Monday, September 20, 2010

A Thoroughly Enjoyable Cabernet Sauvignon

Hanna Winery, Alexander Valley

Given the flavor profiles of most Cabernet Sauvignons from California, it's easy to see their appeal. Imbued with ripe black currant, cassis and plum aromas along with flavors of mocha and clove and offering lush fruit, the wines have been the state's finest vinous ambassadors for some time now.

However, sometimes good things go too far. The beautiful California sunshine makes it easy to ripen these grapes and as a result, too many bottlings, at least for me, have become overripe fruit bombs that are more about showing off power and intensity than honest varietal character or elegance. Wine for me, whether it's California Cabernet Sauvignon or a Brunello di Montalcino from Italy has never been a case of "bigger is better."

So how nice to taste a balanced, elegantly styled California Cabernet Sauvignon again! The wine in question here is the newly released 2007 Hanna Cabernet Sauvignon from their Red Ranch vineyard in Alexander Valley. What I love about this wine is the beautiful varietal character - pure black currant fruit - along with pleasing notes of mint in the aroma; this is a rich, supple wine that is beautifully balanced. Apparently winemaker Jeff Hinchliffe got the memo about keeping oak in the background, as the wood notes here are quite subdued. The wine also displays very good acidity, a trait not seen often enough in California Cabernet Sauvignons these days. This acidity not only holds the tannins in check, it also gives the wine a nice freshness and keeps everything in harmony.

The price for all this is a very fair $30 a bottle, which I'm happy to note; you don't have to spend $50 or more for a top-flight wine from California. This is a wine not meant for tasting (though it's fine in that purpose), but rather for pairing at the dinner table with a variety of entrées from New York Strip Steak to duck breast with currants. You might also try two of Christine Hanna's recommendations: Pan-Seared Hangar Steak with Porcini-Merlot Reduction or a Rosemary-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Bordeaux Gravy. The recipes for both of these dishes can be found in Christine's book, The Winemaker Cooks, which can be ordered via the winery's website (link).

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