Shockingly, it had been since September 2005 since we last tasted these wines as a group. We vowed not to let that much time pass again.
The winning wine was an outstanding value at only $25 (a real bargain for Napa Cabernet), with five out of six tasters giving it their top vote. In second was yet another example of how expert Beringer is with Cabernet Sauvignon, this time with a moderately-priced bottle that received votes from everyone (we're big fans of the Knight's Valley version).
Also stunning was the poor performance of a very consistent producer in Napa (St. Supery), and a small-production winery that's usually a gem (Lewelling).
First Place: Hendry Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Napa Valley). Looks unfiltered, with scents of wet soil and campfire smoke. Tasters found a lot of descriptions for the nose of this one, such as "sneaker rubber" (Michael), "smelly cheese" (Ali), "black marker" (Holly), and "smells like a plastic bag" (Holly). Full-bodied, showing flavors of red delicious apple, blackberry, cola, cherry, and licorice. Shows much more complexity compared to many at the table. Ali noted "a little bit of candied fruit happening". Youthful tannins and a good finish. David called it "delicious". Received 32 points. Holly's bottle. About $25.
Second Place: Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Napa Valley). David felt the nose was reminiscent of "dry, dusty road", while others found caramel scents. Kind of juicy on the palate, then turns tannic on the finish, offering unsweetened chocolate, cherry, vanilla, and freshly brewed coffee flavors. Full-bodied and pleasant. Ali thought it was hers, thinking of it as a bottle from Rutherford. Every taster choose this one as their second favorite wine. Received 24 points. Kristin's bottle. About $34.
Third Place: Doolittle Farms Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Napa Valley). Aromas of cassis, dark cherries, and violets, with an acidic/acetone quality initially. Caramel scents later emerge. Ali found "tobacco land", while Holly noted "Indian food". Michael detected "slight tartness on the finish", while others noted bell pepper, cranberry, and cinnamon. Noticeable tannin. David felt that it was "not bad, but we're expecting more out of it". Received 15 points. Michael's bottle. About $20.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. (Napa Valley). Funky nose. Ali described "olive juice in a can", while Holly felt that it "smells stale to me", and that it's "past its due date". Ali detected "over-ripe plum", and Andy noted "chocolate strawberry". Kristin even chimed in with "asparagus pee". A little candied, with tasters finding flavors of blueberries, black pepper, cream, and smoke. Soft in texture, with not as much structure. Kristin noted "a lazy finish". Good, but not great. Received 7 points. Andy's bottle. About $50.
St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Rutherford). Notes of rust, raspberry, raw meat, and pipe tobacco. Kristin felt that it "smells a little greener", while Michael felt that it "smells sweeter". Ali found "a jammy notion of Syrah". Black tea on the finish. Ali summed up noting that it was "not as much of a journey". No points. Ali's bottle. About $85.
Lewelling Cabernet Sauvingon 2008 (Napa Valley). Andy began inauspiciously with "I smell urine", while Ali really liked the aroma. Other tasters found scents of leather, peaches, flowers, and tobacco. Tasted over-ripe and syrupy, with bubble gum notes. Too sweet. No points. David's bottle. About $50.
Hardy's Tawny Whisker's Blake Non-Vintage (Eastern Australia). A fortified, tawny port-styled wine from Australia. Caramel, hazelnuts, toffee, flowers, plums, and walnut notes. Needs a touch more acidity, but is still an excellent value. About $15.