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California Cabernet is King

Written By Sheri Varasdi On February 3, 2011

AngelineCalifornia cabernet.  It’s one of the most well-known and well-respected wines in the world.  And California itself accounts for 90% of wine production in the U.S. Take a stroll down your nearest supermarket wine aisle, and you will notice how prolific cabernets from California regions have become. There’s good reason for this, but there’s also been criticism surrounding the rising prices of some California cabs.


The reason wine drinkers are currently so excited about New World regions like Chile and Argentina is because of the mass amounts of quality wine coming out of these countries at affordable prices. Consumers have a right to be frugal about their wine purchases—especially in this economy. So it is no surprise that buyers are thinking twice before shelling out more than $20 for a decent bottle. This doesn’t mean that many California wines aren’t worth a price tag of $20 or more, but when people can purchase an equally delicious bottle of cabernet from Argentina or Chile for literally half the price, what’s to stop them?

Perhaps it’s habit.  We know what we like and sometimes it’s hard to stray.  It is also hard to ignore the influences of experts from reputable wine sources who tend to rate California cabs higher than other wines, in terms of flavor, complexity and quality.  Cabernet is a fuller bodied wine and takes very well to oak. This means it also ages very well and is capable of displaying a deep wealth of flavor. For the serious wine drinker interested in beginning a cellar, you can bet California cabernet will take up a good portion of the racks. So maybe bigger really is better? You can judge that for yourself.  The main point is, for a serious investor, Cabernet’s ability to stand up to oak and age means it will benefit from a few years on its side, deepening in complexity, and therefore increasing in value over time.

The reason why cabernet works so well in California, is because the skins are deep in color and thick in texture, and the flavors of the grape become more concentrated and complex when grown in warmer climates.  Some believe that it’s due to the ease with which cabernet sauvignon grapes can be grown and cultivated, due to their proclivity to take root in a variety of different soils and climates that accounted for its spread throughout California.  And this may very well be true.  (The word sauvignon may actually be derived from the French word sauvage, meaning “wild.”) And while Napa Valley might be the most commonly known region for producing outstanding red Californian wines,  Alexander valley has grown in popularity and esteem in the recent years as well, boasting an impressive list of vintners interested in the terroir of its soil and the region’s proximity to the Russian River.  Some of the most recognizable and prestigious names in wine who are taking advantage of this area are Clos du Bois, Gallo, Robert Young, Seghesio, Silver Oaks and Simi. Oh yeah, and there’s even a California Cabernet Society, whose mission is “committed to expanding worldwide regard and appreciation for California cabernet.”

A great example of what Alexander Valley has to offer is the 2009 Angeline.  The beautiful raspberry color is complemented by the nuances of berry in the nose, followed by plum, and supported by layers of spearmint, cedar (10 months in French oak can most likely account for this,) clove, and bitter chocolate.  At 13.9%, it pours hot but blows off quickly. A healthy dose of tannins provides nice structure, and the finish is relatively clean, with just a hint of leather remaining.

The Angeline is not so much that it demands food, but would pair nicely with a steak flatbread or strong cheeses like the Moody Blue, Irish cheddar and Purple Haze. Give it a swirl at Eola Wine company for $11 a glass/$44 a bottle—a virtual steal at the current rate for a good California cabernet—and a prime example of why cab is king.


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