Dining | Wine: Parallel Universe 

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A couple of years ago, I wrote in this column about the first-ever Cabernet Sauvignon bottling from Parallel Wines. Right out of the box, Parallel’s Cabernet was all but stunning. And, indeed, it was almost impossible for wine stores here and elsewhere to keep the stuff in stock. It was sold out a few months after its release.

Well, I just sampled the new 2005 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon ($50), and this vintage is every bit as good as the 2003 I mentioned. The price has bumped up $10 since the 2003 release, but it’s still a steal. The main reason this midpriced Cabernet has so much class? Philippe Melka.

More on Melka shortly, but first, here’s a quick refresher about Parallel. It’s owned by a group of partners, all couples based in Park City: Steve and Val Chin, Mike and Toni Doilney, Mac and Ann MacQuoid, and Joe and Paula Swaner Sargetakis. The lives of the four couples have merged and evolved over the past 30 years, eventually leading them to create Parallel Wines of Napa Valley. If you’re interested, you can read more about the unique Parallel story at ParallelWines.com.

The secret weapon behind Parallel’s surprising quality is the Bordeaux-born winemaker Philippe Melka. Melka has been with Parallel since Day 1, and I’m sure the Parallel partners feel damned lucky to have him. He is one of the most sought-after winemakers and viticulturalists in this country. Other award-winning wineries to which Melka lends his expertise include Dana Estates, Gemstone, Hundred Acre, Seavey, Roy Estate, PreVail Winery, Lail, Roy and Flanagan Family Vineyards. Melka, Food & Wine magazine’s “2005 Winemaker of the Year,” is teamed with Parallel’s savvy vineyard managers Jim Barbour and Nate George. Together, they have produced another knockout winner with the 2005 vintage.

The 2005 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 91 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Merlot and 1 percent Petite Verdot. Last year’s 2004 vintage had a much higher ratio of Merlot and Petit Verdot. I recall the 2004 Parallel Cabernet as having lots of dark-chocolate and black-cherry aromas and flavors. It was great, but I like the 2005 even better. The current vintage is all about harmony and balance. The tannins, alcohol, fruit and acidity in the wine come together to orchestrate a sweet symphony that is hard to come by for $50.

The flavors here are more concentrated than with Parallel’s past two vintages: black fruit and red cherries along with classic cassis and some earthy stone shading. This is a big, full-bodied Cabernet—beautifully complex and yet very sophisticated at this early stage. Parallel’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is quite approachable right now, but I’d suggest buying some extra bottles and cellaring them for a few years. This wine has the structure and tannins to evolve for a very, very long time. Remember that Zagger and Evans song “In the Year 2525”? If man is still alive, if woman can survive … consider celebrating 2025 with a 30-year-old bottle of Parallel from 2005.

Sips: At the other end of the spectrum from Parallel is Silver Ridge 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which is currently on sale at the bargain basement price of $6.99. I suppose you get what you pay for. In this case, that means an expensive bottle of cooking wine. It’s vile, out-of-balance stuff, tasting of sour fruit and gym socks that I suppose some would refer to as terroir. And maybe that’s accurate, since Silver Ridge does taste like something from the back yard.

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