Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Matthiasson Red Wine and Cabot Klamath Cuvee

A few weeks ago, I wrote about red blends as a growing wine category. I personally find blends often make more complete and complex wines than varietal wines. Aroma, flavor or texture characteristics that may be missing from a single variety can be filled by another grape. It is amazing to see that as little as 1% of a variety blended in truly can completely transform a wine. Blending is also a useful tool for a winemaker to create as good of a wine as he or she can each year. Weather conditions in back-to-back vintages can treat cultivars quite differently, so by playing with the cépage (percentage of each variety of grapes in the composition of a blended wine) can adjust the characteristics of the finished wine.

I find that many wineries take two different approaches to blends. The first is to make the blend their grand vin - top wine. The best lots are used to build the best wine possible. Often with this approach, the same cultivars are used to create the blend. The cépage may change - or it may stay exactly the same - but the building blocks generally are the same each year. Perhaps certain vineyards, or blocks, are selected for the vintage characteristics each provide. What is "leftover" after the blend is finalized can then be sold as varietal wine or different blend (or off in bulk anonymously).

The second approach is to create a blend after all the varietal, single-vineyard, and premium blends have been finalized. This approach can be perfect for creating great value wines - if the winemaker still takes care in making sure the blend works. All too often, simply throwing all the "leftover" wine together doesn't produce a high-quality wine. Today's wines are examples of both these approaches, and both are beautiful wines in their own right.

Matthiasson 2010 Red Wine
My wife's birthday was this past week and to celebrate I opened a bottle of Matthiasson 2010 Red Wine (13.1% abv, Purchased $90). I've written about Matthiasson before here and here, but never about their top red wine. This wine is their attempt at crafting a classic, balanced and age-worthy red wine in the style of old-school Bordeaux (or old-school Napa). Priced above their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietal wines, the blend for the 2010 is roughly 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot - much like traditional claret. Being from Napa, the fruit is obvious on the nose. Both blue and red fruit aromas are complemented by more savory elements. Taking a sip reveals an elegance and finesse of the fruit melding with olive, black tea, rosemary, and thyme flavors with a touch of worn leather thrown in for good measure. There is a depth of the flavors, a purity of the tannins and a brightness of the acidity that keeps you yearning for another sip. Also, the 13.1% alcohol is refreshing when compared to many of the high-alcohol fruit bombs coming out of Napa. This is definitely a wine that will reward those patient enough to let it rest for a decade - or two.

Cabot Vineyards 2007 Klamath Cuvee
Unlike the Matthiasson Red Wine, the Cabot Vineyards 2007 Klamath Cuvee (13.8% abv, Purchased $20) is the least expensive wine in their lineup. I actually purchased this wine two years ago during the annual BerserkerDay event over on Wineberserkers.com as part of a six-vintage vertical for $16.67 per bottle. It has been fascinating to see at how the blend changes from year to year. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Viognier have all been a part of the various blends. Some years Cab was the predominant variety. Other years it was Syrah and yet others it was Zinfandel. The 2007 is roughly 80% Syrah, 18% Merlot, and 2% Viognier (I've seen various percentages published). A true northern California wine - grown all the way up in Humboldt County - this wine offers an expression of what cool-climate winemaking is about. The fruit is almost secondary in this wine. The nose starts off with mesquite smoke, some white pepper, and a touch of grilled meat. The tart raspberry and sour cherries come through on the palate along with the mesquite and leather all strung along a tightrope of acidity. It is great with food and quite the value at $20 (or less if you can pick some up on January 27 during this year's BerserkerDay...)

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