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2002 X Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

Why should wine lovers constantly be tasting wines, even from wineries that don't make great wines? Because they can, and sometimes do get better. Now I'm not saying you should be going out and buying cases of stuff from wineries whose wines you don't like. But what I am saying is don't write anyone off completely. Case in point: this wine from X Winery up in Napa. Their 2001 Cabernet was one of the first wines I tasted and wrote about after starting Vinography, and frankly I hated it. It was vegetal and tannic and really closed. I was probably unduly harsh on it at the time, perhaps I even had a bad bottle, but it really didn't do much for me. However, I had an opportunity to recently try their 2002 Cabernet, and what a difference. The '02 is a completely different wine and one that I would buy and recommend to others.

My earliest review of their wine was also a little short on the details about this winery, so let me fill some of them in. X Winery (and it's parent/sister label, Amicus) got its start relatively recently (2000?) as the brain child of Reed Renaudin, who, after getting multiple degrees in winegrowing and winemaking from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, spent time working for Gallo, Heitz, and Cuvaison before deciding to start his own gig.

X seems focused on leading edge technology as well as leading edge branding. From the use of Controlled Atmosphere Pressing (a technology that prevents the crushed grapes and their juices from coming into contact with oxygen in the attempt to preserve certain flavors which are believed to change with air exposure) to the use of naked women on their web site with the winery's logo tattooed on their backs, X seems focused on pushing the envelope of what winemaking is and how to sell the results. For this alone, they deserve some attention. When you couple that with their dedication to alternative packaging (they are experimenting with boxed wines) they're definitely one to keep an eye on.

X Winery got its name after a search for potential names yielded a list of a few possibilities, and to decide on a final one, everyone put an "x" next to the one they liked. It turns out that everyone liked the "x" better than the names, and so it stuck.

The winery is rapidly expanding its portfolio of wines to include a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, a red blend, a syrah blend named "Syrahtica," a Pinot Noir, 2 Cabernets, and one single vineyard Cabernet under the Amicus brand.

This particular Cabernet is made up of a mix of fruit from appellations all over Napa valley: 40 % Yountville, 25 % Spring Mountain District, 20 % Rutherford, 8% Howell Mountain, and 7% Saint Helena. I believe X is an estate-less winery, meaning that they purchase all of their grapes on contract with different growers, who give them a certain level of control over sections or even entire vineyards for one or more growing seasons.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a medium ruby color in the glass and has a nose dominated by aromas of blueberries, chocolate, black cherries and the slightest hint of black truffles. In the mouth it is all cherries and chocolate, with some notes of mint and anise in its moderate finish. The light tannins and decent mouthfeel are balanced by a reasonable acidity making it a very easy wine to drink.

Food Pairing:
Since this wine is young and hip, let's not pair it with the traditional steak or prime rib. Let's go for something cosmopolitan, like kefta kebabs, those mouthwateringly tasty ground lamb brochettes from the middle east.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $18

This wine is available from various Internet 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