Virtual Tasting - Novelty Hill Cabernet 2006

September's Virtual Tasting will take place tonight! The wine is Novelty Hill's Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. As usual, I will be opening the bottle about 7pm and posting my comments and tweets (@wawinereport) along the way. Please join us in trying this wine and posting your notes.

For those of you in the Seattle area the winery, which is located in Woodinville, is sold out of the 2006 (see a list of Seattle-area retailers as well as on-line sellers of the 2006 here). However, today only, Novelty Hill will be extending a 20% discount on one bottle of the 2007 Cabernet to people who purchase at the winery. Just mention you are planning to participate in tonight's Virtual Tasting. As I mentioned in my original post, I will plan on tasting both the 2006 and 2007 as part of tonight's tasting so feel free to stop by the winery, pick up the 2007 and join in the fun.

7:15 Update: Okay folks. The bottles are open. Let the Virtual Tasting begin! We had a brief delay after I lost control of the robot requiring rebooting. As I mentioned earlier, I will be tasting both the 2006 and the 2007 wines. I picked up the 2007, which was just released a few weeks ago and should be making it on retailer shelves shortly, at the winery this afternoon. The drive to Woodinville reminded me what I love about the Northwest with a bald eagle soaring high overhead.

Both wines are using cork as a closure, both with vintage stamps. The 2006 has considerably more color on the cork (will get a picture up of this). I'm assuming this is largely due to the extra bottle aging but we'll see what the wines look like once I get them in the glass.

7:30 Update: Okay, I also popped and poured both of these wines. May end up throwing the 2007 into the decanter depending on how it's doing. I will focus on the 2006 for the moment. The wine is at 62 degrees. Some dusky spice along with pepper and cedar on the nose. The fruit is lying underneath this at the moment. My initial impression is to wonder what other varietals are blended in as they seem to be playing a fair bit on the nose. I'll give this a look later on.

7:45 Update: This is a round, rich wine with a lot of cherry flavors. Some light herbal undertones along with some resinous aromas. I agree with Paul's comment that there is a lot coming from the acid on this wine as opposed to the tannins. My first impression is that this is quite an enjoyable wine. I think it needs to open up a bit. I'm going to put it in a decanter and give the 2007 a try.

8:00 Update: Giving the 2007 a try. On the nose, a bit muted at the moment (no surprise given that it's a 2007). Chocolate along with spice (can't quite pick up what it is, a bit of anise perhaps?) and some pleasing herbal elements. Fairly acid driven on a taste that is very evenly balanced across the palate.

Comparing the 2007 to the 2006, I get a lot of what seems like seem like Cab Franc aromas on the 2006. Earthy, potting soil aromas. Not sure on the blend. The taste is evenly balanced with a slightly sharp uptick about 2/3 of the way through.

Overall, I find a lot of stylistic similarities in terms of nose and style on both wine.

8:15 Update: The 2007 has a nice, powdered chocolate element on the nose along with a bit more tannin structure. Smooth and even. The nose has lots of cherry, black pepper, and an under layer of anise.

The 2006 has some palate coating oak, in a pleasant way. The wine largely pulls it off. Starts with a very plush entry before pulling back a bit and getting a slightly sharp element that lingers on the palate.

8:30 Update: Some background details on the wines.

The 2006: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. I KNEW there was some Cab Franc in this wine :). 3,832 cases produced. 14.4% alcohol.

The 2007: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc; 1% Petit Verdot. 3,964 cases produced. 14.4% alcohol.

8:45 Update: Here is what the publications have to say. Nothing on the 2007 as it is just released. Only thing I see is in Wine Spectator on the 2006, nothing on Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate:

92 points. Dense and chewy, but with a nice lift of acidity and freshness as the finish rolls in, framing the cherry, blackberry, coffee and smoke flavors as they linger expressively. Best from 2011 through 2018. 3,888 cases made. –HS

I agree on the lift of acidity but otherwise don't get too much from the description.

From CellarTracker, 13 notes. Average of 88.5 points and median of 90. Check out what people have to say here.

9:00 Update: Notes from winemaker Michael Januik on each wine.

2006 Cabernet: Rich and expressive with ripe blackberry, currant and spicy black cherry aromas and flavors. Well-balanced, with plenty of dark fruit flavors lingering across a lengthy, expressive finish.

2007 Cabernet: A deep, concentrated wine with fresh blackberry, dark cherry and red currant. Expressive and balanced, with dark fruit flavors persisting across a long, generous finish.

See the full 2006 writeup from the winery here. See the full 2007 writeup here.

Both vintages list at $25. I bought the 2006 from Pete's for $21.50 and bought the 2007 from the winery for $20 (lists for $25 but includes the 20% discount for tonight's tasting).

My final thoughts. Both wines are very well made. I went back and forth as to which I liked more as they opened up.

I really enjoy the nose on the 2006. Gets more expressive as the wine moves up toward 67 as opposed to the 62 I originally had it at. A lot to swirl around and ponder over. Fun earthy elements. A good palate with the exception of the slight dip in the mid-palate. A good wine for $25; put it at $18-$20 and it's a steal. In my rating system I would put it as a "slash" wine between a + and *. So I would either list it as "+/*" or do as I usually do in such circumstances and score down. Given the amount of good things going on in this wine I would probably list it as +/* with a * a little too high and a + a little too low.

On the 2007, definitely more of a chocolate and anise component on the nose and taste than I get on the 2006. Otherwise a lot of the same things going on stylistically. I like the nose more on the 2006 but like the palate a bit more on the 2007. I think, given a bit more time in the bottle, the 2007 will be a bit better of a wine. I would score it as just painting the low edges of a * on my rating scale.

Thanks to everyone who participated. We'll do it again next month.

Final Update: Retrying these wines now a full three hours after they have been open and decanted.

On the 2006, chilled back to 62 degrees. A lot of toasted oak and spice aromas. Black pepper and earth are still there. Does seem to show a lot of Cab Franc influence strangely. The taste seems considerably more thin when the wine is cooler. It becomes more rich on the palate as it warms up. Tannins definitely pull back here on a more acid-driven, oak-textured wine.

More on the 2007 in the final final.

Final Final Update: Retrying the 2007 now. A lot of great stuff on the nose. I think the 2007 has a bit more upside, although the 2006 is tasting better right now with another year in the bottle. The 2007 carries more completely across the palate. I also get, as this wine opens up, a light egg component on the nose. Perhaps from egg fining? Overall, both are very enjoyable wines.

Thanks again to everyone who took part. If you have suggestions for next month's Virtual Tasting, send them along.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Paul, I agree on the nose. I like it quite a bit as well. Definitely a fair amount of barrel aromas. Letting the wine warm up slightly before I give it a sip to coax a little more fruit out of the nose.

  2. 2006 - nose - Pepper! Almost pine-like if that makes any sense Light at times but good. Definitely some cherry stuff as well. Getting chocolate too as it warms up.
    palate - a tad sharp on the mid-palate. Big initial palate.

  3. 2006- nose: plum and pepper and pine-dust. cherries on the nose became sour charry on the taste with lots of cooked raisin. the overall mouthfeel= thin and a little bit of a letdown.

  4. 2007: round ripe fruits on the nose, a pear(?)-like quality too. lots of anise and more pepper here too. in the taste, a stewed prune quality, more cherries, a full finish. more exciting and inviting than the 06.

  5. Anon 2006. Agree on the pepper and pine nose. Mouthfeel I think actually gets a bit bigger as the wine opens up a bit.

    Anon 2007. A pear like quality? Interesting. I'll check it out. Right now the two wines are duking it out for me. Who will be the winner?

  6. 2007 - nose is stemmy, herbal, potato, patato. ;p Actually I might get a hint of olive right now. Black olives. Chocolate too. Still likeing it. Palate is big, smooth, pleasant. Liking it! This surely is no wedding wine!

  7. Back after three hours and enjoying another glass of this. Seems to have improved a bit with time. A bit more complexity on the palate, including some leafy notes. Nice wine. I paid $20.99 at QFC and would buy again at that price. Thanks, Sean; fun one this month!

  8. WHOOO, Cab franc funk on first pour! Getting the cherry on the nose, with a little cola. slightly sharp from oak, guessing partial to full new oak for 12 months?

    Also getting a little dried apricot on the nose with a layer of red licorice. So far not bad, not so sharp on the palette that it is offensive.

  9. Paul, I agree that the 2006 has improved over the course of a few hours. Thanks for participating!

  10. As with my last post, tasting the '06. This wine is a little light on my palette, though I tend to prefer wines with a little more to chew on. Espresso notes starting to appear as wine opens up. Not quite as sharp as when first opened, though that was only 20 minutes ago.

  11. Alpine Yeti, I agree on the funk on first pour along with the cherry. In terms of oaking programs, the winery says:

    Aged in both new and one-year-old barrels, predominately French oak for 18 months.

    A bit opaque. Dried apricots? Interesting. I will retry it and see if I can tease it out. Just want to make sure on the reading of your comment, that is (my caps) "NOT so sharp on the palate that it is offensive" as opposed to "so sharp on the palate that it is offensive." Right?

  12. Mr. Yeti - I have to advise you to take your time. This wine has been decanted for quite a time now, and given time it comes on STRONG. G5 BABY!

    I know it's late, but try to be patient. In all honesty, don't tell anyone, but the 2007 will be even better in the long run. I'm impressed with Novelty Hill. Januik is going to need to knock my socks off. ;p

  13. Alpine Yeti, I also thought this wine came off as a little light on the palate initially, especially at cooler temperatures. I recommend decanting it and letting it warm up to about 67 or so. At that point that palate becomes more full although it is more of an oak-driven, palate coating richness than a tannin driven richness.

  14. G5 baby! I will try my best to make this last long enough to open up! May we all at least say a little toast with the VT in honor of J'imberly and little Owen.

  15. Can't wait to let it open up to enjoy with my Yeti.

  16. Dr. Yeti, I'm not so sure what G5 Baby means, as I'm am just a southern girl new to the northwest. ;p But I do want to let you know that if you're looking for CHEWY then you will need to travel to Januik and get the Novelty Hill Cab 07. Chewy it is! With a PPS pour in my glass no one would know, (please see SPS system ratings for more details) but with a decent pour you would love this bottle. Niiiicccceeee! Niiiiiccccceeee!

  17. NO PPS here!! thank goodness. I may have to try and find the 07 tomorrow and give it a swirl. BTW Lou, not to worry about not getting G5 baby, its not a northwest thing, just a LLI thing ;)

    Wine not quite open yet, still slightly sharp. high alcohol noticeable.

  18. Delayed post (figured better to take notes and wait until I was more agile for typing). Generally, I liked the nose very much, found the center palate a bit harsh, and thought it might open more with time. It didn't really open and smooth out as much as I wanted - perhaps more time or maybe even more time in the bottle? The nose did have that nice cab/vanilla/oak thing going that I like. I also had the opportunity to try it with the 07 which was surprisingly a bit smoother. I'm thinking long term (like in a couple of years), the 07 will be a better wine than the 06.