Fetzer Valley Oaks 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calibration Tasting

Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Hopland area of Mendocino County. The grapes come from many different vineyards, so forget terroir.  Any trace of locality is impossible to detect.

For your calibration purposes, we drank the wine with a black bean soup.  The soup was good and hot, but the wine was 72 degrees.  Anne had opened the bottle several hours earlier to use as part of the soup.

The color was very deep ruby.  The nose had a cassis – black currant – tinge to it along with a warm mulling spice hint as well.  The mouthfeel – how weighty or thick the wine feels in the mouth – was thin without any viscosity.

There was sufficient acids in the wines to cut through simple tomato sauces or the beef stock in our bean soup.  Still, the acids were somewhat out of balance – meaning there was more acid than fruit behind it and the alcohol was drying at the back of the palate.  Tannins – the puckery astringency common to barrels and fruity wines in general – were less of an issue.  Lower tannins make it easier to drink a wine sooner, so this wine is not a candidate for storage.  And speaking of balance, the percentage of alcohol, at 13.5%, is technically rather moderate (and downright paltry compared to some high-alcohol fruit bombs popular today), but it was still slightly noticeable in the mouth.

The bottom line is the Fetzer is a decent Tuesday night spaghetti wine with no pretensions of greatness.  Let’s face it, there are plenty of nights, like when you’re pooped and grumpy and a great bottle of wine just wouldn’t be appreciated. These are the nights for the Fetzer Valley Oaks.

It’s Calibration Time!

This week we’re doing a new calibration tasting.  What’s that, you ask?  Well, since we firmly believe that wine is a subjective experience, tasting notes by themselves can only tell you so much.  After all, say we write that we caught some cherry in the nose, and some light tannins on the finish.  So then you try that exact same wine and smell raisin and get some acid, instead.  Does that mean we don’t know what we’re writing about?  Does it mean you don’t know how to taste wine?

It means neither of those things.  The reality of any tasting experience is that different people catch different things – which is perfectly okay.  But it does make it a little weird when we write cherry and you don’t taste or smell cherry.

So to make life easier, on a quarterly basis (starting now), we’re going to do calibration tastings.  We have bought two wines that should be readily available in most supermarkets.  We’ll post one on Wednesday and the other on Friday.  You can buy the same wines, taste them yourself and see how we compare.  So that way, when we write cherry, you’ll know that you’re likely to taste raisin.  Or whatever.

In fact, if you want to buy your wines before Wednesday, why don’t you do your tasting notes before we post?  Then, please, comment.  We’d love to hear what you came up with.  After all, that’s what makes wine so wonderful.

And the wines are the BV Coastal Estates Chardonnay, 2008, and the Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007.  If you have trouble finding these, please let us know.  It will help for the next calibration.

One final note, on the whole issue of of reviewing, please note that we buy our wines and pay for most of our tastings.  About the only time we’ll use our press credentials is to get into a major group event, such as Hospice du Rhone (assuming we get the credentials for that one).  And we’ll generally let you know when we did get into an event on a press pass.  Part of that is Anne’s professional journalist background, and part of that is simple fair play.  We do not accept advertising from individual wineries for that reason.  Just so you know.