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Harlan, Dalla Valle, Bond & Other Highlights of ’13 Taste of Oakville

The Taste of Oakville media and press tasting held at Robert Mondavi Winery on April 15 saw 47 producers of Oakville AVA pour current releases. Some Oakville wineries also poured library wines. I discussed that last week in California Caberent Aging Potential—It’s Not About the Years, it’s the Character. Today’s article highlights the best of the current red wine releases I tasted.

I tasted 43 out of the 108 wines available, as many as I could in the time allowed while also talking with producers and taking notes. The tasting was well-organized and the producers friendly. Some wineries, such as Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle were surrounded by a crush of would-be tasters which limited my tasting efficiency. On the other hand, numerous people asked enviously about my red plastic Solo spit cup which allowed me to get a pour and move on. I was happy to have brought it from home, since none were provided and everyone else was either swallowing or weaving through the crowd lips-first toward the on-table spittoons.

I focused on Oakville AVA Cabernet Sauvignon, the region’s star varietal, and started with wines I knew would be quick to disappear. Owing to differing release schedules based on producer preference and aging regime, the vintages varied from 2008 to 2011. I wasn’t able to taste a broad enough assortment from any particular vintage or location within the AVA to make general pronouncements. My comments below pertain only to the wines I describe. Don’t assume my omission of a producer to be a comment itself.

My Top Picks from the 2013 Taste of Oakville

(listed alphabetically within quality segments)

steden0Highest Recommendation

2009 Bond St. Eden, ~$350
Richly-flavored, smooth and supple. Medium-plus body and tannins of very fine powder. Cassis, spice and dark chocolate. This wine occupies a midpoint between the voluptuousness of Harlan and the self-disciplined Vecina. Tremendously good. Now through 2028.

2009 Harlan Estate, $500+
Love at first sip. A lively nose of blackberry, black cherry, licorice and spice. All of that plus chocolate in the full-bodied and very sensuous palate. Plenty of fine, powdery tannins and a very long finish. My very favorite of the day.

Very Highly Recommended

2009 Bond Vecina, ~$350
More structured and less effusive than the St. Eden, due in part to the eastern facing of this hillside vineyard. I suspect the opportunity to swirl the wine for a few minutes would have led to an even higher rating. Black currant, earth, blackberry, oak and spice. A great Cabernet Sauvignon and one for the cellar. 2017 - 2030+

2010 Collina Dalla Valle Napa Valley Red Wine, ~$90
From a hillside vineyard with relatively young vines. Dalla Valle intends Collina to be ready upon release and this one is. Charming and uninhibited on the nose with cassis, black cherry, licorice and spice. Those flavors continue on the palate of medium-plus body, tannins (light chalk) and finish. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. Now - 2025.

2009 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$225
The flagship of Dalla Valle is built to open up and evolve with bottle age as your drink the Collina. A slightly reticent nose with dusty blackberry, spice and wood notes. Medium-plus body and tannins (light chalk). 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc. Best 2017 - 2029.

2010 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon, $155
Nearly full-bodied and creamy on the palate with notable acidity. Flavors and aromas of black currant, spice and oak. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petite Verdot. Best now through 2023.

2010 Futo Oakville, $300+
Futo’s top-of-the-line is powerful and voluminous. Excellent black currant and blackberry fruit, sprinkled with spice, shows on the nose and the full-bodied palate. Abundant chalky, chocolatey tannins are balanced by appreciable acidity. Accessible now but offering years of development potential. Now through 2027.

2010 Futo OV Oakville, $90+
Futo’s second wine is quite good in its own right but in a riper, more immediate style. The palate is nearly full-bodied with medium-plus chalky tannins and flavors of blackberry jam, spice and chocolate. Drink now through 2020.

2010 Gargiulo Vineyards OVX Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$195
The relatively cool vintage seems to have led to one of Gargiulo’s best efforts. This single-vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine is long and luxurious with very attractive black currant, black cherry, sweet spice and chocolate. Nearly full-bodied and replete with tannins of fine powder and chalk. Best 2015 - 2025.

2010 Macdonald Cabernet Sauvignon, $
This is the very first release of Macdonald Vineyards’ eponymous wine. Their 15-acre family vineyard lies within Mondavi To-Kalon and has been used in Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve and To-Kalon Cabernet since 1966. The Macdonald’s supply contract lets them keep some of the fruit and Graeme Macdonald has turned it into 90 cases of delectable wine. It’s full-bodied and juicy with generous tannins of chalk and fine powder. Flavors include nicely ripe black cherry, spice and vanilla. Now through 2025.

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, $135
A very rich and inviting wine that will develop beautifully for at least 20 years. It's showing mouth-watering black currant and chocolate now. The body is nearly full with matching tannins of fine powder and chalk and an extremely long finish. Now through 2035+.

screaming eagle2010 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, $1,500+
An excellent, structured wine of complexity and bold aromatics. Dark flowers, black currant, cocoa and oak lead the flavors. The tannins are firm with fine-grained and talc-like texture. Best 2018 - 2030.

2010 Screaming Eagle Second Flight, $450
Second Flight includes substantially more Merlot than the primary wine and is more welcoming right now. Medium-plus body and tannins of fine powder and chalk are balanced wonderfully by juicy cherries, oak, cocoa and spice. Long and delicious. Now through 2025.

Highly Recommended+

2009 DeSante Oakville Terraces Cabernet Sauvignon, $80
A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from the eastern hills of Oakvile. Flavors of dark fruit, mint and cocoa with very fine, powdery tannins.

2010 Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, $135
Nearly full-bodied and loaded with toothsome tannins of fine powder. Flavors of cherry, coconut and carob predominate. Best now through 2023.

2010 Gargiulo G Major7 Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$135
The G Major 7 supplements its Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. A full-bodied red with fine-grained tannins suspended in cream. Flavors and aromas include ripe cherry, slightly dried dark fruit and sanguine notes. Now through 2020.

2010 Plumpjack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $98
Full-bodied and very approachable with juicy cherries, chocolate and spice that go on and on. Now through 2020.

Highly Recommended

2010 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
Aromas of very ripe black currant, spice and black cherry precede an appealing palate of black cherry and chocolate with medium-plus body and tannins (fine powder and chalk). Now through 2020.

2010 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, $82
Nearly full-bodied and long with black currant, spice, licorice and medium-plus chalky tannins. Best 2015 - 2023.

2009 Paradigm winery Cabernet Franc, $62
Inviting with flavors of caramel, black cherry and chai spice. Medium-plus body and tannins (fine powder and chalk) with a lengthy finish. Now through 2020.

2010 Turnbull Wine Cellars “Oakville” Cabernet Sauvignon, $60
Yummy and full-bodied with flavors of coconut, cherry and brown spice. Medium-plus, fine-grained tannins and good length. Now through 2020+.

2010 Spoto Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $11
A small-production wine that spent 29 months in French oak and includes just 75% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aromas of tobacco, black currant and spice. Medium-plus body with fine, powdery tannins and food-friendly acidity. Now through 2020.

2010 Stanton Vineyards Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, $75
The character of the black currant and the overall balance of the nose reminded me more of a traditional Bordeaux than other wines at this tasting. The palate goes the opposite direction toward Stanton’s preferred house style of full-body, ripe fruit and sweet powdery tannins. Now through 2018.

Interpreting My Wine Ratings


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