How could we resist a tasting of high end red wines at Artisan Wine Depot? We couldn’t and didn’t. The lineup included five pinots, four cabs, and three red blends. Suggested retail prices ranged from $36 (Copain’s Anderson Valley pinot noir) to $160 for the Revana 2009 cab. And we learned something we had suspected all along.
When the price of a bottle gets much over about $75, we are simply not able to appreciate the qualities that make it worth that much. You are welcome to argue about whether such qualities exist in the wine itself — we choose not to go down that road. We know that our taste buds, despite some formal training (thanks, John B at U.C. Davis), we are still pretty much amateurs compared to real professionals.
With that disclaimer, we’ll begin the review. All prices listed are the winery prices. Artisan was offering discounts that they (and we) are not allowed to advertise.
Pinot Noir Selections
The Copain 2010 “Tous Ensemble” from Anderson Valley ($36) opens with terrific aromas of black cherry, raspberry and cranberry. The palate is earthy with a little spice that does not live up to the promise made by the aromas. Note that the Copain website only offers the 2011 version of this wine at a price of $28.
There were two pinots from Freeman. The first, a 2011 Russian River Valley ($46), featured aromas of raspberry and blackberry followed by an olive and smoke flavor that really was not to our liking. A hint of butterscotch on the finish Their 2011 Sonoma Coast ($46) has lighter scents, earthier than the RRV with hints of tobacco. We liked this one enough to bring a bottle home..
Alexana’s 2009 “Revana Vineyard” from the Willamette Valley ($42) opens with very light aromas of brambleberry and cherry followed by flavors of licorice and dark fruit. It also features a great mouth feel, lingering on the palate.
Cabs and Other Reds
We began with the Kapcsandy 2009 “Endre” Proprietary Red blend (Napa Valley). Very drinkable but way overpriced at a list of $90. The flavors of sage, rosemary, wild cherries and tobacco did not suit our palates.
The aptly-named Leviathan 2010 Proprietary Red (Napa Valley) ($55) was loaded with oak and tannins. It might develop into something very nice in ten years or so. Our palates are not good enough to make that prediction with any certainty. Like any true cult winery, the Leviathan website requires registration before you can even see their wines.
Vineyard 29 2010 “Cru” cab (Napa Valley) ($65) was the first of this varietal. With a slight vegetal aroma, the flavor remains unidentifiable. It was not our favorite. (The website description: “Our 2010 Cru Cabernet is a deep purple tinged wine of extraordinary depth and complexity. Primary aromas of dried red currant, ripe blackberries and milk chocolate give way to layers of fresh tobacco leaf, dried lavender and cedar. A generous palate offers roasted coffee, mocha, brambly black fruits and a touch of black pepper that slip seamlessly into a long supple finish. Stunning in mouthfeel, this profoundly textured wine will leave you wanting more.” As far as we can tell, that description is way above the capabilities of our taste buds.)
But the Switchback Ridge 2010 cab (Napa Valley) ($100) was considerably better. Best description: inoffensive. And, for our palates, way, way overpriced. On the winery website the 2008 and 2009 vintages are available for $80 if you’d like to try a bottle at a somewhat lower price.
The Kobalt 2011 “Windowpane” Proprietary Red (Napa Valley) ($50) was a near-cab with 70% of that grape, just five percentage points short of the minimum required to label it a cabernet sauvignon. The preponderance of the remaining 30% is petite sirah, producing a pretty nice blend that was quite drinkable. But at this price we expect more than that.
Kobalt also featured their 2009 cab (Napa Valley) ($110). At this jaw-dropping price we knew we were out of our league. Flavors of spice and tannins, but overpriced. (The website only features the 2010 vintage.)
Kobalt’s wine page includes this disclaimer, worthy of any cult winery:
Revana’s 2009 cab (St. Helena, Napa Valley) ($160) was also overpriced for our palates. It did feature a terrific heavy mouth feel that would easily stand up to wild boar or venison. At this price, we have to quote the website description:
A supple blend of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the 2009 vintage is opulent and well-balanced. Dark and dense in color with aromas of lavender, cassis and earthy wild berry, this wine displays great depth.
It boasts stunning concentration on the palate with dark cherry, cacao, coffee bean and a hint of caramel. Finishing with full-bodied tannins, this wine exhibits an undeniable finesse.
You were warned. We will happily post any comments that can explain why the wines on this list priced above $60 are worth it. We should note that we have a number of bottles of pinot noir and others in our cellar from Hartford, Lynmar Estate, and RN Estate that are in the same price range. In our opinion, those are much better values.
But maybe we just don’t like the cabernet sauvignon grape.