Five Rivers cabernet: OH MY GOD

4 11 2010

This review has been updated here.

Five Rivers cabernet sauvignon, which normally goes for $11 or more and was recommended by your Wineguider here, is now selling for $8.99 at Total Wine and, I’m told, at Wegmans.  Thereby CATAPULTING it into “Best Value” status.  Juicy, yet packing a dry punch full of tannins, it’s not as full-bodied as some other cabs, but it does almost nothing wrong.

Is there another $9 cabernet sauvignon on planet Earth that is this good?  I DON’T KNOW.

Are any red wines this good, at $9?  Yes:  Mark West pinot noir, and super-tannic Zestos especial.  But they have strong personalities that prevent them from being budget crowd-pleasers. Five Rivers is generic enough that almost anybody can enjoy it.  Admittedly, this is also its downfall: it can be kind of plain.  And maybe a little sweet for a “real” cabernet sauvignon.

But at this price, I don’t know of any cabernet that comes close.  To my budget red wine drinking friends – enjoy!

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Grayson Cellars cabernet sauvignon review

1 10 2010

Today we review a $10 red wine from California.

Bottom line: This one doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not good enough to recommend.

Uh oh.  OK folks, this will be quick.  Grayson Cellars 2009 cabernet sauvignon tastes OK, but it’s too sweet, kind of generic, and it doesn’t really taste like a cabernet sauvignon.

The reason for the “uh oh” — it tastes similar to their pinot noir, which your Wineguider recommended.  So it makes me wonder if THAT wine also tasted too sweet and generic to recommend.  I mean, a pinot noir that tastes similar to the same winemaker’s cabernet? Really? You’re recommending that? Well, uhh. . . yeah, I think. I mean, it wasn’t the DEFINITION of pinot noir, but it was pretty close.  And yeah, it was a little generic and sweet… but it was OK!  I’m pretty sure!

Oh well.  At least we have clarity for today’s review: the 2009 Grayson Cellars cabernet sauvignon is a no-go.  Although it’s easy-drinking and not bad by any means, it just isn’t dry enough, “cabernet” enough, or delicious enough to recommend.

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Benziger Sonoma cabernet sauvignon review

29 09 2010

Today we review a 2006 California cabernet that costs $18.

Bottom line:  A nice red wine, and a close call, but at $18 it’s not quite good enough to recommend.

Benziger is a very cool winery.  The official name is “Benziger Family Winery.”  I like that.  Go to their website, and you are treated to a video on the first page that will teach you what “whole cluster” pinot noir means.  Cool!  All of their wines are certified for green farming practices.  Each vineyard at which they source their grapes is certified “sustainable”, “organic” or “Biodynamic”.  And all four of Benziger’s own vineyards are Biodynamic, the most organic of the organic, sort of like chemical-free, natural farming on steroids.  Wait — bad choice of words there.  (And I should note, some people allege that Biodynamics is a bunch of hooey, a subject that’s WAY beyond the scope of your Wineguider’s “expertise”.)

Anyway, the cabernet we are looking at today is definitely not a bad wine.  It feels nice and rich, it tastes like “real” cabernet sauvignon, it’s dry, and oaky, and not too sweet, and it has a very nice spiciness to it.  But, it tasted a little bit thin, and a tiny bit sour, compared to some others I’ve tried in this price range.

So, I feel there may be better ones out there for less money.  Maybe Benziger’s cool “green” theme causes their wine to sell for a few dollars more, I don’t know.  Although the Lander Jenkins cab tastes sweeter in a way that makes Benziger seem like the far more serious option, I’d often be tempted to choose Lander Jenkins because it’s only $13, as low as $12 in some stores.  

With one big exception –  if I am throwing a party for Earth Day, or any other kind of green/organic themed event, it’s going to be Benziger all the way.

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Lander Jenkins “Spirit Hawk” cabernet sauvignon review

22 09 2010

Today we look at a 2007 red wine from California that lists for $15, but I found for $13 (and later found for $12).

OK ladies and gents, this new cabernet sauvignon is DARN good for only $13.  The Lander Jenkins “Spirit Hawk” wines — they produce only cabernet and chardonnay, I like that — are from Rutherford Wine Company, maker of the usually-delicious Rutherford Ranch cabernet. The grapes in this cab were sourced mostly from Paso Robles, an area producing such rich, deep, satisfying red wines at such bargain prices that it seems it might just swallow Napa Valley whole within our lifetimes.

However THIS cabernet is not super rich and deep — it’s a little bit lighter, brighter, sweeter, and noticeably more elegant than other Paso Robles reds I’ve had.  Lander Jenkins is delicious, with the obligatory California dose of oak, but not so much as to hide the flavor of the wine itself:  you get a sort of blackberry and rhubarb pie, balanced by pleasant acidity and well-behaved tannins.  Nice!  And a clear Wineguider “Best Value” wine.

Is there a downside?  Well, Lander Jenkins is a little bit on the fruity and sweet side for a California cabernet, and it doesn’t taste exactly like a more expensive, true, tannin-filled classic California cab.   But it’s close.  So, I suggest you buy some high quality ground sirloin, obtain some killer spicy brown mustard and fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and as you complete your cookout menu with your favorite side items, snag a few bottles of this lovely cab for a late summer / early fall dinner outside.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

Lander Jenkins cabernet sauvignon reviewRecommended.





Louis M. Martini Napa Valley 2006 cabernet sauvignon review

17 09 2010

Today we review a 2006 Napa Valley cabernet that will cost you $20.

Bottom line:  Good!  Maybe a bit “normal,” but with the right food, really shines.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This review deals with the Louis M. Martini “Napa Valley” cabernet, which goes for around $20.  NOT the regular ol’ Louis M. Martini cabernet, which is like $11, and not in the same league. 

Here with the “Napa Valley” cabernet, we have a very moderate, somewhat generic and very nice little red wine.  It has a nice, reasonable amount of tannins, maybe more than the average wine, but not beyond the pale.  It smells nice and does nothing wrong.  It’s not very complex.  It has that familiar California tannin bite and dryness.  It tastes like a combination of oak, leather, cranberries, blackberries and . . . . OK, look, it tastes like every other decent California cabernet, I admit it.  Alright?!?

But it’s good.  So I say, buy it.  I had it with a steak dinner and it just kept on delivering that lovely California steak wine thing.

This  one is:  Louis Martini Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon reviewRecommended.





Explore 2008 cabernet sauvignon review

10 09 2010

Today we examine a red wine from South Africa that costs just $4 a bottle.

Bottom line:  This wine is not recommended, because it is absolutely terrible.

You’re probably thinking, “HEY, you just reviewed that awesome $40 pinot noir, how can you switch to a cabernet that costs only $3.99 and give it a fair shot?”  Well, I opened a bottle of Black Opal shiraz/cabernet in between, which costs only $7, and was pretty good.  (And which has been positively reviewed here.)  So, I was actually prepared for a bargain red.

However, I wasn’t prepared for this stuff.  Explore cabernet sauvignon smells like strong alcohol.  “That’s OK,” I thought, “it still might taste good.”

It doesn’t.  In fact it tastes like there is something seriously wrong with it.  A medium-bodied cab, it has a dry, smokey flavor.  Not a woody, or spicy smoke.  More like the black, acrid cloud you get from burning brightly colored plastic.  Halfway through my first glass, I stopped to consider whether I might have just been poisoned. 

I might use the rest of the bottle to marinate steak.  It’s also possible that I will taste it again and rush to force it down the kitchen sink drain while cursing at the winery, or myself.

It’s only $4, but unfortunately the 2008 Explore cabernet sauvignon cannot be recommended. 

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Five Rivers cabernet sauvignon review – NICE

13 08 2010

This review has been updated here.

Hi!  Today we’ll look at a red wine from California’s Central Coast, which sells for $11 a bottle.

Five Rivers cab used to be made with grapes from California’s Paso Robles area, and it really rocked for $11.  Now, with the 2007 vintage, Paso Robles has been replaced on the label with plain old Central Coast.  It doesn’t rock as much anymore, but it’s pretty darn good:  rich, with plenty of tannins, a “tight” taste, dry, but with some deep fruit, and a nice amount of oak.  It’s medium-bodied, mildly spicy, and overall, “strong.”  In fact, it tastes very close to the way it did when it was a Paso Robles wine.   How do they do that?

On the downside, it’s a bit generic, or even boring, in some settings.  It also might be too oaky for some wine lovers.  But it can serve as a great steak wine, or just a “de-stress after work” wine.  There’s something about Five Rivers cabernet that I just, like.

So there you have it.  This unassuming and mild-mannered California cabernet hits the right buttons for your Wineguider to make me want more and more, and so it is:

Five Rivers cabernet sauvignon review

Recommended.