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Cecchetti-Sebastiani with winemaker Bob Broman

by Tom Cannavan, 03/00

winemaker  Wine-maker Bob Broman was in town courtesy of UK importer Vinoceros and local retailer Peckhams (0141 445 4555) to show his mass-market budget-priced Pepperwood Grove range, as well as mid-range bottles under the Quatro label.

I was kindly invited to dinner with Bob afterwards, where we re-sampled a few of the wines and the excellent Cecchetti-Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon from his premium range.

Bob has made wine for a couple of decades now, having served his time at Concannon, Stag's Leap, Guenoc and St. Supréy wineries.

Bob states that the intention with his Pepperwood Grove brand is to produce fruit-driven, medium-bodied and balanced wines. Sourced from throughout California, grapes are bought-in and the wines assembled in the Napa Valley.

Broman's mission is to make food-friendly, "drinkable" rather than show-stopping wines. By and large he succeeds very well: the wines each show good varietal character, moderate oaking, and are fresh on the palate. Like many filtered and mass-produced wines, some were a little light in the mouth - the promise of the nose not fully delivered. The Quatro range has more depth and complexity as well as a toasty oak character. The Cecchetti-Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon was quite clearly a level above again. This is a négociant wine - young wines are bought in, blended and aged by Bob. Made from 100% Spring Mountain and Stag's Leap fruit, it spends over 3 years in mostly older French oak barrels.

The tasting was not blind. Prices shown are retail, in UK Sterling (approx £6=$9US).

White

Pepperwood Grove Sauvignon Blanc 1997 - £5.99
Very pale. Quite a light, crisp herbal and lime nose. Very fresh. Rather light on fruit on the palate. Slightly spritzy, there are lemon and clean melon flavours, but this is a little undistinguished.

Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay 1998 - £5.99
Colour is pale gold. Clean tropical fruit nose. Notes of melon and pineapple, little hints of greengage and sweet peachy fruit. On the palate very fresh with just a little smooth vanillin oak rounding out flavours of peach and tropical fruit. Finishes with balanced acidity, decent length and just a touch of spice. Good. This was drunk with dinner (poached pears with goat's cheese filo parcels) where it really was good - clean and savoury yet with good fruit.

Quatro Chardonnay 1997 - £9.99
More colour, deeper and gold. Nose is quite savoury with nutty, buttery aromas. Oak is quite prominent and the fruit restrained. Notes of honeysuckle, straw and juicy apples. On the palate toasty flavours integrate well with melon and apple fruit, little nuances of darker fig fruit. Quite long. Good.

Red

Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir 1997 - £5.99
Medium/pale soft ruby. Nose is jammy and sweetly-fruited with strawberry and raspberry aromas and a hint of earth and spice. Palate has decent fruit, but I find this slightly stalky and tannic with a rather mean character. Finish is moderately long.

Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Franc 1997 - £5.99
This has a good medium ruby colour and a very attractive varietal nose. Aromas of blackcurrant and leafy green notes, quite jammy and ripe. Fruit is good on the palate, raspberry and currant with some smoky, spicy nuances. Nicely balanced, this finishes with rather lean tannins but is a nice wine. A mouthful or two of this with dinner showed it to be a very food-friendly wine.

Pepperwood Grove Merlot 1998 - £5.99
Medium ruby colour again. Good fruit. Dark cherry and plum aromas. The palate has a creamy berry character and some bright cherry flavours. The fruit gives way to rather drying tannins and a light, sharp finish, but another pleasant wine.

Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - £5.99
A little bit of greenness on the nose. Herbaceous, with light raspberry fruit. Slightly better on the palate with more richness and more character. A light style of food-friendly Cabernet.

Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel 1997 - £5.99
Winner of a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, this has quite a rich, full ruby colour. The nose has a mass of cream and berries, a touch of pepper. The palate displays good fruit with a dark plum and plum-skin bitterness, cherry and a grippy tannic edge. This has some real substance and is filled-out with a deft layer of oak. Nice balance and length.

Quatro Pinot Noir 1995 - £9.99
Brick edged light ruby colour. Nose has a more funky, vegetal profile than the Pepperwood Pinot. Wafts of rubber, leather and spice. Palate is rather dry and tannic. Vestiges of sweet fruit, berries and cherry, but to me this seems rather lean, mean and a shade past its best.

Quatro Merlot 1996 - £9.99
More intense ruby/purple with some depth. Fairly subdued at first, the nose gives up a bouquet of cream, dark berries and toasty, spicy oak, some minty, herbal notes. Palate has a good weight of fruit. Very round, with good balance and concentration into the finish. Very good. Tasted again with dinner, showed good balance and some structure.

Cecchetti-Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - (price not known)
Dark ruby/black, quite opaque. Lovely earth and mineral aromas dominate, with blackcurrant fruit beneath and a framework of toasty oak in the background. Good intensity of fruit on the plate: juicy blackcurrant and cherry. Some tobacco and coffee from the oak, but fine balance with a peppercorn and spice edge. There are fine tannins that are ripe and very sweet. This has good fruit and very good length. medium-bodied, quite elegant. Drinking well, but should have the balance for 5 - 8 more years. Very good.

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