Blog Post By Meg Barkley
Are you planning a visit to Napa Valley soon? Do you happen to be travelling with a wine country aficionado? Have no fear! We’ve curated some quick tips to get you up to speed so you can hold your own in the conversation about our favorite grape variety.
Cabernet is King!
Did you know that the most planted grape varietal in Napa Valley is the Cabernet Sauvignon? Cabernet accounts for 40% of grapes planted in the Napa Valley. Due to the unique and diverse micro-climates in Napa Valley, Cabernet is the most perfectly suited grape varietal for this region due to our long and warm growing season.
Extra tip: Right behind Cabernet, the second most planted grape is Chardonnay.
Why is Cabernet Sauvignon so desirable?
Cabernet Sauvignon is considered to be one of the “Noble” grapes in the world of wine. This grape is highly sought after world-wide for its sophistication, power, complexity, and aging potential. The Cabernet grape expresses some common characteristics no matter where it’s planted, but the unique location of its vineyard site can also add some extra flavors. Common fruit flavors can include blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry or plum. When aged in new oak is shows a diverse range of flavors from vanilla and licorice to woodsy aromas of cedar and tobacco. The high concentration of flavors and its ability to age makes it THE wine to drink now or hold onto.
Cabernet’s Back Story
Cabernet Sauvignon’s lineage can be traced back to the Bordeaux region of France. It is a spontaneous crossbreed variety of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. One reason Cabernet Sauvignon is so popular is because it is a hardy grape varietal that can be successfully grown in many regions and climates around the world.
Extra tip: What are Bordeaux wines? These are wines grown in the Bordeaux region of France. Varietals grown in this area include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
What Napa Valley Cabernet should I drink?
The Napa Valley is divided up into 16 sub appellations or neighborhoods known as an American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs for short. These AVAs are defined by unique terroir and climate that create wines distinguishable flavor and aroma profiles. Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in all 16 of these regions of Napa Valley. We suggest exploring all of the different styles of Cabernet Sauvignon by tasting wines from all 16 AVAs to see if you have a preference style from a particular region.
Where should I go to explore Cabernet?
At Clif Family, our Enoteca Private Tasting Salon showcases many of our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons. The Howell Mountain AVA is a unique location in Napa Valley where all of the vineyards are located high up in the mountain, above the fog line. At 1400+ elevation, the vines here are often protected from the frequent marine layer fog that rolls into Napa Valley from the Sonoma coast. These vines often gain a few extra hours of sunlight in the morning and have relatively cooler temperatures than the valley floor. The soil content found on Howell Mountain is also varied with many volcanic components.
Enjoying an experience at our Enoteca Private Tasting Salon will allow you to taste the nuances of several of our small production Cabernets from our two Howell Mountain Estate vineyard sites. These two vineyards are located on different sides of the mountain, and each have unique traits that play into their flavor profiles. See what Cabernet tastes like from above the fog line!
If I buy a few bottles, when should I drink them?
Cabernet Sauvignon is a sought-after wine because of its ageability. Meaning the grape itself has the structure, acid and tannins, to age for quite a while. When a wine ages, the (sometimes harsh) tannins (bitter) and acid (sour) textures you may taste on a younger wine, will soften over time, allowing the fruit flavors to become more pronounced.
When wine tasting be sure to ask your wine educator their thoughts on if the Cabernet you’re enjoying should be drunk now or “held onto” in the cellar for a while. They will be able to guide you through when to best enjoy the wine based on your taste preference and the current age of the wine.
Some wineries craft Cabernet Sauvignon wines that are food friendly and meant to be opened upon release. At Clif Family we bottle a delicious Bordeaux inspired blend comprised predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon called The Climber. Or for something with more tannins yet supple fruit we suggest our very popular Kit’s Killer Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now I’m a BIG fan of Cabernet Sauvignon!
You’re in luck! At Clif Family we have a Wine Club that is designed for Cabernet lovers, our Cima Cabernet Club. With this membership you receive first access to our small production Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon wines, as well as access to a few micro-production wines that are exclusively available to our Cima Cabernet Club Members. Wine Club Members also receive invitations to Clif Family events with our Winemaker and you can share all of your member benefits with friends and family.
Click here to read more about Clif Family Cabernet Sauvignon wines.