Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
I enjoyed this well-made $20 cabernet sourced from both north and south of San Francisco
bay: 80% Napa County, 14% Mendocino, and 6% Santa Clara. Decanted 90 minutes. Dry,
perhaps a little hot, but with burnish tannins, it goes down in a friendly manner, and it has a
finish. Beyond the dried cherry notes at both nose and palate levels, I got a good sense of
fresh fruit: plums and strawberries give a red fruit theme, a little black fruit (blackberry)
seems to dance around the mid-palate without announcing itself too loudly.
There is smoke and tobacco on the nose, and a little deeper cigar box quality on the palate; not overdone. Since on reflection I am thinking about chocolate, or at least cocoa powder, it might have registered at some level, but no oak ogre here.
I have two qualms, and I'll get the non-vinous one out of the way first. The label indicates the wine was “vinted” by Martin Ray. You can be sure my spell checker highlights the non-word “vinted” (which it keeps trying to turn into “vented”). The verb “to vint” is not in my dictionary. Yes, you know what they mean, but is it English? Can someone help me with this one? If someone can cite at least a respectable level of use of this new verb, I'll concede the point and extrapolate it into my vocabulary. Seems a nice, short, handy sort of word.
The second qualm has to do with the blending. Why go to the trouble of blending three
different cabernet sauvignons, when with the same effort you could blend different grapes as
they do in Bordeaux with some success? My palate is yearning for a well-thought-out splash
of merlot, cabernet franc, anything to kick it up that extra notch. Cabernet shines in company,
and this wine is a tad lonely. That said, there is a touch of francophilia in this wine (and that
is a compliment).
I have tremendous respect for winemakers, both from a business point of view and on an aesthetic level. They take major risks in both areas. True heroism in my book.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman