Picks for California Cabs


To many people, when you say California Wines, the mental leap is immediately to Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, the growing conditions in many parts of California emulate some of the best conditions for Cabernet in the Old World.

One of the most anticipated events on the tasting calendar each year is the special tasting of the California Cabernet Society, held recently in San Francisco. For many of these wineries, the production is small and you might have to go to the winery tasting room or order directly from the winery if you want your own bottle.

I started with the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Ackerman Family Vineyards in Napa. Only 500 cases of artisanal, certified-organic Cabernet are produced yearly, and the wine is held back a total of four years by barrel aging for two years and bottle aging for another two before being released each October. This is a classic Cabernet, with deep fruit flavors and mellow tannins that will enable it to be cellared for 10 to 20 years. The wonderful aroma is redolent of deep blackberry, Bing cherry, sweet plum and rich mocha/toasty oak. Decant before you drink. $75 per bottle. 14.2 percent alcohol. Visit ackermanfamilyvineyards.com.

The royal family of California wine, the Mondavi family, presented its 2010 Family Reserve Generations. Pouring and discussing the wine was Alycia Mondavi, a member of the fourth generation in the wine business. This scrumptious wine is a blend of 77 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Merlot, 8 percent Petit Verdot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc. It is elegant, balanced and presents aroma of blackberry, cherry and toffee. A full mouthfeel with berry and nutmeg leads to a rich finish. 15.3 percent alcohol. Internet pricing is at $40 per bottle. Visit cmondavi.com.

Peju featured its new release, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. This was my top choice; I liked the blackberry and raspberry flavors, with a bit of pepper and cocoa. It’s a bright wine, yet with good structure and complexity, and it is ready to drink now. The 10 percent petit verdot adds to its elegance. 14.3 percent alcohol. $50 for the bottle. Visit peju.com.

The Volker Eisele 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 79 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 percent Merlot and 3 percent Cabernet Franc. Aroma of black fruit and vanilla leads to a taste of blackberry and black currant, and a crisp acidity. It’s a dry wine, with firm rich tannins. 14.5 percent alcohol. $45 for the bottle. Visit volkereiselefamilyestate.com.

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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.