Value Alert: 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The market for relabeled wines is growing and competitive.  What is relabeling exactly?  Well, when a premium winery bottles their wines they sometimes keep a percentage of production unlabeled so they can elect at a later date to sell the wine as their own -or- sell it to another company who places a different label on it and sells it as a different wine.  This practice gives wineries a way to sell excess inventory without tarnishing their brand's reputation and polluting their sales channels with cut-rate inventory.  The economic downturn that began a few years ago has been particularly harsh on the wine trade and value-hunting wine consumers, at least in the short run, have benefited from this process.

There are some variations on the relabeling scenario described above.  Sometimes it's the grapes, sometimes it's "the juice", and sometimes it's a finished bottled product that's being offered.  Brands you may recognize as operating within some variation of this model include Cameron Hughes, 90+ Cellars, and Newman WinesBanshee Wines aims to "deliver distinctive wines that beat the pants off many costing twice as much."  I think they're pushing the pricing envelope within this model at $35 for a 2007 Napa Cab.  I say it's pushing the envelope because there are some great 2007 Napa Cabs that can be had in this price range like the 2007 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon if you shop around.  With a relabeled wine you forgo the connection with the original producing winery so I factor that into the equation when considering purchase of a relabeled wine.  At $35, a relabeled wine needs to be really good to fly off the shelves.

The 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon caught my attention because of recommendations from some of my must trusted retailers.  I bought this particular bottle from John Hafferty at Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA.  I stopped in a week ago trolling through the bargain bins (picked up some 2007 Ridge Monte Bello half bottles -and- some 2007 Gaja Sito Moresco at unbeatable prices) and he said he this wine was the best deal in the store.  John tastes more wine in a week than I do in a year probably and especially since I love Napa Cab I took his recommendation and ran with it.  I'm glad I did.

From Banshee Wines: 

When this wine became available to us, we were blown away by our good fortune.
Some fun facts:
The winery where this gem was born has a flagship wine that releases for over $200 a bottle.
It was made by one of the top 3 winemaking consultants in the world.
The winery sold this exact wine with a different label for $100 a bottle.
We bought all of the unlabeled bottles they had and are offering it for 1/3 of the price!
This big Cab was made to go with a grass fed NY strip. Light up the grill baby!

I found the Banshee label reminiscent of the Schrader Cellars "Old Sparky" label (below) and I think that's a good thing.  If you don't have a Wine Spectator subscription I'd highly recommend setting aside some time to read this piece James Laube wrote about Fred Schrader while online access if free the next couple of weeks.
Here are my notes on the Banshee:

2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% Alcohol
23 Barrels Produced (575 cases)
$35 Release Price ($27-$30 street price)

For how powerful and utterly delicious this wine is on the palate, it starts off slowly.

Visually, it's about 70% opaque. The nose only hints at what's to come - it actually smelled like a rather ordinary red wine to me. Some fruit, a little iron, a bit of earth.

But on the palate, this wine is extraordinary, on the mid-palate in particular. It has a powerful mocha streak that I found stunningly attractive. Imagine an iced cafe mocha served in a pint glass with a streak of Hershey's syrup down the side. That's what this wine is to me. A beautifully framed Napa Cabernet wrapped around a core of delicious earthy chocolate notes with a finish that goes on for minutes.

Highly recommended. I'd rate it higher if it somehow balanced out the deliciousness with just a touch more fruit or acid. But it's so good I'm willing to forgive it. 

93/100 WWP: Outstanding 

Further Reading:
Have you had this wine?  If so, what did you think?  Either way, how do you approach purchase decisions related to relabeled wines?

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