Tamarack Cellars Has a “Harmonious” 2012 Cab Sauv

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars Cab Sauv 2012

This wine exhibits, as do many varietal expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, the harmony of flavors that this grape can achieve in the finished wine and in blending it with many other grapes.  Tamarack Cellars has chosen a traditional blend of grapes (86% is Cab Sauv, 8% is Cabernet Franc, and 6% is Merlot).  Bordeaux has it right when it blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, the addition of Syrah was a blend that was first used in the early days of Bordeaux.

Cabernet has backbone and muscle but lacks gentleness until age has mellowed its punch.  There is a richness in the mid palate of Merlot that seems to make Cab rounder and smoother, and it does the job in this Tamarack blend.  There is also a similarity with Cabernet Franc that can, in leaner years, add to Cab’s herbaceousness, but when harvested fully ripe, can blend and enrich Cabernet’s offering of blackcurrant as it seems to do in this example.

The winemakers have gone to great measures to preserve the individuality of each vineyard and variety to blend without first muddying the pool.  The result is a harmonious blend of flavors and texture that is to be celebrated in this wine.

The wine needs more age to show at its best.  Somewhat closed, a bit of breathing can help.  On the nose is the richness of vanilla, a hint of smoke at first, and fruit flavors that have married into a harmonious and glorious whole.  It is very complex and appealingly smooth, with fine but strong tannins that should marry more as it ages.  There is a little minerality and the acid is in beautiful balance to the point of it not being noticeable except for its mouth watering effect.  To me, this is acid balance in perfection.

Because of its harmony, this is a wine that does not stand up tall and say, “This is who I am,” but rather delivers a dose of complex pleasure and velvety softness that creeps up on you and creates emotions that are all to do with its soothing melody and its contrasting rich, complex power.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  Loads of soft-hued dark fruit and oak lusciousness.  The same emotions as when you fall into a feather pillow, but one well stuffed and firm as well as soft.

Available: from the winery.  Also try wine.com and/or wine searcher.com.

Cabernet Franc and Appalachian Oak — A Great Partnership

Creekside Cellars Cabernet Franc, 2012 (Appalachian Oak Barrels)Creekside Cellars Franc 2012

Cabernet Franc is known for its elegant juicy, fruity aromas:  blackberry, raspberry, red cherry, some black currant, mintyness, and sometimes grass and herbs in its impression.  At times, it can taste and smell like underripe Cabernet Sauvignon, but there are no minty or grassy aromas in this 2012 Cabernet Franc from Creekside Cellars in Evergreen, Colorado!  Juicy aromas are everywhere, leaping on the palate and, yes, with the signature reminder of pencil shavings.  It’s a beautiful marriage of leather, smoke, clove, and caramel with mouthwatering fruit.  The nose is very appealing.

This example was aged for 24 months in Appalachian Oak.  Appalachian Oak Barrels are widely used and offer on the nose some pepper and spice, of which you will get a hint in this wine.  Some oaks impart sweetness to the wine, but the Appalachian Oak does not, leaving the acids to shine.  It can give a creamy, and some say lemony, finish to the wine.  Elegance can be offered when Franc is nurtured in this oak barrel and I especially like the wine for its elegance and grip, if the two can go together in your imagination.

Creekside’s Franc is varietal in character with a medium concentration.  It is well-framed with great balance, sporting fine tannins that are not without the grip I mentioned.  Food is what it calls for with that pleasing, arresting texture, and it goes well with many cheeses, sauces that are rich in character, meats (white and red) and those earthy flavors of mushroom and truffle.

The 2012 vintage was a good year for Colorado and this wine proves it.  Well made and clean (always at this winery), this Creekside offering is more proof that Colorado grapes can stand proudly with other regions.  A slight gravely minerality in this wine and a leaning to Old World style exemplifies the character of the vineyard’s soils.

Rating: 90

Emotional rating?  Lovers of elegance in a red wine with a will to stand bold with food will rate this one very high.

Availability:  at the winery in downtown Evergreen, Colorado or from their website.  Call for information on shipping to your state.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.


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Colterris Cabernet Franc 2013 – Stunning!

IMG_1434Colterris has excellent vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.  A smaller vineyard of Petit Verdot rounds out their choices.  I have tasted, from 2009 to the present, notable Colterris Cabernet Sauvignons.  Malbec is still young and beginning to produce, but their Cabernet Franc is a wine that may outclass their previous successes.

The wine is a deep ruby, almost opaque, bright and clear.  The varietal character is demonstrated with a herbaceous note that is expected in the Cabernet family but not overdone or crudely dominant as it is in some Francs.  Complex notes waft out of a pleasing base of harmonious fruit and oak.  Aromas of licorice, coffee grounds, black current, pencil shavings, and vanilla with a pleasant floral quality rise from a viscous, juicy wine.  Mineral characteristics will call to mind the warm gravel of the Colterris vineyards.  The acids keep the wine fresh and vibrant, cleaning the fattiness of rich foods, which it would naturally enhance.

Cabernet Franc is a wine that is finding new appeal around the world.  It is usually forgotten that one of the Bordeaux heavy weights, Chateau Cheval Blanc, a St. Emillion first growth, is about two-thirds Cabernet Franc.  Colorado has a future with this grape that seems to find another home in its Grand Valley AVA.  The expression it finds in Colterris’s 2013 vintage displays lower tannins, color, and body than a full Cabernet Sauvignon but for Franc, it is rich and in great balance with a polished, smooth texture and a medium to long finish.  All Cabernet Sauvignon lovers could do well to try this highly rated wine.

Rating:  91+

Emotional rating?  Let me weigh in:  It is an emotional delight, a wine to be remembered at an appealing 96 points!


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EXPERIENCING COLORADO WINE, Volume 2: The Whites and Rosés! 



You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.


These books entertain, educate, and entice readers to experience Colorado wine!

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Harvest Fest at Colorado’s Holy Cross Abbey Winery

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey sits on the property of the Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

Blessing of the Harvest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Harvest Fest

City, Colorado.  A history of winemaking by the Abbey has now turned into a modern winery (owned by Larry Oddo) that honors the traditions of the past.  Each Harvest Fest is blessed by a Father of the Roman Catholic Church and this year’s event set a record at approximately 4000 in attendance for the two-day event.

This was a great opportunity to experience the way Colorado celebrates the vine.  A surprise (and “truly Colorado”) was the churning of home made ice cream, powered by a donkey on a “treadmill.”


This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

This donkey is making real homemade ice cream!

The winery’s  new winemaker, Jeff Stultz, produced 2011 Revelation that won “Best New World Generic Proprietary Red Wine” in March of 2014 at the Jerry Mead International competition.

I tasted a vertical of their Cabernet Sauvignons and could clearly see the skill and experience of the winemaking.  Here are the notes from the evaluations of the current reds created by their current winemaker, Jeff Stultz.

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2012  A strong blackcurrant aroma, with light herbal edges and underlined with blackberry, greets you boldly.  The herbaceousness for which Cabernet is known is controlled.  While still juicy and fresh, the wine’s attack is very much like a young Bordeaux.  Its medium weight on the palate is supported by a strong structure.  The wine should develop more complexity as it ages, although it would dress a grilled steak very well as it is.  This is a wine to lay down for 2-3 years with a longevity of 10 or more, depending on how it develops.  It should reward wonderfully.  Allow it to breathe in the glass for an hour to smooth its power a little.  The wine is a quality wine with a food friendly medium finish.

A small portion of the 2014  record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

A small portion of the 2014 record crowd at the Harvest Festival at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

Syrah, 2012:  Bluish red in color (sporting its youth), this Syrah is abundant with raspberry and pepper notes on the nose that lead to even more spice on the palate.  Notice that the fruit does not display its full power on the nose but increases through the palate to the finish like a grand crescendo.  The acids are racy and razor edged and the bite remains to the end for a real cleansing effect.

Cabernet Franc, 2012:  Beautifully graduated from the core to the rim with a youthful red color.  Dark fruits flood the aroma and a brightness gives indication of a lively wine.  A sleek balanced palate, medium in weight, is a platform for the brightness and blackness of the blackcurrant and raspberry fruit.  This is another excellent wine and it finishes with a balance of acid, fruit and tannin that leave you feeling like “more.”  Also, it displays a medium length on the finish with acid that refreshes but does not bite.  This is a very good Colorado expression of the grape.  Colorado is defining its expression of Cabernet Franc as having more of the richness of the new world, but still with hints of the stoniness of the soils in which it is grown.  Science can make no connection between soil and the flavors of the grape, but tasters can tell.  See if you can get hints of stone and dry rock.

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012:  Deep ruby, the nose displays more of the fruit than the reserve wine and less of the herbs.  In fact, they are almost hidden.  No indication of VA tingles in your nose and you are quickly introduced to a rich mouthful of fruit.  The tannins are a little more pronounced than the reserve wine, but fine and mainly oak derived.  This is a good buy.  There is plenty of acid to make it a food-friendly wine and to suggest, like the reserve, that it can do with a year or more maturing in the bottle for even more rewarding flavors.

Merlot Reserve, 2012:   This is a Merlot worthy of a close examination.  Deep ruby and with acids that expand in the mouth, its strong tannins for a Merlot will please the Cab drinkers and its black fruit, led by blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum notes, create an aroma and palate that is plush.  The plum enriches the sensual delight that Merlot is expected to provide.  Silky sensations smooth out a strong structure.  This is another wine that can do with a little time and would love some food.  It is powerful for a Merlot and should enhance a steak meal and entertain the big and bold wine drinker.

Ratings:  All wines would rate in the 86-90 range.

Emotional rating:  Very good — will improve with age as the tertiary flavors develop.


You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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Sassicaia and Super Tuscans

SassicaiaThe wine world has been shocked more than once by unexpected achievements.  In the 1970’s, a wave, described by some in Italy as an advance and others as a horrifying departure from tradition, shocked the wine world.  In the last 30 years or so Italian wine has undergone huge improvements and won international attention in a way it never has before.  The wave (the emergence of the Super Tuscans) added a new name and spurred this surge in quality of Italian wine.

Marketed by Antinori, these wines, in particular Sassicaia and Tignanello, won world-wide acclaim in a hurry.  In 1978, Sassicaia won first place in a prestigious international tasting conducted by a no less prestigious magazine, Decanter.  That Italy would beat French wines and those from 11 other countries created quite a stir.  This is a highly priced wine, but the lessons we can discern from tasting it need to be learned, at least from reading — better still from tasting.

  1. Wines are built for aging or for immediate consumption and this wine, along with its counterparts in Bordeaux, is made for the long haul.  I tasted it young and was not disappointed, but wait a few years and the wine will be much more giving.  We can tell a wine is made for aging by the power of its tannins and the firm structure of the wine, among other things.  When young it will usually be tight — a word tasters use to suggest the wine has much more in terms of flavor and aroma that is hiding behind the strong tannins and has not yet been released.  When the tannins soften, the flavors will pop.
  2. When you encounter a wine that is tightly wound but you want to enjoy it now, serve it with some rich protein — in this case with a rib eye, perhaps — and the tannins will be softened somewhat by the protein, releasing more of the fruit.
  3. When you taste a great wine, the tannins will no doubt be fine, not course and rough in texture.  Strength and texture are two different qualities of tannin to be observed separately.  Compare this in your memory with a black tea that has been brewed for 5 or more minutes and you will not mistake the textural difference of the tannins in the wine and the tea.  Fine tannins make for a better wine.
  4. This wine is a perfect example of a great European wine.  It is not made to be a fruit bomb or even to focus on the fruit.  Fruit, tannin, acid, and alcohol are all balanced beautifully with the obvious addition of minerality, which is like the finishing touch on an Old World wine.  Therefore, it may seem to some to be a little more austere when it really is not.  It is waiting for its debut a few years out.  As it ages, the wine’s elements will marry, softening more and producing a wine that changes with its age much like humans mellow and change.
  5. Great Old World wines can also be said to be both soft and aggressive.  This is one of the pleasures of drinking the best of the Old World.  The wines both attack and soothe.

If you have a chance to taste this wine, note these lessons and any others that you might discover as you taste.  You will have been treated to a measure of what a very great wine from the Old World is meant to be.

For those who are curious, here are a few of my notes:

Firm tannins and structure, tightly wound.  Perfectly balanced and stimulates the mouth with a velvety touch.  Citric and lactic acids dominate because of the malolactic fermentation.  This also means the wine can be approached while young without pummeling your senses.

The flavors are many:  blackberry, blackcurrant, toast, cedar, dark chocolate, and already hints of leather with some coffee beans and their slight bitterness (what the Italians call amore) from the tannins (but not in any way offensive).  Cabernet Sauvignon 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%, 24 months in French oak barriques.

Rating: 94

Emotional rating: 94 and rising!  Salute!


You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my book, “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

GET YOUR COPY during our “SUMMER OF WINE” Sale at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine