Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)

Freemark Abbey Cabernet SauvignonDrink, Memory:  2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon
by B.D

Wine is inextricably bound up with memory.  This is partially because wine itself is memory—terroir is nothing but the circumstances of creation, like your parents’ blind date a dozen years before your birth.  In this analogy the Clef du Vin is

My weekday watering hole is a superlative hotel bar across the street from my office.  In their denial of memory hotel bars are ideal places to drink—you will never meet these people again.  And they are even better than pre-9/11 airport bars in that, while the prices also tend toward the exploitative, the quality of the booze and mixology is higher.  Deb, my Stetson’s Sherpa, makes an Old Fashioned that will reduce you to tears.  And they have an excellent wine list.

On a recent Thursday I found myself on a stool soon after open, alone save a refugee from an orthodontic conference at McCormick Place.  He made a poor first impression, with an explicit joke about the stages of marital sex to the assembled throng of bartenders, hostesses, and managers, some of them young and female.  The rank smell of good old boy; he turned out to be from Dallas.  I’ve lived in Dallas, and this is a terrible sign.

But we were alone at the bar, and I was only pretending to edit a 600-page data dictionary.  What could I do?  I put my papers away and sidled next to him, Deb’s Old Fashioned in hand.  He was drinking Budweiser and preparing to order a steak, well done (shudder).  We began discussing Dallas strip clubs, which are legendary.

Then he ordered the sublime bottle of wine that is the subject of this review, and after it was delivered, opened, and poured he alternated swigs of Bud all the while.  This is a story of redemption, but I’ll never forget him going back and forth between this $92 bottle of wine (~$44 retail; Excellent) and the long tall pint of the crappiest beer on Earth.  The conversation shifted to my new marriage, then the poetry of country music, then his shocking admiration for hiphop, for Kanye West.

He called for Deb to pour me a glass from his bottle.  I told him about my novel.  He told me about the death of his teenage son.  I could fairly see the bouquet rise from the glass.  Life with his wife has become unbearable in the aftermath.  Cloves, coffee, cinnamon, Earth.  The love of a good woman.  The feeling in the mouth of endless ascension.  Tannins like silent fireworks.

I had forgotten how great a great California Cab can be.  Still two generations on the locus of wine’s central debate/complaint, and I think my position is well known.  But this past cannot blind us to the present.  We tottered off our stools and I embraced my new friend.  And he retired to his room, staggering only slightly, and holding the last glass in the bottle.


Hall Winery T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Hall Napa Valley T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blancby Jacob

Wine is always a welcome gift, it gives us the opportunity to try something new and to learn more about wines that entice our family and friends.
A bottle of the 2010 Hall Winery T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc came as a gift from my brother after his trip to Napa Valley last year. Hall is winery that I have heard a lot about from other friends, but never had the chance to try.
The $30 wine is a light straw color in the glass and smells great, with a bright floral and citrus (lemon) nose. It is a complex Sauvignon Blanc that almost tastes as if it was aged for a short time in oak barrels, as it has a combination of citrus and light oak. Unlike many New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s, it does not have the grass flavor that so often comes with the grape. Hall has done a great job of mellowing the wine.
If you have the chance to try it, go for it—the 2012 is still available! It is excellent. (Rating: Very Good)

Cameron Hughes Lot 291 Lodi Zinfandel 2010

by Jacob

Several years ago, I had the chance to review a sample box of Cameron Hughes wines from Overall, those tastings were a positive experience and made me want to try more of Cameron Hughes’ wines. Cameron Hughes is an interesting winery. Instead of owning vineyards or sourcing fruit from the same places year after year, the Cameron Hughes winery locates the best available grapes and makes them into wine labeled by lot. As the winery explains:

The Lot Series of wines preserves the ultra-premium quality of the original Lot by bottling it unadulterated and never “back-blended.” Each Lot is numbered to maintain the integrity of the original wine. While each Lot varies in case quantities and price, it always delivers exceptional value.

Recently, I had the chance to buy some Cameron Hughes wine from for about $10 bottle, including shipping. The first bottle I opened was the 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 291 Lodi Zinfandel. The wine is bottled with a cork and has a nose of bright dark cherry with just a hint of spice. The wine is young and has almost no tannins and is jammy in the glass with more dark cherry flavor and a peppery finish (typical of zinfandel). At a little less than $10 a bottle and available at Costco, Safeway and other merchants, this is a wine to search out (15% alcohol). (Rating **** 1/2).


Gann Family Cellars Alexander Valley Merlot 2005

In 2004, following the premiere of the movie Sideways, Merlot experienced a decline in sales and status when Paul Giamatti’s character Miles disparaged the ordering and drinking of Merlot. As one of the noble grapes, however, Merlot should not be so quickly dismissed because it can produce classic and easily aged wines. In my experience, the aging of Merlot can be achieved for expensive French Right-bank Bordeaux as well as less expensive American bottles. In fact, in the past, I reviewed a Francis Ford Coppola 2001 Diamond Series Merlot that was given to me as a gift. I found that aging the wine gave it a supple quality that is not present in younger versions of Coppola’s Merlot.

During a special promotion from the wine flash-sale site Lot 18, I ordered two bottles of the 2005 Gann Family Cellars Alexander Valley Merlot (13.9% alcohol). This is not a winery that I was familiar with, but I Googled them and found that the price Lot 18 was offering was a good deal and I decided it give it a try.

Upon opening the bottle, the first thing that I noticed is that there was a little sediment on the cork and that the wine smelled great in the bottle.  Because of the sediment, I poured very slowly to ensure that very little sediment was deposited in my glass. A deep garnet color in the glass, the wine had a nose of ripe pit fruit (think plum) and berries (certainly light strawberry, but also a little blackberry). On first taste, the wine was quite bright with mixed berries, black plum, medium tannis, and in classic Merlot fashion, pepper (although the pepper here was very, very light).

On the second day, the wine was still quite enjoyable, but not nearly as bright or as fruity.  On both days, the bottle paired wonderfully with dark chocolate! Purchased from Lot 18, 2 bottles cost $29.99.  (Rating ****1/2)