I was excited to receive an email last Wednesday telling me that I had become an official Lab Rat! I was a bit concerned, however, as I planned leaving town early the following week and would not be in the area at the crucial time that the offer went live (and potentially tagged as being a Bum Rat). My fears were quickly alleviated when a short time later I received a FedEx email about a package arriving the next day. As the delivery was scheduled in the midst of the Chicago area Polar Vortex, I had the delivery changed to Hold At Location at a local grocery store (it was -24 the morning of the delivery, and I was hoping that this might lessen the time of exposure to the cold). The package was delivered about 11am, and I picked it up about two hours later (the outside temperature had soared to -10). Checking the temperature of the bottle (without opening the package) when I returned home showed it to be at 57 degrees.
As the FedEx information showed a Purchase Order Number of “FetzerCabernet”, I was not totally surprised to open the package and find a bottle of 2016 Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon, showing a 50th Anniversary emblem and an “Anniversary Reserve” notation at the top of the label. I have encountered Fetzer wines in the past, and found their Merlot to be “passable” as an easy-drinking midweek bottle. To be honest, thought, my expectations were not particularly high. But I wanted to give it an honest try.
Let me begin (my third paragraph) by saying that I don’t have the most discerning senses at picking out particular nuances of fragrance or flavor. But I do find that I generally can appreciate the various factors that make one wine better than another. In the glass (a Casemates glass, of course!) the Fetzer appeared fairly typical for a Cabernet. I could detect dark fruit and vanilla on the nose. On the palate I got mostly dark fruit without a whole lot of depth. It was fine on its own (my wife’s comment was that she liked it) without any negative flavors. I was having steak that night (rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic, and a dusting of chipotle powder, cooked sous vide, then seared and given a second sear with butter, garlic, and thyme – so it had a lot of flavor) and the wine went well with it – I was particularly mindful of the mid-palate flavors being more pronounced with the steak. I was happy that this wasn’t a shallow fruit bomb. It was enjoyable, but not a wine that would have me smacking my lips after each sip. I recorked the bottle and had the final glass 24 hours later and didn’t notice any significant changes since the first day. This wine would make a decent weeknight bottle when nothing more elegant is desired.
I was out over the weekend and noticed a bottle of 2016 Fetzer Cabernet (on sale for $6, normally $8) at a local retailer and I thought for the sake of science I would pick it up for comparison. The label on this bottle also had the “50th Anniversary” seal, but did not have the “Anniversary Reserve” designation. There was little comparison with the Anniversary Reserve. To put it mildly, the “non-Reserve” was basically undrinkable (if you think of the movie “Twins”, the Reserve would be the Schwarzenegger character and the non-Reserve would be DeVito).
I am currently away from home (using my cell phone mobile hotspot to connect), but I’ll try to check back in a few times and answer any questions that might arise.
@radiolysis I have to admit some initial trepidation before opening/tasting the reserve. I’m not around home right now, but I logged onto the site of the retailer where I got it (binnys.com) and their listing says Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the bulk bottlers can surprise you. I had a bottle of Gallo Signature Series Cabernet that was incredible.
Whoa…I’m flashing back to early renditions of Sundial chard!
The above mentioned Wine Enthusiast review:
89 Points, Best Buy
Lip-smacking and well balanced, this concentrated but lively wine has everything in good proportions, including a bold rosemary and black-cherry aroma, rich cherry and dark chocolate flavors, and moderate tannins that merge with good acidity for an appetizing mouthfeel. 7/1/18 JG
The Tasting Panel magazine review, which was tacked on to the end of an article about Fetzer:
This release stands for 50 years of sustainable
practices and quality. With its full-flavored
aromas of strawberry, black raspberry, and
nutmeg, this wine overdelivers. There’s
a density to the mouthfeel and the flavor
profile delves deeply with cassis, fudge,
and toasty toffee, but it brightens up due
to ripe, vibrant fruit surfacing on the midpalate. Aged in a combination of stainless steel, French oak, and American oak for eight months. Happy Anniversary! 92+
Crafted to honor 50 years of winemaking in California, this rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon offers red fruit aromas layered over notes of cassis and spice. The palate is resplendent with bright fruit flavors, framed by decadent undertones of mocha, vanilla and toffee. Bold tannins and a juicy finish round out the blend, which features a touch of Petit Verdot, Syrah and Merlot. Harvest began early in 2016, following a stellar growing season.
Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon go hand-in-hand, and our 50th Anniversary wine makes for a perfect pairing partner, with its rich palate and bold tannins.
Vineyard and Winemaker’s notes
The grapes were picked at the peak of ripeness and fermented in 100% stainless steel to preserve the vibrant fruit flavors. Aging in a combination of stainless steel and French and American oak for eight months allowed the bright fruit notes to flourish, while encouraging a supple mouthfeel supported by a warm thread of toast and mocha notes.
Since our inception 50 years ago, Fetzer has stood by the simple philosophy that what’s good for the Earth is good for the grape, and what’s good for the grape is good for the wine. Our collection is grounded in the character of American classics like Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Sundial Chardonnay, and Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer, iconic wines standing for quality and sustainable practices. Founder and pioneer Barney Fetzer remains our inspiration, having set a standard 50 years ago for thoughtful farming and excellence in the cellar.
Fifty years ago, the California wine industry was just getting started. The rest of the world hadn’t yet heard of Mendocino County, but Barney Fetzer knew he’d found an extraordinary place to grow wine grapes. An early pioneer of sustainable farming, he helped shape the quality and environmental consciousness of California wine. Beyond what’s in the glass, our Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center was a vital locale for more than 20 years, catalyzing the farm to-table movement before it became a widely valued ethos.
From humble roots, we’ve built a legacy of classic American wines rooted in a deep commitment to the land. Over five decades, we’ve grown to source fruit from talented growers across California’s most revered regions, yet we remain dedicated to the vineyards, people and vibrant community life of Mendocino County. One thing hasn’t changed in 50 years: our wines are mindfully crafted to be balanced and flavorful.
Every day, we work in ways that are better for the environment, better for communities and better for workers. As the largest Certified B Corp winery in the world, we live and breathe social and environmental responsibility in everything we do—from vine to bottle. And we’re proud to be part of this B Corp community alongside companies like Patagonia and Cabot Creamery, who share our commitment to turning business into a force for good.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI