2008 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection – $91.04


My comments

Caymus has long been one of the benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa.  Caymus Special Selection is created by selecting the best barrels of wine from the vintage.  The Special Selection is generally a ripe, plush style of wine and is full of velvety fruit and spice.  I have a few bottles of the wine and figured New Year’s Eve would be a great day to check in to see how it is coming along.


Winery history

In 1971 Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son Charles J. (Chuck) Wagner, who had just graduated from high school, if he would be interested in joining them in starting up a winery.  If Chuck declined the offer, Charlie and Lorna were planning to sell out of their ranch in Napa Valley and move to Australia.  Chuck accepted his parents’ offer to launch the winery, Caymus Vineyards.


The Wagners produced their first vintage in 1972, consisting of 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Since then, Caymus has focused their efforts in the production of quality Cabernet Sauvignon.  Today’s production is 65,000 cases.


Caymus Vineyards remains 100% family-owned by the Wagners.  Charlie, Lorna Belle, and Chuck worked together as a remarkable team for over 30 years building Caymus Cabernet.  Today, Chuck, his two sons, Charlie and Joe, and one daughter, Jenny, have joined the family team. Farming grapes remain the priority with the family farming about 350 acres of choice Napa Valley land.


The Wagners took the name Caymus from the Mexican land grant known as Rancho Caymus, given to George Yount in 1836, which encompassed what eventually became the town of Rutherford and much of the surrounding area.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark purple color.  The very nice and inviting nose has cassis, roasted herbs, baking spices, fresh ground dark roast coffee, dried herbs, cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of eucalyptus.  This has medium to full body with big, ripe tannins and good acidity.  The wine is rich and plush on the palate with loads of crushed berries, baking spices, and dark chocolate.  There are dried herbs and cherries coming in on the backend filling out the palate and adding depth.  The finish is long and rich with a bit of vanilla creeping in as well as some eucalyptus and dark chocolate.  This is delicious right now but with all the richness, I don’t know if this will be one to hold long term.  I’d advise enjoying over the next several years.  (94 pts)

2008 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection




2009 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – $23.24


My comments

I’ve been a fan of the higher end Tablas Creek wines for a few years.  For some reason this single bottle of their wine sat in the cellar for about a year without being opened.  Today seems like a great day to have it with dinner.  This is blend of 43% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 18% Counoise and 15% Mourvedre.


Winery history

Tablas Creek is the realization of the combined efforts of two of the international wine community’s leading families, the Perrin family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel, and Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands.  They had since the 1970s believed the California climate to be ideal for planting Rhône varietal grapes.  In 1987, they began the lengthy process of creating a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style vineyard from scratch in the New World.  The Tablas Creek Vineyard Partnership was born, with the Perrin and Haas families as majority partners, and French and American wine loving friends as minority partners.


The partners searched California from the foothills of the Sierras in the north to coastal Ventura County in the south, looking for a close match to the Mediterranean climate and high pH soils of Château de Beaucastel.  In 1989, they purchased a 120-acre parcel twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean in west Paso Robles.  They named it Tablas Creek Vineyard, after the small creek running through the property.


The property elevation averages 1,500 feet, and the shallow, rocky limestone soils are of the same geologic origin as those at Beaucastel.  Summer days are hot and sunny, but the influence of the nearby Pacific cools the nights, and the remarkably Rhône-like Paso Robles climate allows the grapes to mature fully and yet retain crisp acidity.


Much more history and info available at:  http://www.tablascreek.com/


My Tasting Note

The wine is a bright ruby red color.  The very open and inviting nose has cherry, raspberry, warm baking spices, wild flowers, wet slate, and a touch of earthiness.  The wine has medium body, fairly solid tannins, and very good acidity.  On the palate the wine provides a nice mouthful of spicy, mineral laden, red fruit with a touch of subtle earthiness.  The finish has good length and again features the spicy, red fruit and minerals.  This is a very refined, elegant, and food friendly Rhone styled blend from Paso Robles that is available at a very reasonable price.  Load up!  (92 pts)

2009 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas




2008 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – $28.00


My comments

I’ve been on the Rhys mailing list for a few years.  A lot of people knock the wines because they don’t taste great upon release.  Rhys wines require a few years in the cellar to smoothen out and open up.  That said, their Alesia wines, which are made from purchased grapes, though also needing some time in the cellar, seem to be ready to drink a couple years earlier.  I grabbed several bottles of this wine when it was offered on their e-mail release.  I’ve had a couple bottles and every bottle has been better than the previous bottle…always a good sign.


Winery history

While much of our focus is on wine growing for our Rhys estate-managed vineyards, we also enjoy exploring distinctive California locations outside the Santa Cruz Mountains.  In particular we love the seductive beauty of Pinot Noir and Syrah from the Sonoma Coast and the utterly unique expression of Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands.  We call these wines made from purchased grapes “Alesia.”


Each Alesia wine is made with the same philosophy as our estate grown wines – concentration from low yields and pure, fresh fruit flavors.


More information on Rhys and Alesia is available at:  http://www.rhysvineyards.com/index.html

My Tasting Note

The wine is a nice ruby red color.  The sexy nose has strawberries, raspberries, cola, baking spices, underbrush, minerals, cherries, dried flowers, and a slight stemmy note.  The wine has medium body at most with some tannins and very good acidity.  The very complex palate has layers of fruit, spice, and earthy elements that slowly reveal themselves with each sip, with the nice cleansing acidity evident at all times.  The finish is fairly long and the mouthwatering acidity is ever present.  This is very food friendly and civilized.  There is no excess weight or overly extracted notes evident on the wine.  This is still on the young side and can be enjoyed over the next several years.  (92 pts)

2008 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast




2006 Bilancia Syrah – $28.73


My comments

I grabbed a few bottles of this wine a few years ago when they were offered by Garagiste Wine for a decent price. I bought these more out of curiosity to see how New Zealand would handle the Syrah grape.  I figured this wine would be a great example of a cool climate Syrah.


Winery history

Bilancia is a small Hawkes’ Bay producer of exceptional Pinot Gris, Viognier and Syrah.  It is the label of winemakers Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson and was established in 1997 when Lorraine and Warren returned to New Zealand from winemaking overseas.  The first wines were released in mid 1998.


The word  Bilancia (be-larn-cha) means, in Italian, balance, equilibrium and harmony.  These terms have obvious connections with wine and winemaking, but also, Bilancia is the Italian word for the Zodiac sign Libra which both Lorraine and Warren were born under.  Warren worked in Southern Italy for a number of harvests and the name came to him whilst reading his Horoscope in the Italian newspaper!


The philosophy of balance, equilibrium and harmony is something that is carried through all aspects of the winemaking and, hopefully, people will see this when they drink the wines.


The viticultural central point for Bilancia is the 6 hectares (15 acres) of land covering the front and back of Roys Hill (west of Hastings on State Highway 50) where, planted only on the North – Northwest facing slope is the vineyard known as la collina (col-ee-na), which is Italian for “the hill”.  The upper most slopes and terraces are planted to Syrah whilst the lower gently rising land and gravels flat is planted to Viognier (and a small amount of Gewurztraminer).  Some of the Viognier was top grafted to Chardonnay in 2007.


Fruit has been always been sourced predominantly from Hawke’s Bay although, for the 2000 to 2003 harvests some Pinot Gris was taken from Marlborough.  Since 2004 all fruit has been sourced from Hawke’s Bay vineyards: Syrah and Viognier are from la collina and Syrah from Mere Road (Gravels). Pinot Gris is from Black Bridge Estate at Haumoana.


Much more information is available at: http://www.bilancia.co.nz/home.html


My Tasting Note

The wine is a fairly deep ruby red color.  The bright and lively nose has juicy berries, minerals, white pepper, brined olives, dried herbs, smoke, meat juices, and flowers.  The wine has medium body with fairly solid, chewy tannins and very good acidity.  The front of the palate is dominated by spicy, peppery berries but dried herbs and a touch olives and earthiness kick in on the backend adding depth.  The finish is fairly long with a touch of spicy oak coming in late.  Don’t try this expecting an Aussie style Shiraz, to me this is slanted more towards a nice, midpoint Rhone wine.  (92 pts)

2006 Bilancia Syrah




2006 Albini Family Vineyards Merlot – $0.00


My comments

This bottle of wine was a gift from a friend.  I’m not sure of the release price of the wine, but in Cellar Tracker six people have paid an average of $21.64 a bottle.  I’ve been fairly vocal about my opinion of Merlot wines over the last couple of years, but this wine is outside of my normal “rant zone”.  I complain about the lack of a good, week night, Merlot for under $20, this one is assuredly priced over that price point.  I will be the first to admit there are very nice Merlots out there, but most of the good stuff is not priced to be opened with a normal dinner on Monday to Thursday on a consistent basis.


Winery history

Albini Family Vineyards was established in 1991 and produces about 500 cases of handmade wine each year.  Although we are small, our Merlot and Zinfandel wines receive national attention for their high quality and unique style.


We are proud of our artisan style of wine making, which follows a natural, hands-on approach.  At 2 to 3 tons per acre, our vineyard yields are low and all of our grapes are handpicked and sorted to assure only the highest quality fruit is used.   Fermentation takes place in small, open-top fermenters utilizing indigenous (wild) yeast and the cap is punched down 3 – 4 times a day.  Once the wine is dry, it is pressed in a 1/2 ton basket press and then hand bucked into barrels.


Our Russian River Valley Merlot is aged for 20 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels.  The Zinfandel is aged for 18 – 20 months in primarily American oak barrels.  Both wines are unfiltered and hand-bottled at our estate winery in Windsor, California.


We very much appreciate your interest in our wines.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a fairly deep ruby to purple color.  The inviting nose has cherries, blackberries, melted licorice, dried herbs, vanilla, and spice box.  This has medium body, fairly solid, ripe tannins, and very good acidity.  The cherries and berries grab the palate initially but nice spice and dried herbs kick in on the mid palate.  The finish has decent length with spicy fruit and dried herbs, but a touch of excess oak pops through.  All in all, a decent Merlot that would get a big buy recommendation is you can find it for under $20.  (90 pts)

2006 Albini Family Vineyards Merlot




***** Shameless Self Promotion *****


Here is a link to a YouTube video of me getting “coal” from Santa for being named the “Nicest Person in Social Media” in 2012.






Mailing Lists

Nothing new to report now, but keep an eye on the inbox starting next week.




Wines bought or received this week

I was good over the last few days, so nothing to report.





Remember to support your local wine store!




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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com.  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.