San Francisco Chronicle - Top 100 Wines: Cabernet and Merlot

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

What's assuredly true is that 2009 was a great year for Cabernet, whether in the heart of Napa or the reaches of the Northwest.

These are classic, wonderful wines - reminders why this is the stateliest of grapes. That isn't to discount Merlot, which seems to have chased away some of its less dedicated practitioners and come back with a more serious attitude. If you loved Merlot for its character - and not the lack thereof, which seemed to be more in evidence lately - you're in luck. Same with Cabernet Franc, which is rallying both as an ensemble player and soloist.

There will be plenty of debate this coming year about the quality of the 2010 vintage, at least in California. But the early signs show a lot of promise for those who made good decisions in the midst of a rollercoaster year.

Whether you're looking to fill your cellar or get a bottle on tonight's table, you're in luck.

2009 Andrew Will Two Blondes Columbia Valley Red ($55, 14.5% alcohol): With a bit of bottle time, this mix of nearly equal parts of both Cabernets (Franc, Sauvignon) and Merlot has mellowed - as much as Chris Camarda's wines mellow when young. Its roasted padron pepper and chamomile accents and floral aspects are matched by electric fruit flavors. All the more reason to give it time to age.

2009 Antica Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55, 14%): The new chapter from Piero Antinori's Atlas Peak project has found its stride with a distinctive 2009 that's meaty and pleasingly earthy. The mix of clay and a coppery tang with cassis, rich raspberry fruit and tree-bark accent signals the complexity of Cabernet while maintaining a polished, polite side.

2009 Betz Family Clos de Betz Columbia Valley Red ($52, 14.6%): Bob Betz's Cabernet is an extraordinary thing, but this Merlot-dominant blend (plus Cabernet and Petit Verdot) sourced from a range of Washington vineyards is a reminder of his brilliant abilities with a Right Bank model. Sappy, opulent fruit, with a manzanita-like accent and toasted spice. Structured and studious, with generous, deep flavors.

2010 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Paso Robles Merlot ($22, 13.8%): This new entry from the value-minded Broadside folks takes the same tack as their Cabernet - indigenous-yeast fermentations, minimal cellar work, neutral oak. But mostly this shows the prowess of the limestone-rich Margarita site south of Paso. Tangy currant and smoked-tea aspects of good Merlot are there, plus darker fruit and standup tannins that signal its seriousness. A smart expression of a grape hunting for a comeback.

2011 Broc Cellars Paso Robles Cabernet Franc ($25, 13.2%): For all his abilities with Zinfandel, Chris Brockway's discovered great Franc in warmer Paso. It's not leafy in the way Franc can be, but rather is pretty and spiced, with a rooty aspect to cranberry and damson plum fruit. This is sunny fruit picked at a modest ripeness, giving it a fresh nature that defines the more footloose side of a grape in a brilliantly improbable place.

. . .

Top view entire list visit the San Francisco Chronicle.


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