(Sung to the tune of the theme song of Shaft)
Who’s the thick-skinned grape that’s a hit with all the folks who rate? (Cab!) You’re darn right.
Who has the tannin that could do a lesser man in? (Cab!) Cab you dig it?
Who’s got body so mighty, it slays all other varieties? (Cab!) Right on.
It’s a complicated grape, but no one understands it like…
Honestly I’m surprised you let me get this far, my apologies to all those who are still reading this email. Here are a few 2014 vintage Cabernet-based wines from the U.S. and France:
Joseph Phelps 2014 Insignia, Napa Valley
One of Napa’s Crown Princes, from the middle of the region’s golden streak of vintages, ironically elevated by the long drought. I had the opportunity to taste this vintage alongside the previous 2013, and the differences are slight but noticeable. The ’13 has a more friendly fruit weight but the ’14 is structured, dense and timeless, perhaps due to the rare omission of Merlot in that year’s blend. As close as Insignia has come to the “classic Napa” style in some time, with chocolate and coffee notes bracing the “Night Of A Thousand Berries” nose that is so characteristically Phelps. 2014 is Motorhead compared with 2013’s Elton John, focused and hardcore, not really caring what you think of it… yet. Another Insignia for the ages. 97 points Vinous, 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Robert Parker, 4 6-packs available, $354.99 +tax
Sheridan 2014 “L’Orage” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Washington State
I’m now conditioned to salivate every time I see a 2014 Washington wine, but L’Orage additionally brings a kind of Rutherford-y thickness to the flinty structure usually prominent in Washington Cabs. Blended with a nano-smidge of Cabernet Franc, this beast is all sourced from owner/winemaker Scott Greer’s hilltop estate in the Yakima Valley where, if the finish of this wine is any indication, he must also produce rocket launchers. There is nothing restrained or conservative about the nose and body - dark berry preserves stirred with cinnamon sticks and pipe tobacco baked into a weird pie - the “classic Washington” vibes only enter at the end, where the fine tannins try to contain the glycerin, the same way a kiddie pool tries to contain a bunch of otters. Wondrous stuff, this. 96 points Robert Parker, 3 6-packs available, $73.99 +tax
Chateau Landiras 2014, Graves, Bordeaux
Ok, I’m cheating because this is a little over half Merlot, but the Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend punches well above its percentage and commands the nose, bursting with cassis, licorice, kirsch and fresh redcurrants. The lift and tannic structure on the finish reveal the youth of the vintage (the French would call this finish “crunchy” because they are French), but Landiras, a new-ish winery started by Bordeaux architect Michel Pelisse, can drink well now with food, or cellar for another decade. Terrific value on this, with a body to match. We’ll be pouring this on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room if you’d like to try it (we’ll also be pouring a few other Bordeaux wines TBA). 95 points Decanter, Platinum Medal Decanter World Wine Awards, 10 cases available, $42.99 +tax