Nearly every winery makes a Cabernet Sauvignon. Grown the world over, Cabs widely vary in body, flavor, and complexity. And the average liquor store’s wall of options can be daunting. Barring a stint as a sommelier, you probably aren’t going to be spending much time Googling regional soil and climate conditions for the year on the label prior to purchasing. Most likely, you’re looking for a decent bottle that will impress you girlfriend but not break the bank, and which hopefully tastes at least a little superior to portly Mr. Rossi over there in the gallon jug. Sometimes to discover something new, I just single in on a price point I’m comfortable with and pick the label that looks most interesting.
I tried First Press Cabernet based on its super-basic label. I’ve found that the more elaborate the label on an under-$20 bottle of wine, the more they seem to be compensating for what’s inside. First Press depicts a rustic fellow with a wide-brimmed hat working a wine press, the name of the vineyard, varietal, and vintage. Simplicity is key—I like to imagine idealistic winemakers shooing graphic designers and marketing folks with a wave of their flannel clad arms, too intent on making great vino to worry about city-slicker things such as demographics and font families.
On opening, the smell of berries and vanilla becomes immediately apparent, while the wine itself pours a deep blood red with oily purple overtones. The legs—a term used to describe those streaks of viscous alcohol that slowly run down the inside of the glass after swirling—are slightly thicker than average. Not surprising, considering the bottle boasts 14.5% alcohol, definitely on the high side.
This is not a bad thing.
After giving the glass a good, pinky-extended swirling (and spilling some on my jeans), the first sip is soft at first, calling to mind Concord grape juice with raspberries and instant coffee.
The back of the bottle proudly describes First Press Cabernet as, “firmly structured with rich, complex layers”. I’m going to have to disagree a bit, if only because when I think “rich”, I think lots of flavor explosions, and that just wasn’t happening here. It was good, sure, but certainly not rich. It was complex, though, as the taste morphed from berries at the front of the palate to something darker and more mocha-like at the back, but never bitter.
2010 First Press Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Napa Valley
Recommended for: People who like a slightly lighter wine and who don’t like super jammy, fruit-forward wines. I personally like to be able to practically chew my Cabs, and First Press is definitely not in that category. It would stand up to things like a burger or pasta, but only in their more basic forms, and almost certainly not with a rich red sauce or strong cheese.