SONOMA VALLEY IS TAKING CABERNET SAUVIGNON TO SOME DAZZLING NEW HEIGHTS.
Cabernet Sauvignon is intertwined with Sonoma Valley’s deepest roots. The earliest settlers planted it in the mid-1800’s. Legendary, old vine vineyards like Monte Rosso are heralded as varietal standard bearers. And yet, the history is only part of the story. Today’s latest crop of budding new stars is taking Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in exciting new directions. Mostly up. To the higher reaches of Moon Mountain and straight to the top of wine lists and critic scores.
But don’t take our word for it. Taste for yourself. Here are a few of Sonoma Valley’s finest cab houses, and one penultimate wine from each, in geographical order. That way, in one easy day trip you can visit and enjoy them all. So let’s get started.
2011 MOON MOUNTAIN DISTRICT CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Start your journey by going way back in time. Three Stick’s renovation of the historic Vallejo-Casteñeda Adobe is now complete. You can learn more and make a reservation (required) here. This historic, gorgeously appointed structure is befitting of the exceptional wines made by Dan Van Staaveren for Three Sticks. The fruit for this wine is carefully selected from some of Moon Mountain District’s preeminent vineyards. Bald Mountain, at 1,700 feet, has Red Hill loam soils that allow for year-round dry farming. Bismark Ranch rises up to 1,200 feet and contributes the Petit Verdot that offers up dark aromas and concentrated fruit. Most of the Cabernet comes from Mountain Terrace, a steeply terraced slope with South-Southwestern exposures from 1,200 to 1,750 feet.
- (from Anthony Dias Blue, The Tasting Panel) “Lush and bursting with blackberry, plum and cassis; long ripe and balanced with sweet new oak and beautiful style.”
- (from Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast) “Rich with black cherry, coffee and vanilla, it also has a slight spiciness that’s pleasant on the palate. All in all, the wine is balanced yet substantial.”
2010 OLIVE HILL ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Journey just a few miles north on Highway 12 and you’ll come to another cab master’s residence. BR Cohn is a little slice of paradise whether you come for the music (founder Bruce Cohn is long time manager of the Doobie Brothers), the olive oil, the wine or all three. Since you’re here for the cab, ask for the 2010 Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Olive Hill Estates sits between two legendary mountains for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas Range. The unique microclimate there has, among other incredible qualities, natural underground hot springs that help prevent frost. Sustainably farmed and produced from a blend of the estate’s best hillside blocks, the 2010 Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a masterpiece of good farming.
This big Cab is packed with earth and mineral and radiates black current, dried cherry, ripe plum, mint, and violet. An enticing bouquet of cedar cigar box, clove, and nutmeg leads to a rich palate of warm caramel, black cherry, strawberry rhubarb, firm round tannin and a lasting finish.
2011 LAUREL GLEN VINEYARD ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Continue north, and hook a left on Arnold Drive into the town of Glen Ellen. There, in the charming town that Jack London called home, you’ll find the Laurel Glen Vineyard tasting room. In that tasting room you’ll find the 2011 Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. And, within that wine you’ll discover a great Sonoma Valley story. The vineyard was first planted in the 1880’s. But it was Sonoma Valley icon Patrick Campbell who, over the course of 30 vintages, grew this plot of land into a location known internationally for Cabernet Sauvignons of exceptional balance, elegance and graceful aging. Patrick found the fruit so distinctive he developed the Laurel Glen clone, certified by UC Davis. Today Laurel Glen Vineyard is planted entirely to the Laurel Glen clone. Phil Coturri (no introduction needed) farms it organically, and winemaking is now in the more than capable hands of Randall Watkins. The Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship wine for one of Sonoma Valley’s most storied cab specialists.
(from Wine & Spirits Magazine) 95 Points. “…tight with mineral tannins and flashes of minty black-currant tang. With a day of air, the tannins turn more supple and the floodgates open into a clean line of cassis flavor that’s driven by fresh acidity, energizing a wine with the lilting complexity of a string quartet, scents of violets and Christmas spices and bay-infused meat stock intertwining in a finish that goes on for minutes. Give this ten years in the cellar; it’s a classical mountain Cabernet with a profound structural integrity, built to last.”
B WISE VINEYARDS
2010 BRION ESTATE GROWN CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Onward and upward. Make your way back to Highway 12 and head towards the town of Kenwood. B Wise has a tasting room right off the highway but, better yet, make an appointment to taste in their subterranean caves up the mountainside along Cavedale road. The newly completed caves are a wonder, and an intimate, interesting environment for tasting some spectacular wines. To that point, if you want to know what all the fuss is about regarding the Moon Mountain District AVA, look no further than the 2010 BRION Cabernet Sauvignon from B Wise. Under winemaker Massimo Monticelli B Wise cabs are immaculately balanced, well-fruited wines that speak to their origins. But the BRION series goes a step further, sourcing from the best blocks, and best barrels, of their Moon Mountain District vineyards.
Deep blackberry and black cherry fruits are intermingled with warm oak, lavender, pepper and vanilla. Dried herb, toasty notes with graphite and cedar compliment the dense fruits. Plush and round in the mouth with fine tannins and great length. Reminiscent of 2005, the cool, even growing season shines through.