Captivating Cult Cabernets

Cult Cabernets are, for some, the “holy grail” of wine. They are surely the highest rated wines in the entire country – and certainly the most expensive. These are rare liquid treasures that have redefined hedonism in the wine industry. They are made of “unobtain-ium,” but I had the great fortune to attend a copious tasting of more than 50 wines from all over the world that included many of these enchanting gems at a beautiful private residence overlooking the Waialae Golf Course. And as you might imagine, I can still taste these wines in my mind.

I had great expectations and I was giddy just knowing I was invited to such an awesome tasting. The highlights were many – in fact, too many to name. A bottle of Krug Rose Champagne was sheer beauty, 2005 Peter Micheal “Cuvee Indigene” Chardonnay was perhaps one of the best California Chardonnays I have tasted this year, matched only by the elegance and complexity of 1996 Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet. Red Burgundy was well-represented by a pair of Leroy wines: 1999 Beaune Premier Cru “Les Marcon-nets,” which was still wonderfully youthful with plenty of energetic life ahead of it, and 1966 Pommard “Grands Epenots,” which exhibited all the earth and complexity of “old” Burgundy.

But even beyond that, the real stars of the tasting were the “Cult Cabernets.” These highly touted wines of minuscule production really stole the show. The 2002 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard from the Eisele Vineyard in Calistoga was the epitome of power and elegance combined. It has a lovely complexity of aromas, but not overly jammy as some can be. On the palate it has a tone of Bordeaux with balance and length of flavor that is purely exciting.

One of my notes for the 2004 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon from Pritchard Hill says “brilliant,” which is exactly what it was. The nose is so potent with pomegranate, cassis, almost liqueur-like with a hint of anise and spices. The texture of this wine was beguiling, like liquid velvet with a sweet fruit finish. If this wine doesn’t stun you, you have to wake up!

There was a trio of heavy hitters from Colgin Cellars. The 2000 Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was pure blueberry preserve with a touch of mocha and vanilla intertwined. It seduces the palate with fine tannin and an elegance that I found unique amongst the trio. The Cariad from Colgin Cellars is a delicious Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. I preferred the 2003 to the 2004 as it had a deeper and more complex aroma with a riper structure. Both will age gracefully, but with the 2003 hitting higher heights in the long run.

Perhaps the name that conjures more expectations than any other is Harlan Estate. The 2003 version is massive with a double portion of black fruits both preserved and dry with an inky and palate-staining flavor. It clings to your senses with a penetrating intensity that few wines possess. Yet, for all its size, it has balance.

The 2005 Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon was perhaps the most laid back of these Cult Cabs. It is welcoming with an almost floral note of violets, dried black fruit and a suggestion of earth. It sits amply on the palate with a big dollop of vanillin on the extended finish that keeps you coming back for more.

One of the “newer” Cult wines was the 2004 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is over the top with huge jammy aromas and flavors that are nothing short of impressive.

But not to be outdone, the 2001 Abreu Madrona Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon had a rock star nose of overripe fruit and sweet cedar, tobacco and vanillin. This is a wine on steroids with port-like, gargantuan texture – bombastic, to say the least.

This tasting should have been named “shock and awe” as the wines went off like fireworks. It is a real pleasure for those privileged enough to attend such tastings. If you love explosive flavors in hedonistic quantities, these are the wines you should not do without. r

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.

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