December 23, 2007

2004 Pine Ridge Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

What I remember most about my trip to Pine Ridge winery is racing against the clock with the 'check engine' light of my car blinking trying to make a 12pm appointment for a winery tour and barrel tasting. My car didn't break down and we missed the cave tour and barrel tasting but we DID manage to visit the winery and spend some quality time at the winery drinking exceptional wine.. One of the staff that really stood out for us was Carl, an awesome person that spent a hour or so tasting wine and chatting with us about everything from the history of the winery to the changes the valley has gone through in recent years and even where the best places to dine in Los Angeles are. A few of the younger people working there were a bit snobby but we won't focus on that part of the trip.

Pine Ridge is located in the heart of the Stags Leap district in Napa Valley and focuses on producing wines which contain characteristics of the particular appellation the grapes are from. For instance the Howell Mountain Cab comes through with the robust tannins and black fruit the mountain is known for. Many of the wines I've had containing Howell Mountain fruit have been quite dense with syrupy components to them, and this is no exception. The whites are produced in high numbers - I think the Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay were both in the 10,000 case range but the real gems are the mid-priced Merlots, Cabs, and Bordeaux style blends. Many Pine Ridge wines have a green bell pepper characteristic to them that I really enjoy but sadly, it is missing in this wine. For any fans of bell pepper, check out their Cab Franc, which carries it in abundance (and is really good).

The Howell Mountain Cabernet is a blend of 89% Cab Sauv, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Merlot and 2% Tannat. The berries were hand sorted and aged for 17 months in French oak. This is not my favorite release from Pine Ridge and at the $85 price point I would probably opt for the Charmstone Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or the Rutherford Cab, all bottles about half the price with flavor profiles that I enjoy more. This is still a very good wine, not really my preference but something I would enjoy with a nice porterhouse steak and baked potato. I decanted this wine about 8 hours before drinking.

Tasting Notes:
Seductive scarlet/ maroon in the glass this wine had aromas of spice, currant, dark berry fruit and heavy molasses on the nose. After 8 hours in the decanter the nose was heavy with shoe polish, cherry, and molasses. Upon first pour there were some slightly unpleasant tea/ spice flavors going on which disappeared after 8 hours. This is a full bodied wine with some spice on the mid-palate that ends with blackberry and cherry flavors on the finish.

Score: 87

Price: $85

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