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Chanticleer 04 Cabernet and winemaker Dearden Hailed

January 30, 2008

A New Dawn

By Richard DeAngelis
Certified Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers)
Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators)

It’s that time of year when list after list of the best and worst of 2007 come out. From sports to fashion, every genre plays the end of the year game. The wine industry is the same, with different publications touting this wine or winemaker as the year’s best or worse. As much as I try to avoid them I can’t help but do the same darn thing! As I file away my tasting journals to make room for the upcoming New Year, I go through them and list out all the wines that I graded as outstanding. At the same time I look at the year in totality for different trends, regions, winemakers or wine companies that I need to keep an eye out for.

 This was a light year as far as how many wines I tasted. For the year I took notes on almost 1500 wines. I didn’t travel as much as I have in the past and where I would normally have notes on 1800 to 2000 wines, this year I didn’t get there. In comparing the overall quality of wines, I would say 2007 was a very good year. Certain regions came on very strong, in particular Argentina and Spain. There were disappointments too; Italy was perhaps the biggest with few wines showing up in the “gotta have it” list and many with a thumbs down. 

 If I had to give year end awards just based on what I have in my tasting notes, Chris Dearden would be winemaker of the year. Chris is the winemaker, general manager and vineyard manager of Benessere Vineyards in Napa. Chris is also a partner and the winemaker in a few small production wines that we are lucky enough to not only try but buy.  Chris is renowned for his Sangiovese, but it is his touch on Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet that elevate him above the rim. He is responsible for my highest rated Napa cabernet, Chanticleer, and all of the other wines tasted from him were tops in their class. Chris’s wines have always shown well in the past, but this year there were no ordinary entries; they were all groovy to killer to “are you kidding me?” great wines.

 I do not have one wine that I think stands out above all others. I have eighteen wines that all received heavy accolades and exclamations.  If I had to elevate just one it would probably be the ’04 Chanticleer. There were less than 500 cases produced and they are all gone. It is one of Chris Dearden’s creations and it is simply awesome! Most of the wines that get me all fired up are not the big time big name wines, but are unique for their composition and show incredible value. Many of the “killer” gotta have it wines are repeat performers.


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