Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

2007 California Cabernet - Vintage of the century?

Cabernet sauvignon lovers rejoice! Wines from the extraordinary 2007 California vintage are beginning to make their way to a retail store near you, and you would be wise to grab as many as you can afford. While the vintage as  a whole is exceptional with just about every red and white benefitting from an almost perfect growing season,  the cabernet is stunning.

2007 is being hailed as the vintage of the century – which probably isn’t saying much since we’re only a decade into the new millennium. However, your humble wineboy has sampled a pretty good cross-section of these goodies, and I can honestly say that none of the more than two dozen different 2007’s that have passed these wine-stained lips have disappointed.

The Wine Spectator (Nov. 15 issue) sampled more than 500 cabernets from the 2007 vintage and rated nearly 200 of them with scores of 90 or above  (on a 100 point scale). And, while Napa is still the appellation to find the best of the best, every major wine producing region in the Golden State has produced exceptional cabernet sauvignon.

The wines have all of the flavors associated with great cabernet including rich plumb and cherry fruit, vanilla and mocha tones along with aromas of spice, currants and leather. These are classic wines and most have exceptional aging potential.

While you can spend several hundred dollars (a bottle!) on cult wines such as Harlan Estate, Schrader Cellars, Screaming Eagle and Staglin, prices of the wines listed below range from under $20 to less than $60 a bottle. So here are some labels to look for from the 2007 California cabernet sauvignon vintage that I recommend for your sipping pleasure.

Gallo Dry Creek Frei Ranch; Sebastiani Sonoma; Rodney Strong Alexander Valley; Kunde Estate Sonoma Valley; BV Tapestry Reserve; Whitehall Lane Reserve; Joseph Phelps Napa; Franciscan; Pahlmeyer (Jason); and Merryvale. Disclaimer: Over the past decade, I must admit to drinking less cabernet sauvignon in favor of more medium-bodied reds such as pinot noir, sangiovese, grenache and tempranillo.  I also generally prefer meritage wines (those that are blends of several grape varieties) to most full-bodied single varietals like cabernet.   I just find them more complex and better matches with food.

But just about the time I think my appreciation of wine has evolved and I’ve become more sophisticated (preferring only subtle and nuanced wines to the fuller-flavored ones), I am utterly seduced and palate-slammed by the almost other worldly pleasure of sipping a big, juicy, purple cabernet. – like those from the 2007 vintage.

Go figure.

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