentle herb notes, cedary, pencil shaving oak, forest floor, with some mineral back ground tones and a touch of leather. Smells a bit Bordeaux like. Light bodied, a touch astringent but that is well balanced by the ripe fruit sweetness right behind the astringency. Lovely purity and freshness with judiciously used oak framing the bright red currant fruit. Pretty high acid for the genre but really well balanced and eminently drinkable with solid complexity and good length to the zesty cherry fruit. An impressive wine with its fine balance and surprising complexity. 90pts

Flight 2 - Napa Valley Mid-level wines

4) 2005 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet - 14.4% - $50 The reticent nose starts off quite dusty and really tight though develops a jammy hard candy blackberry edge with nuanced ripe green pepper, smoldering herbs, cigar ash and moist dark earth notes rounding out the nose. The sweet attack is backed up by dense, rich fruit yet is not forced feeling. Across the mid-palate there is plenty of structure, and while the wine is fairly tight today there is a lot to like from the melange of fresh cassis fruit and dried wild blackberry tones to the wine’s spice, mint, vanilla and green herbal top notes. Lovely mouthfeel and finish with its cocoa dusted, meaty nuances. Needs 12-18months for the structural elements to fully harmonize. 2011-2020 92pts

5) 2005 Duckhorn Cabernet - 14.5% - $75
A bit tight and matte on the nose with a pipe tobacco tone to the wood spice, jammy cassis, smoky mineral, buttered toast and braised herbal notes emerge. With air this goes through a rough period showing a chemical edge and a bit too much SO2. This is fairly big and chewy with a lot of depth to the rich crème de cassis, wood spice, roast meat, and candied red cherry fruits. A bit minty with a background eucalyptus note that helps keep things fresher. Turns a bit more stiff and aggressive on the back-end, which is drying but very long with that menthol/spearmint tone hovering over the slightly flat, candied blackberry fruit. This ends up being just too extracted and flat with clumsy tannins compressing the very drying finish. 2011-2020 87pts

6) 2005 Bennett Lane Cabernet 14.7% - $60 Intense, and a bit over-oaky but with really assertive crème de cassis and jammy black berry fruit over a flush of ripe herb, eucalyptus and chili notes. Rich yet very suave with a very peppery attack that leads to a mouth filling mid-palate that is marred by the austere tannins. While the acidity is not assertive it is exceptionally well integrated and adds a really fine freshness to the fruit. This is deep yet agile in the mouth offering refreshing spice, anise, tarragon, and bay leaf tones to the juicy, very ripe but still fresh wild berry tones. This turns a bit fudgy with air and while it is richly fruited it is very extracted. The medium long finish turns a bit muddy with over-steeped tea and damp tobacco tones. This has great raw material and should cellar well. It’s a bit of a powerhouse but plays to its strengths. 2012-2022 91pts

Flight 3 - Meritage!

7) 2005 Bennet Lane Maximus Feasting Wine - 14.5% - $30 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 11% Syrah Intensely aromatic if a bit raw woody, but with layers of aromas ranging from a bloody, gamey and spicy Asian Duck tone to nice green herbal scents with an anise seed edge to them. Later, with air there are floral tones and spicy black fruit notes. Sweet fruit attack followed by a bit of clumsy weight. This needs some time to better integrate though it pulls itself together pretty quickly turning out rather mouthwateringly refreshing. There is a gingerbread, fruitcake tone on the midpalate with candied plummy and maraschino cherry fruit under that nice Christmas spice. The finish is long with floral and nutty, almond milk tones that ends on a bit of clay and dried herbs. Good freshness and drinkability in a stylish package 2008-2013 90pts

8) 2005 Rodney Strong Symmetry Alexander Valley 14.9% - $50 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot Milky at first, tight then turning very herbal with bay leaf and spicy herbs before adding pencil lead, leather, and tea tones. Dark and brooding with big yet suave tannins that give this a high end Bordeaux like mouth feel. Very fresh and with very fine balance to the creamy mouthfeel. The acidity is bright but integrated adding to the polish yet lean feel. Lush with good depth of flavor, this is a seductive style of winemaking that knits together deep fruit with good length in a suave polished style. This developed lovely green tobacco and green coffee nuances on the long finish. Delicious and really enjoyable to drink, this improved all night long 2008-2016 92pts

9) 2005 Dry Creek Valley Vineyard The Mariner 13.9% $40 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc
Smoky, deep and layered on the nose with dried floral, dried herb and vanilla tones accenting the mulberry and plum fruit. There is an underlay of dirt and high toast wood as well and that gained through the course of the evening turning a bit too green and funky, though by the end of the evening that began to re-integrate. At first this delivered good creamy, red cherry fruit with gentle spice tones and a lovely spicy, lingonberry edge with very polished tannins in an almost elegant package. Tannins pop a bit on the finish and really became quite prominent and gave the wine a muddy feeling. The flavors turned toward coffee liquor tones and gained a lot of clove-y spice. With further airing this regained some of it’s earlier balance and while it has good fruit and length this may not have the balance to age and improve. In any event it is a young and disjointed at the moment 2009-2016 88pts

Flight 4 - Sonoma County Reserve wines

10) - 2005 Rodney Strong Reserve Alexander Valley - 14.9% - $50
Deep and richly fruited this is dripping with plum jam, cassis, bramble, jalepeno jelly and sweet baking spice tones. The herbal and oak tones gain the upper hand here with some pine and green tomato tones but this remains attractive on the nose. Apon opening this is lovely in the mouth with tons of ripe fruit tannins, fine acidity and good density that is just a touch chewy. Perhaps a touch monolithic today and while the acidity begins to be more apparent this retains good harmony in the mouth. It’s pure cassis, olive and bitter spice notes on the backend and the finish as classic Cabernet. Elegant yet intense. 90pts

11) 2004 Simi Reserve Alexander Valley - 14.5% - $50
Really good fruit on the nose at first, in a restrained style with lovely bay and vanilla tones adding complexity a little cigar wrapper as well. Overall a sweet, gentle herbal and slightly medicinal impression. Very smooth and suave at first with good fruit but also quite astringent tannins. Not particularly tannic but with a gritty edge to the tannins. Earthy and dark, with baked spice tones that compliment the red plum skin, apple skin, and wild berry fruit. This is a bit too woody with quite the spiced and vanilla toned finish that is very drying. The tannins need to mellow for this to show better. Give it 2 years. 2011-2020 88pts

12) 2004 Dry Creek Vineyards Endeavor 13.9% $50
Oaky at first then turning really meaty and smoky with tobacco and tea notes to the dark, brooding fruit. This reveals both sweet ripe fruit and dried fruit notes with a deep mulberry jam tone. Gains a new nuance with each sniff revealing herbs, roast meats, baking spices, dates, cured meats, and a strong black tea top note. A bit matte up front, tight yet not chewy, really elegant and fresh with a suppleness to the wine that belies its power. Fresh and rich with ripe cabernet notes a bit beefy and very black cherry fruited. Nice finish that is really fruit driven yet with emerging complexity and subtle spice tone. This feels very natural yet is big and explosive in the mouth. There’s a lot to this wine. It can compete with wines selling for twice the price! 2011-2025 94pts.


Reply by bobjag, Dec 23, 2008.

i have an 89 opus i would like for christmas dinner. How long before serving should I decant ?

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 24, 2008.

Hi Bob,
the 89 is a softer vintage of Opus and it should be ready to go quite quickly. I would expect it will need 15 minutes to sort itself out and then improve for about 2 hours so I wouldn't decent much before you sit down to dinner.


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