Brett happens

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Judgement Embarrass

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“Here you go,” says the SAQ wine advisor, holding out a glass. “The bottle’s been open about four or five hours. If you guess what it is, I’ll be impressed.”

Deep garnet-purple right up to the rim: obviously a young wine. Outgoing nose of plum, bramble, stones and sweet oak with a pronounced herbal note (garrigueish but with some tarragon thrown in). A sip and it’s clear we’re looking at a medium-bodied, warm-climate red. The mouth-filling, sweet-ripe fruit is plushed by round tannins, deepened by dark minerals and buoyed by welcome if soft acidity. Vanilla-caramel overtones and a faint alcoholic flare mark the sustained finish. Oakier and more fruit-forward than I like but not bad.

“The weight and garrigue have me thinking Languedoc,” I say. “Or Spain? Maybe one of the newfangled blends of traditional and international varieties. Still, the oak sticks out in a way it usually doesn’t with those wines…”

“What do you think it goes for?”

“Around $30.”

A smile on his face, he goes into the back room and returns with a half-full bottle of…

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley, Château Montelena ($54.25, 00897454)
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (91%), Merlot (7%) and Cabernet Franc (2%). Matured 14 months in French and Eastern European oak barrels, 12% new. 13.9% ABV. This is the entry-level “Calistoga Cuvée,” which costs about a third of the price of the Estate bottling.

“This has to be one of the least Cab-like Cabs I’ve ever tasted,” I say. “Even knowing what it is, I’m having a hard time seeing it as such. It’s decent enough but not what I’d call varietally correct. And the price…”

“That’s exactly how all the staff reacted earlier today.”

Written by carswell

October 8, 2013 at 16:10

Posted in Tasting notes

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4 Responses

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  1. I wouldn’t buy it, but do you think the wine might be too young?


    October 8, 2013 at 16:19

    • Could be. In January 2013, when the wine was released, the winemaker wrote: “This wine is quite approachable so young, but it will definitely improve with additional time in the bottle, if you’ve got the patience. If you do plan to drink it now (through the end of ’13), I’d recommend decanting it to help it open up even more.” And, of course, our experience could also be an instance of the “there are no great wines, only great bottles” phenomenon. Always good to bear in mind that tasting notes are nothing more than snapshots.


      October 8, 2013 at 16:35

  2. Came back to this post after tasting the 2012 recently at SAQ. I was impressed. I’m not a CaliCab type usually but I enjoyed this one. Young for sure, but fruity and kinda silky and plush. Easy to drink, no vanilla or too much oak which I really don’t like. You feel a little bit of heat and astringence at the end. Reminded me of Neal Cabernet.

    And that jump in price! 54 to 68$ in two years! whoah

    Keep the good work Carswell, I enjoy your posts !


    September 17, 2015 at 09:25

    • Thanks for the update, Guillaume, not to mention the encouraging words.

      The wine’s higher price almost surely has something to do with the exchange rate (C$1 = US$0.75 last I looked). Still $68 for an entry-level Cab, even if from a respected producer, is punishing. But good to hear it’s back in form. I hope I get a chance to taste it.


      September 17, 2015 at 09:39

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