HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA. 13.5% alcohol. $9.99-11.99, available for as little as $8.95.

This Cab is from the same area and the same vintage as the J. Lohr Merlot we like (see the September 12, 2011 post). We weren’t surprised that it’s good, but we were surprised that it’s THIS good, as well as being an extremely good value. And no wonder: it’s a “baby Caymus” (details later).

This wine is dangerously smooth—it’s so smooth it can be passively sipped, but that would give you only a shadow of the experience that’s in this bottle of vino. You’ll have to “chew and swish” to get all the subtleties from it, but you probably already know to do that. Anyhow, this is by far the best Cabernet I’ve ever had at this price. It lacks the harshness of other Cabs, and while smooth, it’s large and luscious.

Color: Dark purple, with orange and brown at the edges, clean.

Bouquet: Wow! High-quality and consistent bouquet from the get-go. Hints of cedar and oak, lots of vanilla, spice, and big dark fruits. The first sip or two were jammy and didn’t match the aroma at all, but given the quality of that bouquet, we had plenty of reassurance and anticipation for what was to come. Yep! I love being right. 🙂

Chewy, huge fruits, a hint of oak. Long sensual finish. Blackberry, currant, raspberry, cassis, mild tannins, oak, huge tears.

LABEL NOTES: California has established itself over the past 150 years as an ideal home for our flagship varietal. Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of our search for the soils and microclimates within the state that are capable of producing the best possible expressions of this grape. The Liberty School winery is located in Paso Robles, CA. Hope Family Wines: The home of delicious wines that are easy to enjoy.

HISTORY: Liberty School is a family-owned winery in Paso Robles, in California’s Central Coast. This unique growing region is characterized by a diversity of vineyard soils, and a climate of diurnal temperature shifts of up to 50 degrees.

The Hope family planted wine grapes there in 1978. In the early 1980s, Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles caught the attention of renowned Napa Valley vintner Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. In search of Cabernet for his second label, Liberty School, Wagner approached Hope Farms as a fruit source. As growers during the next decade, the Hope family helped build the brand’s solid reputation for quality and value.

In 1996, the Hopes established Treana Winery, and the Hopes took over the Liberty School label, later adding a Central Coast Chardonnay, Syrah and Cuvée to the line. Liberty School is known to be among the best values in California wine. Their goal is to produce delicious, fruit-driven, varietally correct wines at reasonable prices.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES: Liberty School’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes primarily from the east side of Paso Robles, prime Cabernet country, with the added complexity of a few west side sources. Drawing on multiple vineyards—usually about a dozen each year—allows the winemaking team to take advantage of different soils, micro-climates, clones and rootstocks to create a harmonious, balanced, rounded final product. The free run wine and the wine from pressing are kept separate and after a brief time to settle, all the wine goes to barrel, where the secondary (or malolactic) fermentation is kicked off. The Liberty School Cabernet matures in a mix of French and American oak (and a mix of different cooperages), about 10% of it new oak, for about 12 months before blending and bottling.

WEB NOTES: Director of winemaking Austin Hope’s philosophy has evolved at the intersection of the Old World and the New, a respect for balance and elegance layered onto the vibrant fruit of the Central Coast. Winemaker Jason Diefenderfer describes Liberty School’s approach to winemaking in terms that might sound contradictory: “It’s very traditional, and very New World.” Which means a combination of basic winemaking practices proven over decades in cellars around the world with modern technology and lush, ripe fruit. Wine goes quickly to barrel. “We want our wine in wood,” says Jason, “not wood in our wine.”

The web sites have a lot more technical information about how the wines are grown, harvested, pressed, and ultimately made into delicious wine. For more details, visit http://libertyschoolwinery.com/ and www.hopefamilywines.com.

Brands grown under the Hope Family imprimatur include Treana, Liberty School, Austin Hope, Candor, and Troublemaker.


WINE SPECTATOR: [2007] Pleasant dark berry and crème de cassis notes, with hints of spice and vanilla. It was medium-bodied, with a nice balance to the weight, modest tannins and subtle acidity. All around, a nice, easy-drinking Cabernet …with a nice, easy-drinking price tag.

BEVERAGE DYNAMICS: This Cabernet is such a consistently great quality wine every vintage. Aggressive yet controlled fruit offer a backbone of rich, deep berry and cassis with an unbelievable balance of tannin and acidity. The price makes it affordable to entertain with quality and not break the bank. A must have!

WINEEXPRESS.COM: It offers vibrant cassis and berry fruit with supple tannins and just a touch of oak.

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One Response to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA. 13.5% alcohol. $9.99-11.99, available for as little as $8.95.

  1. JoAnn Kison says:

    Can you tell me where winemaker Jason Diefenderfer is now working?

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