Last month I flew out to California and took part in a multi-day event in Alexander Valley called, “Cabernet Academy.” Alexander Valley sits in the northern part of Sonoma County. There are many different grape types planted there, and quite a few of them thrive in the diverse parts of that valley; but cabernet sauvignon is king. Over several days the group I was part of tasted a ton of different examples of cabernet sauvignon as well as other wines from the area. We tasted some of them in sit-down seminars, and others were sampled more casually over meals. What is readily apparent when tasting a large swath of Alexander Valley cabernet is that, by and large, they nail the varietal cold. Whether it was wines made in miniscule quantities from producers who aren’t in distribution or larger productions from widely distributed wineries, there were impressive cabernets everywhere. Here are my favorite cabernets from the event:
Arbios Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – Suggested Retail Price $33
1,500 cases of this 100 percent cabernet sauvignon wine were produced. It was aged over 3 years in entirely French oak, and 33 percent of the barrels utilized were new. The red hue of this wine is beautiful in the glass. Bright Bing cherry aromas dominate an eager nose. The palate is juicy with continued cherry joined by red plum flavors and copious amounts of spice. The finish is informed by earth and continued spice. Soft tannins and fir acid provide a good backbone. This cabernet will pair with a wider array of foods than most. It’s a tremendous value for the price.
Stuhlmuller Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $38
2,100 cases of this wine were produced. It’s largely cabernet sauvignon (91 percent) with a bit of petit verdot (9 percent) blended in. It was aged in all French oak (46 percent new) for 20 months. Mushroom and earth characteristics are prominent on the nose of this cab. Black Raspberry and bits of plum lend to a velvety mouth-feel. Loads of black cherry, accompanied by bits of dark chocolate emerging on the lengthy finish along with black pepper and a hint of cumin. This is a lovely example of Alexander Valley cabernet.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Cooney Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – Suggested Retail Price $40
Just 387 cases of this release were made. It’s composed entirely of cabernet. Aging occurred over 20 months in 100 percent French oak. Red raspberry and leather aromas mark the welcoming nose. Cranberry and sour cherry characteristics fill the palate. Those characteristics along with hints of baker’s chocolate and spice emerge on the finish. This is a wonderfully even and proportionate cabernet without a sharp edge anywhere.
Field Stone Winery & Vineyard 2010 Staten Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $40
Just fewer than 400 cases of this wine were made in 2010. It’s 100 percent cabernet. All of the barrels utilized were French oak and 40 percent of them were new. It was aged for 20 months. Spice and violet aromas are both prominent on the engaging nose. An avalanche of bright cherry flavors fills the gloriously rich, but even keeled, palate. Blackberry, Earth, dusty dark chocolate and fruit pie spices are part of the lengthy finish which goes on and on. This wine will age gracefully for the next dozen years. In addition to getting really well-made Cabernet Sauvignon that has a real sense of its place in the world, you’re also going to get a lot of wine for your money.
Souverain 2009 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $40
680 cases were produced. The fruit for this wine was sourced from 5 distinct vineyards. It’s composed entirely of cabernet sauvignon. It was aged over 25 months in a combination of French and American oak; 100 percent of the barrels utilized were new. The nose of this cab is a bit austere with subdued red berry and a hint of savory herb bubbling up. The palate shows of both red and black berry flavors along with hints of black tea. Black cherry, pencil lead and a bit of dusty cocoa are all in evidence on the finish. This is a really even handed wine that also needs a bit of air to really come into its own. Decant it for an hour if drinking it now, or lay it down for a few years.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $53
71, 506 cases were produced. It’s a blend of cabernet (75 percent), merlot (19 percent), petit verdot (5 percent), and malbec (1 percent). It was aged for a year in a combination of French (77 percent) and American oak (36 percent); A third of the barrels were new. Leather and red cherry aromas are the dominate aromas on the nose. The palate shows off continued cherry, bits of raspberry and a nice mineral component, Earth, pencil lead an green peppercorn are part of the substantial finish. This wine will be at its best over the next five to seven years.
Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate 2009 Bear Point Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $60
511 cases were produced. This wine is all cabernet sauvignon. It was aged over 20 months in all French oak; 54 percent of the barrels were new. The rich nose of this wine is loaded with bold blackberry aromas. The juicy, black fruit-studded palate is bold and prodigious but also proportionate. The finish is long and spicy with continued black fruits, espresso and flecks of dark chocolate. This is a beautiful cabernet that is ready to drink now but will continue to be delicious over the next eight to ten years.
Trione Vineyards & Winery 2009 Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon — Suggested Retail Price $64
863 cases were produced. This wine is a blend of cabernet (85 percent), merlot (10 percent), petit verdot (2.5 percent) and malbec (2.5 percent) sourced from a single vineyard block. It was aged over two years in all French oak from a trio of different coopers; 45 percent of the barrels were new. A potpourri of spice leads the nose. They’re joined by violets and blueberry aromas. Plum, black raspberry and blackberry flavors are present on the full-bodied but easy-going palate. The finish shows off chocolate covered blueberry and a wisp of chicory. This is an exceptionally smooth and engaging cabernet sauvignon that’s as easy to drink on its own as it is to pair with a wide array of food. It’s wonderful now, but don’t hesitate to lay it down for 10 or so years.