Back in November, I blogged about tasting a number of the best California cabernets out there, many of which were from the 2007 vintage, which has been praised by many critics as an excellent year for California cab. Recently, I had a chance to taste some more (mostly pricey) 2007 cabernet sauvignons and cabernet blends from well-known producers, so here’s a little information to help you separate the wines that will exalt from those that will disappoint.
Again, I think there are important distinctions to be made on style. For instance, those who like classic, Bordeaux-styled cabs with aromas and flavors of crushed rock, tobacco leaf and the like will find the 2007 Dominus (made by Christian Moueix, who could fairly be described as the king of Pomerol in Bordeaux) to be a wonderful, refined wine. However, those that like their cabs to feature exuberant fruit as the main attraction might not like Dominus at all. A better choice for these drinkers would be the 2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia, which was just as impressive as it was when I tasted it late last year.
One of the producers that is zooming up my list of favorite cabernet sauvignons is Philip Togni. Both the 2003 Togni cab tasted in November and the 2007 Togni cab showed impeccable balance to me – with pleasing fruit with enough lushness and toasty to make the wines unmistakably California cab, but also a great balance with earthiness and slightly herbal varietal character for lovers of old-school cabs. There’s a definite argument that these are among the best balanced cabs around, with excellent ageability.
And speaking of old-school cabs, I recently tasted a cab, 2007 Trivium “Les Ivrettes”, whose winemakers have gone so far as to produce a manifesto that announces: “We set out to make a cabernet in the spirit of the years when we first got into the wine business in the 1970′s”… “This is your father’s cabernet.”
So does the wine live up to the manifesto? Well, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting – with that introduction, I was girding myself up for something along the lines of Chateau Montelena or Dominus – varietally correct for sure, but perhaps a bit green (in a way that I like) and what some would call “austere”. The Trivium was not that. Which is not to say that the wine doesn’t have something very classic about it. Instead of an earthy Bordeaux-like cab, what I found was a wine that reminded me a lot of another classic – the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The Mondavi Reserves are among the best cabs I’ve ever had, and their hallmark for me is high-quality sweetish fruit, a touch of spice, and a food-friendly balance that doesn’t go over the top like some of the bigger cabs out there. These elements were pretty much what I found in the Trivium, at a fraction of what the Mondavi Reserve would set you back (wine-searcher prices range from $55-67, vs. $85-125ish for the Mondavi Reserve). The vineyard source for the Trivium is the Lewelling Estate in St. Helena, which may well be familiar to fans of Napa cab (and Doug Wight of Lewelling is one of the partners behind Trivium). All in all, I’m not sure I would call the Trivium “old-school” on taste alone, but I followed the wine over several days and it’s undeniably delicious cab and the structure remained in (more…)