Sneak previews of the 2012 Vintage in a tremendous tasting event


This past Monday on May 6th, the California Cabernet Society put on their Spring tasting event. The tasting consisted of current Cabernet releases and barrel tastings of the 2012 vintage. The wineries present were from all over California including Napa and Sonoma as well as the Central Coast.


The event was held at the Bentley Reserve in San Francisco’s financial district. An elegant setting to show off these world-class wines. Tasty aged cheeses and artisan breads and meats were expertly provided by Winery Chefs.


The Cabernet Sauvignon varietal is unquestionably king in every wine growing country in the world and was the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Cabernet is thought to have arrived in California in 1862 by Hungarian-American pioneer Agoston Haraszthy whose first plantings were at his Buena Vista Ranch in what now is Carneros. Today over 75,000 acres are planted to Cabernet from Lake County in the North to Paso Robles to the South. Napa and Sonoma have the greatest reputation for quality but new regions such as Happy Canyon, Red Hills, Paso Robles, and Livermore are quickly gaining solid reputations as well. We also found in our tasting that overlooked Napa AVAs such as Calistoga and Coombsville are producing outstanding wines as we’ll detail below.

The California Cabernet Society was founded in 1991 by 40 small wineries in order to promote their wines to the trade, press, and to consumers. Indeed, many of the wineries were new to us but most if not all made a very big impression on our tasters.

2012 Barrel Samples

Nothing gets a wine geek more excited than getting a sneak peek at an upcoming vintage. When it’s one that had near perfect growing conditions such as 2012, well that’s even better.

The 2012 growing season in both Napa and Sonoma had virtually no damaging weather events. No late frost or freak late rains or major brush fires that presented problems found in recent vintages. A few heat spikes did cause some issues in the Paso Robles areas but most experts feel this will affect quantity more than quality.

If the 28 samples we tried are any indication, 2012 will be a truly memorable vintage. Many of the famous qualities such as feathery tannins and smokey oak were not yet present this early. What most did have in common was big fruit and delicate floral notes such as the Diamond Creek, Louis Martini, Keenan, Jordan, Adelaide, Ackerman, Bell and Volker Eisele. Others had a surprising early balance such as the Steven Kent, Diamond Creek, Guilliams, Linked, and Mario Bazan. The Faust sample had some nice early coffee notes on the nose as well as big fruit. All showed great promise. We are counting the days until these start being released to see how they turn out!

Current Vintages


The current releases from these producers were nothing short of amazing. As we mentioned earlier, many of these small producers were unknown to us. We have some wines below that stood out to us but rest assured all of the wines presented are worth seeking out. Not a bad one in the bunch!

The Napa Contingent Did Not Disappoint
When you think California Cab. Napa is probably your first thought. These were some of our favorites:

Big Mountain Wines Make a Big Impression

Keenan 2009 Reserve Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
This outstanding wine is a wonderful example of Spring Mountain’s magic. Keenan blended two different Cab. clones from their Spring Mountain property with 15% estate Cab. Franc to create this elegant Cabernet. Delightful nose and big mountain fruit lead the way with a sumptuous mouth feel and long finish. Great balance. This is drinking so well it would be hard to cellar but will certainly gain nuance for the next 8-10+ years.

Guilliams Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Another wine sourced from Spring Mountain, the Guilliams Cab. is bold and big but has wonderful balance and elegance. This is a huge Cab. that has enough subtlety to work nicely with grilled beef or perhaps some fava bean puree.  Sourced entirely from their Spring Mountain Estate, the big mountain fruit and soft tannins make this a new favorite.

Trinchero 2009 Haystack Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Amazing mountain greatness from Atlas Peak. Dark mountain berry, subtle cassis, cocoa and cedary spice all come together in a rich opulent but wonderfully balanced wine. Plenty of aging potential but drinks superbly now.

Diamond Creek’s 2009 offering from the fabulous Diamond Mountain was also quite impressive!

Score One For The Chiles Valley

Volker Eisele 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
This was our first wine sourced from the Chiles Valley and we were very impressed! This blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc was fantastic. Big dark berry flavors abound with rich tannins and great balance. Nice graphite hints on the long finish.

Coombsville Coming Out Party
The Coombsville AVA has been on our radar for the past year. This was our first real look and we loved these wines.

Faust 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine was crafted from a blend of Coombsville and Rutherford fruit. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc make up this beautiful big wine. Wonderfull dark berry and hints of dark roast coffee on the nose lead to lush dark berry and cassis on the mid. Finish is plenty long with some hits of oak and spice. Another finely balanced wine. This will get better and better with age.

Ackerman Family Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Plenty of dark berry and plum but also has some very nice bright cherry notes that you don’t see in most Napa Cabs. Finish is long and soft with hints of chocolate and smokey oak. Tannins are quite firm but are balanced nicely. Very impressive wine.

Rocca Family Vineyards 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Collinetta Vineyard
Another winner from Coombsville! Big bold dark berry flavors burst from the glass but with great balance and finesse. A great wine for grilled steaks or braised beef ribs. The subtleties of this wine make it a fine food companion.

Sonoma Shows It’s Stuff

Jordan 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Sourced from Sonoma’s infamous Alexander Valley, this blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec easily held its own against the bigger Napa wines. This more “Bordeaux like” food friendly wine was quite impressive. Blackberry and dark cherry flavors abound with subtle and balanced tannins. Nice elegant finish with hints of spice and oaky vanilla.

Other Sonoma standouts included the Linked Vineyards 2008 Cabernet from Knights Valley, the Sebastiani 2010 Cherry Block Cabernet, and the Louis Martini 2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet. The Martini Monte Rosa was also exceptional!

Down South

Livermore, Santa Ynez, and Paso Robles also had some great wines. The Steven Kent Lineage wines from Livermore were simply astounding. They poured the 2009 and 2010. Both were favorites. The Star Lane 2008 Cab. from Happy Canyon and Adelaida Cellars 2009 Cabernet from Paso Robles were both terrific as well. These wines were sweeter than the Napa/Sonoma offerings which opens up some nice food pairing options.


As is always the case, Sam Peters and his staff made this a very memorable event. The hospitality was spot on and made focusing on the wines easy. The wine makers, proprietors, and staff for each winery couldn’t have been more pleasant and knowledgeable about their wines.

The great thing about tasting events such as these is that you can try the new barrel samples and compare them with older established vintages. This gives one an idea of where the wine will go in time. We truly recommend our readers attend a few of these events every year. Not only can you find new favorites but you can learn volumes about wine in general in a single afternoon.

Very well done. Can’t wait until next year!

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