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Friday Fishwrap
You Know What You Can Do With Your Cult Cabernets

By Charles Olken

I like expensive wines as much as the next guy. I just can't afford them. Some writers get to taste them if they show up at the winery hat in hand and sample the wine with the labels showing and the owner, the winemaker and the family dog in attendance. That's not my style.

Some writers will go to those giant tastings with hundreds of wines being poured, elbow their way to the front of the line for a half ounce pour, taste the wine standing up, knowing what it is and then write about it, complete with score. That's not my style either.

I don't say this lightly, but I don't know of any cult Cabernet that is tasted and evaluated in a comparative blind tasting against its peers. It's hard to blame the wineries. They are at the top of the heap. Why mess with success? It's hard to blame the writers, and their names start with Advocate and Spectator, for doing what they have to do to get access to those otherwise unavailable wines. But before you go admiring those folks for their importance because they bring you reviews of Screaming Eagle and Harlan, of Littorai and Kistler, remember this. No matter how much they or their supporters argue that you can trust those results, you must take them with a grain of salt.


No Subject
by daniel macsweeney
Posted on:5/6/2011 11:51:25 AM

I agree, however I can already hear Thomas Matthews clicking away his rebuttal.  Stating the same thing over and over and over doesn't make it true.

by steven bialek
Posted on:5/7/2011 9:09:41 AM

could not agree more, take with a giant tablespoon of salt!

by Barrel Builder
Posted on:5/8/2011 1:23:56 PM

I have been waiting all weekend for someone nicer than me to ask you the question. What is it we are supposed to do with our cult cabernets? No one wants to question you so I will.

What's your problem, mate?
by Troy
Posted on:5/8/2011 7:43:16 PM

I'm just going to have to try what you are talking about!

Where To Start
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:5/8/2011 8:19:35 PM


I guess if I were in the barrel business, I would like cult Cabs too. I mean, all that good wood.

But, you are right in a way. The title of the piece does not really get answered. Taking their reviews with a grain of salt is pretty mild. We all do that, don't we. Heck, I take my own reviews with a grain of salt, and I think they are right.

But, my kind of seasoning has more to do with value than anything else. It is the rare day that I buy a wine with a three-digit price tag. Sure, I do now and then I will admit to liking the recent Staglins, Shafer Hillsides, Phelps Insignias. I am very fond of Pol Roger Cuvee Winnie. I buy a couple of those. But, when it comes to loading the cellar, you can bet that I season my purchases with a little respect for my wallet.

Wine whar else
Posted on:5/9/2011 1:46:04 PM

Hello Charlie . First congratulations and thank you for the enhanced connisuers guide  In my former mpre prosperous life I got to taste many cult wines and all the big boy:s {unfortunately not sreaming eagle } Whenever possible I arranged to blind taste against strong contenders with a predictable trend  In a blind tasting of the best and most pricey of the field  a carefully chosen much less expensive  cabernet  can  usually be equal to  and often is preferred by a  experienced tasting group . . Shaeffer Hillside , insignia, Harlan etc are usually a bottle of joy but then again as has been said before it is easy to recommend a 150.00 . bottle  We are going to the valley next week and as we like big ripe wines without apology we will spring for some Darioush . Finally my question . In years past with your guidance we drank a lot of turnbull cabernet and it was the quitesenntial bang for the buck  go to wine for us Have you tried the 2007 and what do you think . In the alternative if a friend was visiting the valley next week what 60.00 or so cabernet would if it exists have the deep long finish  and fruit filled mouthfeel  we are looking for . Cheers Robert   

Lush Ripe CS--No Apologies
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:5/9/2011 2:26:04 PM


If Darioush is your cup of richness, then the very next name on my list is Kuleto. This winery is off the valley floor to the east above Lake Hennessy, which means above Chappellet, Colgin and others. The Cabs and everything else are big, ripe, rich and mouthfilling. And the propetry is, to my taste, one of the very finest for a great and memorable visit.

You might also consider the wines of Bacio Divino and Von Strasser, although I can't speak to the first as I have not visited with them. Von Strasser is on Diamond Mountain so a fair bit of a drive from Kuleto and certainly rich but less bombastic winemaking. I believe that you would need to make an appointment at any of the places mentioned except Darioush, of course, which is also a rather amazing visit in its own right.

Drop a line when you get back if you have a chance. You can do it through the CONTACT button on the website or directly to I'm sure that our readers would love to hear your first-hand impressions.



Bragging Rights
by David Vergari
Posted on:5/12/2011 8:41:00 AM

Is it just me or does it seem like the majority of people one runs into who collect Cult Cabs (gawd, such a term!) just looooove to talk about their treasures.  It was baseball cards in my youth, now it's over-valued wine.  Just wondering...

Bragging Rights
by Charles E. Olken
Posted on:5/12/2011 8:57:19 AM


I don't pal around with folks who collect cult Cabs, but I do know one who does, and the last time I saw him, I was taken to his wine cellars (plural inteneded) where he showed me his latest treasures and explained how he would sell some of them off at auction at inflated prices.

I must be missing something. I have as much wine as he does, but I have never sold a bottle. Wine is to drink as far as I am concerned. Of course, I don't have an Eagle in the house, screaming or otherwise.

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