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Turnbull Cab turns heads

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Kelley O’Neill

It is true that California produces a great deal of fine red wine from a variety of grapes that includes Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache and others. For many, however, it is unquestionably Cabernet Sauvignon that leads the pack. Cabernet put California on the wine map in 1976 when the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was selected in preference to several of Bordeaux’s most revered wines in a blind tasting held in Paris, France. Most commentators agree that it is the variety that still defines the best California has to offer.

The problem with much of California’s Cabernet is price. A glance at the Wine Spectator web site shows that 24 of the 25 most highly rated 2007 California Cabernets cost more than $100 per bottle! The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits feels that for most people $50 is the upper limit for a special bottle. To see what kind of quality is available at less exalted prices, the staff blind-tasted 21 California Cabernet Sauvignons priced between $25 and $50 dollars per bottle.

The quality of the wines was quite good — 18 of the 21 wines were deemed above average by the tasters. The wines were cleanly made and on the whole were quite well balanced. Even wines with higher alcohol levels had the flavor components to balance things out. One member of the panel expressed surprise that few of the wines had the prune or raisin flavors associated with overripe grapes.

The top wine of the tasting was the Turnbull 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon priced $40 per bottle. Produced from estate grown Napa Valley grapes, it is a classic California Cab, with a big flavor evocative of cherries and black currants, as well as a good dollop of oak adding a smooth vanillin quality to the finish.

The best value of the tasting was perhaps the fourth-place Beringer 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Retailing at $25 per bottle, it too sports lovely black currant fruit of slightly more modest proportions than the Turnbull. Either of these flavorful wines would be a great accompaniment to grilled beef or lamb, meaty casseroles, chili con carne, or a nice hunk of aged Cheddar.

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