Monday, September 22, 2014

Grand Tasting Event Highlights Superb Cabernets From Napa, Finger Lakes and Bulgaria

Thomas HalbyCabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red grape variety. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country in a spectrum of climates.

Toledo Wines and Vines recently enjoyed a Cabernet Grand Tasting at the home of gracious hosts Glorious T and the Cabinator to salute Cab – including a delectable Cabernet Franc. Jazz Man and Wine Chick and their daughter joined us for the evening.

The event started a bit rocky. Green Dragon had baked a braided loaf of bread and made her famous twice-baked potatoes. The potatoes, loaded with chives and garlic, were topped with melted cheese done just perfectly.

I was bringing a couple of decanters, an aerator, three bottles of wine and other necessities to the tasting. Unfortunately, I earned the wrath of Green Dragon by squashing the potatoes into the box and putting the decanters on top, thereby smushing her perfect potatoes!

Then the Cabinator was grilling our bacon-wrapped filets outside on the deck when a threatening rainstorm rolled in. He finished the steaks with the aid of an umbrella and the meat was seasoned with some Ohio rainwater.

Glorious T opened the tasting with a classy Champagne toast of Moët & Chandon Imperial. We then prepared our plates adding salad and roasted asparagus and, of course, the Cabernet!

IMG_20140921_080834Here’s our tasting list for the evening:

  • Moët & Chandon Imperial
  • 2007 Thomas Halby Vintner Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2009 Maroon Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
  • 2012 Ravines Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes
  • 2010 M by Martellotto Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
  • 2007 Bloomer Creek Vintner’s Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Finger Lakes
  • 2008 Castra Rubra, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria

MaroonThe Thomas Halby was a hit straight out of the bottle. It was a pleasant surprise with a lush body. 2007 is a great vintage and the aging has integrated the tannins into an elegant, rich wine that paired wonderfully with the filet.

We decanted all the wines, but probably not as long as we should have. (We were thirsty!) Case in point was the 2009 Maroon. This came out a bit tannic, but then settled down. On the front there is a hint of sweetness and an intense middle with oak and herbs. This produces a tingle on the tongue and has a medium long finish.

Our next wine was the 2012 Ravines Cabernet Franc. This beautiful wine was popping with flavors. For me it scored with light, rich notes of raspberry and currants. This is Finger Lakes Cab Franc at its finest and our group signaled approval by emptying their glasses.

By this time, Cabinator (who I told had to earn his nickname) and I had fallen into a rhythm. He’d pour the wine from the decanter while I held the Zazzol aerator. When one decanter was emptied, we’d fill it up with another wine while we brought out the other wine that was decanting.

Grand Cabernet Tasting 005On we moved to the M by Martellotto, another Spring Mountain wine from Napa. This is a 2010, but it wasn’t as tannic as the Maroon. It evolved nicely in the glass with a superb flavor of blueberry jam. This Cab is notable for its black fruit and silky, satisfying finish.

When we last visited the Finger Lakes, we came upon a hidden gem: Bloomer Creek. This winery excels in Riesling, but also with quality reds. Cabinator purchased a bottle of their 2007 Bloomer Creek Vintner’s Reserve and decided this was the night to pop the cork.

The Bloomer Creek Cab was outstanding, which is quite a statement on an evening that featured three knockouts from Napa Valley. The wine is fruit forward, with grape jelly flavors and a butterscotch brickle finish. This was not a thin, weepy Cabernet, but a well-crafted red – one of the few Finger Lakes Cabs to make the cut list of the Cabinator!

Evening was closing in. The skies were dark. Palates were fatigued. It had been an incredible evening of Cabernet. But there was still a surprise left – a Cabernet blend from Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is an important wine-producing country in eastern Europe. It is ahead on many of its neighbors because it was quicker to adopt Western friendly varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These are two of the top grapes grown in the country.

Castra RubraI picked up the 2008 Castra Rubra on a whim at Corks. It is a blend of 43% Cabernet, 42% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. Grapes come from the Thracian Plain, which is part of the great southern Bulgarian wine region. It is well protected from cold winds to the north of the Balkan Mountains and further protected from the south central part of the Rhodopes. The wine is named after the ancient Roman fortress Castra Rubra (Red Fort), whose ruins are located near the village Kolarovo.

The winemaker is Michel Rolland, an influential wine producer and consultant from Bordeaux. This is an enormous coup for Castra Rubra and Bulgarian wine.

This bottle is succulent with black berries and earth. It is a hearty wine that probably could have used another hour or so of decanting. It’s complex with some spiciness and licorice on the long finish.

What a way to end – but the quest for outstanding Cabernet never really is finished. It’s just the beginning!

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