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.