To show at their best, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir require two very different environments. The latter varietal asks for a generally cooler climate because of its thin skin and finicky nature, and it requires requisite amounts of sunlight, too, for photosynthesis to occur suitably. With conditions met, fuller development of all grapes’ sugars occurs, and, consequently, with decreased acidity they allow any wine produced to be more fully flavored. Suitable cultivation areas are Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, France’s Burgundy region, and southernmost Central Otego, found on New Zealand’s southern island. Conversely, Cabernet Sauvignon is relatively easy to grow. Like Pinot Noir, it requires a requisite amount of sunlight for sugars to develop to their fullest extent. But, unlike its more delicately bodied counterpart, its thicker skin leaves it less susceptible to disease as it develops in one of the many soils it prefers. Greatest areas for Cabernet Sauvignon include French Bordeaux, Chile’s Rapel Valley, and a slender strip in Australia called Coonawarra.
Examples tonight were of each varietal, yet neither was produced with fruit from the aforementioned areas. Elouan Pinot Noir – made by Belle Glos winemaker Joseph Wagner (fourth generation of the Wagner family) – it is a full-bodied Pinot Noir made from Oregon grapes whose separate origins are the Rogue, Umpqua, and Willamette Valleys. Characterized by black cherry and cranberry, it is a full-bodied, silky wine that might accompany dishes like pepper-crusted salmon and leaner cuts of steak. Next was Hess Shirttail Cabernet Sauvignon, the result of grapes grown mostly in Lake County’s Red Hill AVA, found in California. Smooth, it expressed fair amounts of tobacco, cassis, and black cherry on its nose, with enough peppery aftertaste to be enjoyed alone, yet bettered by a cut of seasoned steak.