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    An Unexpected, and Wonderful, Vertical Tasting of Baily Cabernet Sauvignon

    logoIt was the end of the day on my visit to the Temecula Valley a few weeks ago.? I had been to four wineries, with much success, as the wines were in general very well done.? There are countless others I did not get to, although I did try a few more times.? It was Saturday, and the people were out in force.? Parking lots were full, tasting rooms were jammed, and tour buses were plying the major wine thoroughfares.? After one last ditch effort to stop by one of the larger establishments, a failed one I might add, I wistfully turned my car for downtown and a bite to eat before hitting the highway and the drive south to San Diego.

    On the way a small sign caught my eye, and I registered something about a library tasting.? Now that sounded good, and I decided to Door Verticalgive it one more try and turned the car around.? Where I ended up was at the back of a winery building, belonging to Baily Vineyard & Winery.? Turns out this is actually their production facility.? Their tasting room and restaurant are located just off Rancho California Road.? There were only two cars there, so this was either very encouraging, or a sign that it wasn’t worth the effort.? As I approached the building there was a single wooden door with a sign set up next to it.? It said, “Vertical Tasting of Library Wines – See Lisa for Reservations and More Info”.

    I opened the door to find a small, comfortable room behind it.? To one side was modest tasting bar, and to the other a giant, square, wood table.? There were four people at the bar, and behind it was Lisa.? On the menu were six vintages of Baily Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 through 2013.? This was great!? I looked at the wine list and noticed the $75 at the bottom of the 2008 wine, and thought to myself, “Well, this is a bit pricy, but six library Cabs might be worth it.”? Not to worry however, as that was the bottle price.? The tasting was $20.? Without a doubt this was the best deal for a tasting I had run across all day.

    Since the bar was full I settled into a chair at the big table, glass at the ready, and proceeded to taste through six consecutive years of a delicious, distinctive and excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.? We’ll describe them later, but first a little bit about Baily Vineyards and Winery.? I never made it to the main tasting room on this trip, but Cheri and I will go the next time we are there.

    Baily Vineyards

    Baily Vineyard and Winery was founded by Phil and Carol Baily, who left their day jobs in LA with their two sons back in 1981.? They moved to the country, which turned out to be Temecula, a former 100,000 acre cattle ranch getting a significant facelift and becoming a residential and agricultural community.? Back then the wine industry was in its infancy here.? They planted their first vines in 1982, expanding that to six acres in 1983.? In 1992 they purchased a twenty acre parcel known for producing the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the valley.? This is where the six wines I tasted came from.? Over the years they have opened the tasting room on La Serena Way, built a new modern production facility where the original winery building was located, and added Carol’s Restaurant at the tasting room site.? They now have 27 acres under vine, all wines are made from estate grapes, and they focus on Bordeaux varietals.? These include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.? They also make a bit of Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Riesling and Port.

    At the small tasting room on Pauba Road, where I found myself walking through the lonely wooden door, they hold their library tastings.? My timing happened to coincide with Cabernet Sauvignon, but it could have been their Meritage, or Cabernet Franc.? Again, in my tasting there were six wines, sequential in unbroken order from 2008 through 2013.? These are all 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon.? Let’s talk a little about the underlying profile of Phil Baily’s Cabernet Sauvignon, then about the nuances each year brought.

    Baily Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon – Temecula Valley – the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which make this wine are from that 20 acre parcel purchased back in 1992.? These are Clone 7 vines, widely planted in Napa back in the 1970’s.? They are noted for their deep color, silky texture, and herbaceous, minty aromas.? We should also note that Phil makes the Cabernet exactly the same wayCab Label every year.? Any differences in the wine are due to the grapes and the journey nature took them on in a? given harvest year.? So these wines are not significantly different year to year.? They are subtly different for the most part, with a few exceptions.? Occasionally a little barnyard gets into the nose, but not in most years.? Some are a little higher or lower in alcohol, and there are different secondary fruits and other aromas and tastes lying in the wings.

    Make no mistake about it though, this wine has a core DNA that shines through vintage after vintage, and it comes from that Clone 7 quality, known as “herbaceous and minty”.? For me it came across immediately as Chinese Five Spice on the first wine,? more of a baking spice on the second, but after reflection and revisiting it was exactly the same.? This continued through six wines, that unmistakable herby, spicy, and yes, minty streak.? Around that it are the year to year nuances and differences.? And I loved that spicy core.

    While Temecula has some pretty big wines, and topping 15% or even 16% was not unusual, these are more restrained.? The wines ranged from 13.7 to 14.3%, with the exception of 2012, which checked in at 13%.? They are elegant, focused and beautifully balanced.

    So you can take the above as the intro tasting note to every wine which follows.? I’ll just point out the nuances.

    2013 –?13.8% alcohol, and a medium dark, cherry red color.? Berry and cherry fruit were evident.? Some leather also on the nose.? Tannins were solid, persistent but very approachable.? This was fresh and balanced, and long.? $50

    2012 –?13.0 % alcohol, the lowest of this group.? There was less spice, but the same unmistakable profile ran through the wine.? There was ripe berry, baking spice and macerated orange.? A bit lighter than the rest, and quite complex.? $55

    2011 –?14.1% alcohol, and more noticeable cherry on the nose.? There was also that macerated orange.? This wine is very focused and pure, with more fruit on the palate.? $60

    2010 –?14.1% alcohol, and a pure, dark red color, all the way to the rim.? The fruit here was riper, almost stewed, and there was some barnyard on the nose.? Through it all was the spice/mint DNA chain.? Another fresh, balanced and long wine. $65

    2009 –?13.7% alcohol, and more towards a garnet color, which was different than the other wines.? The aroma and flavor profile were true to form however, and this is another excellent wine.? $70

    2008 –?14.3% alcohol, and at that level the biggest of the six wines I tasted.? This had a dark, dusty red color.? Also just a touch of barnyard on the nose, which blew off and was not evident on the palate.? Berry fruit, and some cherry came in at the end, with a long finish.? Focused and fresh, not showing any signs of age.? This was my favorite of the tasting.? $75


    This was a great wine tasting experience all around, and for several reasons.? Of course the wines were excellent, which always helps!? The setting was comfortable and relaxing, a welcome change from the packed and crazy tasting rooms at the big wineries (especially since this was a Saturday).? This was also a vertical of six vintages, something that is always fun to try so you can compare and contrast, year to year.? Lastly, this was totally unexpected, and that made it even better.

    If you’re in Temecula, I strongly suggest you try to get to Baily’s Estate Tasting Room.? It will likely be the best $20 spent during your

    Estate Wine Tasting Bar

    Estate Wine Tasting Bar

    day.? Note that they are only open at the Estate Tasting Room from Thursday to Sunday.? Also be warned you are likely to bring something home.? I had convinced myself I would not ship wine home during this visit, but a three pack of the Bailey 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon somehow ended up in North Carolina, at my doorstep.? Funny how things happen sometimes.

    Lisa Long is the Estate Club Director at Bailey, and she was a gracious and knowledgeable host.? You might get Cabernet Sauvignon, you might get Meritage or Cabernet Franc.? You will definitely enjoy it.

    As I said, when I get back to Temecula with Cheri we will be going to the main tasting room as well.? There is an entire line of wines from Baily I am looking forward to trying.

    The Particulars:

    Baily Vineyard and Winery – Website:?http://www.bailywinery.com/

    Main Tasting Room – 33440 La Serena Way,? Temecula? CA? 92591


    Open every day

    Estate Tasting Room – 36150 Pauba Road,? Temecula, CA? 92592


    Open Thur – Sun

    Also – if you find yourself hungry they have Carol’s Restaurant at the main tasting room.

    A votre santé!


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