True excellence is a product of synergy”….. Mack Wilberg

Like taffy & apples, beef & Cabernet Sauvignon just go together so nicely.  OK, a Bordeaux (Left Bank) could do as well.  But with this beef (bone in) rib roast – “Prime Rib” – except it was “Choice” – I wanted a Cab. The roast was rubbed with lots of finely chopped (fresh) garlic, thyme, oregano and rosemary in softened butter (no, not the healthiest approach), then placed in a 450 oven for 15 minutes and reduced to 325 at 15 minutes per pound (could have been longer).  Made some “au jus” and a Horseradish Sauce and served it with organic roasted Brussels sprouts with lardons (fat removed) of applewood smoked thick-cut bacon and roasted chestnuts in a reduction of pure maple syrup.  Finally, a medley of “sweet potatoes” (Hannah & Garnet Yams and Sweet Purple Potato) mashed and garnished with crisps made of each.  With the star being the rib roast (though I really like the Brussels sprouts) I brought out two Cabs: each from Kenwood Vineyards, each their “Artist Series”: a 2007 and a 2009.
These wines are their top label, the “Artist Series” having originated in 1974 and drawing attention since its beginning.  While each vintage may include slightly different percentages, the 2007 typifies a blend with 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec and 3% Merlot yielding a wine with 14.5% alcohol by volume. You might think that pretty similar to a left bank Bordeaux, except it comes from Sonoma County, California. 

Either way, it does the state proud.  Each (estate) lot is fermented individually.  After gentle pressing and racking, the young wine is moved into oak barrel (82% French, 18% American) to age for 28 months.  Each barrel from each lot is then tasted and only the best barrels are selected for the “Artist Series”.  After bottling, wine in that series ages an additional 18 months before release.

I’m reminded frequently of that quote from Pliny the Elder who said two thousand years ago: “The best wine is that which taste good to thine own palate.”  The magazine Wine Enthusiast was not enamored of this vintage, but other reviewers were.  I was too.  Its nose of ground spice was intriguing.  It’s a medium-plus to full bodied wine that carries the brown spice onto the palate joined with blackberry and clove.  Cassis and plum integrate within the bouquet and marry upon the palate with subtle vanilla and a hint of forest floor that hints at an “old world style. A subtle hint at cedar adds complexity and a whisper of mint finishes this work of artistry.

This is a polished wine whose integer is a seamless composition of fractions that blend themselves into a smooth presentation with spot-on acidity and managed tannins carrying the married characters into a long, easily appreciated finish.     
At 91 points from Wine & Spirits and Wine Spectator, the 2009 was met generally with more smiles.  I wondered if this, perhaps, was attributable to 2009 being considered a better vintage for Sonoma.  But no!  Wine Spectator rated that year (the vintage – not the wine) at 86 points, two points under the 2007 vintage.  But even a quick overview of their vintage charts will reveal  their definite Napa favoritism.  As a certified “wine geek” I guess I’m also a certified odd-ball in generally preferring Sonoma – that “less fruit forward” thing.  It’s Pliny’s matter of preference.

I did find the 2009 darker with fruit being more deep yet less forward and more dusty. More tannin. And I enjoyed it immensely.  The composition is slightly different at 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Malbec, and 3.5% Petit Verdot.  Its appellation is 54.5% Sonoma Valley, 42% Dry Creek Valley, and 3.5% Lake County. The alcohol is at the higher end of the typical French style at 14.5%.  Consider the “Artist Series” akin to a French house producing non-vintage Champagne in which a consistency of style is desired.  At this point, look for current vintages.  “Artist Series” Cabs can be aged but there’s always a risk involved in buying old bottles stored in unknown conditions.  Kenwood wines are commonly available through many price labels, but the “Artist Series” is likely a label you’ll find only at the winery or available on-line. Your local merchant should be able to order one for you. Regardless how you obtain it, you’ll be surprised by the excellence of what you thought was only a “grocery store” wine.

There is no ARP for this wine that can practically be mentioned here.  I’ve seen prices between $50-$90, when available.  Production is limited so prices will vary per a merchant’s stock.  Shipping and taxes are not included in on-line pricing.

For an earlier review of Kenwood Vineyards see:  To see a review of Kenwood’s 2010 “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon visit:

…………….. Jim

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