Food & Drink » Winesipper

TOP DRAWER CABERNETS

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If you're like me, having your holiday gift list under control means that this year, you're done chasing after that last perfect present just before the shops close on Christmas Eve. Still looking for something for that deserving wine lover on you list? How about a killer Cabernet? Our panel tasted a number of top end Cabs, and we found four that we'd also love to find under the tree on Christmas day.

2002 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $33

John Abbot left the cushy confines of California for the wilderness of Washington, at least that's the way his co-workers saw it. Now, after a productive stint at Canoe Ridge, he's crafting exceptional wines at Walla Walla's Abeja. His 2002 Cabernet is a well-structured beauty that's a bit closed in at first, but opens up to reveal ripe raspberry aromas, elegant berry fruit flavors and soft tannins on the long, creamy finish. Good now, but it should age beautifully.

2002 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon, $89

Exceptional wine, unconventional Cabernet, this California cult classic really stands out. A bold wine that's densely packed with huge berry fruit aromas and equally big berry fruit flavors. With mouth coating tannins and a good kiss of acidity that lends balance, this wine is not for the feint of heart, but if you know someone who likes wines larger-than-life, look no further.

2001 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, $22

At the opposite end of the style spectrum from the David Arthur, Mondavi's Cab is elegantly structured with floral aromas backed by bright berry, cherry and mocha. It offers just the right kiss of toasty oak in a velvety wine that's beautifully balanced. Ample fruit and a touch of anise add interest and complexity. A great price for a Cabernet of this caliber.

2000 Zahtila Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstofer Vineyard George III, $38

This California wine should appeal to the Bordeaux lover on your list as well, with aromas that are especially reminiscent of that French classic. Layers of flavor with lightly tart cherry and sweet berry fruit complemented by soft oak, vanilla, spice, cedar and smoke. Mellow tannins come through on the impressively long finish. From a newer winery with a promising future.

This Week's Panel: Trisha Elrod, Moon River Distributing; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kyle Marler, Bardenday.