As discussed last week, affable Cabernet Sauvignon grows well in different environments because of its thick skin and adaptability. Whether in Chile, Australia’s Coonawarra Valley, or Bordeaux vineyards, it still capably manages to create wines of substantial quality, with broader tannin and characteristic cassis and black fruit character. This week, exploration of the varietal continues, only with specific discussion about conditions in Napa County and Washington’s Red Mountain AVA that allow it to thrive and, ultimately, to produce world-class wine.
Found northeast of San Francisco, Napa County’s various appellations and districts are renowned for their Cabernet and Merlot. Famous AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) like Oakville, Rutherford, Mount Veeder, and the Stag’s Leap District are hailed for wines like Miner and Plumpjack (Oakville), Rutherford Hill and Beaulieu Vineyards (Rutherford), Mount Veeder and Tate (Mount Veeder), and famous Stag’s Leap (Stag’s Leap). Why? Because each area can ably cultivate Bordeaux varietals due to (a) inclination, (b) average temperature, and (c) soil content. These are what keep Napa Valley Cabernets in the top tier, these and a crew of talented winemakers, anyway. In fact, it’s because of grapevines grown on the valley’s famous William Hill Estate, found in AVA Atlas Peak, that winemaker Gina Gallo can source grapes for Gallo Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Blending Atlas Peak juice with portions of Petit Verdot from Sonoma County’s Monte Rosso vineyard, she has made a food appropriate wine with mouth-filling cassis, dark cherry and noticeable varietal characteristics.
Hundreds of miles north lay the vineyards of Washington’s Red Mountain AVA, where winemaker and Washington native Brian Rudin sources fruit for Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon. The newest label within the Duckhorn imprint – and the only Washington contribution – grapes from the area grow along gentle slopes of sand, silt, and gravel in temperatures that can reach 90̊. Sugars development within them and acidity plummets, providing a framework for a lush wine comprised of majority Cabernet Sauvignon, with insignificant amounts of Merlot and Malbec. Soft, its nose suggests cocoa, cinnamon, and black fruit before these aspects combine in flavor, finishing with tea-like qualities and velvety tannin.