When I'm asked for a good-value wine, I have a few that come to mind immediately. Certain offerings in the $8-$20 range I find complex and interesting and enjoyable to drink, and I don't hesitate to tell people about them.
So, without hesitation -- I submit the 2007 Ex Libris Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley in Washington State. I first tasted the Ex Libris Cab a few years back, and grabbed this latest release out of an "Oh, yeah, I remember this wine..." sentiment. And, boy, I am SO happy I did.
First you have the bottle; intriguing label. A take on DaVinci's Vitruvian Man, missing a few limbs, or maybe just VM trying to stay upright after a few glasses of this wine. It's a big bottle, thick brown-olive glass, deep punt. Intended or not, the bottle subtly suggests the experience of the wine to come.
You open it, pour a glass, go to sniff... and Wha-BAM! I think maybe Emeril would like this wine, because every time I stick my nose in the glass, it all but smacks me upside the head to a BAM! soundtrack. The '07 Ex Libris has an incredibly heady nose of dense red and black fruit, violets, cedar and spice. This is a New World Cab, no doubt, but one that suggests an elegance and measured richness lacking in some of its counterparts, lumbering along like overbearing party-crashers. (You might get a kick out of them for a while, but soon they repeat their jokes, and then get sloppy and loud and annoying and hit on your girlfriend.)
This juicy wine has a mouth-painting wash of lush blackberry, cassis, raspberry, black cherry, violets and a hint of anise. All somewhat common Cab descriptors, but rarely have I enjoyed so many in one mouthful. There is a TON going on here, especially when you factor in the price point; I bought this wine today for $19. A mere nineteen dollars. I didn't mean to give that part away so soon, but I couldn't help it. (An online search shows it retails in the NYC area from $17-23.)
On the long, even finish, you'll find soft tannins and a hint of acidity. There were a few spots on the bottom of my glass that at first I took to be minor sedimentary particles, but discovered were tiny bubbles; perhaps a miniscule amount of secondary fermentation came to the party, but was of no affront.
The grapes for this wine were sourced from vineyards scattered around Washington and California. Some historical details are hazy to uncover, but one imagines that the Ex Libris (meaning "from the library," those scattered vineyards being the "library," get it?) is a labor of love from some winemakers who had a certain product in mind - a wine that costs half as much as it tastes like it should.
In my opinion, make that a wine that costs a third as much as it tastes like it should. I could keep going on and on, but I need to get back to my glass. Fire up the grill, throw on some steaks, or invite your vegetarian friends for grilled portobellos, but grab a bottle of the Ex Libris and prepare to luxuriate.