Sunday, July 29, 2007

Avalon - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley – 2005 - $12.99

One day on a walk home from work I stopped in a small local grocer looking for a cheap bottle of white wine to cook with. I knew they had (and still do by the way) a decent selection of wines so I would probably find what I need. I found what I needed up front near the register (a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for $3.99) but as I usually do when I go anywhere that has wine, a compulsion inside me draws me to peruse the aisles for any under-priced gems or rare bottles. One in particular I found to be one of my best buys in a while and want to share it with you. That bottle was the Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2005 vintage and it only cost me $12.99

“Unlike wines from the Culinary Industrial Complex, Avalon wines are original and uncut. Our wines reflect the true essence of Cabernet Sauvignon without pretense, hang-ups or apathy.”

So says the quote from the website extolling the virtues of Avalon Winery. He is the long short of this winery. The business man behind the wine, Derek Benham, started the Blackstone label (famous for their Merlot) right when Merlot hit its stride in the 90’s here in the US. He later sold it 7 vintages into its genesis. The winemaker, Alex Cose, was a banker for six years and must have made a killing or burned out as he left the banking business behind to seek out his dream to make wine. After a few small jobs at some reputable wineries he landed at Joseph Phelps and later the eponymous Peter Michael, quite possibly one the best wineries in California. The website ( references many quotes from legendary writers and musicians, as well as to comparing the wine industry and their wines to the entertainment industry (mostly movies and music).

The wine was consumed over two days. The first day we did not decant and upon first taste I deemed it was unnecessary as it had superseded my expectations. It had the hallmark full flavored California fruit, nicely fine grained tannins and ample acidity to balance out the fruit. Classic aromas of cassis, cherry and oak rose from the glass. The palate was fresh cherries and cocoa with an herbal note on the back and the finish. Clean and pure, the wine finished off with those supple tannins and acidity. The second day the wine was even better. It added a few more layers of complexity. Blackberry and plum now mixed with the cherry, oak and herbal aromas and flavors. The cocoa turned into dark, rich chocolate. Sadly we only had about a glass and a half left. Most wines in this price category turn bad after a day being opened. I used no gas to preserve the wine. Just a bottle stopper (clamp style) and the refrigerator! Simply amazing!

Were not done yet! The fruit is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (I would guess about 85-95%) from Rutherford and Oakville (excellent sub-appellations in the Napa Valley – Hello! Paul Hobbs, Schrader, Provenance, Plumpjack, Cakebread, BV, Mondavi Reserve, Opus One, Silver Oak, Rudd, Screaming Eagle are Oakville/Rutherford sourced Cabernet) ) with the addition of a minute portion of Syrah. This is great considering most people cut their Cabernet with Merlot. You just don’t find many wines of this pedigree and quality for under $20, let alone under $15! I will be buying a case VERY soon! There is also a “California Cabernet” and I will be trying to source some over the next few weeks and will blog it if it turns out to be as good a deal as the Napa Valley bottling. This will be my house red for the foreseeable future!


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