The Sonoma County appellation encompasses a very large area, and includes some very prestigious sub-appellations, such as Alexander Valley and Chalk Hill. The region is diverse in landscape, and importantly is less famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon than its neighbor to the east, Napa Valley. This is important, because along with less familiarity comes lower prices.
Although only four wines were represented, tasters agreed that this was a very good tasting, with every bottle exhibiting varietally correct character, good value, and expressive flavors.
First Place: Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Jack London Vineyard 2002 (Sonoma Valley). Showed an amber halo at the rim, with complex aromatics that included dried herbs, eucalyptus, licorice, smoke, dark fruit, pine trees, and a hint of wet something. Ali was reminded of "Vic's Vapo Rub". Rich on the palate, featuring black pepper, cassis, leather, clove, and cream flavors. Andy noted that there was something "sweet and dark playing around", while Kristin said that "this is what I like in a cab". Ali found a "crescendo of spice at the end". Very well-balanced, more feminine, and effortless. Received 22 points. David's bottle. About $25.
Second Place: Dreyer Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Sonoma County). This bottle initially showed vegetal aromas of squash and green peppers, along with a vinegar component, but then turned to dark plums, ink, blueberry, black tea, and hints of rubber. Ali described the smell as a "sturdy, old leather book". Rich, deep, layered palate, with well-developed caramel, butter, and chocolate flavors. This one has the darkest profile, which Andy described as "sweet and bitter". Ali found that it had a "dusty, but creamy" quality, and compared it to Clint Eastwood, saying it was "rough, experienced". Balanced, but not as elegant, with overt, masculine traits. Received 18 points. Ali's bottle. About $20.
Third Place: Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Sonoma County). Green apple, cassis, tobacco, blackberry, and leather scents. David was reminded of "freshly waxed new shoe", and Ali thought it was "dark and bright", like a "nightlight in a closet". Minty, eucalyptus flavors on the attack, with some tartness that Andy described as "alive and kicking". Not fruit-forward, but tasters felt that it would pair well with food. Kristin craved Bolognese sauce, and said that it would be "good with dinner, but wouldn't steal the show". Organic. Received 6 points. Andy's bottle. About $22.
Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon Rhinefarm Vineyard 2003 (Sonoma Valley). Andy found cherry Pez aromas in this one, while David thought it was a hypothetical mix of hard candy and chalky antacid. Ali felt that it did "not have a natural scent . . . more man made". Dusty scents, along with ink, cough medicine, and Pepto Bismol. A little hot on the palate, with a candied fruit quality. Slightly out of balance, which Ali described at "schizophrenic". David noted turpentine on the finish. Received 2 points. Kristin's bottle. About $40.