Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sly Dog

There was a very interesting wine last night that broke one of my cardinal rules about purchasing wine. Rule #1 says to buy no wine with an animal on the label without tasting it first. Rule #1a says the same thing about wines with animals in the name. Being a dog lover there is a possible exception to rule #1 and #1a if the animal in question is a canine. There was a large porterhouse steak waiting for the grill and some potatoes to be cooked in duck fat, and the weather was sunny and cool. That made it a red wine night.

Long story short - I purchased, untasted, a bottle of Sly Dog Cellars 2005 , Bin 92 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Hills Area of Lake County, California. Lake County is just north of Napa Valley. I invoked the exception for this wine because I was amazed to find a California Cabernet under 14% alcohol. This one checked in at 13.8%. It also checked in at $17.

While the steak and potatoes cooked the cork came out of the wine. The nose was very closed at first but eventually opened up with some dark fruit coming out with a hint of raspberry mixed in, all topped off with just a suggestion of vanilla. The taste was also a little restrained at first but finally the raspberries came out a little stronger and there was a darker fruit lying underneath them. The tannins were balanced and there was good acid in the wine. This was definitely not a heavy weight California Cabernet, but there are enough of them in the world as it is. The finish showed a little bit of pepper and a good touch of the darker fruit at the very end. For the price this is a very good wine, and it's nice to see a little restraint from a California winery.


jeffreyalanmiller said...

I want to thank you for being curious enough to try our wine, and also for your review. As winemakers, we live to create an experience such as yours. I especially want to thank you for considering a wine with a lower alcohol content as being something worth seeking out.
We strive for wines that are balanced, so that they go well with food and continue to be satisfying when those "over the top" wines have become flabby and cloying. To be balanced, wines need to have at least a moderate amount of acidity and tannin. Too many wines these days are too soft (low acidity, high alcohol, low tannins). These fluff-balls may make a good first impression, but that impression quickly fades. We want to make wines that, as you get to the bottom of the bottle, leave you yearning for more, not grateful that you’ve finally made it through a bottle whose beginning was auspicious, but ended up disappointing.
Again, thanks for your comments.
Jeff Miller
Artisan Family of Wines

Dan McGrew said...

You're more than welcome for the review because this is a good wine. Ten or so years ago my wines on hand were mostly California reds, but since that time I've gravitated more to European wines with lower alcohol and some restraint. 90% of what I drink is with food and I don't need to remind you of what a significant number of California reds do to food.

There are still some excellent reds from California - and it's nice to add another one, especially a very nicely priced one to the list.

One of my favorite wines from too long ago (early 80's) was from Lake County, Lower Lake Cabernet 1978. That's another reason I tried Sly Dog - past experience with the area.

jeffreyalanmiller said...

dan: i tried to find your email or some way of contacting you, but i couldn't, so i'm hoping you can respond to this comment. my email is
jeff miller
sly dog cellars