Late yesterday, I received a press release about the big blind tasting of 12 high-end California Cabernets that took place in Bordeaux on Oct. 19. You might recall I went to the local version of this tasting, organized by the Vintners Club, in September. I’ve been anticipating these results.
The vintners from the States included winemakers Chuck Wagner of Caymus, Amelia Ceja from Ceja Vineyards, and Ravenswood founders Jim and Julia Wisner. They used a 20-point scale. All wines were from the 2002 vintage.
Tasters from Bordeaux included top producers such as Hubert de Bouard of Chateau Angelus, Christian Seely of AXA Millesimes, Liliane Barton of Leoville Barton, Kees Van Leeuwen of Chateau Cheval-Blanc, Eric d’Aramon of Chateau Figeac and May-Eliane de Lencquesaing of Chateau Pichon-Lalande.
The impetus for the tasting came when Bordeaux producers expressed a desire to taste some of our best blind. Never has such a tasting of California wines taken place in Bordeaux, which I find a bit strange.
And here’s an even bigger surprise: Karl Wente’s The Nth Degree Cabernet Sauvignon ranked 4th. I’ve tried this wine and recall finding it a bit hot for a Cabernet, but perhaps it was straight out of the bottle and probably could’ve used some aeration.
Meanwhile, Ridge’s Monte Bello, which won the Judgment reenactment last year, finished 11th. It also finished low in our local tasting back in September. Here’s the complete list, in order of ranking by the group:
1. Rocca Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa Valley (Release SRP $55)
2. Caymus Vineyards, Special Selection, Napa Valley (Release SRP $136)
3. L’Aventure, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles (Release SRP $60)
4. Wente Vineyards The Nth Degree, Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley (Release SRP $50)
5. O’Shaughnessy Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Release SRP $65)
6. Ramey Wine Cellars, Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Blend, Napa Valley (Release SRP $90)
7. Robert Craig Wine Cellars, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Release SRP $60)
8. Flora Springs, Rutherford Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Release SRP $100)
9. ZD Wines, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Release SRP $115)
10. Palmaz Vineyards “Gaston,” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Release SRP $100)
11. Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains (Release SRP $120)
12. Justin Vineyards, Isosceles Reserve, Paso Robles (Release SRP $85)
A quote from the proud Karl Wente:
“The Livermore Valley is truly one of the premier wine regions of the world,” Wente said in the press release. “When we developed our small-lot winery to create The Nth Degree wines, our goal was to prove that our estate can produce wines that are among the best in the world. This tasting is one of many validations of the estate fruit. To earn a place among some of California’s greatest, most iconic Cabernets is very rewarding.”
What do you think of these results? Do you have a favorite wine among this list? Caymus and Justin are among my favorites, and of course the Monte Bello, but I have noticed that that wine is less consistent than the Justin and Caymus.
I want to hear your feedback, and your favorite Cabernet, whether it’s on this list or not. Let me know!