Southern Slope 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Five Blocks” Reserve

Paso Robles, CA; 13.5% ABV
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 20 Nov

SouthernSlope_2013_CabSauvResThis wine caught my attention because the back label gives brief tasting notes for each of the five blocks of Cabernet that went into this wine.  I figured that if they were that careful about the blend, the wine might be pretty good.  This wine’s soft and ripe style is not really to my taste, but this is a good version of it.

I thought this young wine needed about 90 minutes in a decanter to show full-flavored candy of ripe, purplish red cherry and lighter blackberry, some black pepper and other earthy spice, with a slight herbal note.  It has a fair amount of the “cheap oak product” (wood chips or liquid oak extract) I dislike, contributing a lot to the sweet, candy-like nature of the wine, but not overwhelming the Cabernet fruit flavors.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) still needed about an hour of air to become more dark and rich, slightly syrupy.  If you like this style, it would be safe to stock up on this wine, since it should easily last a few years more.  Myself, I’ll look for something made more dry and with honest oak.


23 thoughts on “Southern Slope 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “Five Blocks” Reserve

  1. flitcraft

    In the never-ending wine cellar reorg at our house, I was surprised to find a bottle of this wine. I honestly don’t recall buying it. But, circumstantial evidence suggests that I must have. So, despite the conflicting opinions on it–or maybe because of them–we opened it yesterday.

    It’s definitely got the Cabernet Sauvignon cherry-cola notes that I tend to associate with Paso Robles. It also went down pretty easily. There’s oak there, alright, but it wasn’t particularly obtrusive or artificial tasting to me. It’s a pretty well made, medium bodied Paso Robles cab, which isn’t in my wheelhouse, but we happily consumed more than half the bottle with dinner. I thought I would mention this point, though, which is that there was more bricking than I would have expected given its age. So, if you have these, and you’re in the “yum” rather than the “yuck” team for this wine, I’d drink up soon.

  2. lim13

    First off, I have no idea what this wine tastes like because I’ve never seen it here in WA, but then I really haven’t looked for it. In fact I don’t believe I ever read the review until now. But after reading the last comment by Pat Bouillez and then reading all the other comments, I feel the need to say something. BW: It’s clear that some love the wine: others, including yourself just didn’t like it. Fair enough. But I’ve never completely understood the number of references you’ve made about wines that taste like “cheap oak product” (wood chips or liquid oak extract) was used in production. Granted, I’ve seen those products used on visits to some wineries. But I really don’t believe it’s used in “quality” wines as much as you seem to think it is. Maybe it’s the use of American oak barrels (which I think we’ve discussed before). But not liking a wine and suggesting that a winery is cutting corners by using “cheap oak products” just doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I checked the winery fact sheet and it says the wine was “aged 10 months in a combination of French and American oak”. Maybe they’re handing us blarney, but I’m willing to take it at face value.

      1. lim13

        Ran your comment by my most trusted and reliable industry resource, SB…40+ years as a researcher, vineyard manager, winery owner and winemaker. Here are his comments:

        “For a $25 bottle of wine, the winemaker can certainly afford new American oak barrels and even some new French. For example, our Cabernet Sauvignon retails for about $22.50 and we use about 50% new oak and it is mostly French.

        On the other hand, there are now so many oak ‘alternatives’ available for various applications that it is hard to say that even a producer of a $50 wine may not use some. That said, it still would not be the primary source of oak flavor but more like ‘seasoning’. For example, many oak alternative producers are pushing oak powder during red fermentations to help stabilize color and to introduce some early oak flavors. I actually experimented with some French oak powder during the 2014 vintage but did not find it that impactful, so did not use it further. It definitely did not give the wine a ‘sawdust’ character though. In general, the later the use of oak alternatives in the wine-making process the more likely they will impart a noticeable character and it is obviously dependent on how much you use. The most likely type of oak alternatives that would be used late in the process would be ‘staves on a chain’ that can be inserted into barrels through the bung hole. Based on past experimentation with these, some are of very high quality, essentially like new oak barrels, and would be indistinguishable from actual barrels.

        I also wanted to mention that oak alternatives, especially staves, are typically used on wines that cost less than $15 and exclusively on wines under $10.”

        1. BargainWhine Post author

          Hi Lim13. So, to unpack all this. I find in many inexpensive wines (from the US only, as best as I can recall), a flavor that I’ve tried to describe as artificial vanilla, and a character that’s smoothly viscous moving toward syrupy. I dislike it. For a long time, I thought it was due to American Oak. However, people here pointed out to me a few wines that were aged in AO, but lacked this character. I asked about it at a winery I visited in the Russian River Valley area. The person I asked seemed to recognize right away what I was talking about, and said it was due to putting wood chips in a bag into the wine or something they called “liquid oak extract,” and said it was generally in lower-end wines. Indeed, I have never tasted this flavor / character in a “better” wine, but I have also tasted plenty of cheap foreign wines and never encountered it (again, as best as I can recall). So… what is it? I admit to knowing very little about winemaking, so if anyone has any better ideas, please chime in.

      2. Darrell

        I was going to comment, too, about new oak vs price point when thinking about recent experience with South African and Australian Chardonnays that were barrel fermented. The South African wine is the 2011 McPherson Chapter Three Chard and based on their 2013 winemaking notes, they use 80% new French oak puncheons (500 L) which is slightly less than two barrels. They also undergo a weekly stirring for about 8 months which also adds an extra expense. The wine averages $20 a bottle. The 2010 Graham Beck Ad Honorem Chardonnay I liked had similar treatment in ” large format” fermentation and aging w/ batonnage. It sells for around $9 from what I could find out. I thought to myself how can they charge these prices with new oak and I guess they can.

        I found it interesting that the wine industry offers French oak powder and it didn’t surprise me that it had no or little effect on the flavoring. Cold tank fermentation of Chardonnay to dryness, filtered and then aged in new oak produces an oaky tasting Chard. Thinking about the Leto Chardonnay here. White Burgundy use new barrels regularly, especially the Grand and Premier Cru wines, and did you ever wonder why the wine doesn’t taste strongly oaky. My theory is this is partly due to much barrel toasting and also barrel fermentation. I just found out on reading about oak lactones that the higher the toast of a barrel, the less lactone flavoring in the wine. With barrel fermentation, all the fermenting yeast is part of the aging wine and guess where all that new expensive oak extract ends up? My belief is that a good part of it ends up in the lees which gets removed and discarded. I can’t remember having a strong oaky tasting White Burgundy like we have in some of our CA Chardonnay that don’t employ Burgundian practices.

        In discussing Bonny Doon 2012 Le Cigare Blanc “Beeswax Vineyard,” I visited the winery’s
        website and was pleasantly surprised by their candor in some of their winemaking practices,
        ” In the winemaking process, the following were utilized: indigenous yeast, yeast nutrients, and French oak chips.” I do see the efficacy of hanging oak staves as a flavoring agent when older barrels have lost their vanillin and lactones. Lim, I wonder if the processors of these staves toast them also.

        1. lim13

          It’s funny you mention the French Burgundies, Darrell. I had a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet (that was kindly “donated” to me by flitcraft) last week and I was taken by the fact that the oak was so nicely balanced with the fruit. I’m very oak sensitive and found the Burgundy quite pleasant and hardly over-oaked (as in the case of many CA and OR Chardonnays), which is why I generally buy that variety as a last resort. Plus good white Burgundies are often not in my price range, so I don’t drink them very often. Also…I’m checking with my com padre’ about toasting the staves (I’m thinking they do) and will report back.

        2. lim13

          Haven’t heard back from my buddy yet, Darrell…but you might find this link interesting. Appears you can get all kinds of oak products in French or American and in all the various toasts.

          1. Darrell

            Lim, thanks for the link. I like the way the writer demonstrates over oaking on the country that has “full of kangaroos and poisonous fur-covered ducks.” Funny writer, “Chateau Plywood.” The part about “While pre-fermentation oak is mellower, post-fermentation oak is another ball of wax. Instead of being transformed by yeast action, the oak aromatics and flavor compounds are simply extracted from the wood by the alcohol (almost all of the compounds are alcohol soluble as opposed to water-soluble). Without the influence of the yeast the aroma and flavor profile is much more aggressive and more tannic, and the level of toasting shows through to a greater degree,” confirms our experience and observations about barrel fermentation. Not sure how you have so much experience as a confirmed ABCer.

            1. lim13

              Duh! Got it. Brain was obviously a little slow on the draw last night. Gotta’ lay off the wine. So, now to answer your comment. I drank a lot of Chardonnay before I realized that oak was just not my friend in most cases…particularly in whites. Got tired of consuming all that wood…and moved more in the direction of fruit and flavors other than Chardonnay (OTC).

  3. Pat Bouillez

    I’m glad you are all not on to it so more for me. I thought this was an excellent Cab. So very smooth, yet somewhat bold. Not weak as so many of the GO bargain ones are. I’m going back for more!

  4. Expat

    I considered this but sized it up to be EXACTLY what you described B-Dub. Thanks for confirming and saving me a few bucks. Not my style of wine.

    1. Elon Ebanks

      I can’t believe what I am hearing about Southern Slope cab,the first bottle I opened was everything I like in a cab lots of fruit, not too heavy on the oak, tannins well balance, smooth and silky finish. However my second bottle was not as exciting, perhaps because I was coming down with a cold, but will buy more before it’s all gone.

      1. BargainWhine Post author

        Hi Elon. In both of your replies to my reviews, you’ve told me I’m totally wrong in my opinion. I think it’s fair to say we have different tastes in wine. However, I would hope that my reviews could still be useful to you. If I use descriptions for a wine that are similar to what I’ve said about wines you’ve liked, you might want to try them. Going the other way, are there wines I’ve liked that you didn’t? Thanks, BW.

  5. G.L. Pease

    I’m with you on this one, BW. I tasted it over several days, hoping it might develop some more character, something interesting for all that fruit to be hanging from. Nothing. It’s not flawed. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just doesn’t have anything to hold my interest beyond the first sip. When it began to evolve VA, I just poured the rest down the drain and pulled the cork on a 2007 Marques de Arienzo Crianza, which was quite a bit more interesting, enjoyable, and does have honest oak. (At $2.99, I’d name this one the bargain of the week.)

    1. seedboy

      Have you tried the Lake Sonoma Sauv Blanc yet? Also $2.99. Nice example of a California style SB, fig and honeydew with good minerality and acid. I like it a lot more than that Crianza, which is a soundly made wine.


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