By The Glass
Bargains can be found in cabernets
The change in season toward cooler weather brings a corresponding change in foods and wines served. At home and in restaurants, we are shifting from light, crisp and refreshing flavors to darker, heartier, fuller ones.
For many wine drinkers this means it's time for cabernet sauvignon, syrah, nebbiolo, sangiovese, merlot, zinfandel and other wines based on thicker-skinned grapes.
But prices of such wines, especially cabernet and cabernet blends, keep going up. Here are some new releases and discoveries that will make your dollar stretch a little further.
2006 Marquis Philips Cabernet Sauvignon (under $20): These wines have a track record of delivering tremendous value. Some insiders were concerned about whether quality would remain consistent after winemaking partner Sparky Marquis left. But the 2006 proves that under the direction of superstar Australian winemaker Chris Ringland, Marquis Philips still offers terrific intensity, concentration, opulence and wonderful texture, but with a little more restraint.
2006 Vina Cobos Cabernet Sauvignon "Cocodrilo" (under $25): This is the Argentine wine project of one of California's top winemakers/consultants, Paul Hobbs. The vineyard is located at the 2,900-foot elevation in the desertlike foothills of the spectacular Andes Mountains. Hobbs' cabernet is sleek, elegant, suave, classy and well-textured. It just glides past the palate.
2005 Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon "Sonoma Valley" (under $24): The Kuimelis family owns four vineyards, two on hillsides and two on hilltops, hence the high quality of fruit. Two are in Alexander Valley and two are in Dry Creek Valley, hence the Sonoma Valley designation. Winemaker Mike Kuimelis is one of those young turk winemakers I recommend you seek out. His wines have superb elegance, texture and balance -- nothing heavy, no hard edges and wonderfully delicious. The quantities are small, so act quickly.
2005 Beau Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon "Juliet's Vineyard" (under $50): Here is a very exciting new cabernet discovery. This rocky vineyard is 1,350 feet up, on Atlas Peak, above the Stags Leap district in Foss Valley, Calf. Winemaker Dave Phinney has been named Winemaker of the Year by New York's Dean & DeLuca. His 2005 "Juliet's Vineyard" is absolutely gorgeous, with loads of fruit, complexity and surprising deliciousness for such a young, "mountain-grown" cabernet.
2003 Page Wine Cellars Proprietary Red (under $50): My first impression of this wine was that it smelled more like Bordeaux than Napa Valley cabernet. The rustic, earthy nuances were much more prominent than just ultraripe, forward fruit and oak. On the palate, the wine has no hard edges; it's seamless, classy and layered with wonderful texture.
I was so impressed, I've made an appointment to visit winemaker Bryan Page and his vineyards later this week.
MEET THE WINEMAKERS
By the way, Page, Kuimelis and other top-caliber winemakers will be at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas on Nov. 9 for a benefit for the Lupus Foundation of America -- Hawaii Chapter.
Tickets are $100. Call 285-3550.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org