“Claret” Styled Californians

In the old days, the English used to refer to Bordeaux red wines as claret. While this tasting is not featuring any Bordeaux red wines, I just used to the word to conjure up a style reference—classy, elegant, civil, refined and so different from the lavish, humonguous “fruit bombs” quite in fashion these days. Hopefully these wines will show a different slant of what California is capable of.

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon “Obsidian Ridge Vineyard”–This a rising star of noteworthy Cabernet from the Red Hills, Lake County, offered at surprisingly reasonable prices. The 2016 is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec and 16 months in oak, 45% new.  “Obsidian—glassy black rock of volcanic origin—covers the hillsides of Obsidian Ridge Vineyard. The steep, sloping terroir of this land, with its incomparable red gravely soil shot through with obsidian, is all that a winemaker could hope for. Half a mile above sea level, the harsh mountain climate shows our fruit no mercy, and this builds character. Pacific winds, blinding mountain sunlight, and cold, rocky conditions produce grapes with exceptionally thick skins, dark color, and intense flavor”.

2016 Falcone Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles”–I first met husband/wife winemakers John and Helen Falcone during their tenure at Rusack Vineyards. They were ex-Napa Valley-ers who came down to the Ballard Canyon enclave of the Santa Barbara appellation and completely turned the project around. While doing so, they also purchased a small parcel in eastern Paso Robles (Creston, I believe) and in 2000 planted four acres each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This wonderful 100% Cabernet, aged for 17 months in French and American oak (52% new) is the fruit of their journey. I ran into them at the past two Wine Speak events and we were able to get some to share with you all.

2014 Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley”–This is a collaborative effort by the “Band of Vintners”, a high profile, wine “rat pack” (including Jason Heller MS) of the Napa Valley, which “overdelivers pound for pound” AND especially for the dollar.  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot & 2% Petite Verdot.

2014 Selene Merlot “Frediani Vineyard”–we purposely poured this wine last & BLIND for the tasters.  Our intent was to show the Merlot grape variety, when grown in interesting soils & microclimates is very capable of producing top caliber wine.  In Bordeaux, for instance, the Right Bank seems to be growing its acreage of Merlot.  PLUS, despite the downward turn in popularity of Merlot in the U.S., currently the 2 most expensive Bordeaux “trophy” red wines are Merlot based.  Furthermore, on a recent wine trip to Washington state, I was very impressed with many Merlot based red wines there & truly believe this grape has a real potential & future there.  So, just to mix things up a little, we poured this wine on this night.  100% Merlot from the iconic Frediani Vineyard & superstar winemaker Mia Klein.  It did not disappoint.  In fact, right out of the gates, it had the most provocative perfume–with lots of depth, savoriness, character & vinosity.  Some might think it is because of the additional bottle age or that perhaps Merlot opens up sooner after its been bottled.  Whatever the reason, this wine had grandeur, class & much to say.  On the palate, it was deep, glorious, vinous & savory with superb texture, flow on the palate & balance.

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