The 2008 Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon (about $14 to $18 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets) is well named. It is big and bold, not particularly subtle but complex and satisfying. It is sourced from North Coast California grapes, the majority from Sonoma's Alexander Valley.
This cab's heady and aromatic nose shouts raisin, fig and clove, with maybe a bit of raspberry around the edges. On the tongue it delivers all those flavors plus dark chocolate, rich earth and ripe plum. The raspberry comes into its own just before the robust swirl at midpalate segues into a medium long but lingering finish enriched with mellow mocha grace notes. Supple tannins persist throughout in a wine that shows its barrel aging followed by up to two years more in the bottle.
It will pair well with just about any red meat you care to name and is bold enough to stand up to rich pan sauces, peppercorns or maximum garlic. It also will complement nice big stinky cheeses.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.