I am a big fan of Neal Family Vineyards, but last night, I got a little nervous about that. Let me explain…

Today is the 75th Wine Blogging Wednesday, and Joe of 1 Wine Dude asked wine bloggers  to select a single vineyard wine to review to mark the occasion.

My husband and I pulled out three different Neal Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. (All three bottles were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 2007, all organically grown, each was from a different vineyard.) We decided on the Howell Mountain Estate bottle.

Gary decanted it and, once the kids were tucked in for the night, we poured ourselves each a glass, took a sniff, took a sip, and BAM! I was knocked over the head with the bold flavor.

I wanted to love it, as I have enjoyed Neal wines so much in the past. But it was just too bold and brawny for me. I kept trying to temper it with food, but its flavor could not be softened. The Howell Mountain Cabernet from Neal Family just had too much flavor, too much power. I hated to admit it, but it was just not for me.

My husband, on the other hand, loved it… and I don’t think he minded that my slow sipping allowed more wine for him. He loved the strong flavor, the full body and the fruit in every sip.

He is also a man who likes a lot of seasoning and flavor in his food, whereas I like things a little lighter.

I just kept wondering what in the world I was going to write. I loved Neal Family Vineyard when we visited a few years back. Gove, the winemaker we met, was such a gracious host and I have enjoyed drinking his wines over the years.

Meeting with Gove, the winemaker at Neal, back in 2009

What was happening here? How could I not love a wine from there? But the truth was, that wine was too much.

Gary suggested we try another bottle. We opened another Neal, this one from the Rutherford Dust Vineyards.

Just after opening it, before he even poured, we knew we were in for something different than we we had been drinking.

It smelled delicious, luring me in for a taste. It was lush, but not nearly as full-bodied as the Howell Mountain. I noted a hint of tobacco and some green pepper and I finally sat back and enjoyed this bottle of wine.

And all was right with the world again.

At least for me.

It was full of flavor, just not so overwhelming.

The finish on the Rutherford Dust wasn’t as bold as that of the Howell Mountain either, instead it invited me to go in for another sip, and another, and another…

This was a wine I could drink all night, and still taste something different with each taste.


And as it opened up, it became even richer and smoother.

 The whole experience really made me realize how different my husband’s palate is from mine… and it also reinforced the fact that that is okay. Just because he enjoys a wine does not mean I should enjoy it, too. Which is the same thing we all need to keep in mind when it comes to scores and expert reviews:

 When a notable wine expert (or anyone, really) says a wine is spectacular, that doesn’t mean that you should feel that way, too. We all have different flavor preferences. There is no need to ‘train’ your palate to like something or not like something… Just drink what you like.

Use reviews as a launching point. For example, I felt the Howell Mountain Cabernet was too powerful for me, but my husband loved it. I liked the flavors of the Rutherford Dust, Gary did not. That doesn’t mean one is any better than the other, they are just different. And hopefully my observations on the two, or any wine I share about here, will help you make a better choice for you.

As we called it a night, I have to say I was glad for the experiment and exercise. And now I know I need to get my hands (and lips) on some more Cabernets from Rutherford!!


If you are taking part in Singles Night with Wine Blogging Wednesday, what wine did you try?

And, either way, what do you think about following your own palate? Do you let the experts tell you what to drink? Do you use them as a guide? Or do you completely venture out on your own? Please share in the comments.

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