Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Johnson Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006

After having tried and really enjoyed the Johnson Family Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, I had very high hopes that there Cabernet Sauvignon would be another great find at a very reasonable price. Johnson Family is not actually a winery, but as I understand it, a negociant type business of David Bowler Wine, although they seem to be keeping this information as quiet as possible.

The Chardonnay and I believe also the Pinot Noir were made by a very well known and well respected winemaker in Sonoma, and both are outstanding values. This 2006 Cabernet is rumored to be made by a very well known and well respected consulting winemaker for numerous Napa Valley wineries. The fruit comes from Coombsville which is just east of the city of Napa and south and east of most of the better known Napa Valley growing areas. Slightly cooler than most of the rest of Napa Valley, Coombsville is an area that is generating some buzz in the valley as they are working towards becoming an official AVA (American Viticultural Area). The slightly cooler temperatures allow for longer and slower ripening of the Cabernet grapes, and at least in theory that should yield great results.

Knowing what I know about Coombsville and how much I liked the other Johnson Family wines, I went into this tasting with pretty high expectations for the Cab. Unfortunately it did not live up to my somewhat lofty expectations. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad wine or a horrible value, but in my mind it has some flaws and is simply a fair value at a price point of about $18.

In you glass the Johnson Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 brings intense, deep purple color. The nose brings some very nice fruit aromas of blackberry, cassis, and plum; however, the fruit does get a little lost in all the alcohol which was still overpowering on the nose after 2 hours of decanting. At 15.5% , the alcohol can be a bit overwhelming. I have to say that 15% seems to be the magic number for me when it comes to alcohol. I can enjoy wines right up to 15% alcohol, but as a general rule anything even a couple tenths of a percent over that is just too much for me. In your mouth the wine is fruit forward with blackberry and cassis flavors and a rich, full bodied mouthfeel. The tannins are pretty strong and a bit harsh (I’ll say again that I did decant this for two hours), and I’m a guy who really likes tannins. There is also a bit of a burnt oak taste on the finish which overwhelms the fruit. This in combination with the harsh tannins, leads me to believe that there was either too much new oak used in the aging of this wine, or the barrels were simply toasted too much. I should also note that my wife and tasting partner here at A Couple of Wines enjoyed the fruit flavors in this wine so much that she was not bothered by the strong tannins or what I considered to be too much oak.

From a pairing standpoint this wine was actually pretty good with a prime steak I had on the grill. All the marbling in the meat coated the taste buds enough to counter those strong tannins and allow the fruit to come through. When I had a glass on its own after dinner though, I found this wine to be over the top in tannins, oak, and alcohol.

If your looking for something that has the muscle to stand up to a prime steak in the under $20 category, this might fit the bill depending on your palate. Just know that you might get a lot more muscle, alcohol, and tannins than you hoped for. There is also a 2007 vintage which was just recently released. I'm very curious to see how that one turns out. I think the Coombsville fruit they used in 2006 has great potential if it sees less new oak.


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