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Stars of Cabernet: A shimmering array of Cabernet Sauvignons by Cori Solomon



November 30, 2013

LearnAboutWine’s Stars of Cabernet yearly event in Los Angeles is always well attended. Having the opportunity to taste and discover such a wide selection of Cabernet Sauvignon in one venue is truly awesome.

This year’s event started with a seminar that Ian Blackburn moderated and featured Jean Hoefliger, the winemaker at Alpha Omega, Aaron Pott, winemaker and Lars Ryssdal, General Manager, Ackerman Family Vineyards.

Jean Hoefliger is from Switzerland and originally thought his calling was law. From there he moved to Wealth Management but all along had a longing and interest in wine. Listening to his passions he later earned degree in winemaking and viticulture. He has worked in Bordeaux and South Africa at wineries such as Chateau Lynch-Bages and Meerlust. When he was offered a position at Newton he jumped at the opportunity because he felt the winemaking process in America is more creative. Currently his is at Alpha Omega.

Aaron Pott also began his career at Newton Vineyard. During one of Michel Rolland consulting trips in California, Aaron convinced him to find him a job that might take him abroad. This exchange enabled him to work for six years in France, which culminated with a Masters in Viticulture from the Université of Bourgogne. During that time he was winemaker at Château Troplong Mondot and later became director of Château La Tour Figeac. He returned to California to be winemaker at St. Clement. He now consults for many vineyards and has his own winery, Pott Wine.

Before becoming general manager of Ackerman Family Vineyard, Lars Ryssdal has a background as wine educator and sommelier allowing him to be very astute in winery brand management, wholesaling and restaurant trade.

The seminar focused on the 2011 vintage and we sampled three 2011 vintages, one from each winery. This was followed by three other wines, which varied in vintages.

For Jean Hoefliger, the 2011 vintage was not an overly powerful year. The Cabernets did not have to be softened with Merlot or Petit Verdot. They could stand on their own. Jean’s 2011 Alpha Omega Cabernet has an alcohol level fewer than 14%. The wines have more acidity with more potential for aging.

Aaron Pott pointed out that the weather conditions, increased rain were ideally suited for a well-rounded wine. This rounded profile is due to diversity from the warmer and cooler climates throughout the year that affected both the hillside and the lower valley of Napa. With the excessive rainfall those winemakers with foreign experience found it easier to deal with the conditions than those who did not.

The wines sampled at the seminar were the Alpha Omega ERA 2011, a fragrant Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of cloves and spice. The wine displays a high acidity and low alcohol and is slightly earthy yet has a soft round quality.

Pott Wine La Carte et Le Territoire 2011 is an even blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a sweet aroma of licorice that is balanced and wonderfully smooth.

Ackerman Family Vineyard served a barrel sample of their 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of Lavender and allspice were predominant. We compared the 2011 to a 2003, which was a medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

An interesting wine that Jean Hoefliger shared was the Monteverro, Toscana. This Tuscan wine shows off the freshness of the Cabernet Sauvignon from this region, the southern tip of Tuscany. The vineyard location is warmer than Napa and at the same time closer to the sea. The winery is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. The wine speaks of cherry and spice. It was a real winner.

Our last wine at the seminar was the Pott Wine 2011 Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a very fruit forward and balanced velvety wine that has cinnamon aromas. The vines for this wine produce one cluster per shoot

At each of these tasting events there typically is one winery that stands out from all the others. It is one that you overhear everyone in conversation mentioning. At Stars of Cabernet that winery was Lake County’s Hawk and Horse Vineyards. The winery owned by Mitch and Tracey Hawkins is Demeter Certified biodynamic. Biodynamic farming means the land is worked in harmony with other aspects of nature. Some of the principles are similar to organic farming yet is it a different method. The biodynamic process improves the vitality of the soil thereby promoting the growth of the vines. Cows play an important part of the system of farming as the cow manure is used in the preparations to enrich the soil. The winery utilizes a herd Scottish Highland cows to assist in the process. The wines are extraordinary. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold dark red in color wine that is very balanced with just enough spice and a velvety finish. The 2009 HHV/Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon blends 5% Petit Verdot with the Cab. The 2009 Latigo, a late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon is a real gem when it comes to dessert wines. The grapes are picked at 28 brix and aged three years in French oak. Like a port there is just enough sweetness to round out a meal. Tasting this wine you will definitely want seconds.

Grigch Hills offered one of the finest Merlots. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon lover’s Merlot, as it tasted more like a Cab than your typical Merlot. This is a cool climate Merlot. The wine exudes flavors of strawberries, is velvety, balanced and smooth ofnthe finish. Both the 2009 and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons were excellent. I found them both very complex with rounded tannins.

Rocca Family Vineyards presented an overall excellent selection of wines. Rocca organically farms their grapes. The 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Grigsby Vineyard, Yountville is elegantly balanced with hints of cherry and spice and smooth velvety tannins. The 2009 Merlot, Grigsby Vineyard was a favorite. The cool climate that year enhanced the cherry flavors and perfected the ideal Merlot. It was a year where the grape clusters were small so the concentration and depth of the wine is intensified. The finish is soft and smooth. The 2009 Syrah, Grigsby Vineyard is rich with dark fruit flavors. The 2009 Vespera, Proprietary Blend combines 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Sirah, 12% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah. Vespera, which means evening star in Latin, is a very fruit forward wine. All the wines sampled from Rocca were full-bodied with a rich balance.

Kelleher Family Vineyard’s 2008 “Brix Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon is a must to try. It is a rich full-bodied fruit forward wine with aromas of raspberries and cherries.

Other wines worth mention is the Steven Kent Portfolio, 2010 Lineage from Livermore Valley and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley. Both exude flavors of cherries but the later is very drinkable and fruit forward. The Heitz 2007 Trailside Cabernet will continue to age beautifully and you can never go wrong with a Cabernet from Heitz.

These are just a few of the exceptional Cabernets sampled at LearnAboutWine’s Stars of Cabernet.

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Stars of Cabernet Review

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Stars of Cabernet Review – Winemakers and their Wines

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Booze News – Stars of Cabernet 2013

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LAW Facts

Sediment consists of small, dark colored particles that settle to the bottom as the wine ages. While sediment is harmless, it is often removed by decanting to improve the wine’s appearance, and stay out of the tasting experience as it can be unpleasant to taste.

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