2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Bernardus Estate Vineyard
California: Monterey County
What We Say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Bernardus Winery.
Mission Codename: License to sip
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Capture another exclusive and delicious red wine for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Bernardus Winery
Wine Subject: 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Dean De Korth
Backgrounder: The Wine Spies have established special relationships with wineries that allow us to spy wines for you that are either pre-release, tasting room-only, or even totally exclusive. Today we bring you a wine that you cannot buy anywhere but at the Bernardus Winery itself. In the spirit of sharing the Post-Holiday love, our good friends at Bernardus have made a small quantity of today’s exquisite wine available to us – and at a very special price. Thank you, Agent Marinus and all of our friends at Bernardus. We spies love your wines!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep red with great clarity and a deep, dark heart, this wine has a very tight surface appearance and some of the skinniest legs we have seen on a Cabernet Sauvignon. Swirling the wine high in the glass leaves behind tiny grains that sit atop the legs. Very unique!
Smell – Not what we expected! Monterey County wines are notorious for having a gigantic green pepper (bell pepper or green chille) nose, but this wine keeps that in check and instead delivers a vegital aroma that is balanced with fruit. With rich plum, cassis, sweet cedar and light oak, subtle buttered popcorn and sweet flowers, this wine is layered individually detectable smells that linger in your nose. Repeated sniffs pile on the aromatics and the wine reveals what you are about to taste
Feel – Light and cool at first, this wine quickly grips at the outer edges of your tongue with its smooth but balanced tannins
Taste – This wine is deeply layered and wonderfully concentrated as it delivers powerful – but not overpowering – flavors of plum, dark cherry, raspberry and toasted oak and casis, balanced with a somewhat vegital quality that is in harmony with the fruit in this wine
Finish – A medium long finish in the mouth, as flavors change from sweet and fruity to more lightly-tart and vegital, the wine goes from wet to dry to mouthwatering
Conclusion – While we always expect to be wowed by Bernardus wines, this one had a special effect on me; the wine drinks more like its more expensive Napa cousins than its Bell pepper-overload Monterey brethren. This is a wine of refined distinction and wonderful balance and character. If you love the seriousness of a Napa Cab, without the high price, this wine gets a hearty Wine Spies recommendation. This is a serious Cab, to be sure, but it also has the fruit profile to keep the wine from intimidating your senses.
What follows is a retransmission of our first encounter with Bernardus Winery:
Agent Pinot Private Journal:
Other Agents think I’m self-centered and narcissistic. They can think what they want. I just happen to be the best agent in the Wine Spies and that’s that. When I decide its time for a vacation, I take one – but tell Central Command that I’m on a mission. Its easy to fake it when my vacation takes me to the Bernardus Lodge in the beautiful Carmel Valley in Monterey County, California.
Bernardus runs this luxurious lodge, but they are, perhaps, even more famous for their award-winning wines. Bernardus Winery makes exquisite estate grown wines from grapes grown on their estate in Upper Carmel Valley. Their founding mission was to create wines that rivaled the finest French Bordeaux, wines that “flatter the palate and stimulate the imagination”. I say, Mission accomplished!
My first taste of a Bernardus wine came a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with its complexity and its full flavors. When considering a spot for my secret getaway, my choice was easy: Stay at the Bernardus Lodge, realx and drink Bernardus wine. Lot’s and lot’s of it.
On arrival at the Bernardus Lodge, I entered through the front gate. Following the drive toward the lodge, perfect vineyards slope gently away. The main building of the lodge looming into view, I feel instantly relaxed. I know that my stay here will be filled with luxury, great food and better wine.
I won’t drone on and on about the feather bed, the fireplace or the oversize bathtub in my two-room suite, my daily massages, games of tennis near the vineyards or the fine meals had in their 4-star restaurant, Marinus. Suffice to say, after long days of being pampered and evenings spent sipping their incredible wines, I am revitalized.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Bernardus Tasting Room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
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About This Wine:
This is our second varietal bottling from our estate vineyard from an underappreciated, but for us, very successful vintage. Like it’s companion, in the 2001 Merlot, this wine is a lovely example of character in balanced proportion. It is full bodied without being massive and elegant without being lightweight. It has rich plum and currant aromas. Aged for twenty months in 50% new and 50% old French oak barrels.
About Bernardus Winery:
Owner Ben Pon appreciates wine as an art – a form of art that transcends the ordinary. His dream with Bernardus is to make a red wine equal to the finest from Bordeaux. To achieve this purpose, Ben, a Dutchman who could have planted vineyards anywhere in the world, has chosen the Carmel Valley for his estate vineyards and winery. Since the early 1970’s, there has been a growing awareness of the outstanding potential for Bordeaux varieties from this new viticultural appellation. The Bernardus estate vineyards of Marinus and Featherbow Ranch are located in the Cachagua region of the Carmel Valley. We have been told that Cachagua is the Spanish word Native Americans used for deep or hidden water. It has been said that Native Americans believed that all things in nature were sacred and interrelated. Their respect for balance in nature is carried on in the vineyards of Bernardus. More than 300 live oaks have been preserved to thrive among carefully planted vines.
Of the 220 acres, 50 acres have been planted to vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Bernardus ventures forth as the fifth winery to establish vineyards in this sacred valley. While growing Bordeaux-style varieties in our estate vineyards, at Bernardus we are committed to cultivating Chardonnay in cool coastal climates, specifically the Monterey County growing region. Grapes from other superior coastal appellations in California are used to add nuances to the Bernardus blend. The vineyard components are then complemented by many different yeasts and oaks during the winemaking procedure.
Winemaker Dean DeKorth integrates his experience working with the methods and practices of Bernardus winemaking with his own personal intuition and technical expertise. Dean DeKorth, an American, is a French winemaker—all of his early impressions about wine came from his education and apprenticeship in France. A very important part of Dean’s Burgundian training was focused on distinguishing aromas and flavor qualities, as well as textural elements in the wine. With this old-world sense of taste, Dean seeks to make wines that flatter the palate. A viticulturalist, enologist, scholar, craftsman, and artist, Dean KeKorth brings to his winemaking a time-honored knowledge of wine and an endless passion – a passion labeled Bernardus.
At Bernardus the textural element-"the mouth feel’-is the most important expression of wine.
At a time when there is an increasing conversion of established French wine estates from seasoned wooden tanks to rows of stainless steel, Bernardus Winery was constructed to create traditional wines. Wines are aged in oak tanks and barrels specially crafted for Bernardus in the French region of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Oak is purchased from many coopers in France to allow for blending of different flavors, or “the spice rack approach”.
It is the goal of Ben Pon to create wines from the promising viticultural region of Carmel Valley that will rival in style and quality the finest traditional wines. With an unequaled commitment and the resources and talent to support this commitment, Bernardus is embarking upon the next frontier in American winemaking.