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By Leo Bueno
1999 Rutherford Hill 25th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) [$10 Best Time Wines]
Whereas it is known that Rutherford Hill's specialty is their Merlots, the winery comes up with a line of other varietals. I tasted this Cab twice, several days apart. The nose, with some barnyard interspersed with fruit and oak also showed complex layers of vanilla, peppermint and fruit. No big tannins, yet it produces the sense of a big wine in the mouth and I agree with the vintners' assessment: "Expectations set by the deep rich color are met with forward ripe fruits of cherry and blackberry which give way to cassis. This fruit is wrapped in clove, leather, smokey cedar box, and some earthy notes that open and evolve over time that blend into a lingering vanillin finish. A finely balanced and integrated wine with ample acid and soft broad tannins for both fullness of mouth and longevity." At the winery, this wine sells for $35; at Spec's Wines in Houston, Texas, it sells for $30. Hey, it's a marketplace out there, so get the stuff for the best price you can!
2001 Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon (California) [$8 Best Time Wine; Milam's (2002 vintage)]
If this wine were a radio station, it would be of the "smooth jazz" format (like Miami's Love 94). Smooth is what this wine is, with mild tannins which linger. Used it to play a trick on friend, who likes this product very much. I popped it on him blindly (wrapped in a paper bag) and asked if he had had it before. He said no; his better half did think she had had it before. The current (2002) vintage is now available.
2002 Alice White Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) [$7 Publix]
With a spice in the nose typical of "down under" wines, a hint of chamomille, and a not unpleasant burnt bitter taste in the mouth, this bold wine is faily light for a Cab, but has enough tannins to coagulate the mucin in your saliva. Short finish. Held up OK in the refrigerator to the next day. The back of the label has a piece of the "Alice White" foklore.
2003 Alice White Shiraz (Australia) [$7 Publix]
That's a great wine to have with the Barbie, an all-around pleasant product. The most significant quality is the spiciness in the nose, which, having tasted other Alice White wines, I think comes from the vinification technique and not necessarily from the grape variety.
1996 L. A. Cetto Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Mexico) [$8 Best Time Wine]
Yes, you read it right, this wine is from Mexico, as in South of the Border, but just barely; it is from the Baja California peninsula (but Mexico, nevertheless). Turned this wine lose blindly on a group of friends and asked them to guess what it was. Opinions went all over the place, anywhere from California to Italy. Everyone was stumped. That light-bodied wine showed its age in the oxidized color.
2000 Sagelands Four Corners Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington) [$7 Sunset Corners]
The dark color of this varietal composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, with 15% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and some Malbec and Petit Verdot for spice, belies its light body. The nose has plenty of pleasant vanilla that develops into ripe red fruit. Think of Barbeques and grill to have with this wine. With enough tannins to coagulate saliva, its dense mouthfeel of licorice, fruit and toast benefits from hints of leather which contrast well with the wine's acidity, doesn't linger. Barrel aged for 16 months in mostly American oak, there are 17,387 cases produced with an optimum time for consumption between 2003 and 2008.
2003 Essence of Tango (Argentina) [$8 La Estancia Argentina]
A 50-50 Malbec-Cabernet blend. Not much tannin; some sugar. Good everyday drinking juice.
2002 Guelbenzu Vierlas (Spain) [$11 Berries to Wine]
Liquorice and berries in the nose. Good tannins. Lingers in the palate.
2001 Fuego Austral Cabernet-Merlot (Chile) [$3 Best Time Wine]
Picked this one at the $2.50 bin, thinking it could not possibly be a drinkable wine at that price; it was! It's a 50-50 Cab-Merlot blend. Nothing spectacular if somewhat light in body, but a great value at $2.50.