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... good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people." - William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

The theme of our November tasting meeting was "bring your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon". We had five wines that we tasted blind. Four of them were Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines from different regions of California. Guessing that the majority of the wines would most likely be coming from California, I did not quite follow the theme. Many articles had been written recently about the newly improved quality of South African wines and I was interested to taste one of them and compare it blind with others coming from better established areas and wineries.

The blind tasting

The first wine of the series ended up being the 2000 Rustenberg John X Merriman from Stellenbosch, South Africa's leading wine region. This wine was definitively the loser of the evening. The nose was sweet and smoky, some people even said musky. The palate had a rustic style with some smoky and peppery flavors and a dry and alcoholic finish.

The four remaining wines were all excellent and how they got points from the tasters was more a matter of personal taste than quality. Wine #2 was a wine from the Paso Robles area. The 2001 L'Aventure Optimus exhibited an aromatic nose with some notes of sugarcane and cinnamon. On the palate, tannins were present with a good layer of fruit and hints of chocolate and iron.

Some people guessed that the wine was coming from a warmer climate and also noticed the presence of Syrah in the blend.

Wine #3 came from the cooler Dry Creek Valley. The 2000 A. Rafanelli Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley had a more discreet nose showing classic Cabernet aromas. On the palate, it exhibited dark fruit flavors with notes of vanilla oak. On the finish, the wine felt pretty young with some acidity and tannins still present. This wine would definitively need more cellaring time.

Wine #4 was 1999 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District coming from the highly regarded Napa Valley Stags Leap District. Starting with a somewhat restrained nose, the wine exhibited a smooth-bodied palate made of currant and dark cherries aromas with well integrated tannins. It was a well-balanced wine that pleased most of the group.

Wine #5 got the best ranking of the night. The 1996 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley exhibited complex fruity aromas with gamey notes. On the palate, it was rich and still tannic. Some people identified a Merlot aftertaste. I found this wine to be very food-friendly and it worked very well with the lamb and garlic potatoes dish that we were having for dinner that evening.

See our other tasting reports.