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2002 Stephen Vincent Cabernet

I've been searching for a group of small production wines that I can serve at an upcoming big party for over 100 people. (It's a birthday party, but I've started to look at it as a testbed for picking wedding wine). I've settled on a Chardonnay and a Syrah, but I wanted to find something in the Cabernet or Merlot category that might appeal to red wine drinkers who were a little more mainstream in their tastes and who might not appreciate the fruit bomb of the Syrah. I also wanted it to not break the bank.

I did some asking around and came up with this nice little wine from Stephen Vincent. Like the Castle Rock Pinot I reviewed some weeks ago it is made from excess grapes and even excess wine (!) bought on the market and then consultant blended into a final product that like the Castle Rock is surprisingly good. Don't look for this to blow your socks off, but I'd bet in a blind tasting it would fare pretty well against some wines two or three times its cost and many times its reputation. It's a highly accessible wine, prompting one of my dining partners (a devoted Syrah fan) to claim it was one of the first Cabernets she's really truly enjoyed.

Tasting Notes:
Blood red in the glass, this wine has a subdued nose of cedar, mushrooms, black tea, and red currant. The dry body of the wine has smooth tannins and very mellow fruit flavors dominated by young (unripe) cherry and red currant. Despite having some oak on it, the wine comes off as light, partially because of its acidity and also because of its low alchohol content (13%). It's very drinkable wine, but the flavor profile is overall a little flat, without the dynamism you would expect from a good Cab. In this way it is a little more like Spanish or Argentinian Cabernets that I have had -- mellow, earthier, and more linear.

Food Pairing:
I brought this bottle to a local Italian restaurant in my area, and was actually pleased at how it did with the flavors of the meal. Because of its lighter more earthy tones it complemented the slightly sweet tomato based sauces and garlic of the meal quite well. At home I'd serve it with an herbed beef stew or something that had a nice meat and sweet tomato and herb component.

Overall Score: 7.5/8

How much?: $9

You can find this wine many many places (including some restaurants at $7 a glass - ouch). K&L carries it in San Francisco and a search on Froogle will get you many other merchants.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud