Tag Archives: cabernet sauvignon

1998 Silver Oak Alexander Valley


California, $84

I was at a Halloween party a few months back with an open bar, but a particularly uncouth guest had brought a few bottles of his own “special” wine that he tucked around the corner for him and his pals to partake. He asked me if I wanted some and winked “It’s Silver Oak” and it was all I could do a stifle a small laugh. Silver Oak was one of the great CaliforniaCabernet stars back in the day but has had a much tougher time finding its place in the world of California Cult Cabs like Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate; not only did this guy have poor manners, but he used a 1991 copy ofThe Wine Spectator to help him buy his fancy wine.

This incident was on my mind last night when a group of friends got together to drink a few cabs side-by-side in the name of science. (And drinking.) There was a 2005 Bordeaux from Chateau Cantemerle (nice, but oddly subdued), an insanely muscular wine from Washington’s Doubleback (owned by Drew Bledsoe, and big and pricey) and Burrowing Owl, which held up not badly against wines that were twice the price. And then there was my bottle, a 1998 Silver Oak that had been in my cellar forever. I only had one, and my expectations were that, given the vintage, it might be less than stellar. Boy was I wrong—it was still dark and full with great classic cabernet notes of cassis and bitter cherry and an integrated long finish. What a great wine. The weird thing is I think I paid $60 for it all those years ago, and the current vintage is only $84, making it a pretty great deal.

So I was wrong about the Silver Oak. But that guy at the party was still a horse’s ass.

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Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Badiola 2010

Niepoort Dialogo Branco Douro 2011

Italy, $20

Like everyone else, I go through wine phases where I get hooked on a certain grape or region and ride it until I get bored. Well, I’ve been on a Chianti kick for about 16 months and every time I think it’s time to switch gears I run into a wine like this smoking deal for Mazzei that has me fall in love all over again.

It’s the Manny Pacquiao of wines, powerful without being overly heavy, with waves of dark cherry and dried cranberry. At 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon it is technically a super-Tuscan, not a Chianti, so maybe I am expanding my horizons a bit—though its big brother, the Fonterutoli Chianti Classico, is also amazing. And if you love the point scores, our pals at the Wine Spectator gave it 92 of ‘em.

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Vina Koyle Carmenere Reserva

Vina Koyle Carmenere Reserva
Chile, $18

First the bad news. Koyle (it’s pronounced Koy-Lay) is not a great name for English speakers and the “Reserva” is in fact their entry-level wine. Now the good: who cares? Koyle is the relatively new project of Chile’s famed Underraga family (there’s pretty good odds that if you grew up in Western Canada that an Underraga bottling was the very first Chilean wine you ever drank), and with Koyle they’ve set aside the ethos of mass-production in order to make what can only be described as handmade wines at near mass production prices. Their Syrah Reserva is the most widely available label in BC and AB, and it’s dynamite, but this Carmenere is even more surprising. It avoids the overly fleshly attributes the grape sometime show an instead has a tea, tobacco and red fruits mélange that’s welcoming. There’s 9% Syrah and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon to help steady things. This is a winner.

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