ZD Cab shines in San Diego

For the better part of four decades, ZD Wines, situated along the Silverado Trail in the heart of the Napa Valley, has been a beacon for California chardonnay. The rich, creamy ZD style captures, for many wine enthusiasts, the essence of California's sun-kissed chardonnay vineyards.

Almost quietly, ZD has been building toward the same sort of iconic status for its beautifully balanced, remarkably complex cabernet sauvignons. There is evidence that day may have arrived.

The 2014 ZD Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the Napa Valley ($210) has been named wine of the year at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, held March 24-25 in San Diego. Over the two-day event, more than 1,400 wines and spirits were evaluated by 24 wine and spirits professionals in a blind tasting.

The 2014 ZD Reserve Cabernet emerged with the highest overall numerical score among the wine entrants, 97 points on a 100-point scale.

Boisset Collection, which includes Raymond Vineyards of the Napa Valley and Sonoma County stalwarts DeLoach Vineyards and Buena Vista in its portfolio, was named winery of the year. Boisset Collection, owned by the flamboyant Jean-Charles Boisset, is the California wing of the Boisset family wine empire based in Burgundy, France.

The award for top spirit, with a double gold, went to Courvoisier Cognac XO of France ($150).

Complete results of the annual challenge can be found on the challenge website.

My tasting notes this week are dedicated to a few of my favorites from my weekend of judging the challenge.

Tasting Notes 

Ferrari-Carano 2014 'Tresor' Sonoma County ($55) -- This wine often doesn't get the notice it deserves, especially given its consistency over a couple of decades. The 2014 Tresor is a Bordeaux-style blend that relies most heavily on cabernet sauvignon (62 percent), a hedonistic red that exhibits richly layered aromas of cassis, blackberry and cherry, with supple tannins and a restrained note of wood spice. Rating: 95.

Ledson 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Vineyard, Sonoma Valley ($70) -- Ledson's estate cabernet from the 2014 vintage delivers exceptional richness and depth, with a complex array of red and black fruits, refined, beautifully integrated tannins and an impressive finish. It's well-balanced and easy to drink now! Rating: 95.

Benziger 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County ($20) -- For the combination of high quality and low cost, Benziger is stunningly consistent. The 2015 Sonoma County cabernet shows bright red-fruit flavors, supple tannins, a hint of wood spice and exceptional balance. It's a thoroughly enjoyable cab that you can drink now at a great price. Rating: 94.

Benziger de Coelo 2015 Pinot Noir 'Arbore Sacra' Sonoma Coast, ($75) -- Don't be deceived by the light color. This is a big-time pinot noir that's packed with flavor. It shows notes of bright cherry and rhubarb, an inviting spice note, fine tannins and impressive length. It was named best-of-class pinot noir at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. Rating: 94.

Rodney Strong 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Vineyards, Knights Valley ($35) -- In its early years, Rodney Strong built its reputation on the chardonnay grape, and it still excels in that arena. The cabernet sauvignon is another story. It gets better every year, and this 2015 Knights Valley expression of it is a beautiful example. With exquisite balance between richness and tension, this is a cab that shows supple tannins and can be drunk now. But it also has the structure and depth to improve in the cellar over the next 10 years. It has a red-fruit profile with a gentle touch of wood spice. Rating: 94.

Campo Viejo 2011 Rioja Gran Reserva, Spain ($25) -- Spain continues to be a world leader in value, particularly the reserva and gran reserva wines of the Rioja region. Campo Viejo's Gran Reserva from the 2011 vintage is a beautiful example, showing superb freshness despite its age and having spent significant time in oak. This spicy Rioja retails for about the price of a mediocre bottle of California cabernet or a low-level Bordeaux. Primarily tempranillo with a dash of graciano and mazuela, this sleek Rioja delivers a wallop of red fruit with impressive length mid-palate. Rating: 93.

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