Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the most noble of red grapes. It is capable of thriving in many growing environments and responsible for some of the worlds most powerful and complex wines. Cabernet Sauvignon generally flaunts a fruit profile full of black currant and black cherry. Cabernet, depending on growing conditions, can also show off nuanced notes of mint, eucalyptus, black olive, green pepper, tobacco leaf and cedar wood.
DNA research has revealed that Cabernet Sauvignon is a result of a genetic cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. It is widely believed that this occurred in the Southwest portion of France or in the world-renowned Bordeaux region during the 17th Century.
Grape growers love Cabernet Sauvignon because it is late blooming, thick skinned and densely canopied. These characteristics help protect the vine against early frost, mold, other infections, hail and intense sun. Cabernet Sauvignon is a high yielding grape. This means that grape growers with proper vineyard management can make decisions about quality and quantity. This can be helpful as the wine industry reacts to cyclic economic changes.
Cabernet Sauvignon was first embraced by wine producers in Bordeaux, France.
The Napa Valley in California was the next major wine area to put Cabernet Sauvignon on the map, with the heralded 1976 Judgment of Paris. At this event, a Cabernet from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars won top spot in one of the world’s most famous blind tastings. Cabernet Sauvignon out of California may be at its highest quality levels coming out of Napa Valley.
In your exploration of California Cabernet, you would be remiss if you did not venture west over the Mayacamas Mountains into the bounty that Sonoma Valley has to offer.
You may also find bigger bang for your buck, just north of the Napa Valley in Lake County. Here you will find wineries like Shannon Ridge making incredible value oriented wines and a number of more focused producers releasing exceptional single vineyard, estate produced wines. Look for names like Obsidian Ridge.
The Central Coast is home to many important American Viticultural Areas (AVA). This larger area encompasses Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara to list a few. There are myriad different micro-climates and soil types which ribbon through the Central Coast, not to mention the significant Maritime influence of the cold deep Pacific Ocean currents welling up into the Monterey Bay.
Domestic Cabernet Sauvignon production is not limited to California. Serious offerings are coming out of Washington State. Walla Walla, Washington and Red Mountain are producing dense, extracted, full throttle Cabernets; while some of the best quality for your money is coming out of the greater Columbia Valley. Substantial producers like Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Crest and Columbia Winery are producing very good and highly rated Cabernets for $8-$15 a bottle. The Columbia Valley is also home to hundreds of other smaller, more artisanal producers. Look for names like Cadence and L’Ecole.
In recent years, Colorado has put itself on the map with some very good Cabernet Sauvignon. Colorado restaurants have a keen interest in supporting Colorado produce. Hence, the Colorado sommelier community has been looking for top quality Colorado wines, which can compete with the fine offerings being presented from France, California and Washington. When the inaugural release of 2008 Colterris Cabernet occurred, there was a buzz. Colterris proudly appeared on many fine dining wine lists. Local sommeliers were thrilled to have a wine from our state that could compete at such a high level of quality.
Chile may not be the first country you think of, when contemplating Cabernet, but perhaps it should be. On the more moderate end of the price spectrum, Chile is without question delivering incredible bang for the buck! Look for names like Apaltagua, Root 1 and Araucano. In the $15-$25 price range estate produced wines are knocking it out of the park. Try Lagar de Bezana or Polkura “Bela”.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the second most widely planted grape in Australia after its flagship Shiraz. Penley Estate “Phoenix”, Cabernet Sauvignon coming out of Coonawarra is an example of the pleasant fruit forward style, with integrated tannin, being grown in the famous terra rossa soils.
In Italy and Spain Cabernet Sauvignon is used as a blending grape to lend more body, power and depth to Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Cabernet is now a legal blending grape in famed Chianti and is one of the important grapes building the “Super Tuscan” style. Spanish winemakers are embracing the same steroidal attributes of Cabernet Sauvignon to boost the stature of Tempranillo.
Buy cabernet sauvignon at Molly’s Spirits or join us for our free weekly wine tastings!