Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wines of California: Graeser Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
I have finally escaped the heat of Rome and am relaxing in sunny California. Everyone keeps complaining about the heat, which makes me laugh to myself if I think about the absolute inferno that Rome became in the days before I left. Can a Southern Californian ever really complain about the heat or cold? I do not think they can or should. I was sweltering under the Lazio sun while working at the Forum in the middle of Rome. The only thing that kept me sane was the idea of an upcoming vacation to my homeland, California. I envisioned potato tacos, California Burritos, leopard sharks in La Jolla, laying out on the beach and actually being able to cool off in the sea rather than just get warmed like one does in the Med, and lastly, all the California wines I would try to taste. Unfortunately, I do not have any friends or even family members who are as passionate about wine as I am, so it looks like I will be doing this solo.
What is more ubiquitous to California than Cabernet Sauvignon? Ok, maybe Zinfandel. Though I make a lot of fuss about traditional and natural wine making and native grapes and so forth, California Cabernet Sauvignon is here to stay, and far be it from me to make a blanket judement based on the industrial wines that one finds in Vons or Albertsons. There are excellent Cabernet Sauvignons to be had. The last one I had from Pointer Run Vineyards is a great example of a wine that has a great potential to evolve. I first had this wine in the winter of 2007, when my friend Harmony, a fellow wine lover and sommelier, was still living in Southern California, so I had a great time trying lots of wines and trying out a few of San Diego's wine bars in Hillcrest and downtown. One of my favorites is the Wine Lover and 6th ave in Hillcrest. I think they have a great wine buyer and it is in a perfect location.
Harmony moved to Portland, I went back to Italy, and I took a bottle of 1997 Graeser Cabernet Sauvignon from Pointer Run Vineyards. As I mentioned above, I tasted it at the Wine Lover in 2007, when it was 10 years old, and even then, the tannins were holding up, it still had an excellent backbone, and had a lot of potential to evolve and soften up. This was not an oak bomb surprise. Overly oaked wines never lose their vanilla, and sometimes the oak hides the richness of the actual wine. I drank this wine and enjoyed it. Ettore decided to try this this year, and I wished I had a large enough budget to allow me to buy cases of wines I like rather than having to make due with one bottle. This is because it is very interesting to open these bottles every few years and see how they are holding up, and then to taste them when they are peaking. Nothing is better for a wine lover.
Move forward to 2010 and the this wine is lovely. It had a lovely color that was garnet with brickish reflections. It had a very nice separation in the nails, which really showed off it's color development. It was consistent and there was no sediment at all. On the nose it was floral, spicy, vegetal and had subtle fruits. The flowers were reminiscent of violets and dried roses, but they were very soft, not sweet at all. There were black pepper notes, soft rosemary, raspberry and blackberry jam, tobacco, roasting coffee, green peppers, sage, and a slight hint of wet autumn leaves. It was, indeed, a nice complex nose, though no minerality at all. On the palate it was a very well balanced, dry and full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins were still quite strong but obviously softening from the last time I tasted this wine. It was round and big on the palate, with a smooth somewhat velvety texture, as well as the nice sapidity and acids. It also had a very long finish, and the herbal qualities were the most persistent. I would describe it as a slightly fresh wine. It could handle a few more years in my opinion. The tannins and acids were very well balanced, It was not fruity on the palate, but rich and herbal. I think this is a wine that is somewhat ready to drink, but could also handle a couple of years.
I made chickpea cutlets with a red wine roux that I made with another California Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought it was a pleasant pairing. I wish I had more of this wine. Who knows, maybe it will still be available at the Wine Lover in Hillcrest. I also read this online about this winery: Graeser Winery is also a dog friendly destination. What does that mean? Richard's two large and very friendly dogs wander freely and you can bring your dog into the tasting room (air conditioned in summer)! Love of dogs runs so deep that one of the Graeser wine clubs is called Fo Paws and raises money for the Humane Society. Dogs are also featured prominently on many of the wine labels at Graeser. I think my dog Chardonnay deserves a trip to California.