OK, time to get serious and prepare yourself for the most expensive wine in PnP’s young history! It was my birthday yesterday, which automatically meant a bottle out of the “good” wine fridge. That turned out to be the 2006 Cakebread Cab, which I got for Christmas a couple years ago from my wonderful in-laws (did your in-laws ever give you high-end wine for Christmas? I didn’t think so). Cakebread is a renowned producer from Napa Valley, the vinicultural heart of California, and I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time. One of my first ever epiphany wine experiences that opened my eyes to the world of fine wine involved a Cakebread, and since then I’ve tried a number of their offerings and have even been to visit the winery and taken part in a tasting there (highly recommended if you’re ever in the area). Like many Napa producers, Cakebread makes a lot of different wines but hangs its hat on its Cabernet Sauvignon; this Cab was made from grapes sourced from a variety of locations within Napa Valley and retails for close to $100 CDN, so I was very interested to see how it fared.
Even 5 years from vintage, this Cab still comes across as a baby to the eye: it’s a deep, thick ruby colour that’s so full that it stains the glass as you move the wine around, and it isn’t showing a hint of age to date. It smells very black, mainly black currant (a hallmark of Cabernet Sauvignon) and blackberry, and also shows many hints of oak barrel aging: smoke, cedar and cigar box (as I mentioned once before, I take this to mean both the smell of the cigars themselves and the smell of the fancy wood box they come in). There is also some kind of bite to the nose, a mintiness. This same array of flavours plays out silkily on the palate: first cassis, then sweet wood, anise and tobacco. The wine is true California style, with a lush, full body, explosive fruit, soft but pervasive tannin and a smooth texture. I found that the alcohol level spiked a bit on the midpalate, so there was a rush of heat in my mouth just before the finish, and the wine ended on kind of a quiet note and without the kind of extended finish you might expect from a bottle with a three-figure sticker price. I didn’t decant this wine when I first poured it yesterday, but I did aerate it; after argon-preserving it overnight, I tried decanting it for a few hours today to see if it would make any difference in the flavour profile. I found much of the same flavour tonight, with a little more emphasis on secondary flavours and a little less emphasis on fruit, but still that same basic ripe, modern, fruit-and-oak Cali Cab framework.
This is clearly a well-made wine, and it’s from a noteworthy producer, but I’m neither all that high or all that low on it. It’s neither overwhelming nor underwhelming…it’s sort of just “whelming”. It’s tasty and well-constructed and is a solid example of its style and its homeland, but if you’re dropping $100 on a bottle of wine you may rightfully be looking for a little more of a heightened drinking experience, a little more complexity and wow factor. If you’re getting a Cakebread Cabernet as a present, though, count yourself lucky: the best kinds of gifts are those that you wouldn’t normally splurge on to buy for yourself, and good Cali Cab doesn’t come cheap. Thanks for the awesome present, Alan and Margaret — good family and good wine definitely made this year’s birthday a happy one!
$90 to $100 CDN[Wine Jargon Notes: midpalate/finish = when you taste a wine, the initial taste impression you get is called the attack; the final taste impression as and after you swallow is the finish; everything in between is the midpalate.
secondary flavours = primary flavours in wine are the fruit flavours that come from the grape itself; secondary flavours are non-fruit flavours that come from growing conditions or the winemaking process.]