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Wine Worth the Money: 2006 Kobalt Cabernet Sauvignon

There are a lot of conversations these days that include phrases like “with this economy” and “in these troubled economic times.” Clearly, few of us are spending money as freely now as we may have two or three years ago. Whether a person’s income is actually lower or they just feel more comfortable spending less and saving more, conspicuous consumption is out and frugality is fashionable.

Wine purchasing habits have been impacted by this. Restaurants are selling fewer expensive bottles. “By the glass” is now much more popular because, even if it’s a bad deal by volume, one can simply drink less and thus spend less. In wine shops, people who used to buy truly expensive bottles have cut their average bottle price by as much as 75%. For other folks, $8 bottles are the new $20 bottle.

Despite all of the saving, bargain-hunting and prudent moderation, every now and then people want to “break out.” Maybe there’s a big birthday or anniversary. Maybe you bought AAPL at $80. Maybe you had big money on the Ducks over Cal. Whatever the reason, sometimes you’re feeling flush and you’re ready to spend big on a bottle. But no matter how badly you want to spend, you don’t want to spend badly. As with many things, the price of wine is based at least as much on the law of supply and demand, production cost, and brand power as it is on quality. You want to buy wine worth the money, not just pay for someone’s expensive real estate.

 

With that in mind, I bought a bottle of 2006 Kobalt Cabernet Sauvignon at Dean & Deluca not long ago. I’ve had tastes of the wine previously and enjoyed it but had not had the opportunity to spend an evening with one. And, when a bottle retails for $110 to $150, you want to make sure it’s a wine to build the night around, not just something to swill absent-mindedly while watching Top Chef. Or Top Gear. Or eating Top Ramen. So, I took the risk on your behalf and spent the money, just in case you shouldn’t.

Kobalt is a Napa winery that turned out its first vintage in 2001. It’s owned by Kevin Carriker who also serves as winemaker with assistance from his friend Mark Herold. Kevin has quite a bit of experience, including time spent in wine retail, working “the crush” in both Napa and Bordeaux, wearing twenty-nine different hats at a small family-owned winery and making “garage wine” in St. Helena. Mark Herold was co-founder and co-winemaker at Merus which quickly became on of Napa’s hottest “cult Cabernets.” He left Merus in the summer of 2008 after having sold the company to Foley Wine Group. However, Herold has continued to contribute to top wines by serving as consulting winemaker to several makers including Kamen, Hestan and Kobalt.

Kobalt Cabernet is made from Coombsville (east of the town of Napa) fruit. For the 2006 vintage, 552 cases of 750ml bottles were released along with 60 magnums. That’s not the smallest production in the world but certainly qualifies as “boutique.” The blend for this wine was 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

If there were prizes given for extraction, the 2006 Kobalt Cabernet would be in the running. In the glass, it’s completely opaque with a purple red color leaves thick, slow-moving legs full of color. Despite its youth the wine also threw a lot of sediment. The wine is a lot of fun to look at but pour carefully.

You might expect an expensive Napa Cabernet with this kind of extraction to also be so heavily influenced by new oak that you’d be removing splinters from your tongue all night. Fortunately, that is not at the case here. Sure, there is oak and vanilla on the nose. They are lightly aromatic accents, not dominant features. The primary aromas, detectable well before your nose gets to the glass, are cherry, black plum, moist prune, herbs and spice. There is an encouraging bit of tart freshness to the fruit.

On the palate, this wine is full-bodied, rich and mouth-coating with powdery tannins. While not ideal for everyone or every meal, it is undeniably sensuous. The alcohol is high but the wine is well balanced, not at all hot. There is discernible acidity. The main flavors are black cherry, cassis and dark chocolate. This is not a wine for people who crave delicacy, mineral and terroir. It is a wine for hedonists that want something to make their eyes roll back into their heads. And, for an evening, I was certainly happy to play that role.

The wine is ready to drink now. Serve it with braised short ribs or a grilled rib eye steak. However, you would probably be better served by cellaring it for at least three years. There is undoubtedly a lot of complexity biding its time in the bottle. The 2006 Kobalt Cabernet Sauvignon gets my Highest Recommendation and it is Cellar Worthy. Enjoy!

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2009 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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