2015 Boëte, Cheval Rouge Reserve, Saunders Estate Vineyard, Carmel Valley AVA, Monterey County.
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc this dark garnet 2015 Boëté Cheval Rouge Reserve is drinking beautifully and has entered a peak window with supple tannins and nicely maturing fruit on the full bodied palate. There’s plenty of depth to be found here and I enjoyed the layers of blackberry, plum, cherry and currant fruits along with touches of oak, spice and subtle floral aromatics, adding tobacco leaf, anise, leather and sandalwood as it opens. The Saunders family, who’s hillside vines, planted to Bordeaux varietals in 1997, are wonderfully situated high above the Carmel River, on stony ancient seabed soils, where they get plenty of warm sunshine to get the fruit nice and ripe, located just about a mile or so past the Carmel Valley Village with good southern facing slopes. The Merlot here is surprising powerful and structured, feeling more like Cabernet and provides a nice backbone to this wine, while still enjoying the plush mouth feel you’d want and expect, with the Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon helping deliver complexity.

John Saunders, who founded Boëté in the early 2000s, and his sons, Jesse (winemaker) and Dylan, continue to put out strong efforts here, with the winery specializing in 100% estate-grown Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, a big local favorite and Merlot, as found here in this wine, plus they do a lovely claret style Bordeaux blend called the Cheval Rouge. The winemaking is simple and traditional with a priority to allow the vines to speak for themselves with 100% hand picked and de-stemmed grapes that are carefully selected and open top fermented and see a long elevage, between 18 and 24 months, in mostly used French oak barrels to promote a raw transparency in the wines. This blend is usually Merlot led, maybe 60% and then the rest almost equal parts Cab Sauvignon and Cab Franc, making it a bit Right Bank in style, modeled after Saint-Emillon, but decidedly Californian in concentration and opulence. Boëté, a micro winery is mainly a direct to consumer label, selling mostly to their mailing list and on the website, where I suggest going to, to explore the offerings, like this one, which is a great value, as well as the quality estate solo varietal expressions.
($42 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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