Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cellar No. 8 Cabernet

Asti Winery
Cellar No. 8
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa, California

$8.09 -- Grape Vine Market, Austin, TX

Color: Dark purpledy red
Nose: Blueberry cafe au lait
Body: Medium
Front: Cassis, a little spinach perhaps
Middle: Mexican chocolate, tannins
Back: Coffee, bark, a little heat
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

For those dropping in here for a quick read on this wine, I offer my specialty--a caveat: This wine seems to divide opinions in the wine-blogging world. Budget Vino is all about it (and the Merlot, too); but others addicted to both wine and writing will tell you it's average and possibly only barely worth nine bucks.

My advice is, wait six months, then drink it within six months of that. Sure, it's a little green, but it's interesting enough for dinner, and has some nice points. (If you drink it now, let it breathe a little, but not too much!) It's not particularly complex. But it's not uncomplex in a juicy-fruit, Jolly RancherTM, or strawberry smoothie way, either.

This opens onto a whole other issue, which is the question of the importance of "getting a good deal" to the taste of something (wine, dinner, whatever). Sommelier training, of course, involves at one level the elimination of such variables: the evaluation of a particular wine's ability to give pleasure to this or that human (with a particular set of tastes), in comparison to other available wines. At another, practically, it involves recognizing circumstantial variables in the assignation of a wine to a customer (food, temperature, mood, weather, economic climate, etc.).

Now, the prevalence of "Great Wine Value" blogs, to say nothing of my personal experience, suggests to me that there's a good-sized population of folks out there for whom value matters, particularly at the lower end of the price range. [Another caveat: there are more than three price ranges. I look at it socially--there's street wine (Thunderbird!); reception wine (Cellar No. 8); everyday wine (Marquis Phillips); superb wine (Faust); special occasion wine (Gaja, Nuit St. Georges); and collectors' wine (never had any, but generally things with "Chateau" on the label and decimal points in what seem like the wrong places on the pricetag).]

But even at the higher levels the idea of getting economic leverage, I think, shapes the taste experiences of many oenophiles. One of my friends almost cried when I told him I'd gotten the Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval for $34 a bottle; believe me, when he tastes it on his next visit he'll be in heaven.

So here we confront a complex issue in assessing wine. I'm going to go out on a limb and say: if you like a good deal, you're really going to like this wine.