Wine Review: 2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon

28 11 2011

Can a flower vase be an appropriate decanter? I say yes.

If the name of this wine sounds familiar, it should:  the ’07 Freemark Abbey Cab from the Napa Valley was my ultimate victor in the modern-day Judgment of Paris blind tasting I took part in at Co-op Wine & Spirits a month ago.  Matched up against 9 other top Cabernets including a couple of First Growth Bordeaux (2002 Chateau Haut Brion and 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild) and some iconic Napa Cabs (2007 Ridge Monte Bello and 2002 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”), by far the cheapest wine of the bunch (average bottle price of the 10 reds:  $277), this $47 little wine that could knocked both my tasting companion and I over and emerged the clear cut JoP winner for each of us.  As soon as the identities of the various wines were unveiled, I knew I had to get my hands on some — a reaction that probably would have been more subdued had the $928 Mouton Rothschild taken the title.  Thankfully for me (and all of you), the Freemark Abbey Cab is currently on sale at Highlander Wine & Spirits for just over $40, which is absolute robbery for a bottle of this quality from a premium region.  If you’re a Cali Cabernet fan, or if you’re not yet done your Christmas shopping, this is your winner.  Thank me later.

I was a little concerned when I popped the cork on this bottle that it couldn’t possibly live up to expectations previously realized in a no-pressure environment.  When I last tried the Freemark, I didn’t know what it was, and given the lineup in which it was served, I was assuming that everything that touched my lips was shockingly expensive high-end Cabernet…so when I found out after picking this bottle as my favourite that it was actually in my budget stratosphere, I was all the more impressed.  Now I’m going in knowing exactly what I have and expecting Freemark Abbey to rock my world and justify the lofty distinction I’ve already placed on it.  Could the Freemark live up to my self-generated hype?

Cork Rating: 5.5/10 (It sort of is what it is, no? Acceptable in a mediocre way.)

Oh yes.  I totally heart this wine.  It is unquestionably the best rendition of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had for less than $50.  Deep violet in colour, the Freemark first impresses with a bold and delicious nose that is Platonic Napa Cab:  cassis, black cherry, mint, cedar, dark chocolate and baking spice, with a slight resinous/sappy note lingering around the edges.  On the palate, it walks that delicate line of having lots of everything without being cloying or overdone.  It is bursting with juicy fruit and intense oak, full and bright and in your face but without being heavy or jammy, as the wine’s vibrant acidity and polished but firm tannins provide a strong backbone to keep this roiling inferno of flavours on course.  This controlled force of flavour gives the Freemark a sense of deft power that is simply remarkable.  It tastes very much like it smells, with lush dark fruit (black currant, blackberry, saskatoon pie) meeting classic Cabernet notes of mint and eucalyptus and interwoven with spicy, smoky oak-based flavours, cinnamon and a hint of earth that pulls the wine into a long and focused finish.  There was a touch of heat noticeable on the back end of the palate, but I don’t think the alcohol level (14.5%) is out of whack given the style and intensity of the wine; instead, I think that this Cab probably needs a little more time before being fully integrated.  It’s still drinking great right now, but I expect it to be even better in a couple years.

If you’re wondering (and if you didn’t click the link above), here’s what I said about the Freemark after tasting it blind at the Judgment of Paris:  ”Deep, lush garnet colour through core and rim.  Bubblegum fruit, blueberry/blackberry; minty.  US.  Analysis aside, it’s delicious, but still has strong structure.  Blockbuster wine with eternal finish.”  I didn’t re-read this before making my notes tonight, but my analysis ended up being pretty similar, and my love for the wine continues to endure.  The 2007 Freemark Abbey is a phenomenal expression of Napa Cabernet at a (relatively) entry-level price and is definitely worth seeking out.  I’m glad I still have more!

94- points

$40 to $50 CDN

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2 responses

28 11 2011
Tom Booth

Great review Peter, I completely agree.

29 11 2011
Tyler

Looks like I’m making another trip to Highlander.

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