2013 Passages Napa Cabernet Sauvignon $6.99

Vinted & Bottled by: Passages, Napa, CA
ABV 13.9%
Purchased: Corvallis, OR 11-6-2014

FullSizeRenderI picked this one up at the wine sale and it’s still floating around some of the stores. I’d put off tasting it, again because it’s a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and I wanted it to have some time in the bottle. After the horrid review on the Vintage Ranch, we thought we’d go ahead and open this one (expecting the same results, given the factors were very similar: 3rd party producer, California designation, no website etc) to just have done with it.

How funny that one can be as bad a wine as you can imagine and another can impress you enough to say “whoa, this is very good for the price point (even beyond its price point)”.

You know how skeptical I was when I opened it too. I looked at the (burgundy/plum) color and thought “hmm…looks a bit thin-ish”.  So I held it up to my book and I could not read through it. That made me laugh, now that it has suddenly become essential to know if I can read through my Cabernet before I taste it.

2013 Passages Cabernet is vinted & bottled in Napa, but the bottle says California (meaning that less that 75% of the grapes were sourced from a single AVA OR that someone sold off their inventory with the NDA that specified that the AVA couldn’t be used…I’m guessing the later). I’m quite familiar with the Napa/Sonoma/Rutherford Cabernet tastes and I’m willing to say that this wine has grapes from that general area. The 2009 Passages was apparently sourced from Central Coast grapes (but I’m very familiar with those too and this doesn’t taste like Central Coast wine to me…if it is, it’s some of the best Central Coast wine I’ve ever tasted).

Nose: Cassis, Plum
Taste: (Yum, no really.) The Cassis is strong in this one, not overpowering, but nicely noticeable. I taste Rutherford dust too…or a facsimile thereof. Plum is also evident…and even hints of licorice as it opens up. I also like that there are strong tannins in this one; so that tells me in 6 months or so, this will even drink better. It’s nice and dry. The fruit doesn’t make you wonder if it’s sweet…it’s really well-balanced. The mouthfeel is medium-full. It’s not a “big” wine but it’s a contender.  It’s young and could use some time in the bottle to further develop, but it’s easily drinkable now (just knowing it’s a bit disjointed until it opens up in the glass or decanter).

This wine is exactly what I meant in my last review when I said you can taste the potential in a young wine, even if it’s not at maturity yet.

FWIW, while writing this, I sent my husband a text asking him to stop by the GO and pick up a few more bottles before he heads home tonight. It will pair so well with a holiday roast, desserts, cheese trays, finger foods…definitely worth the $6.99 (It tastes like an $18.99 Cabernet I just picked up from Costco last week).

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51 thoughts on “2013 Passages Napa Cabernet Sauvignon $6.99

  1. Larry Sampson

    I love this wine too- recommended by my GO manager- I have been back a few times and will go for more.

    Reply
  2. permiesworld Post author

    Finished our last bottle (one we didn’t realize we had) of this tonight. Because the last one was so Zinfandel, I served it with a chicken chili verde. And wouldn’t you know it, it was almost identical to our very first bottle. Such an elegant a cab. Go figure. Needed a Zin but didn’t mind a repeat of the first wine.

    One thing I will say about GO…you have to love or hate this “bottle variation” issue. Tonight it was a plus. I wish more of you could have tasted this version of this wine.

    Reply
    1. EHL

      Hey PW…glad to see that your recent bottle of the Passages Cab confirmed that your initial assessment and review of the wine was accurate and informative.

      I feel your ambivalence and anxiety about the bottle variation issue…since every occasion you take the time and effort to write down and post your thoughts about a wine on the blog, you run the risk of ending up with egg, big-time, all over your red, incredulous face because the lots GO receives are so damn inconsistent.

      …and when the negative feedback inevitably starts, it makes you wonder why you even thought of making the effort…

      Reply
      1. permiesworld Post author

        You know, EHL…this wine actually made a huge difference to me in how I go about recommending or not recommending wine (in general, but more specifically, GO wine). I know that people shop at GO to get a bargain and I hate to see money (or time) wasted by purchasing something that is garbage. In fact, my GO purchasing has gone way down since this incident. I’m much less inclined to experiment or risk, these days. Too many times have I had to return something or dump it.

        And I’m much less inclined to let something sit for days to see if it’s worth drinking. I know that some of you have the patience of Job but I certainly do not. Usually, if I’m serving wine, I have a plan for it and while I don’t expect everything to dazzle, I certainly expect it to fulfill the purpose for which I’ve bought it. lol

        For that reason, my buying these days has taken me elsewhere (I’ve dumped one wine from the other 3 places I shop…yes I pay more but not a lot more…the percentage of like/dislike is nice though) more often than not, but I still do check GO when I’m there. And if someone posts something I want to try or I get a call saying “you might want to pick this up”, I will.

        Reply
        1. EHL

          Hey PW…well, I totally understand, and even if you do not pick up a lot of GO wines in the future, please do let us know what other interesting bottles you may run across in your tasting adventures.

          I do really enjoy your reviews, and if you do not feel comfortable posting non-GO discoveries here, perhaps then I will just have to follow your personal blog, too…lol.

          Cheers!

          Reply
  3. permiesworld Post author

    We opened another bottle of this tonight. It was purchased from a different store (Eugene). We bought one to do an experiment to see if there were any variations in the mid-valley.

    It was very interesting…if I blind tested, I would honestly say this one is some sort of zinfandel/cab blend. It was really fruit forward. Not sweet. Not dry. Not much but fruit and cocoa (this reminded me of a Cameron Hughes Lake County Cab that we had…it so much tasted like Zinfandel that we would never have known it was a Cab without the label). I still had one bottle of Passages from Corvallis and opened it…side by side, you wouldn’t be able to tell these were the same wines. At least not blind test. We dumped this one but drank the last bottle from the first lot. It wasn’t bad but you’d have to like Zinfandel to like this version.

    Interestingly enough, the wine guy at Corvallis told me they got more in (we’d bought their last 3 bottles of the first lot). I didn’t buy any more though. I wanted to wait and see what this other one tasted like. Now, I’m curious (although I doubt I’ll buy any more) what the new lot tastes like…

    So just an update on the variations we’ve encountered.

    Reply
  4. inthewinecountry

    I just wanted to comment about this wine, I couldn’t wait to try it after I found a bottle at the SF GO. I kind of wished I had waited until I read some more of the more recent postings. Sorry Permies, I tried really hard to taste some of that Rutherford or Oakville bench dust (mud currently) I have to think that I got a different batch than what you have up there. That is sometimes the problem with a label that just says California. Mine had med. body and the tannins stood out more than the fruit. It seemed one dimensional but true to the cabernet fruit. and the 1/3rd of a bottle I saved for the next day with no vacuvin was pretty much the same as the day before which tells me its still a young wine and could last for another yr. or two. It was decent with food but I think before I would buy another I would get the 2012 Hayes Ranch Lucky horseshoe Ca. Merlot for everyday drinking.

    Reply
    1. permiesworld Post author

      No sorry needed. This wine seems to be showing why it’s at GO. and it’s the thing that’s kept me from buying wine there, recently (except that one Barossa Shiraz that I needed). You just can’t count on the bottles being alike.

      For example, we absolutely loved the first bottles of the Van Ruiten Pinot Noir. The last two bottles were nothing like the first three, purchased at a different time/place. We would’ve never bought them again if the first bottles had tasted like the last two. We loved our first case of the Luna Negra Tempranillo but the recent bottles, same vintage, were horrible. We would never have been able to tell that it was the same wine. It makes me feel like I have to buy from the same place all at once if I like something in order to make sure I’m getting the same thing that I liked.

      It’s frustrating to me.

      The sorry is mine. I’m sorry that I put out a review of wine that I felt like was somewhat better than what we’ve been seeing on the shelves only to disappoint others who’ve purchased it. My thought is that you guys don’t want to waste your money anymore than I do.

      Reply
      1. Darrell

        PW, no apology needed. GO wines is what it is. I have been burned after sampling one bottle right after purchase and then proceeding to buy quite a quantity only to find much poorer bottles and on occasion a better bottle. With the average of the quality of the bottles, it isn’t worth returning the bottles, though.

        Reply
  5. seedboy

    If this wine saw new French oak barrels then it must have been someone’s leftovers that were sold to a bottler; at this price point you cannot afford French oak. The oak could have been chips, or staves, put into the storage.

    Reply
  6. BargainWhine

    Since there was little new that looked interesting today, I picked up a bottle of this at the Richmond, CA, store. I think there must be different batches with the same label, or something like that, because mine did not strike me at all like what others here describe. I thought it was medium-bodied at best and, while the fruit flavors were not bad, I found them overwhelmed by the artificial vanilla and cooked rhubarb of American Oak that I always complain about. “licorice, plum, earth, cocoa nibs, espresso” I couldn’t get any of this. I have saved a single-glass screw-cap bottle for another evening, and I’ll report back whenever I open it.

    Reply
    1. BargainWhine

      I opened that single-glass screw-cap bottle tonight. For a good while, it was pretty much what I expected from the first night: ripe, artificial vanilla, cherry jam. However, the last bit in my glass did show some of those darker flavors you describe. I could even start to agree with the description I quoted skeptically in my comment last night. Maybe this is one to put in a covered decanter for a day? I still object to the American Oak, but with a little more age this might turn into something much more like PW’s enthusiastic description.

      Reply
      1. permiesworld Post author

        I’d be interested in your results if you ever end up doing that, BW.
        I’m going to have to at some point do some actual tests to determine “oak” because I so didn’t notice it like you and Darrell did. I do on super spicy or uber vanilla wines (or like you said, the rhubarb) but not on this one. I’m curious what another bottle will show (we have a few more).

        Reply
        1. BargainWhine

          I picked up another bottle of this wine today, this time from the Berkeley store. (I think my first bottle was from the Richmond store.) I opened it just in order to pour it into two half bottles. I was going to wait a day and try airing one then, sort of picking up where my last bottle left off. However, I just sniffed the top of the open bottle, and it smelled a lot different than my first bottle, so I poured a little. The color was darker than it was in my first bottle. Although I could still taste the American Oak I dislike, it did not dominate and the other flavors were very much like what you described in your review. The irony is that I can’t start drinking yet beyond that taste, so I’ll have to report back more later, but I wanted to write right away that there do appear to have been different batches bottled under the same label.

          Reply
          1. permiesworld Post author

            That is so interesting to me BW. Until Darrell mentioned it, I never knew that there could be different lots of the same wine that tasted differently. I hope you enjoyed it this evening.

            It sounds like (from Lim13’s comment below) that his bottle was from the same batch (or style) as mine. Glad to know I’m not completely crazy!

            Reply
            1. BargainWhine

              I had planned to wait a day, but I opened the half bottles last night, only about four hours after I filled them. After a bit more air in the glass, the wine showed all those nice complexities you and Lim13 described. I don’t have much to add, except to say that it also struck me as sort of blackberry liqueur-like. Although on the whole, it’s a bit too ripe and jammy for my general taste, I agree the fruit is very nice and it has a lot of non-fruit complexities, including what is likely some bitterness of the earthy / coffee / cherry pit variety that balances some of the ripeness. In our sample so far of five bottles, two have been of the not-very-good batch and the three have been in the this-is-pretty-good! batch. Anyone else?

            2. Darrell

              Maybe SB can try a bottle since I am intrigued by his knowledge of oak aging and flavoring, something I have missed out on through the years of oenological neglect. I knew that oak extract through chips could be done, ala Dr. Vernon Singleton, but I didn’t know that wineries had employed some of this.

  7. BargainWhine

    Thanks for trying this one, PW. I have seen it in GOs near me but have declined to purchase it for all the reasons you were dreading opening it. 🙂

    Reply
    1. permiesworld Post author

      I’m just happy it is nice. It’s not in the class of the Ardente wines you’ve been posting about, at least that’d be my guess, but it’d definitely worth its price point and more. I’d not be ashamed to serve this to my wine friends who like Napa style Cabernet.

      Reply
    2. Seedboy

      This does not sound like a wine I’ll like. I’ll use my cabernet money to buy Ardente, which is a legitimate $50 wine for $10.

      Reply
          1. Seedboy

            Sorry about that. Corporate did not get a lot of these wines (they are small production) and a lot of the California stores will not get them either.

            Reply
            1. permiesworld Post author

              It is what it is. We did get that very nice Emigre. And the Le Riche 2001. So we aren’t forsaken up here, lol but it’d be nice to see more of these better wines. I’m glad you guys have this. Were it me, I’d stock up on the vintages I liked. That’s a terrific price for good cabernet. (Ardente for $10)

        1. Kilgore

          I agree with your notes about inconsistency. I bought a single bottle of the 2002 Ardente Cab recently (in Sacramento) and it was so bad I poured most of it down the drain (had enough cooking wine on hand). It had not gone to vinegar, but was not drinkable. However, based on these notes I’ll try it again as there are several vintages (one in the 90’s) floating around. I must have been unlucky and gotten a bad bottle. Kilgore.

          Reply
          1. permiesworld Post author

            I’m sorry to hear that. I know how frustrating it is. Just a reminder (although I really hate returning things as a rule) GO has a great return policy. If you don’t like something, then just take it back (that includes their wine).

            And so many things can affect wine. From poor handling (I know I’ve mentioned it here before but some stores actually stack wine in the front windows…in 100F heat and direct sun…seen it several times locally) to a vineyard or winery dumping off a poor quality run, to an actual corked bottle (legitimately corked and not for other reasons) to cask variations…we see so much come through here that sometimes it’s hard to know why a wine doesn’t taste at all like what someone else experienced. Or why it just plain tastes bad…but sometimes it does.

            I hope you have better luck if you try again.

            Reply
  8. permiesworld Post author

    Update for day two: I was concerned that maybe I’d been overly excited about this wine, just because the last one was so bad (in a comparison sort of enthusiasm). I was prepared to come back and eat my words though, if that was the case. Happily it is not so. I just poured it and it is a bit more fruit forward on day two but still very dry/dusty. Cocoa is also evident tonight…it’s just as nice or nicer on day two. I’m not sure which day I like it better…it was tighter on day one. It’s not a silky cab…I really do think this one could age, just by the way the tannins are grabbing the tongue. Tea-bag-like. Good thing too since we did pick up 3 more bottles. Afaik, it’s still on the shelf in Albany and Corvallis, probably Salem too.

    Reply
    1. permiesworld Post author

      That’s funny, when I googled it, I only got the 2009 to come up. Nice. Seems like they had similar thoughts except that I thought the tannins were quite grippy. lol

      Reply
    2. Darrell

      Lim, try a bottle and tell me what predominates and not what the smells and flavors seem like with various descriptors.

      Reply
        1. Darrell

          I was going to wait until Lim got to taste it if he finds the bottle. I figure this bottle is well distributed. To not influence anybody, I was going to comment a bit later. The wine does go down well though.

          Reply
            1. Darrell

              I agree with BW about the aroma and taste of this bottle. All I can get is new barrel oak and it predominates. That sweetness is sweet oak extract that gives the wine a nice, sweet entry and makes it go down well. I don’t get any varietal character the oak is so overpowering in both nose and flavor. Not sure how the wine was handled and at what stage the aging occurred by the bottler. SB, I think, mentions oak can be introduced into wine without barrel aging. My theory is the wine was aged for about nine months in new barrels, possibly to neutralize the barrels for aging other red wines for longer maturation in barrel. I wonder if we are tasting the same wine. Anyway, after reading BW’s assessment, I will have to stick my nose into some stewed rhubarb. This is at least the second time he has mentioned it.

            2. permiesworld Post author

              Interesting. I certainly never would have guessed by the descriptions that we were drinking the same wine. Makes me wonder is there’s case variations or bottle variations? It certainly sounds like more than just varying opinions. I guess I’ll see when we try one of the others that we just picked up. Fwiw I loathe rhubarb taste in cabernet so I would have noted that if I’d tasted it.

            3. Darrell

              I don’t think blending inconsistently is a problem, but it is a possibility depending on what tanks the winery has available. I remember a Santa Cruz Mountain winery that would bottle out of barrel like some French wineries.

      1. lim13

        I’ve yet to see this wine anywhere up here in WA, Darrell. But I’m very suspicious of one year old Cabs. They always stike me as cashflow wines to me. If it appears, I’ll get back to you.

        Reply
        1. lim13

          Well, it showed up today in Silverdale, Darrell. So I bought one, got home, popped the cork and poured. I really don’t get a dominant oak nose or flavors. It was definitely there at first, but disappated quickly. My notes: Slightly less than clear very dark garnet; may be American oak or may be an oak additive (staves, chips, dust?) that I’m getting in the nose…could also be used barrels; in the mouth, there’s more oak, but less so than in the nose…then I get black coffee, some leather and dark plum flavors; what I really like about this Cab is the texture; a roundness, richness, thickness…and all the “sweet” fruit or oak or glycerin. The oak really integrates nicely with the fruit. Weird, but oak comes on pretty stong in the finish…and a sort of caramel flavor that I usually get from aged Cabs…not the best of finishes for me. But I’m not complaining. This is a tasty enough Cab for the price. Was it the oak that you expected me to pick up on, Darrell? I’m seriously oak sensitive, but the fruit’s as strong as the oak in this bottle. PW’s description is pretty accurate for what I’m tasting, though I don’t find the same level of tannins. I’d call it medium-bodied.

          Reply
          1. Darrell

            “Lim, try a bottle and tell me what predominates and not what the smells and flavors seem like with various descriptors.” The reason I picked up this bottle to sample was PW’s mention of “Rutherford Dust” which nowadays is an expensive character. I inquired whether the bottle had a cork and was there noticeable wood and PW said there wasn’t. So when I opened the bottle of 2013 Passages the overwhelming smell was the oak and the flavor was sweet oak. My bottle wasn’t like the 2012 Myka Cellars Chloe Meritage I tasted on Dec. 15 under guest contributions where there isn’t much of an oak nose, but quite a bit of oak flavor. All too often when in wine tastings, I find people mistake overly oaked CS and Meritage wines for good varietal wine. The first thing I am looking for in a varietal wine is the varietal character whether it comes in the form of Rutherford Dust, earthiness, grassiness or even bell pepper and asparagus. Some of the descriptors used here I find wood related such as coffee, caramel, cocoa and, in BW’s case, rhubarb. Lim, I understand your “sort of caramel flavor that I usually get from aged Cabs” which I believe comes from aged grape and wood and I don’t mind. The unnerving thought at the back of my mind is we are tasting the same wine with not much variation and coming up with different perceptions and, hence, differing descriptions.
            Lim, under Ardente 1999, I mentioned a small city store, Novato, uncharacteristically had about 2-3 cases of 2004 Ardente, much to my surprise, but there is Passages aplenty.

            Reply
            1. permiesworld Post author

              Darrell, I know you are talking to Lim here but I wanted to mention that I said it tasted like “Rutherford dust or a facsimile thereof” and it did remind me of that. The wine has a very dusty character to it. I have several Rutherford Cabs (from Cameron Hughes, just for reference) and they are the main ones where I notice that dustiness. I don’t relate green pepper or grass to my Rutherford wines. In fact, if I did, I wouldn’t buy them (well a little grass is ok…)

              Could it be that we are tasting the same thing and coming up with completely different results? Yes. Absolutely. Tastes vary so much. Age, medication, health, habits (smoker/non-smoker), taste preferences all have a part in that as much as experience does.

              I prefer CA Cabernet. The majority of my wine cellar is full of it. Some of them are higher end, many are moderate and some are Costco. I’ve tasted across the spectrum in this area (not so much with any other wine region in this world…except maybe the Willamette valley but that comes in second) so I didn’t liken it just randomly.

              I actually wondered how we could be coming up with such different tastes…until BW tried his second bottle. I do trust his tasting abilities and if he noticed that much of a difference between the first and the second, that tells me that something is going on here.

              I also would like to mention that I never said this was a high end cab. I said it had layers and tasted more than double it’s price point (which I felt was a bonus given the bad wine I’ve been tasting from GO these days). So really, if you felt that I mislead you, it wasn’t intentional.

              I do think this wine tastes above it’s price point. I do still stand by my review.

            2. Darrell

              PW, I didn’t mean to imply that herbal and veggy character was part of Rutherford Dust, but rather a generalization of varietal character of Bordeaux varieties and sauvignon blanc in this example. I want varietal character to show through in my bottles whether from CA or France or elsewhere. I am quite familiar with the special CS gout de terroir called Rutherford Dust since the 1970’s because there was little choice in those days. I can’t afford the bottles that use the grapes from around Oakville and Rutherford anymore. So when you mentioned Rutherford Dust, I said hot diggety, I might be able to get this character for a reasonable price and I don’t feel you mislead me at all nor did I get the impression this was a high end Cab. I am hoping this isn’t a case of different perceptions, but rather bottle variability as BW might have experienced.

            3. lim13

              Keeping this short and sweet, Darrell…the most profound statement you made above (for me anyway) was “All too often when in wine tastings, I find people mistake overly oaked CS and Meritage wines for good varietal wine. The first thing I am looking for in a varietal wine is the varietal character whether it comes in the form of Rutherford Dust, earthiness, grassiness or even bell pepper and asparagus.” Could not agree more. The same holds true for me with overly oaked Chardonnays, which is why I joined the ABC club. Used to be that early vintages of Oregon Chardonnay (produced from very young vines) were so weak in fruit and varietal character, that the winemakers covered up that lack of fruit with oak. We’ll call it a learning process for producers.

    1. permiesworld Post author

      Cork. And I was surprised (read: heavily skeptical lol). I didn’t really notice much oak, I’m guessing it wasn’t 100% new oak…it reminded me more of the 2nd tier style Napa Cabs where they re-use the oak barrels from their top tier wines, but I think it was French (just guessing…it didn’t have that American oak taste to me) and I didn’t notice a lot of spices or strong oak impressions that made me think a long time in new oak (alternatively it could just have had a short time in the barrel). I honestly just had a Kirkland Rutherford Cab (though it was 2012 and there was a definite difference in maturity) that I would give very similar tasting notes to.

      Reply
      1. Rocky

        Did anyone else notice the predominant “coffee” flavor which took over @ the 1 hour point? Had trouble shaking that, but great still a qpr.

        Reply
        1. permiesworld Post author

          You know, I can see where you get that. For me, the flavors I look for (and love) in a Napa-style Cab…licorice, plum, earth, cocoa nibs and espresso. I didn’t notice espresso as a prominent flavor (hints of, yes) but I can absolutely see where you taste that. When I’m looking for an espresso-style Cab, it’s much more evident (you’d probably hate those lol). If that helps at all.

          Reply

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