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After having a conversation with another wine buyer, it was apparent that I needed to try more Cabernet Sauvignon from California. In a short conversation he listed about fifty or more wines from my home state that I had never tasted because, well… to put it bluntly, I wasn’t interested. For Shame! I knew at once, though, that I needed to address my stance… update it, especially the Napa interpretation, because it was apparent that it was my Achilles’ heel.  It was no longer acceptable to harbor these feelings against this category without at least  having tasted many of its leading lights. The varietal that I have spent most of my time shirking in my budding wine career has been Cabernet Sauvignon, not having the patience to cellar its California expressions or the bank account to fuel my interests in the historic foreign examples (left bank Bordeaux). It was time to change that.

I spent the day in Venice with a friend, picking up a few bottles at one of my favorite wine boutiques in Los Angeles—Lincoln Fine Wines. I bought four bottles in total, including a split of 2006 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon (#164) and a 2007 Nelms Road Cabernet Sauvignon (#163) for the purposes of tasting later that day with a bottle of Lambrusco that my buddy had purchased. When we arrived at my friend’s domicile, we opened both Cabernets and chilled the Lambrusco. We allowed the Cabernets to open up in the decanters while we ran next door to a Mexican restaurant.

With food in hand and the Labrusca Lambrusco (#162) cold to the touch, we plated la comida, poured the glasses and began our analysis of the dry, bubbly and earthy red wine. The nose was reminiscent of a berry spritzer and the palate was shockingly dry—I was so used to Lambrusco amabile—and a decent accompaniment to the Mexican food. Its high acidity and earthy tones would have been better suited to salty cheeses and salami, but before we could mull it over any further we were on to the Cabernet.

Both bottles of Cabernet had been properly decanted and we decided to begin the main event with the 2006 Darioush. With deep shades of ruby and slight feathering on the rim, the Cab’s powerful nose of vanilla, blueberry and cinnamon were enough to indicate that this wine had seen some oak. It had a fair amount of alcohol on the bouquet, keeping me from diving any deeper in the glass but it was still pleasant sniffing. I took the challis to my lips tasting blueberry and cedar but what was most remarkable were the fine tannins that were incredibly smooth. The palate was luxurious—even if the fruit was battling the oak (heavy use), the refined structure on the buds was delightful. I was impressed.

Moving on to the Nelms Road Cabernet from Washington State, the deeply garnet glass of wine had considerably more assertive fruit—a bushel of blackberry and black cherry—on the bouquet. The palate was not as fine as the Darioush before it, replete with black cherry and a hint of sandalwood with coarse tannins that were a little green, but the simple fruit that persisted through the long finish was favorable and great for the price point (under twenty dollars).

All three wines were good; the Lambrusco blew me away with its biting acidity, dry palate and solid core of fruits but then again I LOVE Lambrusco. Both Cabernets showed something different and enjoyable. While I am not sure I can splurge, spending more than thirty dollars for a half bottle of Cabernet from Napa everyday, I can say, in earnest, that I look forward to tasting a lot more Cabernet from Northern California. Any recommendations?

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