Sunday, November 8, 2009

STARS of Cabernet

Last Thursday, JD and I were privileged to attend LearnAboutWine's seventh annual STARS of Cabernet event at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. We were joined by our friend, Debra B., which whom we had dined at Palate a couple of weeks ago. Ian assembled a truckload of some of the most interesting producers in California. We did our best, but I'm pretty sure we weren't able to taste half of the wines there. We did, however, taste some GREAT Cabernets and blends, and got the chance to refresh or develop relationships with some terrific wine folks.

On the way in, we somehow skipped the first table and went directly to A. Rafanelli, where Patti and Stacey Rafanelli were pouring the 2006 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A perfect way to start the evening. We perused the program, deciding to narrow the choices down to specific wineries we either had never tasted, or loved so much, we needed to taste more.

Highlights of the evening:

2006 Continuum, Proprietary Blend, Oakville. Continuum is Robert Mondavi's grandson, Carlo, who was good enough to take off his knitted hat for a picture. I tasted this wine last year, and blown away by it. I was again bowled over by the wine. Complex, delicious. And Carlo was so pleased that his wine was being received well. It's important to him to continue his grandfather's work. This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 16% Petit Verdot.

We spent way too much time talking to Clay Mauritson about his Loam Single-Soil Wines, a relatively new labor of love from a winemaker already known for his Mauritson Wines in Healdsburg. Clay spoke eloquently about what he calls the geologic legacy, revealing the exemplary characteristics of each of particular soil series. Fascinating! And the wines, each named for the specific soil in which the vines are grown, are delicious and complex - and very different from each other despite the fact they are all the same clone. Terroir, indeed! Check the website -

Another discovery was Palmaz Vineyards, a state-of-the-art endeavor by the family of the doctor who developed the surgical stent. The wines were outstanding - Christian and Jessica Palmaz are justifiably proud of their amazing Cabs.

Other favorites of the evening:
Poem Cellars - You might say this is the love child of Joey Wolosz and Jeff Durham, whose wines are named Marriage, Elope and Tastevin. I liked Marriage best - a big Cab with an amazingly floral nose. I wanted to wear it as perfume!

Peju Winery, of course. Fun folks, delicious wines.

Lancaster Estate - one of our favorites for many years. Deb couldn't get over the nose and the outright deliciousness of the Alexander Valley meritage. We were happy just to taste an old friend. So to speak.

Had a lovely visit with Dan Stotesbery of Ladera Vineyards. The Stotesberys bought the vineyard in 2000, keeping the history of the winery intact - it's haunted, by the way - but creating a state-of-the-art winemaking facility.

I just looked at the program again. Out of 39 tables we tasted at 15 and ran out of time. It was a terrific evening, benefiting the TJ Martell Foundation and Cancer Research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. I wish we had had time to taste more! Maybe next year. Cheers!

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