What to Drink Now: Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Perhaps the most widely planted international grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a crowd-pleasing, appealing profile that is loved in every corner of the world. From it’s Bordeaux home to South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Canada, even China, the full-bodied variety reveals concentrated, structured wines with silky yet bold tannins and ripe red and black fruit flavors. As we celebrate International Cabernet Sauvignon Day, and vineyards across the country begin their harvests, it seems appropriate to raise a glass to this universal favorite. And, as California is once again in the midst of fighting dangerous wildfires, please support Cali producers if you can, particularly those in hard-hit Napa and Sonoma County.

Jordan Alexander Valley estate vineyards

Sonoma’s Jordan Winery has showcased Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon since its start almost fifty years ago with the goal to create Sonoma’s first and finest Bordeaux-style wine with elegance and style. From the start, Alexander Valley fruit was skillfully aged in a mix of French and American oak barrels, giving the wine power with finesse. In 2015 the winery moved to aging strictly in 100% new and used French oak, with the 2016 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) delivering a slightly restrained, subtle, silky wine with more of a fruit-filled profile of plum, cherry, blackberry, and cassis.

Dry Creek Vineyard’s rocky, iron-rich, terraced vineyards create tiny, concentrated berries in their rustic Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, delivering a full-bodied, yet approachable wine with character. Its Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon shines with ripe raspberry and blackberry notes, melding with roasted espresso and cigar box spices.

Showcasing fruit from a mix of Napa’s valley floor AVAs extending from cool Coombsville to hot Calistoga, Lail Vineyards Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) is succulent and aromatic, with an effortlessly easy to enjoy character right out of the gate. With 18 months of partially new French oak barrel aging, the fruit-filled palate is rounded out with notes of toasted espresso, and dark chocolate.

Inspired by the Grand Cru wines of Bordeaux’s Pauillac district, Paso Robles’ J Lohr Cuvee Pau ($50) is savory and rich, with toasted cedar, vanilla, and espresso notes melding with black fruit, licorice, and pencil shavings.

Cliff Lede Vineyards and Winery in the Stags Leap District AVA

Embracing two of his passions, music and wine, Cliff Lede Vineyards owner, Cliff Lede, went the untraditional route when naming the individual blocks of his Stags Leap District AVA vineyard. Instead of using an easy 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C, that many vineyards use, Lede opted to name each block after one of his favorite songs, or albums. The winery produces a range of straight-forward (and delicious) Cabernet Sauvignon wines, including Stags Leap District AVA Cabernet ($78), with loads of black fruit melding with violets and wildflowers, and hints of roasted almond and cedar, their whimsical “Rock Block” wines blend hand-selected, individual blocks of fruit, allowing the winery to showcase a specific expression of the estate. The 2017 Cliff Lede “Dancing Heart” Cabernet Sauvignon blends fruit from Rush’s “Closer to the Heart” block in the hillside Poetry vineyard and from Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” block in the valley floor Twin Peaks vineyard. Rich and robust, highlighting the earthy, minerality of the Stags Leap District, with graphite and wet stone notes melding with ripe blackberry, blueberry, and currant.

Structured and complex, Gamble Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) is structured and complex. Produced from a blend of fruit from vineyards farmed by owner Tom Gamble throughout the Napa Valley, the wine harmoniously showcases the elegance of Napa Valley fruit.

Château Odilon, recently renamed in honor of the painter Odilon Redon who spent his childhood on the property, in Bordeaux’s Haut-Médoc has been growing grapevines in limestone and clay-filled soils since the 12th Century. Run today by Benjamin de Rothschild, the son of Baron Edmond de Rothschild who acquired the property in 1979, the Château showcases Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in their luscious, savory Château Odilon Haut-Medoc ($35). Structured and complex, with rustic, slightly astringent tannins, the palate is filled with black licorice, black plum, and cassis flavors that linger on the palate with a smoky, slightly meaty earthiness, finishing sleek and smooth.

Argentina has made a name for themselves for their dynamic Malbec wines, however, thanks to forward-thinking winemakers, Cabernet Sauvignon has found an equally delightful home in Mendoza vineyards lying in the foothills of the majestic Andes Mountains. Two pioneers in the craft, Argentina’s Catena family (Nicolas Catena) and Bordeaux’s Rothschild family (Domaines Barons de Rothschild – Lafite) joined together in Bodegas CARO. Like any great Bordeaux, their CARO blends predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with a portion of Malbec to create a complex, layered wine with blackberry, Morello cherry, black fig, and toasted spice, ideal for pairing with grilled beef and lamb.

The Apalta Vineyard in Chile’s Colchagua Valley benefits from a Mediterranean climate, nestled between the Andes Mountains and Pacific Coastal mountain ranges with well-draining volcanic and alluvial soils that ensure 100-year-old, pre-phylloxera vine roots must dig deep into the earth to find nutrients. Wines are textured, complex, and serious, as displayed in Primus Wines Red Blend ($19). Bold, strong, and captivating, with ripe red and black cherry, currant, and touches of toasted nuttiness.