For better or worse, domestic Cabernet Sauvignon, and particularly California, has a bit of a rep: big, jammy, oaky, boozy, a ton of fruit, heavy toasty flavors and a touch of an alcohol burn.
With a lot of wine drinkers moving in recent years to lighter, more nimble wines, California Cab can seem to be from a different era. Thankfully, there’s a whole new school of domestic Cab showcasing how they can also be fresh, full of flavor and have finesse without being overly aggressive and heavy.
Below are some of our favorite examples of the new school of domestic Cabernet.
POE ULTRAVIOLET - $15.99; available at Krog
Winemaker Samantha Sheehan uses high-elevation fruit from just outside Napa County (and a small amount from Napa County) to create a bright, fresh-tasting Cab that showcases plenty of fruit flavor without venturing anywhere near over-ripe and jammy. Blueberry, blackberry and black currant, with aromatics providing whiffs of violet, bramble and black pepper. It's full-bodied and silky-textured without being heavy and ponderous.
The Lodi region isn’t the first place one would think of for a relatively lighter style of Cab, but winemaker Eric Clemons and his collaborators have created a wine that offers plenty of bold flavor but is far from overpowering. Plushly textured, bursting with fresh dark berry fruit, and with just a little hint of soft oak. Ridiculously well-priced, as well.
Amy Atwood, a wine importer and distributor based in Sonoma County, works with vineyards and winemakers to create natural wines that showcase quality and character of fruit. Her Cab showcases red fruits and the herbal qualities of Cabernet sourced from 40-year-old vines and fermented with native yeasts.
After working with some of the biggest wine brands in California, winemaker Nick Goldschmidt, along with his wife Yolyn, created Trig Point to craft single-vineyard, small production wines. His Cab presents characteristics not often thought of with the grape. There’s a noticeable floral quality to the aromatics - think dried rose petals - and juicy black fruits. There’s a ton of complexity here, with flavors of coffee, dried green herbs and wisps of fennel. Delightfully smooth texture as well.
Available at Krog District
- Les Hautes Terres “Autre Terres” (France - Vin de France)
- Can Sumoi Xarel-lo (Spain, Penedès)
- Di Costanzo Di Co Cabernet Sauvignon (California, Napa Valley)
- Bodega Alandes Concrete Tank red blend (Argentina, Uco Valley)
- Raptor Ridge Pinot Gris (Oregon, Willamette Valley)
- Capítulo 7 PX (Argentina, Mendoza)
- Capítulo 7 Belinda red blend (Argentina, Mendoza)
- Deliquente “Roko Il Vagabondo” Montepulciano (Australia, Riverland)
- Vina Carić Cesarica (Croatia, Island of Hvar)