The Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 is sourced from vineyards located in 6 of the 7 sub-AVA’s in Lodi, California. The bottle says the grapes are sourced from California, which means that more than one AVA is involved with no AVA producing 85% of the grapes, but Gnarly Head’s technical information says this is a Lodi Cab. Lodi is situated slightly south of Napa and to the East, in the Central Valley. Lodi has warm days and cool nights, with a long fairly stable growing season and is gaining a very good reputation for quality grapes. This is a “drink it now” Cabernet Sauvignon, not meant to cellared, a portion of this wine was aged in French and American oak to impart traditional oak flavors of vanilla and spice, but the bulk of this Cab is unoaked which allows it to be bright and fresh. The 2012 grape vintage in California was very, very good, if you have the option of grabbing a bottle of 2011 or a 2012, grab the 2012. That is not to say that there is something wrong with the 2011, it is just that the 2012 is probably better. The alcohol content is 14%.
The color is an almost opaque Dorothy’s ruby slippers red. The nose is dark berries, spring flower bouquet, nutmeg and milk chocolate. This is a lush, fruit forward Cab with a solid display of tannins and an attractive rough edge to balance the fruit. It tastes of a mix of extracted blackberry and sweet blueberry, licorice and tart cranberry. The mid-palate adds a solid, but balanced sensation from the tannins (for a while, value priced Cabernet Sauvignon had the edges worn down, reduced tannins and not much acidity, like we couldn’t handle the real thing. It is nice to see structure in an inexpensive Cab), a slap of curry spice and black pepper. The acidity is well balanced by the bold flavors, but you will smack your lips a time or two, so you know it’s there. The finish starts off strong and slowly fades away.
“Drink it now” wines get better every year, a few years back it was enough that it tasted like a real Cab and cost only $10 or $12, it might not have been exciting, but it was an actual California Cab for not much dough. Today, wine makers have figured out how to go beyond a textbook example to wines with personality and a sense of place. This Cab has length and structure, it tastes like Northern California and it has style, tons of fruit with an interesting counter-balance. Drink it with steaks on the grill or gourmet burgers or if you’re in a local restaurant that has the Gnarly Head Cabernet on its list, try it with beef or pork, they probably will try to talk you into something more expensive, but this will do just fine.
this bottle received as a sample